Major League Soccer

The Pitch (Matchdays 16 & 17): Top Things to Watch in MLS this Week

May 30, 2023 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

LAFC Stars Look to Win Club's First International Trophy

The Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League is on the line this week as LAFC faces off against LIGA MX side Club León in the two-legged final, with the first on Wednesday, May 31 (10 p.m. ET, FS1 / TUDN) and the second in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 4 (9 p.m. ET, FS1 / TUDN).

LAFC heads into the epic final with their two star forwards, Dénis Bouanga and Carlos Vela, firing on all cylinders. Bouanga has been especially prolific in front of net for LAFC in his first full season with the team, as he leads MLS with 10 goals through 12 games, in addition to his CCL-leading six goals in 2023. Vela continues to be a do-it-all star, serving as an instinctual finisher and magical playmaker with seven goals and seven assists across all competitions this season.

For Vela, LAFC's first-ever signing, this final marks his second chance at winning the first international club trophy of his career. The Mexican international had never won a club trophy prior to his MLS career and has since led LAFC to two Supporters' Shield titles and an MLS Cup within the first five years of the club's existence. After just falling short of lifting the CCL title in 2020, Vela has returned to the tournament's summit with his club in need of another dominant individual performance from him to become kings of Concacaf.

The two-legged CCL final between LAFC and León could also be the first of multiple games between the two clubs in 2023. Should León carry their CCL form into the inaugural Leagues Cup, they could run into LAFC in the Round of 16 with another chance to lift a trophy.

50 Days Until 2023 MLS All-Star Game Presented by Target

With only 50 days remaining until the 2023 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, stars from across MLS are making their case for inclusion on a roster featuring the best and brightest the league has to offer. The 2023 MLS All-Stars will take on the renowned 13-time English league champions, Arsenal FC, at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 19.

Voting for the 2023 MLS All-Star roster, which includes participation by players, fans, and media, opens at 12 p.m. ET tomorrow, Wednesday, May 31. Of the 26 MLS players to be selected for the All-Star Game, the breakdown is as follows:

12 players will be determined by a vote of MLS players, fans, and media. Each of the three voting groups will represent one-third of the combined vote.

12 players will be selected by MLS All-Star head coach Wayne Rooney of the host team, D.C. United.

Two players will be selected by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.The ballot will be headed by sensational scorers Dénis Bouanga of LAFC, Jordan Morris of the Seattle Sounders, Cristian Espinoza of the San Jose Earthquakes, and Jesús Ferreira of FC Dallas, creative playmakers Thiago Almada of Atlanta United, Hany Muhktar of Nashville SC, and Dániel Gazdag of the Philadelphia Union, and shot-stopping goalkeepers Stefan Frei of the Sounders, Roman Celentano of FC Cincinnati, and Djordje Petrović of the New England Revolution.

All-Star roster spots will be earned as the MLS season progresses, and the league's top performers will look to defeat a star-studded Arsenal FC squad at Audi Field. Tickets for the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target are on sale at or.

Cincy Sets Sights on Another Pair of Statement Victories

FC Cincinnati came out of Matchday 13 and Matchday 14 as one of four teams to win both their midweek and weekend games, and the Supporters' Shield leaders will look to repeat the feat when they travel New York City FC on Wednesday, May 31 (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass) and host Chicago Fire FC on Saturday, June 3 (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

Head coach Pat Noonan led his team to their first-ever win over the Colorado Rapids on Matchday 15, and he will be looking to do so the same on Matchday 16 as the club faces NYCFC. Cincinnati is winless in the regular season against NYCFC (0-6-2), but this year has been one of watershed moments for the Orange and Blue, including a first-ever win against the Columbus Crew under Noonan's tenure and a return to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2017.

Club captain Luciano 'Lucho' Acosta leads the team with eight goal contributions in 2023 and is a notorious thorn in NYCFC's side with eight goals across 10 career games against the club. Cincinnati's playmaking threat has expanded across the field this season, though, as 22-year-old midfielder Álvaro Barreal leads the team with four assists and midfielder Obinna Nwobodo sits level with Acosta with three helpers. Between the trio, Cincinnati poses threats from wide through Barreal, in transition from Nwobodo's ball-winning ability, and in possession from Acosta.

