By THOMAS FLOYD
Can that high-powered Los Angeles Galaxy attack put an end to Sporting Kansas City’s 519-minute shutout streak?
That is the question heading into the marquee matchup of the Week 8 MLS schedule. With the availability of Robbie Keane (ankle) and Jose Villarreal (shoulder) in question, the Galaxy could have a tough time cracking Jimmy Nielsen and that stingy Sporting back line.
Elsewhere around the league this weekend, D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union will resume their increasingly bitter Interstate 95 feud; the New York Red Bulls will host the New England Revolution in another East Coast battle; and the San Jose Earthquakes face the Portland Timbers in a rematch of last weekend’s heated clash.
Here is a rundown of the Week 8 slate:
TORONTO FC vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 4 p.m., TSN)
The start to 2013 has followed a familiar script for the Dynamo, with the club 5-0 in all competitions at home and 0-3 on the road. They’ll try to change that at a Toronto team that has tied three straight matches.
For Houston centerbacks Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor, the challenge will be avoiding the types of mistakes in the back Toronto striker Robert Earnshaw has been so effective at capitalizing on.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 6 p.m., MLS Live)
The Sounders, sitting at 0-3-2 as the league’s last winless team, will try to get their season on the right track by getting a result against the Rapids, who have reeled off back-to-back shutout wins.
That Seattle attack, of course, will be all the more dangerous if Eddie Johnson (hamstring) and Obafemi Martins (leg tendon) are good to go against Colorado.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
Playing their third game in eight days, and doing so without suspended playmaker Juninho and injured centerback Jamison Olave (knee), the Red Bulls are going to have to shuffle their lineup against the Revolution.
For the reunited centerback pairing of Heath Pearce and Markus Holgersson, the focus will be on limiting New England poacher Jerry Bengtson’s access to service in the box.
FC DALLAS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Boasting a 5-1-1 record, including a 4-0 mark at home, Dallas will try to continue its scorching start to 2013 against the Whitecaps, who have lost four of five meetings with the Hoops.
It should be a good battle in central midfield, with Dallas’ Michel and Andrew Jacobson going up against Vancouver’s duo of Nigel Reo-Coker and Jun Marques Davidson.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Having already dug themselves a bit of a hole in the Eastern Conference, the Fire would love to grab three points against a Crew squad that has quietly put together a four-game unbeaten run.
Having scored in back-to-back games, Crew midfielder-forward Dominic Oduro will try to make it three straight with a tally against his old team.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live)
After taking the league by surprise with a 3-1-1 mark out of the gate, Chivas came back down to Earth last weekend with a shutout loss at home to Colorado. Matters don’t get any easier with a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday.
The tilt features perhaps the top two goalkeepers in MLS, with Chivas shot-stopper Dan Kennedy going up against Salt Lake veteran Nick Rimando.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., NBCSN)
This early battle between MLS powerhouses will feature the past two MLS Defender of the Year winners, with the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez and Sporting’s Matt Besler anchoring their respective back lines.
If Graham Zusi once again is deployed on the left for Kansas City, he’ll be up against speedy Galaxy right back Sean Franklin, who is poised to make his return from a hamstring ailment.
D.C. UNITED vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN2)
The last time these teams met at RFK Stadium, there were three red cards. And when they played each other in preseason, United captain Dwayne De Rosario was tossed for headbutting former teammate Danny Cruz.
Expect another rocky affair Sunday. With United desperate to get their offense going, look for coach Ben Olsen to shake up his attack, possibly inserting ex-Union striker Carlos Ruiz.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Sunday, 11 p.m., UniMas)
In scheduling a home-and-home between these Western Conference foes, MLS unwittingly set the stage for a tense rematch a week after Portland earned a physical 1-0 win at Jeld-Wen Field.
With San Jose striker Alan Gordon suspended, the Earthquakes likely will return Chris Wondolowski up top after coach Frank Yallop deployed the MVP on the right flank last weekend.
Come on Timbers!
Seattle and Colorado, my two least favorite teams. Who to cheer for…. It pains me as an RSL fan, but I think I’m going with Colorado on this one. The LA/KC game should be interesting.
Big intra-conference weekend. The only teams not playing within conference are L.A. v. SKC, and Montreal (bye). The standings are gonna start shaking out, especially in the West with 5 teams at 8pts and one at 9 and one at 10.
Rapids gonna take 3 from Seattle & keep ’em in the basement!