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Mueller's Rise, Pareja's Guidance Pushing Orlando Near Top of Eastern Conference: This Week in MLS

September 29, 2020 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

Orlando City SC is on track to make its first ever appearance in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and comfortably sits in the top four of the Eastern Conference standings, riding a league-best eight-game unbeaten streak thanks to the meteoric rise of 24-year-old American midfielder Chris Mueller and the guidance of first-year manager Óscar Pareja.

Mueller developed in MLS NEXT club Sockers FC's academy before starring at the University of Wisconsin and being selected by Orlando sixth overall in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. This season, Mueller is having a breakout year, scoring seven goals and registering five assists, both club highs, while his 12 combined goals and assists are tied for fourth-most in the league. With one of the most dangerous attacking players in MLS this season, the Lions have amassed a 6-0-2 record in matches where Mueller registers a goal or assist, while the club's 26 points this season are only four shy of Supporters' Shield leading Columbus Crew SC.

Pareja has ushered a complete turnaround from last year's Lions squad that finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. The former FC Dallas and Club Tijuana manager has earned a reputation for trusting younger players, this year guiding a powerful offensive attack that leads the Eastern Conference with 25 goals scored. The Lions four leading goalscorers this season consist of Portuguese icon Nani, Mueller, 20-year-old American striker Daryl Dike and 22-year-old Homegrown forward Benji Michel.

Orlando hosts the New York Red Bulls at Exploria Stadium on Saturday looking to extend its club record eight-game unbeaten mark (4:30 p.m. ET, FOX / FOX Deportes / FOX Sports App).

On the Inside Track to the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs

It's that wonderful time of the year, when the temperatures are cooler, but the competitive heat is on. With only six calendar weeks remaining and less than 10 games to go, the regular season is wrapping up with Columbus Crew SC, the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, and Orlando City SC making a case for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers are beginning to do much of the same in the Western Conference.

From top to bottom, there's a 19-point spread separating the best from the worst in the Eastern Conference, with Columbus Crew SC (30 pts., 9-2-3) leading the pack and the Supporters' Shield race as the most consistent. The Philadelphia Union are playing their kids (28 pts., 8-2-4) to an identical record that ties for second with Toronto FC (28 pts., 8-2-4), and Orlando City SC (26 pts., 7-2-5) are also pulling away in fourth place on an eight-game unbeaten streak that marks the longest in MLS this season.

Atop the Western Conference, Seattle Sounders FC (24 pts., 7-3-3) have the highest goal differential in the league, and alongside the second-ranked Portland Timbers (24 pts., 7-4-3-) with the same points tally, are four points clear of the next closest team.

Inter Miami CF

Argentines Making MLS League of Choice in Record Numbers

With the recent signings of Gonzalo Higuaín to Inter Miami CF and Marcelino Moreno to Atlanta United, a total of 42 players either born in Argentina or who have represented the national team play in MLS, the most of any country in the league aside from the United States and Canada. In the last five years, the increase in Argentine players was progressive: 20 in 2016, 24 in 2017, 27 in 2018, 40 in 2019 and currently 42 in 2020

The average age of the record 42 players is 26 years old, with Miami leading all clubs with five Argentines on the roster. As MLS continues to be a league of choice for young Argentine players in their prime, 17 newcomers from this country, including 20-year-old Inter Miami CF midfielder Matías Pellegrini and 24-year-old Minnesota United winger Emanuel Reynoso, joined the league this year, with an average age of 25.5 years.

In MLS' 25 years, 23 Argentine-born players have won MLS Cup, from Guillermo Barros Schelotto with Columbus Crew SC (2008) to more recently Ezequiel Barco with Atlanta United (2018), with many of them being instrumental to their teams reaching glory.

MLS Regular Season: Week 14 Game Notes

Saturday, Oct. 3

Orlando City SC vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m. (FOX)

Orlando City SC extended their MLS club-record undefeated streak to eight matches, reaching a scoreless draw with FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on Sunday evening.

