Several teams are still jockeying for playoff positioning, and a few of those sides will face each other during a pivotal Week 30 in MLS.
The headliner pits the LA Galaxy against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday afternoon. The Galaxy have not lost in their last six matches, while the Sounders, who are five points adrift of the playoffs, have earned points in seven of their last eight games.
Another key clash in the Western Conference will feature Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas on Saturday evening. Both sides are separated by eight points, but with FC Dallas narrowly ahead in the Supporters’ Shield race, the West leaders will need a result at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the Claret and Cobalt have lost just once all season.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the New York Red Bulls face the struggling Montreal Impact, who are desperately clinging to a playoff spot. Elsewhere, D.C. United and Orlando City will square off. Both teams have 34 points and are two points out of playoff position entering the weekend.
Here is a closer look at the action during Week 30:
NEW YORK CITY FC VS. CHICAGO FIRE (FRIDAY, 8 P.M., UNIMAS)
New York City FC could be in first place in the Eastern Conference by the end of the weekend, provided it defeats the Chicago Fire on Friday night.
NYCFC will welcome the Fire, have only lost twice in their last seven MLS games. However, Chicago has been abysmal on the road, posting a 1-10-2 record this season. Meanwhile, New York City is 6-3-6 at home and has conceded a whopping 52 goals in 2016. Thankfully for the hosts, they are facing a side that has scored a lowly 35 goals. The offense will suffer as the Fire will be missing John Goossens, but could see the return of Michael de Leeuw from an ankle injury. Frank Lampard is the only key absentee for Patrick Vieira’s men.
TORONTO FC VS. PHILADELPHIA UNION (SATURDAY, 5 P.M., MLS LIVE)
Toronto FC could officially clinch a playoff spot against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
TFC has a two-point lead at the top of the Eastern Conference with a game in hand. The Canadian side will be facing a Union team that is winless in its last three matches. Trying to snap that skid at BMO Field won’t be any easier as the Reds have only lost once at home since May.
Sebastian Giovinco could also return, which would be a huge boost for Toronto. Josh Yaro is suspended for Philadelphia, but Ken Tribbett will replace him in the starting lineup.
D.C. UNITED VS. ORLANDO CITY SC (SATURDAY, 7 P.M., MLS LIVE)
D.C. United and Orlando City are below the red line. One of these sides could be occupying a playoff spot after the weekend.
Both teams are two points behind the sixth-placed New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference. D.C. and Orlando City each have a game in hand on New England, but a win would also create a small gap with one another. United enters the match as the in-form team, only losing once in its previous nine matches. Orlando is coming off back-to-back losses, conceding eight goals in both defeats.
Jason Kreis will also be missing Jose Aja, but Antonio Nocerino and Christian Higuita should be available. The hosts will still be without starters Jared Jeffrey and Sean Franklin.
NEW YORK RED BULLS VS. MONTREAL IMPACT (SATURDAY, 7 P.M., MLS LIVE)
The New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact will be desperate for a win, especially the Impact.
The Red Bulls let another two-goal lead slip against Toronto FC as they settled for a 2-2 draw, but they are still within striking distance of first place in the Eastern Conference. The Impact are nowhere near as stable. They have won just once in their last seven games, which includes a 3-1 defeat at Red Bull Arena on Aug. 13.
Montreal has been decent on the road recently and has no crucial injuries. New York, on the other hand, lost defender Ronald Zubar for the next few weeks. Perhaps the visitors can rediscover their offensive form with the absence of Zubar.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS VS. COLORADO RAPIDS (SATURDAY, 7 P.M., MLS LIVE)
The playoffs are fading out of reach for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but the Colorado Rapids have plenty on the line.
The Rapids have six games left entering the weekend, while the league leader FC Dallas has four matches remaining. Colorado is only five points behind the Texan side and has lost only one of the last five meetings against Vancouver.
The Rapids have won once in their previous six matches, but the absences of Jermaine Jones and Kevin Doyle haven’t helped. They have still picked up four points over the last two weeks and are facing an inept Whitecaps offense. Three points are there for the taking.
HOUSTON DYNAMO VS. PORTLAND TIMBERS (SATURDAY, 9 P.M., MLS LIVE)
The Portland Timbers are the only team without a road win in 2016. They have a chance to end that barren run against the Houston Dynamo.
It is never easy to earn a result in Texas, but the Houston Dynamo just snapped a three-game winless run last weekend. The Timbers are riding high, having won three of their last four matches. Houston will be missing goalkeeper Tyler Deric, which is a tough loss considering how weak the Dynamo’s attack has been all season long.
REAL SALT LAKE VS. FC DALLAS (SATURDAY, 9:30 P.M., MLS LIVE)
Real Salt Lake needs a win to solidify a first-round bye, while FC Dallas has Toronto FC and the LA Galaxy breathing down their necks for the Supporters’ Shield.
The last time both teams met, RSL edged Dallas 1-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium, which is where they will meet again this Saturday. The Hoops have a tough schedule to finish the regular season as they will twice face the LA Galaxy with a match versus the Seattle Sounders in between. Points are a must this weekend if the Texans want to win the Shield. The Claret and Cobalt, meanwhile, are coming off back-to-back 1-0 defeats and are close to slipping out of a position that would clinch a home playoff game.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES VS. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (SATURDAY, 10:30 P.M., MLS LIVE)
The final match on Saturday sees a slumping Sporting Kansas City battle the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium.
Sporting KC has only earned one victory since August and needs to pick up points with the Seattle Sounders closing in on the sixth playoff spot in the Western Conference. As usual, injuries have not been kind to SKC as it is missing Lawrence Olum, Chance Myers and Graham Zusi. The Earthquakes will be without three key starters and have scored a league-low 27 goals this season, so if there is a chance for Sporting to regain form, it’s in this game.
LA GALAXY VS. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (SUNDAY, 4 P.M., ESPN)
One of the up-and-coming rivalries in MLS will take center stage on Sunday afternoon.
The in-form LA Galaxy host the red-hot Seattle Sounders with plenty of playoff implications on the line. The Galaxy are four points adrift of FC Dallas in the race for the Supporters’ Shield and could see the return of Steven Gerrard this weekend. LA is unbeaten in six straight games, scoring 13 goals in that span. It will need that firepower versus the Sounders, who have lost just once in their last eight matches.
COLUMBUS CREW VS. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (SUNDAY, 7 P.M., FOX SPORTS 1)
The New England Revolution have caught momentum at the right time.
The Revs have won three straight games in MLS, all against playoff teams, even though they were swept aside by FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup final earlier this month. The Columbus Crew are seven points adrift of the postseason, but with two games in hand on New England, it could launch a late surge.
The Crew may have to do so without some key players, including Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain, who are listed as questionable.