Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
Playoff seeding in both conferences could see a shake-up Saturday when Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City meet at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Thanks to a win over Houston last weekend, Kansas City currently sits one point behind Columbus for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Salt Lake, meanwhile, has won three straight to move just a point back of Dallas for the third and final automatic Western Conference playoff bid, with two games in hand.
Elsewhere around the league this weekend, Philadelphia will host Columbus in a key Eastern Conference clash. In Seattle, D.C. United will look to make it 2-for-2 on its West Coast road swing with a triumph against the Sounders. And New York, now officially on the outside looking in at a playoff berth, will try to pick up a crucial result at Dallas.
Here is a rundown of the Week 27 slate:
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Friday, 11 p.m., FSC)
For a Portland team that is 8-4-2 at home and 1-8-4 on the road, getting a win over the Revolution in the first leg of its two-game home stand will be key as it continues to fight for a postseason bid.
Although New England is tied for last in the Eastern Conference, the Revolution has quietly put together a four-match unbeaten streak, largely thanks to the contributions of new signing Moncef Zerka.
TORONTO FC vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., TSN)
The Rapids have lost back-to-back league matches via shutout entering this one, while Toronto notched a surprising 4-2 win over Columbus last weekend.
But both teams struggled in their Champions League fixtures this week, with Colorado falling 4-1 to Santos Laguna and Toronto dropping a 4-0 result to Pumas. With more Champions League matches around the corner, it will be intriguing to see how Colorado coach Gary Smith and Toronto boss Aron Winter balance their lineups.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 4 p.m., Telefutura)
With both teams' playoff hopes on life-support at this point, a loss for either side will probably mark the finishing blow, though Chicago at least has the U.S. Open Cup final in October to look forward to.
Each side will be without a key defender in this one, as Chivas centerback David Junior Lopes (red card) and Chicago right back Dan Gargan (yellow card accumulation) will serve suspensions.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Less than a month after playing in Columbus with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line, the Union and Crew will meet again as Philadelphia will look to avenge a 2-1 loss in that contest.
Despite being mired in an eight-game winless streak, the Union would move within two points of Columbus for the current top slot in the Eastern Conference with a win Saturday.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Just when it seemed like San Jose's season was essentially over, the Earthquakes snapped their 13-game winless streak with a 2-0 win over Chicago to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
After suffering through a 3-0 thumping at Kansas City and drawing Columbus 2-2 Wednesday, Houston needs a result to solidify its shaky playoff positioning. Even though the Dynamo has played the most games in MLS, Houston is still perilously close to falling out of the tentative 10-team field, with just a three-point lead on New York and Portland.
FC DALLAS vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Neither team will be at full strength Saturday, as suspensions will deprive New York of defenders Rafael Marquez and Jan Gunnar Solli and Dallas of MVP-candidate winger Brek Shea.
The Red Bulls, though, could be boosted by the return of goalkeeper Frank Rost (questionable with a quadriceps tear) and an increase in playing time for recovering striker Luke Rodgers, who played nine minutes last week in his first match back from a foot injury.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
United will play its first match of the season without Chris Pontius on Saturday after the midfielder-forward broke his leg during a 3-0 win over Chivas USA last weekend. Pontius, who has started every league game for D.C. in 2011, should be replaced in the starting 11 by veteran Josh Wolff, who has been plagued by nagging injuries of late.
Seattle, on the other hand, will be without centerback Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who received a dubious red card in the Sounders' 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake last week.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
A Kansas City team that was all-too-used to the rigors of travel early in the season will return to the road for the first time since July 16 after going 5-2-2 on its league-record nine-game home stand.
Kansas City will be up against a Salt Lake that squad that, after losing four of five, has found a rhythm again, winning three in a row and looking like the team that nearly won the Champions League this spring.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
The Galaxy will look to rebound from its gut-wrenching midweek loss to Morelia in Champions League play against a Whitecaps team that, at 0-10-5, remains winless on the road in its brief MLS history.
Considering Los Angeles is the league's only unbeaten team at home (9-0-5), the odds certainly won't play in Vancouver's favor. With a win, the Galaxy could put even more distance between them and the field in the Supporters' Shield race.