The Red Bulls hit for a season-high four goals for a second consecutive game, defeating the Montréal Impact 4-1 at Red Bull Arena on Sunday evening. Tom Barlow scored a pair of goals, the first two-goal game of his MLS career.

The teams met twice a season ago, each winning by the game's lone goal on the road. Sacha Kljestan netted the game's lone goal against his former club as Orlando City took the win March 23 at Red Bull Arena, then Brian White netted the Red Bulls goal in a win July 21 at Exploria Stadium.

The wins were the first for the visiting team in the series since 2015 - Orlando City's first year in MLS - when each team won at the other's ground. The Red Bulls had won four consecutive meetings at Red Bull Arena; Orlando City had won two home meetings in a row.

D.C. United vs. Atlanta United, 7 p.m.

D.C. United saw their winless run extended, dropping a 2-0 decision to the New England Revolution at Audi Field on Sunday evening.

Atlanta United weren't able to build upon a first victory in seven matches, falling 2-0 to Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field on Sunday evening.

The teams met twice a season ago, each winning 2-0 on their home ground. Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta netted goals as D.C. United took the win in the season opener for both clubs, March 3 at Audi Field, then Pity Martínez and Josef Martínez each scored in Atlanta United's win July 21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Home form also ruled in the 2018 series between the clubs, each winning by 3-1 scorelines on their own ground. Atlanta United won twice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium - on March 11 and July 21 - and D.C. United won Sept. 2 at Audi Field. D.C. United took all three meetings in ATLUTD's expansion season, winning 3-1 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on April 30 before taking the next two at RFK Stadium.

Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire FC, 7:30 p.m. (TVA Sports)

The Impact had their losing slide extended, dropping a 4-1 decision to the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Sunday evening. Bojan Krkić netted his first goal of the season.

Fire FC won a second consecutive game, defeating Atlanta United 2-0 at Soldier Field on Sunday evening. Robert Berić scored for a fourth consecutive match, one game away from the Fire club record, now with six goals for the season.

The teams met twice a season ago, each winning on their home ground. Omar Browne netted the game's only goal on his MLS debut, giving the Impact the victory April 28 at Stade Saputo, then the Fire took a 3-2 win Aug. 10, 2019 in Bridgeview.

The home team has won each of the last four meetings, each club winning twice at home over the last two seasons. The teams have evenly split their season series each of the last four years.

New England Revolution vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

The Revolution won their second game in a row, defeating D.C. United 2-0 at Audi Field on Sunday evening. Gustavo Bou scored a goal, a second game in a row with a goal, and added an assist.

Nashville SC extended their home undefeated streak to five games, reaching a 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo at Nissan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Daniel Rios scored for a second consecutive game, his first two goals in MLS.

The teams are meeting for the first time in their histories.

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. (TSN)

Toronto FC won a second consecutive game and extended their undefeated streak to four matches, defeating Columbus Crew SC 3-1 at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. on Sunday evening. Alejandro Pozuelo scored for a third consecutive game, now with six goals on the season, and added his league-leading ninth assist of the season.

The Union stretched their undefeated streak to five matches with a fourth win in that time, knocking off Inter Miami CF 3-0 at Subaru Park on Sunday evening. Homegrown Players Anthony Fontana and Brenden Aaronson each scored their fourth goals of the season.

The teams met twice a season ago, each winning away from home. Michael Bradley netted the first two-goal game in his MLS career, as Toronto FC took a 3-1 win on March 2 in Chester in the season opener for both clubs; the Union returned the favor with a 2-1 win May 11 at BMO Field.

The Union win in the last meeting ended a five-year long TFC undefeated streak in the league series, also snapping a four-game Toronto FC winning streak. The last Union victory vs. Toronto FC had come on Sept. 6, 2014, a 2-0 win at BMO Field. TFC won eight of the 10 matches in between, with two draws. The Union's goal in the first meeting last year also ended a 360-minute goalless streak vs. Toronto FC.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m.

