Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
The Gold Cup quarterfinals may grab most of the North American soccer world's attention this weekend, but Major League Soccer will do its best to keep up with a full slate of matches, including a clash between the reigning MLS Cup champions and Supporters' Shield winners.
That marquee meeting will take place Saturday when the first-place Los Angeles Galaxy travels to take on the Colorado Rapids. Elsewhere, Sporting Kansas City will play its second game at Livestrong Sporting Park for FSC's "Soccer Night in America" broadcast Friday as the San Jose Earthquakes, unbeaten in their last six, come to town.
D.C. United, meanwhile, will look to get its first win at Real Salt Lake since 2005 on Saturday night, while Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls will make their first trip to Jeld-Wen Field to take on the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
Here is a rundown of the full Week 14 schedule:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Friday, 8:30 p.m., FSC)
Surely, after a four-goal outburst at FC Dallas, Kansas City will finally treat its fans to a goal in its new building — right? The task will be a tough one with San Jose, unbeaten in six and coming off a 4-2 win at D.C. United, invading the premises.
Earthquake forwards Chris Wondolowski (USA) and Ryan Johnson (Jamaica) are preparing to do battle against each other at RFK Stadium on Sunday, so San Jose will again lean heavily on Steven Lenhart, who notched a hat trick and an assist against United.
TORONTO FC vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 7 p.m., Direct Kick)
With a league-leading nine draws, including three in a row, Toronto hasn't exactly been blown away on a regular basis (though it has happened a couple times) – Aron Winter's squad just hasn't been able to the nab the full three points and make any sort of significant leap in the Eastern Conference standings.
With a 1-0-2 mark over its last three, Seattle continues to quietly keep up in the competitive Western Conference despite the loss of winger Steve Zakuani to injury. Having Servando Carrasco and Alvaro Fernandez at 100 percent could key against Toronto after both players have recently dealt with injury issues.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Satuday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
New England's staggering offensive woes of late continued Wednesday during a dour 0-0 draw at home with Toronto FC. Marko Perovic's season-ending surgery and Benny Feilhaber's lingering ankle injury surely aren't helping matters for a Revolution side that has scored a league-worst 11 goals this season.
The Fire, on the other hand, will hope to use last weekend's 1-0 win at Columbus as a springboard. Unbeaten in its last four, Chicago is just a win away from finding itself right in the middle of the Eastern Conference table.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Snapping a long winless drought with a 2-1 win over Chivas USA has to be big for a Houston side that now gets to go for two in a row against Columbus, a team yet to win a game on the road in 2011. Injuries to Dilly Duka and Emilio Renteria have compounded problems for the Crew, who are already missing winger Robbie Rogers to U.S. national team duty.
For Houston, an injury to centerback Eddie Robinson shouldn't be a problem with Andrew Hainault back from his stint representing Canada at the Gold Cup. As always, finding ways to get midfielder Brad Davis' lethal left foot on the ball will be the primary concern for the Dynamo attack.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
Colorado might have the upper hand in this one if Omar Cummings (probable with an ankle sprain) plays anywhere near 100 percent. The Galaxy is still missing Gold Cup call-ups goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica) and midfielder Landon Donovan (USA), and although Chris Birchall and Juan Pablo Angel helped pick up the slack offensively during last week's 2-2 draw with Toronto, Los Angeles has just not been playing up to par with that duo absent.
The Rapids' central midfield combination of Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni will have a tough task containing the Galaxy's pairing of David Beckham and Juninho, but if those two Los Angeles midfielders are held check, Colorado should have the advantage.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
With Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador) on Gold Cup duty, Paulo Jr. out with a hip flexor strain, and Javier Morales still sidelined, Salt Lake's beleaguered attack will be depending on Fabian Espindola's dynamic play more than ever.
On the other side, look for United coach Ben Olsen to shake up his defense a bit and insert the injury-plagued Jed Zayner at right back. Although Charlie Davies should be fit enough to start after recovering from a hamstring strain, rookie Blake Brettschneider's solid play of late could keep United's leading scorer relegated to the bench.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 10 p.m., Direct Kick)
The sheer ambition and skill of Eric Hassli's wonder-goal last week has garnered plenty of attention, but some are looking past how crucial that strike could be for the Whitecaps' mentality. Getting that late equalizer in a hostile environment at Seattle stole a point on the road for Vancouver, and it's the type of result that could finally get the ball rolling for the expansion side.
With first-place Philadelphia visiting Empire Field, the Whitecaps will try to crack the Union's rock solid back line and get their second win of the season. Although striker Carlos Ruiz remains out for Philadelphia while representing Guatemala at the Gold Cup, Danny Mwanga's play of late up top makes that a moot point.
CHIVAS USA vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
FC Dallas, seemingly clicking on all cylinders after the finding the right lineup combination to play without injured playmaker David Ferreira, came back down to earth in stunning fashion last weekend with a 4-1 loss at home to struggling Sporting Kansas City.
Facing a Chivas team that had been playing some pretty good soccer before a 2-1 loss to Houston last weekend, Dallas will hope to remedy the problems that plagued it against Kansas City and prove that result was a fluke.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 10 p.m., Galavision)
Canada's Gold Cup elimination means Dwayne De Rosario should be back in the fold for New York, but Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Dane Richards (Jamaica), and Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo (USA) remain on international duty. With Luke Rodgers questionable with plantar fasciitis, Agudelo's presence up top would have been especially welcome to New York.
No matter who ends up playing for the Red Bulls, Futty Danso's absence due to a shoulder injury is a tough blow for Portland's talented but inconsistent back line. One player who will be in the lineup for Portland is left back Rodney Wallace, who will surely have many battles on the offensive and defensive end against New York's attack-minded right back, Jan Gunnar Solli.