By DAN KARELL
FC Dallas have continued their flying start to the season but one of Major League Soccer’s most talented teams stands in their way of staying undefeated.
Oscar Pareja’s side welcomes the Seattle Sounders and their full complement of Designated Players to Toyota Stadium for a showcase that should bring out the best in both sides. Clint Dempsey finally seems to be hitting his stride after bagging a hat-trick at the Portland Timbers, while FC Dallas’ Mauro Diaz has been the midfield maestro the team has been needing the last 12 months.
The FC Dallas central defense of Stephen Keel and Matt Hedges will be tested all game by Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Lamar Neagle, and whoever can win both the majority of 50-50 challenges and second balls could determine who wins this match.
Elsewhere in MLS this weekend, the Philadelphia Union hope to tighten their defense when they welcome Real Salt Lake to town, the Vancouver Whitecaps take their attacking side to the StubHub Center to face the LA Galaxy, and the New York Red Bulls travel to D.C. United for the first of three meetings between the two long-time rivals.
Here is a rundown of the Week 6 slate:
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 4pm ET, MLS Live/Univision Deportes)
The Union will need to clean up their defensive miscues quickly when they host Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon. Outside backs Sheanon Williams and Fabinho are questionable but the Union could see the debut of Andrew Wenger this weekend.
RSL, despite their record, are very banged up, with no less than 11 players listed on their latest injury report. Nick Rimando and Luis Gil are doubtful so Luke Mulholland and Jeff Atinella should start for a second straight week. It will be interesting to see U.S. Men’s National Team midfielders Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman face each other.
TORONTO FC vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 4pm ET, MLS Live/TSN)
Coming off an unexpected win in Columbus, Toronto FC proved that they can win without Jermain Defoe. Unfortunately for them, they’ll have to do so again for the second week in a row as Defoe was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Doneil Henry (knee) will also miss his second-straight match. Steven Caldwell returns from suspension but Michael Bradley is a game-time decision.
The Rapids will hope to continue their strong start and Jose Mari will be important in defensive midfield. The Rapids have given up four goals from open play this season while TFC have scored five, so that’s a key area to keep an eye on. Chris Klute and Dillon Serna are both listed as questionable.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 4pm ET, MLS Live)
Impact head coach Frank Klopas faces his former club for the first time since parting ways at the end of last season, and he could unleash new acquisition Jack McInerney for his debut this weekend. Nelson Rivas and Hernan Bernardello are both questionable but Marco Di Vaio continues to return to match fitness.
The Fire have played valiantly this season, earning tough draws at D.C. United, the Portland Timbers, and at home against the Union last Saturday. But the team has scored just five goals in five games and needs to get more out of Mike Magee as he returns to full fitness. Look for him to find the gaps in the Impact defense on Saturday.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 5pm ET, MLS Live)
The Revolution could find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings by next week if they don’t flip the switch soon. They’ve scored just twice in five games this season and will again be without Kelyn Rowe, who possibly could have been the key to connect the Revolution’s attack and defense.
And if there’s any opponent the Revolution would rather not face now, it’s the Dynamo, coming off an embarrassing loss last week to FC Dallas. Eric Brunner faces an extended period on the sidelines and David Horst is gone due to suspension, but Will Bruin, Brad Davis, and Oscar Boniek Garcia will be hell bent on preventing last Saturday’s debacle.
D.C. UNITED vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 7pm ET, MLS Live)
The first installment of the 2014 Atlantic Cup features two teams still putting their seasons together. D.C. United broke a string of 16 games without a win last week but are by no means the favorites this Saturday, even at home. D.C. will also be without both Chris Pontius and Luis Silva due to injury and substitute Lewis Neal will miss the match as well.
The Red Bulls see the return of Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave after missing last week’s match at the Impact, and when those two are in the lineup, success usually follows for New York. Richard Eckersley is ruled out while Tim Cahill and Armando are listed as questionable.
FC DALLAS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 8:30pm ET, MLS Live)
Oscar Pareja’s side face their biggest test at Toyota Stadium when they host the Seattle Sounders. The Sounders are expected to bring their full complement of Designated Players, which should make for a great game against the talented FC Dallas squad.
Brad Evans of the Sounders is not expected to travel while George John and Andres Escobar are listed as questionable. A key matchup to watch will be if Osvaldo Alonso can neutralize Mauro Diaz.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 10:30pm ET, MLS Live)
The Timbers were so close to winning their first match of the season before two late goals from Clint Dempsey stole two points from Caleb Porter’s side. Heading into Saturday’s encounter with Chivas USA, Porter will be looking for improved consistency along the back line after the leaky defense on display against Seattle.
Donovan Ricketts and Steve Zakuani are both listed as questionable for the Timbers while Chivas USA have a whole host of injury problems, starting with Osvaldo Minda being ruled out for the game.
LA GALAXY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30pm ET, MLS Live/TSN)
There should be fireworks aplenty when the Whitecaps travel to the LA Galaxy on Saturday night. Both teams feature extremely talented attacking units with plenty of issues farther back in the field.
The Whitecaps’ biggest issue heading into this match is the loss of Matias Laba to a red card suspension, leaving the team without their glue guy and a holding midfielder capable of snuffing out attacks. A.J. DeLaGarza and Gyasi Zardes are both questionable, while Robbie Rogers has surprisingly been sent down to LA Galaxy II for their match this weekend against Sacramento Republic. Keep an eye on Darren Mattocks versus the Galaxy back line and whether he can break their offside traps high up the field.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Sunday, 3pm ET, UniMas)
The Columbus Crew crashed back to earth last week after a tremendous start but they’re in for another tough road test at the San Jose Earthquakes.
Even without Steven Lenhart this weekend, Chris Wondolowski could line up next to Alan Gordon as the Earthquakes look to batter down the Crew defense. The Crew have reportedly been practicing their crossing and finishing this week after a lackluster performance against TFC and will be betting that their wide play from right back Josh Williams and left back Waylon Francis can open up more opportunities for crosses into the box.
What do you think of the Week 6 slate? Which matchup are you most excited for?
Share your thoughts below.