By TRAVIS CLARK
The playoff race is heating up in MLS and the leaders are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Out West, San Jose hosts the Galaxy and could use a second win in a row. The game could feature the debut of the latest Designated Player, as Geovanni could see time for the Earthquakes, but it's the defense that's a concern for San Jose. Los Angeles will look to widen the gap at the top of the table between over idle Real Salt Lake.
The I-95 rivalry will also be rekindled this weekend, as Philadelphia makes the short trip to Washington for a matchup with D.C. United. It could provide for plenty of fireworks as both sides have little to play for aside from pride.
Here's a look at this weekend's MLS matches:
NEW YORK RED BULLS (9-7-4) vs. TORONTO FC (7-7-5) Saturday 1:00 p.m., Direct Kick
New York's trio of Designated Players heads north of the border, looking to upset Toronto at BMO Field. There's still plenty of time for Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez to get fit and in sync in time for the playoffs, and the Red Bulls could put pressure on Columbus with a surprise win.
It won't be easy, of course, as Toronto has gone unbeaten at home and are hanging on to a playoff spot. Mista is beginning to settle in, a positive indicator for a team that needs goal-scoring help. With their CONCACAF Champions League opener at home, there will be no hangover lingering over this weekend. Toronto 2, New York 1.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY (13-3-4) vs. SAN JOSE GALAXY (7-6-5) Saturday 4:00 p.m., Telefutura
The California Clasico heads up to San Jose and much is at stake for the home side. Tied for the last playoff spot, the Earthquakes might get the opportunity to unleash Geovanni against the Galaxy. However, San Jose's defense suffered another blow when Joe Cannon broke his ankle in training this week.
Los Angeles holds a four-point lead over RSL for the Supporters' Shield, and appeared to regain some of their defensive swagger versus New York. Edson Buddle remains important as ever to the Galaxy cause, while it looks like they'll also hold onto Donovan. The Galaxy will continue to show what they're capable of. Los Angeles 2, San Jose 0.
COLORADO RAPIDS (7-5-7) vs. COLUMBUS CREW (11-5-4) Saturday 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick
A massive trip awaits the Rapids in their quest for postseason play. Colorado has been underwhelming at times, and a recent slump threatened to derail their goal of making the playoffs. Conor Casey is on the mend from a head injury, though Colin Clark was lost to another ACL season-ending injury. Casey and Omar Cummings still have time to get in a groove and push the Rapids over the hump.
The Crew has a formidable home record of 8-2, and recently got Eddie Gaven back from an injury. They should have enough to send the Rapids home empty handed. Columbus 2, Colorado 1.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (6-10-3) vs. KANSAS CITY WIZARDS (5-9-5) Saturday 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick
Two Eastern Conference clubs with dim playoff hopes square off out at Community America Ballpark, as both Kansas City and New England look for inspiration prior to this one. The Wizards will be missing Teal Bunbury through suspension, and while he hasn't been the answer to their goal-scoring woes, it's still a void to fill up front.
New England couldn't deliver on Wednesday against Chicago, and while they do have a couple of reasons to be positive, this season is a time to rebuild. Marko Perovic has shown what he can do, but he needs help if this team wants to turn it around. New England 0, Kansas City 0.
CHICAGO FIRE (6-5-6) vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (5-10-5) Saturday 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick
Can Chicago build off the momentum of Wednesday's win over New England? The Fire have rolled the dice by bringing in Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg, and the sooner the new acquisitions begin to mesh, then the better off Chicago will be. Defensive problems are still a concern, and it's hard imagining Chicago putting together a deep playoff run with a rookie goalie.
Houston's struggles continue, as their winless streak is now at 10 games after last weekend's loss to New England. Geoff Cameron's return to the lineup is the only bright spot, and look for the Fire to grab a point on the road. Chicago 1, Houston 1.
CHIVAS USA (5-10-4) vs. FC DALLAS (8-2-9) Saturday 8:30 p.m., FSC/FSE
The Rojiblancos take to the road and head to Frisco, where they'll face a hot Dallas team currently on a 10-game unbeaten streak. Dallas has made a knack for tying, and while FCD have been good, Kevin Hartman's play in goal has bailed them out time and time again when they've struggled.
Chivas must search for the silver lining in what has been a trying season, only better than Philadelphia and D.C. in the standings. The playoffs aren't totally out of reach, but it would take a shock result in Dallas to accomplish that. FC Dallas 2, Chivas 0.
PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-10-5) vs. D.C. UNITED (3-14-3) Sunday 2:00 p.m., Direct Kick
Not much is at stake in this one aside from pride and regional bragging rights. In a season where nothing has gone right for D.C. United, they'll look to avenge the 3-2 defeat the Union handed them back in April. The young foundation that Philadelphia is building, as well as the dynamic Sebastian Le Toux will be more than a maligned United can handle. Philadelphia 2, D.C. 0.