As the chase to the MLS Cup playoffs heats up in Week 20, two of the league’s hottest teams will look to extend their respective unbeaten streaks against quality Western Conference opponents.
The Colorado Rapids haven’t lost since April 9, and Pablo Mastroeni’s side will look to reach 14 games unbeaten on Saturday night against West leaders FC Dallas. Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers will face a difficult task of their own against the LA Galaxy, as the defending MLS Cup champions attempt to extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches.
While those two matches will catch the attention of those in the west, all eyes will be on the Hudson River Derby on Sunday afternoon when the New York Red Bulls host New York City FC in the third and final meeting of 2016.
Coming into Sunday, the two sides split their previous two affairs, with NYCFC most recently pulling out a 2-0 win at Yankee Stadium back on July 3.
Here is a full breakdown of the week 20 schedule:
REAL SALT LAKE vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Friday, 11 p.m., UniMas)
Winless in its last five matches, RSL is looking for a quick turnaround on Friday night. Jeff Cassar’s side remains fourth in the Western Conference, but with several teams closing the gap behind them, RSL needs to start picking up wins as the season hits its most important juncture.
Coming off of a thrilling win against Toronto FC and holding several games in hand over teams directly above them, the Earthquakes will look to keep their momentum going against RSL. Last week’s win snapped a seven-match winless run, but now, Chris Wondolowski and co. must sustain their winning ways if they are to keep chase in the West.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. LA GALAXY (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN)
The Timbers have quietly become one of the hottest teams in the league, but Caleb Porter’s side will face a stiff challenge against the Galaxy. Fanendo Adi and Diego Valeri have been two of the leagues deadliest finishers in 2016, netting a combined 19 goals thus far.
The Galaxy are on a five-game unbeaten streak of their own and currently sit third in the West. Bruce Arena’s side will have to overcome a difficult crowd at Providence Park, though, where the Timbers have lost just twice in 11 matches this season.
TORONTO FC vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With both sides hovering in the Eastern Conference playoff race, a win would be critical for either TFC or D.C. Toronto has struggled greatly throughout the season, most recently due to the fact that Sebastian Giovinco hasn’t been scoring. Greg Vanney’s side will need their Italian superstar to start coming up big if the team is to succeed.
D.C. has been active in this summer’s transfer market but time will only tell if their moves pay off. Lloyd Sam and now Patrick Mullins have been thrown into the attacking mix, while Fabian Espindola has been sent to the Whitecaps, leaving a gap up front.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. ORLANDO CITY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With just one win in their last 12 games, the Crew are beginning to get desperate for results in the East. Despite only sitting five points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Greg Berhalter’s team is undoubtedly a shell of itself from a year ago. While Ola Kamara has done well in filling the void left by Kei Kamara, the side’s defense has proven too porous at times.
Orlando City may be a bit higher up the totem pole in the East but the team still lacks consistency of its own. The club hired former NYCFC and RSL head coach Jason Kreis this week but the side needs to get healthy before it can begin to crank out results. With Tommy Redding and Kaka on the way back from the sidelines, the Lions should be in a better position to do so.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
While the two sides will meet again in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals, Saturday’s meeting still holds great weight for the Eastern Conference foes. The Revs currently hold the final playoff spot in the East, and recent results against the Crew and RSL should have the team’s spirits lifted a bit.
The Fire have certainly played better recently, winning two of their last four matches, but the team need to continue to impress if they are to push for a playoff spot. Only six points separate the Fire from the Revolution in the standings, and a win at Gillette Stadium would make the race in the East a whole lot more interesting.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With Lauren Ciman and Didier Drogba set to return for the Impact, the team will be given a big lift following their disappointing loss to NYCFC last weekend. The Impact sit four points behind the Union in the East standings and need a win in order to keep chase.
Meanwhile, the Union will be without attacker Ilsinho for Saturday’s match after picking up a red card in the team’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls last weekend.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live)
In arguably the biggest meeting of the weekend, the top two teams in the West will battle it out for the conference’s top position. The Rapids hold three games in hand, which bodes well for Pablo Mastroeni’s side moving forward, but a win would solidify their standing as the league’s best team.
The Rapids are 8-0-2 this season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which leaves Dallas in a position to become the first team to knock them off at home. Dallas is unbeaten in nine of its last 11 games, and with Fabian Castillo and co. looking unstoppable in the attack it will be up to the Rapids backline to contain the dangerous group.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Dynamo sit 11 points out of the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference, making wins all the more important right now. Wade Barrett’s team will need to continue their solid home form, though, in order to keep the race interesting.
Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have pulled out three straight results, which puts them in the thick of things in the West playoff table. The recent addition of Fabian Espindola will add another threatening option up front for Carl Robinson as well.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. NEW YORK CITY FC (Sunday, 1 p.m., FOX/Fox Soccer 2Go)
With just one win over their last six fixtures, Jesse Marsch and the Red Bulls need a strong showing against their rivals on Sunday. Blown leads and shaky performances up front have left uncertainty with the Red Bulls as of late, and while they are still sitting comfortably in the East, a validating result against NYCFC would go a long way for the team’s confidence during the second half of the season.
NYCFC has won five of their last six, and with the infusion of Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison, this team appears to be clicking better than it ever has before. A series win against the Red Bulls would further the momentum created by Patrick Vieira in his first season with the Bronx side.
SPORTING KC vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN/ESPN Deportes/Watch ESPN)
Two straight 1-0 defeats have put a halt on Sporting KC’s upswing, but a meeting with the Sounders gives Peter Vermes’ group a quick chance to rebound. SKC’s solid home presence gives the group a decided advantage, but Dom Dwyer and the attack will need to be clicking in order to grasp all three points.
A heartbreaking defeat in the U.S. Open Cup left a bitter taste for the Sounders, but Sigi Schmid’s team cannot waste any time in mourning. With two wins in their last 10 matches, the Sounders are running out of time in the West, currently sitting nine points out of sixth place.