By THOMAS FLOYD
Front-runner status in the Supporters' Shield race is at stake this weekend.
The MLS-leading San Jose Earthquakes will host a Real Salt Lake team sitting just one point back in the Western Conference standings. With the top attack in MLS, Chris Wondolowski and the Earthquakes will be eager to test themselves against Jamison Olave and Salt Lake's dependably stingy back line.
Elsewhere, the New York Red Bulls will welcome the Seattle Sounders in a clash of big-budget clubs, while the Portland Timbers will kick off the post-John Spencer era against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Here is a rundown of the Week 19 slate:
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 7 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
Coming off a disappointing mid-week home loss to Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, the Union (winners of three out of four league matches) will look to bounce back and continue their resurgent form in league play.
The Impact will be without speedy attacker Sanna Nyassi (yellow card accumulation), putting even more pressure on Designated Player signing Marco Di Vaio to perform.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live/TSN2)
With a last-gasp win over Vancouver Wednesday night, Toronto improved to 2-1-4 in its past seven matches. Torsten Frings' stellar performance in that contest showed just how much this team depends on the health of the German veteran. His presence in the midfield is even more important after the trade of Julian de Guzman to FC Dallas.
The Revolution, meanwhile, are now unbeaten in five, though losing Kelyn Rowe to suspension for this contest is a particularly tough blow considering the existing injury concerns of Shalrie Joseph and Jose Moreno.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
After claiming a win at Philadelphia in U.S. Open Cup action, Sporting KC will want to continue the momentum away from home. This match could mark another opportunity for SKC to use its fairly untested depth.
The return of Chad Marshall from injury last weekend was a key development for a Crew team that already boasts one of the league's top defenses. To boot, fellow centerbacks Julius James and Carlos Mendes are close to returning as well.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
Wrapping up a five-game road swing, Vancouver might not have a lot of fight left in it after surrendering a late winner against TFC.
This game could very well feature a head-to-head matchup between two of the top rookies in MLS, with Chicago centerback Austin Berry squaring off against Vancouver striker Darren Mattocks, whose high-rising goal against Toronto is still a topic of conversation days after the fact.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A year and a half ago, these teams met in the MLS Cup final. But entering this match, Colorado has lost five out of six matches while Dallas is winless in its last 13.
On the plus side, both teams have recently gotten key familiar faces back from injury recently, with Dallas' David Ferreira and Colorado's Omar Cummings and Conor Casey returning to the equation.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
With a win at home, the Earthquakes will complete a sweep of Salt Lake, which they defeated 3-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium in April and 2-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium in June, using late winners on both occasions.
The Earthquakes will be without the veteran leadership of left back/midfielder Ramiro Corrales, who will be sitting this match out after receiving a red card last week at Dallas. For RSL, new acquisition Justin Braun has proven to be an Earthquakes killer in the past, and it remains to be seen if he'll get a chance to debut for his new club after being dealt to his hometown team from Montreal on Wednesday.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Saturday, 11 p.m., NBCSN/TSN2)
Portland interim coach Gavin Wilkinson will debut at home against the Galaxy, who are getting midfielder David Beckham back from his two-game suspension.
Both teams will be short-handed in central midfield, with the Galaxy's Juninho (yellow card accumulation) and Portland's Diego Chara (red card) suspended.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Sunday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Markus Holgersson are poised to return to action for the Red Bulls, who struggled with a short-handed roster last weekend in a 2-0 loss at New England.
Seattle, meanwhile, will look to build off an Open Cup win over Chivas USA on Wednesday, one that puts the Sounders in position to win their fourth straight tournament title. In a boost for the Sounders, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning may make his return from a hip strain Sunday.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 9 p.m., Galavision)
After splitting their first two meetings, the Dynamo and United will play their season-series rubber match Sunday night at BBVA Compass Stadium.
For D.C. center backs Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald, the emphasis will be on stopping second-year Houston striker Will Bruin, who, in addition to breaking out with nine goals this year, already has five career tallies against United.