By DAN KARELL
After taking three weeks off for the World Cup group stage, Major League Soccer action returns this weekend in a busy nine-game schedule.
The weekend is highlighted by the fast and powerful Seattle Sounders visiting the nation’s capital to take on D.C. United. It’s not only a top of the table clash but also a chance for Eddie Johnson to face his former side, with the D.C. United forward coming in with extra motivation.
Elsewhere in MLS, the Red Bulls hope to get back in the winning column when they host Toronto FC, the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City face off for the second time in four days, and the LA Galaxy drive up I-5 to take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Stanford Stadium in this season’s first Cali Clasico.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s slate:
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. TORONTO FC (Friday, 8 p.m., MLS Live)
The Red Bulls hope to bring back some positive momentum after the break when they return to the field against Toronto FC.
The hosts have historically fared well against TFC at Red Bull Arena but midfielder Tim Cahill is a doubt to play and fellow central midfielder Dax McCarty is also set to miss the match with his injury. Roy Miller also misses out due to still playing at the World Cup, but Thierry Henry is expected to feature.
For TFC, they’ll still be without Michael Bradley but Jermain Defoe is expected to play. TFC forward Gilberto and midfielder Daniel Lovitz are questionable.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Friday, 11 p.m., MLS Live)
These two teams just met four days ago in the U.S. Open Cup, and now renew their rivalry on the Providence Park field.
Both Darlington Nagbe and Gaston Fernandez have scored twice against Sporting KC, who are still missing Graham Zusi and Matt Besler to U.S. Men’s National Team duty in addition to a litany of others currently injured. The Timbers also have three players listed as questionable – Pa Modou Kah, Norberto Paparatto, and Ben Zemanski – heading into this exciting encounter.
D.C. UNITED vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
In the game of the weekend, the two teams at the top of each conference face off for the only time this season at RFK Stadium.
After D.C. United’s shocking 2013 season, they’ve steadily rose up the table this year and took the top spot, just before the break. Without DeAndre Yedlin, Clint Dempsey, and the suspended Obafemi Martins, Ben Olsen’s side may even have an advantage against the high flying Sounders.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Union play their first MLS game under interim head coach Jim Curtain, but they couldn’t have faced a more difficult opponent in their first game after the break.
Following a slow start, the Revolution rounded into form, going unbeaten between April 12 through May 31, though they lost their last two games before the World Cup break. Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen have combined to score nine goals and assist on four others, giving the Union centerback pairing plenty to think about when trying to defend. Unfortunately for the Union, Conor Casey and Vincent Nogueira are questionable, while Ethan White is ruled out.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 8 p.m., MLS Live)
Just three days after playing 120 minutes in a U.S. Open Cup defeat, the Crew have to regroup when they host FC Dallas.
The Crew haven’t won in three league matches and have overall struggled since starting off the season with a 3-0 start. However, both Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain are fit and ready to go for the match, which should help connect the Crew between defense, midfield, and attack. For FC Dallas, they’re missing Fabian Castillo due to a suspension and Mauro Diaz and Hendry Thomas to injury.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 9 p.m., TSN/MLS Live)
The Whitecaps got MLS play back underway on Wednesday with a road draw at the Impact but they’ll have to recover quickly as they travel to Denver to face the Rapids.
Edson Buddle and Vicente Sanchez are back to full fitness and should be available for action along with Dillon Powers in what should be a great game between two Western Conference rivals. Jay DeMerit is ruled out with an ankle injury for the Whitecaps, while Dillon Serna is out due to suspension.
CHIVAS USA vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Both Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake enter this weekend with four-game winless streaks and are looking to break them at the StubHub Center.
RSL are still playing without Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman while Tony Beltran is suspended but RSL will feel confident against the Goats after sweeping them in all three games last season. Chivas USA are without Andrew-Jean Baptiste while RSL has Ned Grabavoy listed as doubtful.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. LA GALAXY (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
The Cali Clasico returns to Stanford Stadium for the first time this season, the site of previous late Earthquakes heroics in wild matches against the Galaxy.
It’s the first Cali Clasico’s for Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi and Stefan Ishizaki but the old guard should be the stars as Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart look to lead the Earthquakes to a famous win. Both teams are missing key players though due to international call-ups, with Omar Gonzalez, Chris Wondolowski, and Victor Bernardez all unavailable.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Sunday, 7:30 p.m. MLS Live)
The weekend wraps up with the Impact hosting the Dynamo in what’s become one of the league’s latest rivalries.
These two squads duked it out last season in the first round of the MLS playoffs, a match that saw the Impact reduced to nine men and lose Andres Romero and Marco Di Vaio for the start of the 2014 season. The Impact now must prepare for another physical battle on four days rest, and will need to improve on their 13-goals scored in 14-games played start to the season.
What do you think of this weekend’s slate? Do you see D.C. United defeating the Sounders? Do you think the Earthquakes can pull off another win against the Galaxy? Do you believe the Red Bulls can defeat TFC even possibly without Tim Cahill?
Share your thoughts below.