MLS Preview: Toronto FC-Sounders, Red Bulls-Atlanta United headline top matches in Week 17

A storied clash between two of the league’s most successful teams in recent years headlines Week 17 in MLS action, with the Seattle Sounders traveling to BMO Field to take on Toronto FC. Toronto FC is waiting for Lorenzo Insigne to take the field, but whether Insigne plays or not remains to be seen. The Italian star just joined the club last Friday. Meanwhile, TFC looks to climb into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, while the Sounders still grapple with underachieving so far in 2022 as far as MLS play goes. Atlanta United enters a difficult weekend, facing the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC in the space of four days. Wins in both games would be a tall task, but the six points would reinvigorate the Five Stripes as Josef Martinez continues to excel in his return to the lineup. Other top matches include a tricky away match in Vancouver for Los Angeles FC, a key matchup in terms of playoff aspirations for the Houston Dynamo and Charlotte FC and a matchup between two in-form teams in Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United. Here are the top matches to watch in Week 17 of MLS. Toronto FC vs. Sounders Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+ The Sounders and TFC have more history than possibly any other two MLS teams, with each of them facing off in the MLS Cup final three of the last five years. For this key midseason clash, the Sounders are reeling after a tough loss to CF Montreal on Wednesday, while Toronto FC looks to rebound from a loss to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday. Lorenzo Insigne arrived in Toronto on Friday and was introduced as TFC’s next major signing. It is unclear whether Insigne will be available to play on Saturday. How will the Sounders handle short rest after playing three games in eight days? Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer rotated his squad slightly in Wednesday’s game, but the team needs to depend on Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Nico Lodeiro in attack, especially in the absence of forward Raul Ruidiaz, who remains injured. Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN+ The Red Bulls move on from a high-profile letdown last weekend at Los Angeles FC to take on an Atlanta United side that is quietly picking up momentum in the Eastern Conference. The return of Josef Martinez has injected some new life in Atlanta, even though injuries continue to ravage the team’s back line. The Red Bulls have the opportunity to keep the pace with the Union, New York City FC and CF Montreal at the top of the Eastern Conference with a win. Atlanta stays on the road after a disappointing 2-1 loss to Toronto FC last weekend. A result here and on Sunday against NYCFC would dramatically turn the tide of Atlanta’s season. Matches between these teams have lacked goals in recent years. The Red Bulls and Atlanta played to scoreless draws twice in 2021, and two matchups in 2020 each produced only one goal. The Five Stripes have not beaten the Red Bulls since a 3-0 win in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final. Dynamo vs. Charlotte FC Sunday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+ Both teams have seen up-and-down results in the first half of 2022, and this cross-conference match offers the chance for either one to jump back into the playoff race. The Dynamo could jump ahead of the Portland Timbers with a win, while Charlotte FC can avoid being left behind by the Columbus Crew and Inter Miami. Charlotte FC has struggled greatly offensively, with Karol Swiderski and Ben Bender the main threats going into the attacking third. The Dynamo have similar issues with consistency, but Sebastian Ferreira has six goals and Darwin Quintero is a major threat on the right side. Charlotte FC and the Dynamo have both won only one game in each of their last four matches. Minnesota United vs. Real Salt Lake Sunday, 8 p.m., ESPN+ Real Salt Lake is one of the most surprising success stories in the Western Conference, and RSL seems to keep getting stronger with the form of Jefferson Savarino since rejoining the team. RSL could potentially go four points clear of Austin FC in second place in the Western Conference, and four points behind leaders LAFC, with a win. Savarino made his presence known with a goal and assist in a win over the San Jose Earthquakes two weeks ago, but the club is also seeing strong performances from Sergio Cordova. Justen Glad and Aaron Herrera are putting in strong showings on the back line. Bobby Wood now heads to the sidelines following adductor surgery. The Loons head into this game with plenty of confidence stemming from a 3-2 win over the L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday. Emanuel Reynoso has defied his team’s issues defending and finishing this season, proving he’s one of the most talented playmakers. Reynoso scored twice in Wednesday’s win. Whitecaps vs. LAFC Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN+ The Whitecaps are not to be underestimated at BC Place. Despite lying eleventh in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps are 4-1-3 at home, and that includes wins over FC Dallas, RSL and a draw against a surging New England Revolution squad. The Whitecaps are also on a four-match unbeaten streak, which presents a challenge for Supporters’ Shield leaders LAFC. LAFC showed its strength in last Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Red Bulls. Steve Cherundolo’s squad are on their own five-game unbeaten streak, with Colombian forward Cristian Arango scoring in four straight games. LAFC’s attack is multidimensional, and also has plenty of help from a defensive unit that has earned four shutouts. Full MLS Week 17 Schedule THURSDAY 7 p.m. – Charlotte FC vs. Austin FC, ESPN+ 8 p.m. – Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United, ESPN+ SATURDAY 7:30 p.m. – Toronto FC vs. Sounders, ESPN+ 10 p.m. – Whitecaps vs. LAFC, ESPN+ SUNDAY 5 p.m. – NYCFC vs. Atlanta United, ESPN+ 7:30 p.m. – Crew vs. Union, ESPN+ 7:30 p.m. – Revolution vs. FC Cincinnati, ESPN+ 8 p.m. – Sporting KC vs. Red Bulls, ESPN+ 8 p.m. – Minnesota United vs. RSL, ESPN+ 8:30 p.m. – Dynamo vs. Charlotte FC, ESPN+ 8:30 p.m. – Nashville SC vs. Timbers, ESPN+ 9 p.m. – Quakes vs. Fire, ESPN+ MONDAY 7 p.m. – Orlando City vs. D.C. United, ESPN+ 9 p.m. – Rapids vs. Austin FC, ESPN+ 9 p.m. – FC Dallas vs. Inter Miami, ESPN+ 10:30 p.m. – Galaxy vs. CF Montreal, ESPN+