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MLS Week 13: A Look Ahead

Some of Major League Soccer’s best rivalries take center stage this weekend, with a Cascadia clash front and center on the national landscape.

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers renew hostilities for their first Cascadia Cup contest of the season on Saturday, but that isn’t the only rivalry match that will gain attention. The always-entertaining Cali Clasico concludes Saturday’s schedule and the Texas Derby opens its 2017 chapter on Sunday night.

The weekend of action starts with a Trillium Cup showdown between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew and there’s plenty of other intriguing matchups scattered throughout Memorial Day weekend.

Here’s a closer look at the Week 13 action:

Columbus Crew at Toronto FC (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, TSN 1, MLS Live)

Two of the more unusual rivals in MLS open the weekend slate with the third and final Trillium Cup match of the season. Why exactly are the Crew and TFC rivals? Well, the trillium is the official flower of Ontario and official wildflower of Ohio, so why not name a trophy after it?

That trophy will be handed out to the victorious team on Friday night after the teams traded 2-1 results on April 15 and May 10 at Mapfre Stadium. If the game ends in a tie, the trophy will go to a series of tiebreakers, with away goals being the first. As for the match itself, the Reds should be in control even with Sebastian Giovinco still sidelined. Tosaint Ricketts has put together a strong run of form in the starting XI and off the bench. Containing Ricketts and Jozy Altidore will be the primary task of the Crew back line.

Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

A much more natural rivalry kicks off Saturday’s play right after the FA Cup Final on Fox. Portland has won three of its last five regular-season contests with the Sounders, scoring three or more goals in each of those triumphs, but the Sounders had the upper hand at home a year ago with a 3-1 win on August 21.

Both teams are in desperate need of a victory, even if the Sounders are coming off a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake. Before Saturday’s win over RSL, the Sounders dropped three straight. The Timbers haven’t won since an April 22 triumph over Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver Whitecaps. Not only would a win set the Timbers back on track, it would put them in the driver’s seat in the race for the Cascadia Cup.

D.C. United at Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

If you haven’t seen D.C. United play in the last month, you haven’t missed much. Ben Olsen’s men are mired in a slump and head to Vancouver off a three-game home losing streak. It’s hard to think things could get worse for the Black and Red, but they might be in store for a thumping at the hands of the Whitecaps.

However, the Whitecaps must be wary of the most MLS of results staring them in the face. We almost saw the bottom-dwelling Colorado Rapids go cross-country and beat the Philadelphia Union last week so the ‘Caps can’t take the week off. Saturday is the second game of a four-match homestand that began with an impressive 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.

New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

No one’s really talking about the New England Revolution, and, to be fair, we’re not used to see them perform this well until late in the year, but they’ve earned points from five of their six, including two consecutive victories over Real Salt Lake and the Crew. Saturday presents a nice test for the Revs against a foe from the East.

Red Bulls fans have had two hands hovering closely over the panic button, ready to slam on it in earnest, over the last month. But remember, it’s still May, and championships are not won in the third month of the season. With two road games after Saturday before the first New York derby of the year on June 24, a win at home would be nice to spark a little momentum.

Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

Sporting Kansas City did not receive any favors from the schedule makers last week after a home Wednesday match turned into a Saturday road trip to Vancouver. The Western Conference leader will try to put the loss to the Whitecaps in the rearview mirror with a win over a team that currently sits 15 points beneath it in the West.

Give the Rapids credit for the first half in Philadelphia last weekend, but they deserve none at all for what transpired in the second half. Pablo Mastroeni’s men just can’t catch a break and they’re also just not a good soccer team right now. One of these weeks the Rapids will surprise us and beat a potential MLS Cup contender, but maybe not this week.

Orlando City at Minnesota United (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

There will be a little extra spice in the air in Minnesota on Saturday night when Orlando City visits former manager Adrian Heath and Minnesota United. Jason Kreis’ side took a beating at home against NYCFC a week ago to kill its perfect home mark. The Lions are only 1-3-1 on their travels, a record that has to be a little concerning as they head up north.

Motivation won’t be hard to come by in Minnesota this week for Heath, Kevin Molino or any other Loons as they try to pull off a win against the team that fired Heath last year. The Loons are still an up and down team with three home losses, but something special is brewing in attack each week with Christian Ramirez, Miguel Ibarra, Molino and Abu Danladi. The true task is to find the right combination to record the third clean sheet of the season.

Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

Your eyes are not deceiving you, the Philadelphia Union are actually the hottest team in MLS not named Toronto FC. The putrid start by the club has been erased and now it’s time for Jim Curtin’s men to live up to the high standards they’ve created for themselves. Shutting down Albert Rusnak will be the team’s key defensive objective.

Rusnak has been one of the few bright spots in the RSL squad hurt by injuries and international duty. Mike Petke’s side has only recorded 11 goals in 13 games, with four coming from Yura Movsisyan. Production in attack needs to come from other sources (we’re looking at you, Joao Plata), but until it arrives, opposing defenses will be able to circle in on Rusnak and Movsisyan.

LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, Univision)

The starpower may be lacking a bit in 2017, but the Cali Clasico always seems to deliver in some fashion. The Earthquakes and Galaxy played to a pair of 1-1 draws in 2017 and the Galaxy won the third game 3-1 at home;. This year’s edition of the Galaxy has finally struck a rich vein of form, one they hope will carry them to the first rivalry win of the year.

The Earthquakes are a different team from 2016 as well, one laced with improvements at every position. Jahmir Hyka and Florian Jungwirth have been the key additions, while Chris Wondolowski continues to do Chris Wondolowski things in front of net with a possible Gold Cup call-up in front of him.

New York City FC at Atlanta United (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN)

If you like pricey and flashy things, Sunday’s clash at Bobby Dodd Stadium is for you. New York City FC and Atlanta United should field one of the most talented 11v11 lineups in the history of MLS. And for every MLS 1.0, Benny Ball or Rapids game we’ve watched for years, we deserve to sit back and enjoy the show.

NYCFC ruined Orlando City’s perfect home form a week ago and they sit third in the Eastern Conference ready to pounce on any slip ups made by TFC or the Fire. Atlanta is finally enjoying the spoils of home, albeit for a short period, and that showed last week in the thumping of Houston.

Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas (Sunday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1)

The Texas Derby gets the rare chance to bask in the national spotlight on Sunday night, a place usually reserved for the high-profile rivalry games. The Dynamo made a statement early in the Texas Derby last year with a 5-0 trouncing of FC Dallas before Oscar Pareja’s men recovered for a draw and a win to remain on top of the rivalry.

The Dynamo are actually good this year, but its 0-5-0 road mark would suggest otherwise. The Dynamo looked terrible on their trips to Philadelphia and Atlanta last week and they need to reverse course fast against a FC Dallas side that took little stock in Thursday’s defeat to the Fire with all eyes on Sunday night.

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