By DAN KARELL
The dearth of attacking options on display on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center could be the strongest ever seen in one game in Major League Soccer history.
Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson, and the Seattle Sounders looks to retain their place atop the Western Conference, but they’ll have to face Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and a Los Angeles Galaxy side that has only lost twice at home. In the last meeting between these teams in SoCal, the Galaxy routed the Sounders, 4-0.
Elsewhere around MLS, a nine-match schedule stretches from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, with the Portland Timbers hosting the resilient Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas visits the New York Red Bulls, and the Vancouver Whitecaps travel to the Montreal Impact in a Canadian classic.
Here is a rundown of the Week 31 schedule:
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Friday, 10pm NBC Sports Network)
The Rapids have won seven of their last 12 matches since the start of July, but their last loss before this recent positive run of form came at the hands of the Timbers.
Unfortunately for the Timbers, they’ve been very inconsistent, with just one win in their last five matches, including last week’s 1-1 draw with lowly Chivas USA. Nathan Sturgis misses out for the Rapids due to suspension.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 2pm, MLS Live/TSN/Univision Deportes)
The Impact have a habit of losing focus on defense and they’ll need to quickly fix their defensive issues after two losses in a row, the first at home to the Columbus Crew and the second on the road to the San Jose Earthquakes in CONCACAF Champions League.
Meanwhile for the Whitecaps, a loss in Montreal could be the final straw for Martin Rennie’s managerial career at the club. The Whitecaps sit five points back of the final playoff spot, with only six games remaining.
TORONTO FC vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 4pm, MLS Live)
Toronto FC has a new general manager in Tim Bezbatchenko, and he’ll have his first opportunity to evaluate the players currently on their squad when they take on Sporting KC.
TFC haven’t won in seven matches with just four goals scored in total in those games. Sporting KC have an interesting stat, having either won or lost every match since July 3, going 6-4 in that span. Jacob Peterson scored his first goal all season for the club in their mid-week CCL draw with Real Esteli.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 7:30pm, MLS Live)
The Fire will hope that history continues to repeat itself when they face the Crew on Saturday, having won four games in a row against their Midwestern rivals.
The hosts have won two out of three since Brian Bliss took over for Robert Warzycha, but the Fire come in on hotter form, with Mike Magee continuing to score goals (16, second-best in MLS) and Arevalo Rios seamlessly fitting into Frank Klopas’ side.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 7:30pm, MLS Live)
It’s pretty telling that one of D.C. United’s best efforts this season came in a 2-2 draw at home with the LA Galaxy. Now with the playoffs out of reach, Ben Olsen’s squad will focus on peaking for their U.S. Open Cup final match with Real Salt Lake on October 1, meaning that this will likely be the last game for starters before that match in Sandy, Utah.
The Revolution have lost two matches in a row but looked solid at times, especially on the road, against the Fire last week. Kelyn Rowe continues to mature this season, and along with Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez, form one of the best attacking midfield trios in the league. Juan Agudelo could make his first start since August 30.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 8:30pm, MLS Live)
The Dynamo finally broke their four-game winless skid last week with a gutsy 1-0 victory at the Philadelphia Union last Saturday and the Dynamo will hope that new acquisition Servando Carrasco can help galvanize the misfiring offense.
Chivas USA have played better as of late, losing just once in their last five, which includes wins against the Red Bulls and D.C. United, as well as last week’s draw vs. the Portland Timbers. Starting defender Carlos Borja is suspended for the Goats due to yellow card accumulation.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 9pm, MLS Live)
RSL’s loss last week to the Sounders relinquished their nearly season-long hold on first place in the Western Conference, but they can take it back once more this Saturday with a victory against the Earthquakes.
Jason Kreis’ squad has been disrupted by injury all season, and one of his key players, Alvaro Saborio, is still doubtful for the Earthquakes clash at the Rio Tinto Stadium. For the visitors, they’ve struggled in the league and a loss at RSL could knock the club out of the playoff picture, only one year after winning the Supporters Shield. Chris Wondolowski scored his first goal in more than a month on Wednesday, just his ninth goal in all competitions this season.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (10:30pm, NBC Sports Network)
For the third week in a row, the marquee match of the week takes place on the west coast as the Sounders look to win their sixth match in a row in MLS play.
The Galaxy though have the advantage this week of playing at home and their defensive duo of Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo will provide a tougher test to the Sounders attack of Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey, and Obafemi Martins. Those three on the field at the same time with Gonzalez, Robbie Keane, and Landon Donovan, make this match a must-watch and could be one of the best games of the season. On a more negative note, the Galaxy do lose A.J. DeLaGarza to a dislocated elbow injury.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. FC DALLAS (Sunday, 5pm, UniMas)
Outside of the Sounders, no one is on better form than the Red Bulls, who have won three games in a row. However, two of those have come against lowly D.C. United and Toronto FC, teams they should beat.
FC Dallas represents an opponent they haven’t faced since opening day of the 2012 season, and it marks the return of Kenny Cooper to Red Bull Arena, after scoring 18 goals for the Red Bulls last season. Cooper has struggled mightily this year, scoring just three times, but he may be extra motivated to score at his old ground. The result is massive for both teams, as a Red Bulls win keeps them atop the Eastern Conference standings, while a win for FC Dallas keeps them alive in the Western Conference playoff race.