By THOMAS FLOYD
For Real Salt Lake, there will be no time to dwell on its crushing home defeat in the CONCACAF Champions League second leg on Wednesday, as it now faces another steep challenge: trying to get a result at Jeld-Wen Field.
The Portland Timbers are undefeated at their boisterous home field and will be trying to keep it that way Saturday against Salt Lake. At Red Bull Arena, meanwhile, New York will look to maintain its grasp on first place in the Eastern Conference against a struggling Sporting Kansas City side. In Colorado, the Rapids will host the Chicago Fire in a showdown between two teams trying to get their seasons back on track. And the weekend wraps up with a rematch of the 2010 Western Conference final between the Los Angeles Galaxy and FC Dallas.
Here is a rundown of the full week seven schedule:
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. D.C. UNITED (Friday, 8:30 p.m., FSC)
After suffering through a 4-0 thrashing at home to rival New York last week, United will be eager to get a result against Houston and show the rest of MLS the loss to the Red Bulls was a fluke. The possible return of reliable right back Jed Zayner could bolster the back line, but United will be without midfielder Branko Boskovic, as the Montenegrin didn't travel to Houston as a precaution after suffering a minor knee injury Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup play.
Houston, which is on a five-game unbeaten streak despite injuries to defender Jermaine Taylor and striker Brian Ching, is hoping to have Spanish forward Koke available for the match, but expect the in-form duo of Cam Weaver and Will Bruin to start up top once again. Centerback Bobby Boswell, who has been on a tear connecting with set pieces, will try to continue his good form against his old club.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 4 p.m., Direct Kick)
San Jose will hope its second trip to the Mid-Atlantic this month will be more fruitful than its first, when the Earthquakes dropped a 3-0 result at New York. It won't be an easy task, though, as the 3-1-1 Union is coming off a bye week and could have Jordan Harvey, Brian Carroll and Justin Mapp, all of whom have been suffering through hamstring strains, available after getting the extra rest.
Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop will probably continue the shuffling of his starting 11 after San Jose fell 2-1 last week to previously winless Chivas USA. Striker Steven Lenhart, acquired from Columbus during the offseason, could make his first start for San Jose, while Ike Opara might step back into the back line after being benched last week.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Columbus, with its struggling attack but stingy defense, and Vancouver, with its goal-scoring effectiveness but leaky back line, have more or less been complete opposites thus this season, making this into an intriguing clash at Crew Stadium.
With Vancouver forwards Atiba Harris (knee surgery) and Eric Hassli (yellow card accumulation) both out, the Whitecaps could have a tough time getting past Columbus' centerback pairing of Chad Marshall and Julius James. And captain Jay DeMerit remaining out for Vancouver with a groin strain isn't going to help matters on the defensive side for the Whitecaps.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Coming off back-to-back dominating wins by a combined seven-goal margin, New York is currently playing as well as any team in MLS. Although Kansas City boasts a talented front line, Teal Bunbury and Co. could have a tough time trying to get past New York defenders Rafael Marquez and Tim Ream.
The Red Bulls' loaded offense, meanwhile, could mean trouble for Kansas City, which is tied for second in the league with 12 goals allowed this season. Even without Dwayne De Rosario playing up to his full potential, defenses recently have had no answer for stopping a lineup that seems to have dangerous attacking options at every position.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
Colorado hasn't won a match since April 3 and Chicago's dry spell dates back to March 26, so this match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park will be crucial from a momentum standpoint as both teams try to get back into the win column.
Conor Casey is listed as questionable while still recovering from a hamstring strain, which means Colorado will likely depend on the Caleb Folan-Omar Cummings partnership up top against a Chicago defense that could again be without the injured Cory Gibbs. With Brian Mullan serving the first match of his 10-game suspension for a vicious tackle on Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani, Wells Thompson and Sanna Nyassi are candidates to occupy his post on the right flank.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 10 p.m., Direct Kick)
Playing their first full match without Steve Zakuani after the dynamic midfielder suffered a broken leg last week in Colorado, Seattle will likely depend on Alvaro Fernandez to step in on the flank and start living up to his Designated Player billing. Another DP, striker Fredy Montero, will also be looking to step up and return to form after breaking his long goal-scoring drought against the Rapids.
Not having Tony Tchani available due to a red card suspension will be a tough blow for Toronto, as the Virginia product had been forming an effective partnership with Julian de Guzman in central midfield. Toronto will get Ty Harden back from suspension, though, after the centerback sat out last week's 1-1 tie against Columbus with a red card.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Salt Lake will need to get over the devastating disappointment of its 1-0 loss to Monterrey on Wednesday in a hurry, as the Timbers Army would like nothing more than to saw off a few more slices of lumber and watch the visitors suffer their first MLS defeat of the season.
Timbers winger Kalif Alhassan is sure to challenge Salt Lake right back Robbie Russell on one flank, while Portland forwards Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza going against centerbacks Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers should be another good matchup to watch. And in central midfield, look for Portland's Jack Jewsbury and Salt Lake's Javier Morales to be battling throughout the evening.
CHIVAS USA vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Will New England midfielder Benny Feilhaber make Chivas regret passing him over when he went through the allocation process last week? That's one storyline to keep on eye on as these two teams, both coming off wins following tough stretches, meet at the Home Depot Center.
With Jimmy Conrad still recovering from a concussion, the Chivas back line of Zarek Valentin, Andrew Boyens, Heath Pearce and Ante Jazic has been a surprisingly effective unit. It will be tested against the revamped Revolution attack, which features Feilhaber as well as newly acquired striker Rajko Lekic.
FC DALLAS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Sunday, 7 p.m., Galavision)
The Galaxy will be looking to exact some revenge against Dallas after falling 3-0 at home to the Hoops in last year's Western Conference final. Although David Beckham will be flying in from London to play in this match after attending the royal wedding, the game will be lacking the star power of David Ferreira, who is out after suffering an ankle injury last week against Vancouver.
Galaxy fullbacks Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin will be key, as a result, because Dallas' attack is likely to flow through Brek Shea and Marvin Chavez on the flanks. For Dallas defensively, Shea and Jair Benitez will need to work together to contain Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan, although he could also be deployed on the opposite flank, from where he would mostly become Zach Loyd or Jackson Goncalves' assignment.