The Dynamo gained a result for the eighth time in the last 10 matches, playing to a 1-1 draw with Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Maynor Figueroa scored for a second time in the last three games.

Sporting KC saw their scheduled match with Colorado on Sunday postponed. Last time out, Sporting fell to a second consecutive reversal, dropping a 2-1 decision to Orlando City SC at Children's Mercy Park. Johnny Russell scored his sixth goal of the season, a third consecutive game with a goal.

The teams are meeting for the fourth time this season. The Dynamo have won the last two, first when Darwin Quintero scored a pair of goals and set up two others as the Dynamo rolled to a 5-2 win Aug. 24 at Children's Mercy Park, then as Alberth Elis and Mauro Manotas scored in a Dynamo come-from-behind 2-1 win Sept. 5 at BBVA Stadium. Before that, Alan Pulido, Gadi Kinda and Khiry Shelton each scored a goal and added an assist as Sporting rolled to a 4-0 win March 7 at Children's Mercy Park, the largest margin of victory in the all-time series.

The Dynamo wins in the last two meetings ended Sporting's undefeated streak in the series to six games, with four wins and two draws. The Dynamo's last win had come in 2017 in Houston.

Inter Miami CF vs. New York City FC, 8 p.m.

Inter Miami suffered a 3-0 loss in their last match, to the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park on Sunday evening. Gonzalo Higuaín made his Inter Miami and MLS debut, playing the full 90 minutes.

New York City FC won for a fourth time in five matches in home games at Red Bull Arena, defeating FC Cincinnati 4-0 on Saturday evening. Alejandru Mitrita scored a pair of goals, his first of the season, the opener coming after 30 seconds, the earliest goal in a game in the club's history.

The teams are meeting for the second time this season and in their histories. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi netted the game's only goal in the 64th minute to give NYCFC the win during group play at the MLS is Back Tournament on July 20.

Minnesota United FC vs. FC Cincinnati, 8 p.m.

MNUFC reached a result for a fourth time in six matches, playing to a goalless draw with Real Salt Lake at Allianz Field on Sunday evening.

FC Cincinnati saw their two-game undefeated run put to an end, falling 4-0 to New York City FC at Red Bull Arena on Saturday evening.

The teams met once during FC Cincinnati's inaugural season. Ike Opara scored a pair of goals, while Jan Gregus collected three assists, one shy of the MLS all-time single-game record, as Minnesota United FC became the then-seventh team in MLS history to score seven goals or more in an MLS league game in a 7-1 win June 29 at Allianz Field

FC Dallas vs. Columbus Crew SC, 8:30 p.m.

FC Dallas took points for a fourth match out of their last five, playing to a scoreless draw with Orlando City SC at Toyota Stadium on Sunday evening.

Crew SC saw their six-game undefeated run put to an end, falling 3-1 to Toronto FC at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. on Sunday evening.

The teams met once a season ago. Gaston Sauro scored the game's only goal as Crew SC took the win March 16 at Mapfre Stadium.

The teams reached a goalless draw in their last meeting at Toyota Stadium, Sept. 15, 2017. The two matchups in Frisco have ended in draws. Crew SC have won the last two meetings, their first home wins vs. FC Dallas since 2012.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

The Quakes put an end to an eight-game winless slide, getting a stoppage-time goal from Jackson Yueill for a 2-1 win against Los Angeles Football Club at Banc of California Stadium on Sunday evening. Shea Salinas started the comeback with an 80th-minute equalizer; Cristian Espinoza set up both San Jose goals.

The Galaxy had their skid extended, dropping a 3-1 decision to Seattle Sounders FC at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday evening. Sebastian Lletget scored his fifth goal of the year.

