Wednesday’s soccer news starts in Major League Soccer. Charlotte hosts Austin tomorrow night while Atlanta United is on the road at the New York Red Bulls. It’s the conclusion of a midweek round in MLS with seven games set for tonight. That could once again shuffle the Eastern Conference table with 3rd-place Montreal and the 4th-place Red Bulls both in position to match 1st-place Philadelphia’s 29 points. Whether that puts them in a tie for the top spot in the East depends on what happens with NYCFC’s game at 7th-place Cincinnati.
For 9th-place Charlotte, playing at home has been the story of their season. Six wins, no draws, and two losses at Bank of America Stadium vs no wins, two draws, and six losses on the road. That home form included beating the Red Bulls on June 11. Against the 3rd-place team in the Western Conference, Charlotte will be trying to show that the second-best home form in the East will keep them in or near the playoff spots.
The quick comparison for what taking 18 points at home would mean with even a couple of wins on the road comes from Real Salt Lake. 2nd in the West, they have the same home record as Charlotte but have won twice on the road and drawn three.
While the problem for Charlotte may be what happens when they aren’t winning at home, the schedule isn’t exactly grueling. Nine of their remaining 17 games are at home, and four of those are against teams currently behind them in the Eastern Conference table. What tomorrow night represents is an opportunity to take off some of the pressure over that lack of road wins. Beating the 3rd-place team in the West shouldn’t be the expectation. Neither should an expansion team being this strong at home.
Meanwhile, 10th-place Atlanta has one once on the road this season, beating DC United back on April 2. With injuries derailing plans, Atlanta has still put together enough of a home form to stay within a point of 9th-place Charlotte with two games in hand.
While MLS makes it easy to talk about the unbalanced schedule, Atlanta is one of the four teams in the East on 15 games played. Four others are on 17, with the rest on 16. That makes the table deceptive for a team like United when an additional three points would have them in 8th, and another three would put them in a tie with 5th-place Orlando City equal on games played.
Atlanta plays six games in July, and only one of them is against a team currently below them in the table. After Thursday night against the Red Bulls, it’s NYCFC on the road before a three-game home stand against Austin, Real Salt Lake, and Orlando City. They close out the month at the Galaxy and at Chicago.
While it’s the lack of road wins that stands out for both Charlotte and Atlanta, they’re both turning home field into enough of an advantage to stay within reach of 7th-place. How long any team can stay there without consistently getting points on the road was already the question for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Staying in MLS, LAFC officially announced Carlos Vela’s new contract. “Los Angeles is a special place for me and my family,” Vela said in a press statement. “This is our home, and I am excited to continue my career here at LAFC. My goal is to win the MLS Cup with LAFC, and I will work hard to achieve our goal, and I expect to continue to achieve great things for the club, my family, our fans, and the city of Los Angeles.”
THURSDAY’S SOCCER TV
Copa Sudamericana on beIN Sport: Independiente del Valle vs Lanus at 6:15pm. Copa Libertadores on beIN Sport: Fortaleza vs Estudiantes at 8:30pm ET.
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