MLS Week 1: Ranking the games

Ranking this week’s MLS games:

1. Columbus at Toronto, 1 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live. The Crew traded away Ola Kamara and Justin Meram, but still looked very solid in the preseason with Gyasi Zardes leading the line. As long as they can keep feeding him in front of goal, he could score a bunch. His first touch is still the soccer equivalent of Ronnie Garvin (look it up kids). Toronto is the reigning MLS champ and improved its weaknesses in the offseason.

2. Atlanta United at Houston, 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Univision. Two teams that can get up and down the field better than those remaining in the league. Should be a high-scoring match.

3. NYCFC at Sporting KC, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, FS1. Sporting KC scored 40 goals – 40 – and made the playoffs. That was how weak the Western Conference was last season. That’s 13 fewer goals scored than the lowest-scoring playoff team in the East.

4. D.C. United at Orlando City, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live. Orlando City is supposed to be one of the most-improved teams in the offseason. That’s been said before and the team still hasn’t made the playoffs. D.C. United did most of its work last season, and then continued with the addition of Yamil Asad.

5. Real Salt Lake at Dallas, 8 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live. Mike Petke did wonderful things with Real Salt Lake in the second half of the season, which is the opposite of what happened with Oscar Pareja and Dallas, which went from arguably the best team in the league at the beginning of the season to one that failed to make the postseason.

6. LAFC at Seattle, 5 p.m. Sunday, ESPN. I’m still not sure how Seattle made it to the MLS Cup final, but they deserve the credit for doing so. Now, they will have to try to make it to the title game without enigmatic striker Jordan Morris and aging striker Clint Dempsey and centerbacks Roman Torres and Chad Marshall.

7. Portland at L.A. Galaxy, 10 p.m. Sunday, FS1. Last year’s Western Conference champs, with new coach Giovani Savarese and without Darlington Nagbe, host the league’s worst team from last season. The Galaxy have worked hard to improve with midfielder Perry Kitchen, among others.

8. Minnesota United at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. Saturday, MLS Live. I thought Minnesota United could be one of the more improved teams this season … and then I saw them play a few games in Charleston. It could be another long year for the Loons.

9. Montreal at Vancouver, 6 p.m. Sunday, MLS Live. Montreal seems a long shot to be considered anything other than a dark horse to make the playoffs. Vancouver is good … just good. Not great.

10. New England at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live. Two teams that just didn’t do quite enough in the offseason to be considered playoff contenders in the East.

X