Cincinnati then returns home for a Matchday 17 showdown against the Fire. On the line is Cincy's opportunity to become just the third club in MLS history (excluding the shootout era) to win each of its first nine home games to start a season. With another six-point week, Cincinnati (33 points) could also add to their five-point lead over second-place Nashville SC (28 points) in the Supporters' Shield standings.

Significant Six-Point Week Leading into Midseason Checkpoint

FC Cincinnati were joined by Minnesota United, Nashville SC, and Austin FC as the only teams to capture six points after Matchdays 13 and 14. In doing so, Nashville propelled into second place in the Supporters' Shield standings, Minnesota climbed to sixth in the West, and Austin came within a point of a playoff position.

Here is what a six-point week could do for these three teams on Matchdays 16 & 17:

Seattle Sounders FC

Opponents: vs. San Jose Earthquakes (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass); vs. Portland Timbers (4:30 p.m. ET, FOX / Fox Deportes)

Sitting atop the Western Conference with 26 points, a six-point week could help Seattle close the seven-point gap for first in the Supporters' Shield. Forward Jordan Morris scored his ninth goal of the season last time out, and the Sounders will need his finishing touch against bitter rivals Portland, who they have not beaten at home in MLS regular season play since May 27, 2017.

Columbus Crew

Opponents: vs. Colorado Rapids (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass); vs. Charlotte FC (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass)

The Crew are 4-1-2 at home this season and after consecutive road games at Cincinnati and Nashville, they return to Field ready to bounce back with two wins. Star forward Juan 'Cucho' Hernández has recorded an assist in each of his last four games for the team, but the Crew will hope he can start finding the back of the net during this two-game homestand.

Chicago Fire FC

Opponents: at Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass); at FC Cincinnati (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass)

The Fire's offense has produced six goals in their last two games, with Xherdan Shaqiri recording two assists while midfielder Maren Haile-Selassie and 19-year-old forward Georgios Koutsias both scored in each match. Six points from two straight road games is a tough ask in MLS, but the goals are flowing for a Fire team that is just two points off a playoff position.

By The Numbers

Below is a sampling of notable stats and figures entering Matchdays 16 and 17, including stellar starts for FC Cincinnati and St. Louis CITY SC, an update on the U.S. U-20 Men's Youth National Team, Stefan Frei clean sheets, and more.

5: Five of the six goals scored by the United States in the group stage of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023 have been scored by players currently in Major League Soccer: San Jose's Cade Cowell (two) and Niko Tsakiris, Atlanta United's Caleb Wiley, and Real Salt Lake's Diego Luna. The U.S. U-20 Men's Youth National Team begin the knockout stage against New Zealand at 1:30 p.m. ET today, Tuesday, May 30 (FS2).

8: Seattle's Stefan Frei leads Major League Soccer with eight clean sheets in 15 matches this season, his highest single-season total since 2019 (10 shutouts). Frei is currently on pace to surpass the MLS single-season record for clean sheets of 16 held by Tony Meola for the 2000 Kansas City Wizards.

9: On Saturday, Supporters' Shield leading FC Cincinnati returns to the friendly confines of TQL Stadium, where the club holds an 8-0-0 record in 2023. With a victory, Cincinnati would tie the 2020 Philadelphia Union (nine consecutive wins) for the second-longest home winning streak to start a season in MLS history (excluding the shootout era). The longest streak is 10 consecutive home wins, set by the 2002 San Jose Earthquakes.

15: Following a 3-1 victory over Vancouver on Matchday 15, St. Louis CITY SC leads all MLS clubs with a plus-15 goal differential (29 goals scored, 14 goals allowed). The expansion side has scored three or more goals seven times this season, which also leads MLS and is two more than the next closest team (LAFC, five).

44.7: Per Opta, Eduard Löwen's direct free-kick goal for St. Louis CITY SC on Saturday night measured 44.7 yards, the second-longest direct free-kick goal in MLS since the start of the 2015 season, trailing only Columbus' Lucas Zelarayán's 54.9-yard goal against Charlotte FC on October 5, 2022.

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