By THOMAS FLOYD
First place in the Eastern Conference will be on the line tonight when two of the hottest teams in MLS meet at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The Chicago Fire, winners of seven of their past eight, will travel to face a Sporting Kansas City team that is unbeaten in eight. The matchup will feature a Fire attack led by scorching forward Chris Rolfe against the league's top back line, anchored by Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler.
Elsewhere around the league, the Vancouver Whitecaps will host the Seattle Sounders in a Cascadia Cup clash with major playoff implications, and FC Dallas will continue its unlikely playoff push with a tough trip to face the Supporters' Shield-eyeing San Jose Earthquakes.
Here is a rundown of the Week 30 slate:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Friday, 8:30 p.m., NBCSN)
With four triumphs in a row, the Fire are enjoying their longest winning streak in seven years. To make matters better, Sporting haven't defeated Chicago at home since 2007, as the Fire have posted a 2-0-4 mark at Kansas City's various venues.
With Jacob Peterson suspended, Kansas City coach Peter Vermes likely will again depend on Graham Zusi at the flank position he has excelled in lately, creating an enticing matchup between the playmaker and Chicago left back Gonzalo Segares.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 7 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
Rafa Marquez's hamstring strain seems like a blessing in disguise, considering New York can now move Dax McCarty back to his preferred holding midfield position for this meeting with a Toronto team that is winless in 10 league matches.
Connor Lade's suspension means New York coach Hans Backe also will have to alter his defense, with Brandon Barklage the most obvious candidate to step in at right back.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
This match, like all of them from here on out, is massive for a Crew team on the outside looking in at the playoff field. After losing to D.C. United but defeating Houston, the Union for the third game in a row will have an opportunity to play spoiler.
The status of Union playmaker Freddy Adu (questionable with a quad strain) will be key after he recorded the first two-goal game of his MLS career last weekend.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
With just one win in their past seven, the Dynamo have fallen from a first-place tie to the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. With just one point separating Houston from sixth-place Columbus, a win at home over lowly New England is a must.
The Revolution will be shorthanded in this one, with Flo Lechner (MCL sprain), Lee Nguyen (shoulder surgery), Chris Tierney (knee sprain/hamstring strain) and Clyde Simms (calf tightness) all poised to sit out.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 9 p.m., NBCSN)
With just a two-point lead over surging Dallas, Vancouver will hope to end its six-game winless spell by registering the club's first triumph over rival Seattle in MLS play.
With Mauro Rosales (quad) and Christian Tiffert (ankle) both probable, Seattle will be close to full-strength. Vancouver, on the other hand, will be without winger Dane Richards (yellow card accumulation).
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
After winning three straight in the wake of Dwayne De Rosario's sprained knee ligament, United will try to make it four in a row and further solidify their playoff positioning with a win at Jeld-Wen Field. One midfield battle to watch will be former Akron teammates Perry Kitchen and Darlington Nagbe going head to head.
United could very well come out in a 4-5-1 after playmaker Branko Boskovic — playing behind lone striker Lionard Pajoy — came off the bench to score the winner last weekend against Chivas USA.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
This matchup could prove influential to races at both the top and bottom of the playoff push, as San Jose is looking to secure the Supporters' Shield and home-field advantage in the MLS Cup (should it advance), while Dallas is two points behind Vancouver for the final postseason slot in the West.
The status of Dallas centerback George John (ankle) will be crucial for a team facing Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon and the league's most prolific attack, with an astonishing 62 goals in 30 games.
CHIVAS USA vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
With a match against a Chivas squad that has lost five in a row, Salt Lake will see this as a golden opportunity to notch three points and move closer to securing one of the three first-round byes in the Western Conference.
RSL, though, will have to play without centerback Jamison Olave as he serves a suspension for yellow-card accumulation. But having a healthy Chris Schuler to step in certainly softens the blow.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Sunday, 7 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
With just two wins in their past 14 games, the Rapids have fallen eight points out of the final playoff spot in the West. On the other end of the spectrum is Los Angeles, which has gone 9-1-2 in its past 12 to rally from a slow start and clinch a postseason bid.
If the Galaxy weren't imposing enough considering their current run of form, Los Angeles may be getting David Beckham (ankle) back in the lineup after a two-game absence.
Points leaders would be nice also
Ives, any plans on adding standings (aka tables) on your new website? It’d be nice to have a quick reference for the standings in MLS and other leagues.
Clinching game for SJ? It’s Wondo time
Paging Dr. Rosales!
Yeah baby!!! looking forward to this one tonight
Friday Night MLS!
This week will prove if Vancouver is really playoff worthy. Seattle needs to win for their seeding.
This Cascadia clash should be a real doozy
Finally down to the nitty-gritty in MLS.
Every game has some kind of playoff implication, but SKC/CHI has to be the matchup of the week. This game will prove if Chi-town is really legit.