The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Cristian Pavón and Sebastian Lletget each scored goals late in the second half to lead the Galaxy to a 3-2 win Aug. 29 at Dignity Health Sports Park; they reached a goalless draw Sept. 13 at Earthquakes Stadium.

The Quakes won both meetings a season ago, including a 3-0 win June 29 at Stanford Stadium. The Galaxy won 4-2 on May 27, 2017 at Earthquakes Stadium in the last match there - just their second victory in the last 19 regular season games in northern California, across four stadiums. The win in Carson last year was just the second there for the Quakes since 2012.

Known as the California Clásico, the Galaxy and Earthquakes have met 88 times in all competitions. In regular season play, the Galaxy have won 32 times and the Quakes 24, with 16 draws, since their first meeting April 28, 1996.

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 10 p.m. (TSN)

Sounders FC won their third match in the last four, defeating the LA Galaxy 3-1 at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday evening. Cristian Roldan scored a pair of goals, while Jordan Morris added a goal and an assist; Morris now sits in a tie for fourth place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.

Whitecaps FC suffered a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday evening in a Whitecaps home game.

The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Nicolás Lodeiro and Jordan Morris each had a goal an an assist, as Sounders FC took a 3-0 win during group play at the MLS is Back Tournament on July 19.

Sounders FC have a seven-game undefeafed streak alive in the series, since the last Whitecaps FC win April 14, 2017, a 2-1 victory at BC Place. Seattle has won five of the seven league games in between, with two draws; Sounders FC also advanced in the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2017 with a goalless draw and a 2-0 win at home.

The teams have met the most times of any rivalry in soccer history in the USA and Canada. Since the clubs first met at Empire Stadium on June 9, 1974, in the old North American Soccer League, they have played 141 times over all competitions. The Sounders have won 68, the Whitecaps 50, and there have been 23 draws.

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids, 11 p.m.

The Timbers won their third game in a row, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Providence Park on Sunday evening in a game played as a Whitecaps FC home game. Felipe Mora netted his fourth goal of the season.

The Rapids had their scheduled match with Sporting KC on Sunday postponed. In their last game, the Rapids won a second consecutive game and a third in the last four in another big offensive explosion, rolling to a 5-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

The five-goal victory was the second in four games for the Rapids, after defeating Real Salt Lake 5-0 on Sept. 12 - the largest margin of victory in the club's 25-year history, coming twice in four matches after 773 league games.

The teams played to a pair of high-scoring draws a season ago. Rookie Andre Shinyashiki netted the equalizer deep in second-half stoppage time for his first goal in his professional debut, leaving the teams in a 3-3 draw in the season opener for both clubs, a match played in a blinding snowstorm March 2 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The teams then shared the points in a 2-2 draw July 13 at Providence Park.

The Timbers have a five-game undefeated streak alive in the series, winning three consecutive matchups before the two draws last season. The last Rapids win came June 17, 2017, a 2-1 win in Commerce City, Colo.

The visiting team has won just three times in the all-time series, the Timbers winning twice in Commerce City since 2015. The Timbers have an nine-game home undefeated streak alive vs. Colorado; the Rapids' lone win in Portland came June 11, 2011.

Sunday, Oct. 4

Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Football Club, 9:30 p.m.

Real Salt Lake gained a second consecutive result with a second consecutive shutout, playing to a goalless draw with Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field on Sunday evening.

LAFC had their three-game home winning streak put to an end in dramatic fashion, the San Jose Earthquakes scoring two late goals, including a stoppage-time winner, for a 2-1 win at Banc of California Stadium.

The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Damir Kreilach, Justin Meram and Albert Rusnák all scored as Real took a 3-0 win at Rio Tinto Stadium on Sept. 9. The Real win was their first in five meetings all-time in league play.

The teams also met in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2018, with Real pulling off an upset with a 3-2 win at Banc of California Stadium. The teams met in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup a year ago, LAFC taking a 3-2 win in Sandy.

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