Both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers have fallen on hard times recently, with Seattle winless in six and Portland tied for last in the Western Conference. But none of that will matter when they renew their Cascadia Cup rivalry Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.
The first meeting of 2012 between the two sides highlights a full MLS schedule this weekend. In another heated rivalry, the New York Red Bulls will look to avenge their 4-1 loss at D.C. United in April and draw even with their Atlantic Cup foes atop the Eastern Conference.
The top spot in the Western Conference will also be on the line, with first-place Real Salt Lake hosting the second-place San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Here is a rundown of the full Week 16 slate:
TORONTO FC vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Toronto showed signs of progress under Paul Mariner when it jumped to a 3-1 lead at Houston on Wednesday, then looked an awful lot like the Aron Winter-era side when it gave up the lead and settled for a 3-3 tie.
On the plus side for Toronto, Danny Koevermans has regained his scoring touch. With Shalrie Joseph sidelined by an adductor strain, denying service out of midfield to the Dutch striker will be all the more difficult for New England.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
The Union controlled the run of play against D.C. United last weekend in John Hackworth's first game in charge but couldn't find a goal before falling victim to a set-piece lapse — a match that was both encouraging and disappointing.
Against Kansas City, one matchup to watch will be how Union holding midfielder Brian Carroll handles SKC playmaker Graham Zusi, who should be fairly fresh after coming off the bench midweek at Seattle.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
For Montreal against Houston, the defense's key task will be a simple one: stop Will Bruin. The second-year player has eight goals this season, including three in his past two games.
It is the other Dynamo forward that carries the headlines entering the game, though, as the match marks Brian Ching's return to Montreal after he was temporarily a member of the Impact following the expansion draft. The task of shutting down Bruin and Ching will likely fall to the centerback partnership of Nelson Rivas and Shavar Thomas as Matteo Ferrari continues to deal with a quad strain.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Columbus will put its six-game unbeaten streak on the line in Chicago on Saturday against a Fire team still riding high after last weekend's 3-1 win over New York.
With Arne Friedrich again likely to be sidelined, the Fire are expected to deploy the back line of Gonzalo Segares, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba and Dan Gargan to deal with Columbus' Justin Meram and Emilio Renteria.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
After an unusually poor defensive performance in a 3-2 home loss to Los Angeles on Wednesday, Salt Lake will look to bounce back by shutting down a prolific San Jose attack, led by Chris Wondolowski.
The match will mark a return from suspension for San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch, who had to sit out the Earthquakes' 2-1 comeback win at Colorado on Wednesday.
FC DALLAS vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 9 p.m., Galavision)
Although Dallas has claimed four in a row against Chivas, Schellas Hyndman's squad hasn't won a match in more than two months — a span covering 11 games in all competitions.
To make matters worse, Dallas will have to tinker its back line in the absence of suspended left back Jair Benitez. Chivas still has the league's second-worst offense, but Juan Agudelo and Co. have to be licking their chops.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., TSN, MLS Live/Direct Kick)
With two wins in a row, the Galaxy are now just two points out of a playoff slot. But with a tough, defensively sound Vancouver team coming to town, they'll have to work hard to make in three consecutive wins.
With Landon Donovan expected to stay up top — regardless of whether Robbie Keane is in the starting lineup after returning from Ireland's brief Euro run — his darting runs should provide trouble for World Cup teammate Jay DeMerit.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN)
The new Portland strike partnership of Kris Boyd and Danny Mwanga will have a tough task Sunday when the Timbers go up against a Seattle defense that is allowing less than a goal per game.
The match could mark the long-awaited return of Seattle winger Steve Zakuani from a broken leg after he returned to the gameday roster for the Sounders' 1-1 draw with Kansas City on Wednesday.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 7 p.m., NBCSN)
With two of the league's most prolific offenses on display, one can probably count on a few goals in this one. A key matchup to watch will be in central midfield, where United's Dwayne De Rosario and New York's Dax McCarty — two players traded for each other a year ago — face off. De Rosario got the better of McCarty in last year's meeting at Red Bull Arena, scoring the game-winning goal for D.C.
With a defense bolstered by the acquisition of Heath Pearce, expect New York to be far more sound in the back than it was during its lackluster trip to D.C. earlier this season.