By THOMAS FLOYD
It may be a light MLS schedule this weekend with World Cup qualifying taking center stage, but a pair of marquee matchups still offer plenty of intrigue.
At Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake will resume their Western Conference feud with the Los Angeles Galaxy, who will look to grab a result with Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane still on international duty.
In the Pacific Northwest, meanwhile, more than 50,000 are expected to be at CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Sounders — minus Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Shalrie Joseph, Steve Zakuani, Mario Martinez and Osvaldo Alonso — host the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Cascadia Cup clash.
And elsewhere Saturday, the hot New England Revolution host struggling D.C. United, while the Portland Timbers return from a bye week to play at the Chicago Fire.
Here is a rundown of the Week 15 slate:
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Univision Dep.)
While New England have ridden the youthful combination of Diego Fagundez and Juan Agudelo to three straight wins, United have continued their club-record 11-game winless stretch.
With newly acquired left back Alain Rochat not yet eligible to play, United will hope centerback Dejan Jakovic (groin) is ready to get back on the field and give that D.C. defense a much-needed boost.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
After ending an 0-3-1 stretch with a triumph over lowly D.C. United, the Fire will look to get a result against stiffer opposition when the Timbers bring their unbeaten road record to the Windy City.
With the newly acquired Mike Magee stepping in on the right flank for Chicago, the Fire now present a tough matchup to Portland’s left side, which will be without Costa Rica call-up Rodney Wallace.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Despite still having Landon Donovan in the fold, the Galaxy showed just how big the international absences of Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane were last weekend when they followed up a 4-0 win over Seattle with a 5-0 loss at New England.
Salt Lake won’t be at full strength either, with striker Alvaro Saborio sidelined by a quad tear. Robbie Findley’s recent return to form helps soften that blow, though.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., NBCSN/TSN)
A combination of international absences, injuries and suspension have left the Sounders woefully short-handed for this matchup, though the successful appeal of Obafemi Martins’ red card does provide a boost.
For the Whitecaps, shipping Alain Rochat to D.C. United means Jordan Harvey is now the full-time starter at left back, while Jun Marques Davidson and Nigel Reo-Coker can partner in holding midfield.
Robbie Findley? Please. Go Galaxy!
If the Whitecaps can’t win this week with the line up the Sounders throw out there, they may never win a Cascadia cup match on the road.
Timbers have no Wallace, Ricketts, Johnson or Danso. Kocic in goal should deputize fine and hopefully Alhassan can do something besides dance on the ball and get stripped to spring a dangerous counterattack. As far as losing Futty to THE Gambian national team? Gee, who needs centerbacks anyway?
Heart says 2-1 Timbers, mind is thinking Chicago gets on the board early through McGee and Timbers hope Piq, Nagbe, Valeri can provide enough linkup without the omnipresent and better-be-on-the-all-star roster Wallace to eek a draw out or get lucky for a 2-1 win.
I thought Rodney Wallace was called up.