We’re already closing in on the the halfway point of the 2024 Major League Soccer campaign — can you believe it? Let’s take a look at some of the top stories and narratives heading into the fixtures this weekend.

Fixture of the weekend

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Toronto FC vs FC Cincinnati

It has been a few weeks since our fixture of the weekend hasn’t been a bitter rivalry, but now we can switch our focus back to the best narratives on the pitch, as opposed to off it.

Cincinnati have announced themselves as potential frontrunner for a second consecutive Supporters Shield with 30 points from their first 14 games. Only Inter Miami sit ahead of them in the standings, though Messi and co. have played one more game than Pat Noonan’s side.

Meanwhile, Toronto have shown flashes of brilliance throughout the campaign this year, and are fresh off the back of a 5-1 thumping of Montréal in the Canadian Classique this past week.

It is the epitome of a ‘prove it’ game for John Herdman’s side and is certainly their toughest test of the campaign thus far.

Three questions ahead of the weekend

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Can Miami survive without their stars?

It was the story of the week as news broke Thursday evening that Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets would all be staying in Miami to be rested as the Herons travel to Vancouver for a showdown with the Whitecaps Saturday evening.

Tata Martino’s side have flown out of the gates this season, sitting atop the Eastern Conference and Supporters Shield standings, but without dramatic comebacks lead by their quartet of superstars, they could be wallowing in mid-table obscurity.

Vancouver will take a huge boost that three of the fab-four will be staying back in Florida, and should see it as the best opportunity to knock Miami off their perch atop the league that you can get.

Can the Galaxy get back to winning ways?

It’s been a campaign of peaks and valleys for the LA Galaxy.

Greg Vanney’s side won five of their opening nine MLS games and were comfortably in the race at the top of the Western Conference, but that form was hit with a bucket of ice-water, seemingly out of nowhere.

Since a dramatic 4-3 win over San Jose back in April, the Galaxy have failed to win in five straight league clashes, seeing them sit six points off the top of the conference having previously lead it.

A trip to Houston is not the easiest of road trips for any MLS side, but if the Galaxy are true contenders in the West, they should be stopping the rot this weekend.

Are Atlanta ready to break their slump?

The demise of Atlanta United has been a painful one. The Five Stripes have been brittle at home, and the play of their highly-paid superstars has been inconsistent at best.

Gonzalo Pineda’s seat may just be the hottest in Major League Soccer at the moment after winning three of their opening 13 games; a record that has landed them in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

But a visit from LAFC to the raucous Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be the perfect tonic. LAFC themselves are a giant of the league looking for consistency. Steve Cherundolo’s side have only won two consecutive MLS games on one occasion this season, though it was their last two heading into this weekend.

Another loss for Atlanta would be their fourth in five games and could all but spell the end of Pineda’s time on the touchline.

Player to watch this weekend

Article image:🔮 Major League Soccer Weekend Preview

Jonathan Rodríguez – Portland Timbers

There have been few bright spots for the Portland Timbers, but the form of new signing Jonathan Rodríguez is certainly one of them.

The former Club América man has scored four goals in his last five games, including a second-half brace off the bench to help the Timbers turn around a two-goal deficit against San Jose last week.

The Uruguayan has proved to be a dynamic forward for the Timbers, playing both on the wing and as a striker.

Scoring goals has not been an issue for Phil Neville’s side, but their propensity to concede sloppy goals at bad times has helped them to one of their worst starts to a campaign in living memory.

Should the Cascadia club find it within themselves to turn the season around, Rodríguez is a likely candidate to lead that turnaround from the front.


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