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MLS Week 23: A Look Ahead

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 Photo by Rick Osentoski/ISIphotos.com

By THOMAS FLOYD

First place in the Eastern Conference will be available for the taking at Crew Stadium on Saturday.

That's when newly acquired Freddy Adu and the Philadelphia Union will look to close the three-point gap separating them from the Columbus Crew and the top spot in the conference.

Elsewhere, FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders will take a break from their CONCACAF Champions League duties and meet in a match that could be crucial for Western Conference playoff seeding. And the weekend schedule will also feature plenty of regional rivalries, as New England will host New York, Vancouver will travel to Portland, and Los Angeles will clash with San Jose.

Here is a rundown of the full Week 23 slate:

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)

The Red Bulls draw another struggling foe this week in a New England side with just one win in its past 15 matches. To boot, the Revolution will be without goalkeeper Matt Reis, who received a red card in the waning moments of the club's 1-1 draw with Houston on Wednesday.

Of course, New York has won just two games since April. With the Red Bulls currently tied with D.C. United for the final wild card slot (with two more games played), circumstances are becoming increasingly dire in the Big Apple.

COLUMBUS CREW vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)

At season's start, few would have expected these two clubs to be competing for first place in the Eastern Conference in August. After all, the Crew disposed of its veteran core in the offseason, while Philadelphia was coming off a tough expansion year.

But here we are. Both sides have to like their chances heading into this one, with Columbus getting several players, including Rich Balchan, Dilly Duka and Emilio Renteria, back toward full fitness, and Philadelphia bolstered by the acquisition of U.S. national team midfielder-forward Freddy Adu.

HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)

Both teams will be down one key midfielder due suspension, as Adam Moffat's red card against New England will keep him out of the Houston lineup while Will Johnson's yellow card accumulation will deprive the visitors of their influential winger.

Salt Lake is safely in the playoff picture considering its games in hand, but Houston is right on the fringe, fending off the likes of New York, D.C. United and Chivas USA. A win at home to follow up its point on the road Wednesday would make this a very productive week for the Dynamo in its quest to return to the postseason.

FC DALLAS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)

These two squads will hope to parlay momentum from their midweek Champions League triumphs into MLS play, with Dallas just one point ahead of Seattle for second place in the Western Conference (and both teams in Supporters' Shield contention, as well).

The focus in the contest will be on the flanks, where Dallas' Brek Shea and Seattle's Alvaro Fernandez should go head to head in a matchup of two of the league's top wingers. And of course, the match also features two savvy vets between the posts: Dallas' Kevin Hartman and Seattle's Kasey Keller.

COLORADO RAPIDS vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)

Juan Pablo Angel will make his Chivas debut by going up against Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne and Colorado's rock-solid back line. It'll be intriguing to see how coach Robin Fraser uses the classy veteran, who struggled to find a rhythm up top while being shuffled in and out of the Galaxy's starting 11.

For Colorado coach Gary Smith, the challenge will be managing minutes. After Macoumba Kandji's triumphant return in midweek Champions League play, the Rapids suddenly have a slew of options at forward and wide midfield, even with Conor Casey out for the season.

PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10 p.m., FSC, TSN)

The Cascadia Cup will resume when Portland and Vancouver face off for the first time in MLS play. As far as capturing that rivalry trophy is concerned, both teams are sitting on one point and would seem to need the win if they have any interest in catching Seattle (1-0-2).

When it comes to the playoff picture, one would assume Portland is treating the match as a must-win. If the Timbers don't get the full three points in a home game against the league's worst team, their odds at a wild card berth could be slim.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)

The Earthquakes, who haven't won since early June, have mostly been let down by their offense this season, but the defense has also been vulnerable lately, allowing 11 goals in the team's past five games.

The Galaxy will unveil striker Robbie Keane in the latest edition of the California Clasico, and if the combination of Keane and Landon Donovan up top is half as good as it looks on paper, Los Angeles' attack could be in for a big night against San Jose.

CHICAGO FIRE vs. TORONTO FC (Sunday, 7 p.m., Direct Kick)

Toronto's focus at this point is likely on the Champions League considering coach Aron Winter's side is eight points out of the final playoff spot with just eight games to go.

Chicago's postseason aspirations are also on life support, thanks to a record 15 ties this season. But the Fire might not have a better chance at a third win of the season than this match against a Toronto team that expended a lot energy in Panama on Thursday.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)

Perhaps no match this weekend will have more of an impact on the playoff race than this one at Livestrong Sporting Park, as Kansas City and D.C. are right in the middle of a chaotic Eastern Conference table where only three points separates second place from sixth.

The biggest question mark heading into the match will be United's situation in goal. Starter Bill Hamid left D.C.'s 1-1 draw against Chicago on Thursday with a hamstring strain and is doubtful for the match, while rookie backup Joe Willis stayed at home for the club's match against Chicago with back spasms but will join the team in Kansas City. If neither is available Sunday, United will hand veteran Steve Cronin his first start of the season.

Comments

  1. This is a huge week for just about every team, except for the Revolution, Fire and TFC. Lots of make or break games (plus Cascadia).

    Reply
  2. Here is why. Every week there is a signing, a firing, a nose-blowing somewhere in the MLS. SBI is for ‘news’, not every movement…if you want every movement go to MLS.net…This site is for players not player fodder…

    Reply
  3. Can the author or someone post the MLS weekly standings overall and by conference every week? As well as the CONCACAF standings? It would be nice to see this stuff in one place. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Optimistic fans, what a horrible thing for a team to have! Regardless, how is that illogical? Stranger things have happened.

    If you’re familiar with this league, you’d realize that our “illogical” reasoning resulted in the greatest comeback in MLS history (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UX64lUaKHM).

    You’re following the wrong league if you think logic should dictate performances and outcomes. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    Reply
  5. I think we have some miscommunication here (unfortuantely one of the main pitfalls of the comments section for blog posts). I was simply making an observation, my original post does not imply a direct complaint per se.

    I was actually genuinely curious why a blog of this caliber would leave out crucial information (crucial to the club that is, not necessarily the league) for one team yet include it for the other. The posts on SBI are for the most part very thorough and complete.

    Reply
  6. I didn’t choose my team, my team chose me. I’m a Bay Area native through and through, they are my soccer club. Worst or best has nothing to do with it.

    I’m sure you can empathize with me since you’re an Atlanta Silverbacks fan right?

    Reply
  7. I agree but it’s the principle of the matter. Both teams made signings this week, it’s only 1 extra sentence to talk about SJ’s (or just a few words depending on how you choose to phrase it).

    Reply

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