Atlanta United will look to stay on the winning track when they host Paxton Pomykal and FC Dallas’s young guns on Saturday, while Wayne Rooney will seek a return to the scoresheet for D.C. United against winless New York City FC on Sunday. Also, two teams mired in dysfunction, the New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls, are set for a Saturday night clash.
Rooney’s got that eye of the Tiger
After starting gangbusters with four goals and three assists during the month of March, Wayne Rooney’s season has cooled off a bit. The former Manchester United man was humbled in the 4-0 home defeat to LAFC FC two weeks ago in which he was sent off, and then, after battling the flu, he went goalless in last week’s 3-2 win in Colorado.
Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) presents a good opportunity to get back in the scoring swing of things against New York City FC, and it’s hard not to think that Rooney will be feeling inspired. Being the golf aficionado that he is, Rooney took advantage of D.C. United’s scheduling last weekend to zip down to Augusta, Georgia, to catch the final round of the Masters and watch Tiger Woods claim his first green jacket since 2005. Like Tiger, Rooney’s best days arguably came in the middle of the last decade, but the greats are still capable of summoning their best when called upon and the NYCFC defense should help the Englishman with that.
Domenec Torrent’s bunch have given up 11 goals and are the only winless team in the Eastern Conference. It’s been a rough week for teams owned by Sheikh Mansour, and while a regular-season loss for NYCFC would register as just a blip after Manchester City’s devastating Champions League exit, Torrent’s job security would be tenuous at best.
Young pups Pomykal and Barco square off in Atlanta
A number of young players have stood out in the early stages of this MLS season, but none more so than Paxton Pomykal. The 19-year-old FC Dallas midfielder has flourished in a starting role, making the Homegrown-happy Texan outfit a must-see. At the rate he is going, Pomykal’s days in MLS will be numbered, especially if he continues to deliver top-notch performances like he did in last week’s 2-1 win over Portland. Next up for the U.S. Under-20 star is a date with the reigning champs (4 p.m. ET, ESPN).
2019 has been eventful for Atlanta, and not exactly in a good way, but things took a turn upward last Saturday in New England in a 2-0 victory. The Ezequiel Barco that Atlanta thought they had signed after the 2017 season from Argentine club Independiente finally showed up, carving up the Revs defense and scoring both goals, the second an absolute golazo.
It’s important to remember that Barco is still just 20, and with Josef Martinez way behind last year’s record scoring rate — just one goal in five matches — and new arrival Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez still adjusting to life in MLS, Barco’s emergence in 2019 will be crucial to Frank de Boer’s hopes of silencing any boo-birds inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Speaking of dysfunction in the Big Apple …
The New York Red Bulls are a hot mess right now. Long considered the model of consistency in MLS, things have started poorly this season in Gotham. That frustration was summed up pretty succinctly in last week’s 2-2 draw at Sporting Kansas City when Kaku fired a ball into the stands, hitting a Sporting KC spectator.
The Paraguay international has not been the player this year that he was last season — just one assist so far in 2019 after having 14 in 30 games in 2018 — and one has the sense that he’s still thinking about the failed winter transfer to Club America.
Adding to the angst was the rumor that surfaced this week that Thierry Henry could be in line to potentially replace Chris Armas as head coach, or maybe take over as sporting director, or, uh, something in some sort of capacity.
It all has made for some rarely felt upheaval in NYRB land, but hope comes in the way of a visit to New England on Saturday to face the Revolution (7.30 p.m. ET, ESPN+), who are rock-bottom in the East. The Revs have certainly endured their own problems this season and could be looking for a new coach soon if Brad Friedel can’t quickly right the ship.
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