While Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and the Los Angeles Galaxy look to continue on their impressive start to the 2021 MLS season, the first of three new soccer-specific stadiums to open this year will make its debut.
While the team has yet to dazzle on the field in its brief MLS existence, its new home is sure to excite fans. FC Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium debuts Sunday when the team hosts David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, FOX). It will be the first of three new stadiums debuting this season, with Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium (June 19) and Columbus SC’s New Crew Stadium (July 3) to follow.
Here is what you need to know for the fifth weekend of the 2021 MLS season:
Game of the week
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Austin FC (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Univision/TUDN) – Austin FC has refused to settle for mediocrity as an expansion team, defeating the Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United FC en route to earning a decent six points out of four matches this season. Led in attack by Paraguayan designated player Cecilio Domínguez, Austin has scored five goals. However, its midfield partnership of Diego Fagúndez and Tomás Pochettino will have to step up against the Galaxy because central midfielder Alex Ring is suspended after receiving a red card last week against Sporting Kansas City. Galaxy center forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernández basks in good form, leading MLS with six goals.
MLS player to watch
Cade Cowell, San Jose Earthquakes – The 17-year-old forward has made a monumental impact on the rising Earthquakes to start the season. Able to play as an attacking midfielder or striker, Cowell has two goals and three assists as second-place San Jose hosts the Portland Timbers at PayPal Park on Saturday.
What is this weekend’s MLS schedule?
(All times Eastern. ABC/ESPN games available to be streamed on Watch ESPN; Fox games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available on fuboTV.)
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Austin FC, 3:30 p.m. (Univision, TUDN)
Atlanta United vs. CF Montreal, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo, 9 p.m. (ESPN+)
Real Salt Lake vs. Nashville SC, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. (ESPN+)
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
FC Cincinnati vs. Inter Miami CF, 4 p.m. (FOX)
New England Revolution vs. Columbus SC, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
DC United vs. Orlando City SC, 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles FC, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
MLS news and notes
Columbus Crew SC rebrands as Columbus SC: Columbus Crew SC is no more. Kinda. The club on Monday announced it was switching up its brand and marks with a new badge, along with dropping the “Crew” from the club’s name in favor of “Columbus SC.” The club also has retained a word mark that contains “the Crew”” but backlash from dropping the “Crew” moniker from the club’s proper name has been met with hard resistance. The organization’s confirmation of the new name and marks on Monday invited a wave of backlash from fans and soccer writers alike. For the time being, Columbus SC is the name of Central Ohio’s MLS franchise. To date, there’s no indication the club is going to reconsider the rebrand and new merchandise is being rolled out.
‘NEGATIVE TO CATASTROPHIC’: Columbus Crew brass was told beforehand that rebranding would not go over well with fans
FC Cincinnati to debut TQL Stadium vs. Inter Miami CF: MLS stadium infrastructure is growing again in 2021 with three new venues coming online this season. The first of the venues to host a league match will be FC Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. on FOX). The 26,000-capacity venue located in the city’s West End neighborhood will be at a restricted capacity of around 6,000 fans, but fans of any number will be a welcome sight for the club as FCC wasn’t permitted to host a single paying spectator in 2020 due to the pandemic. Later this season, Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium and Columbus SC’s forthcoming and under-construction stadium, which currently doesn’t have a naming-rights partner, will also open.
‘IT’S A NEW DAY’: From Crosley Field to TQL Stadium
San Jose Earthquakes’ ageless wonder: Chris Wondolowski, now 38, enters the fifth week of MLS play as the reigning Player of the Week after he bagged a brace against Real Salt Lake last weekend to lead San Jose to a 2-1 victory. The goals were the 167th and 168th of his career, and added to his all-time MLS-leading haul of scores. “Wondo” clearly still has game and all the evidence you need to know that’s true is the gap between he and Landon Donovan on the MLS all-time scoring list is still widening.
Adrian Heath’s hot seat chills: Serious questions were being asked of Minnesota United FC after starting the 2021 season with four successive losses. For the time being, head coach Adrian Heath has the Loons’ ship pointed in the right direction after Wednesday’s 1-0 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps at Allianz Field. The win saw Heath make noteworthy changes to his starting lineup and allowed Minnesota to move out of the basement in the league-wide standings on three points. Chicago Fire FC and FC Cincinnati (one point apiece) sit below Minnesota in the MLS table.
No revenge for Union against Revs: The Philadelphia Union didn’t exact revenge against the New England Revolution following last season’s first-round MLS Cup playoff loss, which ended a historic, Supporters Shield-winning 2020 season for the Union. Philly did manage to avoid another home defeat against New England, though, as Kacper Przybylko’s 88th-minute goal cancelled out Teal Bunbury’s 85th minute opener at Subaru Park on Wednesday. The draw saw the Revolution move into first place in the Eastern Conference on points (2-2-1, eight points), while Philadelphia (1-2-2, five points) remained part of a five-club log jam on five points.
By the numbers
2.7: As in 2.7 miles of LED lights that wrap the exterior of FC Cincinnati’s new 26,000-seat TQL Stadium, which hosts its first game Sunday. Inspired by Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena in Germany (and with a similar aesthetic as Minnesota United’s Allianz Field), TQL Stadium’s exterior façade is wrapped with more than 500 vertically oriented aluminum fins, capable of producing more than 65,000 shades of color.
TQL STADIUM: FC Cincinnati built a stadium in the West End. Now team owners want it to become a ‘destination’ neighborhood
MLS top 10 power rankings
1. Seattle Sounders – Coach Brian Schmetzer’s squad is off to a strong start, and can add further frustration on Sunday to an expected contender in the Western Conference – LAFC – that has stumbled out of the gate.
2. Los Angeles Galaxy – Playing in his first El Tráfico, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored his league-leading sixth goal and added an assist on Jonathan dos Santos’ match-winner. In all, Chicharito has been involved in all but one of the Galaxy’s goals this season.
3. New York City FC – Back in March, NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila said that his team needed “more quality players.” Yet, here they are despite that perceived lack of “quality” from their own coach.
4. San Jose Earthquakes – If you haven’t been staying up late for West Coast nighttime soccer, then you’ve been missing out on one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch.
5. Columbus SC – With their Concacaf Champions League hopes dashed, the team formerly known as Columbus Crew SC finally earned its first MLS win of the season.
6. Orlando City SC – Nani has scored three goals in four games and has Orlando on its expected trajectory as a contender.
7. New England Revolution – Coach Bruce Arena’s team gets to be the first opponent for the newly reminted “Columbus SC.”
8. Sporting Kansas City – SKC has owned its upcoming opponent in recent seasons, with a five-game unbeaten streak against the Vancouver Whitecaps that includes four victories.
9. Nashville SC – After opening the season with three straight ties, Nashville finally got its first 3-pointer of the season, doing so against a strong Revolution squad.
10. New York Red Bulls – After a sluggish start to the season, NYRB has posted back-to-back impressive 2-0 wins. Newcomer Frankie Amaya and USMNT prospect Caden Clark each netted goals in last week’s win over Toronto FC.
Moving in: Sporting Kansas City, Nashville SC, New York Red Bulls
Dropping out: Los Angeles FC (previously: 4), Real Salt Lake (5), CF Montreal (10)
Others receiving votes: Atlanta United, Los Angeles FC, Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake, Vancouver Whitecaps
USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Mike Craven, Austin American-Statesman; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS schedule May 15-16: How to watch games on TV, streaming info