Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
When D.C. United travels to play the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday, a vintage rivalry sparked by recent controversy will be renewed.
The two early MLS powers, who met in the 1996 and 1999 MLS Cup finals, will clash for FSC's "Soccer Night in America" showdown, nearly two months after the teams' 1-1 draw in D.C. ended with Charlie Davies earning and converting a questionable penalty kick.
The action continues Saturday with matches including Frank Klopas' first contest in charge of the Chicago Fire, a home match against Seattle, and a meeting between the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union and the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.
Here is a rundown of the full Week 12 slate:
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. D.C. UNITED (Friday, 11 p.m., FSC)
Although Los Angeles has been on a recent tear, the circumstances do seem to tilt in United's favor. The Galaxy's Gold Cup absences of Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts will be far more impactful than United's loss of Dejan Jakovic. And after getting a historic win at Portland this past weekend without captain Dax McCarty and leading scorer Charlie Davies, United will get both players back from injury.
The Galaxy will be leaning on David Beckham, who is second in the league with seven assists and thoroughly won the central midfield battle when these teams played at RFK Stadium, while D.C. will look to capitalize on the talents of Chris Pontius and Andy Najar out wide.
TORONTO FC vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7 p.m., TSN)
With Toronto seventh in the Eastern Conference and coming off a 6-2 loss at home to Philadelphia and Kansas City owning a league-worst 1-6-2 record, both teams are surely looking at this fixture as a chance to get back on track.
Since Toronto will be without forward Joao Plata, who is with the Ecuador national team, the attacking burden will fall on Maicon Santos, whose brace was the lone bright spot for Toronto last week. Kansas City, meanwhile, will be without Gold Cup call-ups Stephane Auvray (Guadaloupe), Roger Espinoza (Honduras), David Rocastle (Grenada) and Shavar Thomas (Jamaica).
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
After managing just a 1-1 draw at home against a depleted New York side earlier this season, Columbus will be lucky enough to meet the Red Bulls on an international fixture date for the second time. That means no Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Dwayne De Rosario (Canada), Dane Richards (Jamaica), and Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo (USA) for New York, while Columbus will just lose Robbie Rogers (USA).
Handling the effective strike partnership of Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers, however, remains a tall task, especially for a Columbus defense that is coming back down to earth after a stellar start to the season.
FC DALLAS vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Banking on the forward duo of Fabian Castillo and Marvin Chavez, Dallas has smoothly transitioned from a 4-5-1 formation that leaned heavily on David Ferreira's playmaking ability to a more traditional 4-4-2 alignment.
New England, meanwhile, will be shuffling its midfield to make up for the loss of Benny Feilhaber, who is out with an ankle sprain (and would be missing the game for U.S. national team duty if he wasn't). But the Revolution did get a big break this week when captain Shalrie Joseph (Grenada) decided to skip the Gold Cup.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
The Klopas coaching era begins with Chicago hosting a Seattle team that handled the Fire earlier this year at Qwest Field. Unfortunately for Klopas, he will start his tenure without playmaker Marco Pappa, a call-up to Guatemala's Gold Cup side.
Seattle, on the other hand, escaped international absences, with defector Osvaldo Alonso not welcome with the Cuban national team. But the status of midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who is listed as questionable with a hamstring strain, could be key for this contest.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
With the Union coming off a six-goal outburst at Toronto last weekend that featured two goals from Danny Mwanga while Carlos Ruiz sat on the bench, the loss of Ruiz to Guatemala for the Gold Cup shouldn't be too tough a blow for the Union.
For Colorado, coach Gary Smith's focus will remain on working his way around injuries (Marvell Wynne, Jamie Smith, Joseph Nane, Omar Cummings, Caleb Folan) and suspension (Brian Mullan). One matchup to watch will be Colorado's Jeff Larentowicz against Philadelphia's Brian Carroll in a central midfield duel of two veterans who have shared many battles over the years.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
With Salt Lake in a funk since losing the CONCACAF Champions League final and Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador), Will Johnson (Canada) and Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) all playing in the Gold Cup, Vancouver might have a good chance at stealing a result on the road.
Luckily for Salt Lake, Nick Rimando will remain with the team despite his Gold Cup call-up as the U.S. team's third-string goalkeeper. Unfortunately for neutrals, the bruising clash between Salt Lake centerback Jamison Olave and Vancouver striker Eric Hassli will have to wait for another day, as both players received a red card last time out.
CHIVAS USA vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Portland will hope to recover from its first loss in MLS play at Jeld-Wen Field by improving on its 0-3-2 road record this season. With Chivas a surprisingly vulnerable 1-3-2 at home (including a loss to Home Depot Center co-tenant Los Angeles), the Goats would seem to be a prime target for the Timbers.
Portland strikers Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza will have to solve the Chivas centerback pairing of Andrew Boyens and Heath Pearce if the Timbers are going to get a result. For Chivas, the return of midfielder Marcos Mondaini from suspension should be a welcome boost.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Galavision)
The Dynamo's lineup Saturday will be somewhat of a makeshift unit with the unexpected exit of striker Koke this week, a red-card suspension for right back Kofi Sarkodie, and Gold Cup call-ups for Canada's Andre Hainault and Jamaica's Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson
But San Jose will have a couple huge gaps to fill in its attack, with Chris Wondolowski (six goals, good for second in the league) playing for the U.S. team against Spain and Ryan Johnson preparing for the Gold Cup with Jamaica.
Do you think United can take advantage of a Donovan-less Galaxy and get a result in Los Angeles? Is the Rodgers-Henry pairing enough for a depleted New York side to defeat Columbus? Can Portland get its first MLS road win at Chivas?
Share your thoughts below.