By DAN KARELL
One of Major League Soccer’s youngest rivalries steps back into the spotlight this weekend as Real Salt Lake host the Portland Timbers in a likely sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium.
It’s the eighth time in the last 12 months that these two clubs are facing off, and with the Timbers beginning to turn their season around, it should make for a great match. RSL is banged up but earned a point at Columbus on Wednesday in wet weather, while the Timbers are dangerous offensively but are really suffering on defense.
Fanendo Adi, signed on loan in early May from F.C. Copenhagen, has so far been a positive addition up top for the club, combining well with Diego Valeri and Will Johnson.
Elsewhere in MLS, D.C. United look to move to the top of the Eastern Conference standings when they host the Columbus Crew, the Colorado Rapids visit former coach Oscar Pareja and FC Dallas, and the New England Revolution look to rebound from a rare loss when they host a shorthanded New York Red Bulls.
Here’s a look at this week’s MLS slate:
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Friday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
At another time of the season, a matchup between these two Eastern Conference foes would be a must-see game. However, with both teams missing players to international duty and injury, some of the luster has gone away.
The Dynamo will again be without Ricardo Clark (concussion) and Brian Ownby is also listed as doubtful with a concussion. On the other side, Sporting KC will pair homegrown defenders Kevin Ellis and Erik Palmer-Brown together in central defense after Aurelien Collin went down again with a hamstring problem. Lawrence Olum has returned and may play a part in midfield or defense, especially after Uri Rosell moved to Portugal side Sporting CP earlier this week.
TORONTO FC vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 4 p.m., TSN/MLS Live)
TFC will be looking to regain some confidence after losing the Canadian Championship midweek to the Montreal Impact when they face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday afternoon.
The hosts will have to be careful on set pieces though, as San Jose will get their big bodies forward to fight for balls in the box. TFC have conceded nine times inside the box this season. Bradley Orr and Jackson are listed as questionable for TFC and Jordan Stewart and Khari Stephenson are questionable for the Earthquakes.
D.C. UNITED vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Both D.C. United and the Columbus Crew are hoping to build off the excitement of playing as the second billing of a double header that opens with the Spanish national team taking on El Salvador at Fed-Ex Field.
D.C. is currently in second place in the Eastern Conference after an important 1-0 victory against Sporting KC, but will be without starting midfielder Perry Kitchen due to yellow card accumulation. Collin Martin was also added to the team’s injury list. On the other side, the Crew are without the traded Dominic Oduro and are likely going to be missing key starters Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 7 p.m., TSN/MLS Live)
One of MLS’ best attacking sides hits the road to face a team with severe defensive issues this season, leading to what could be a wild back-and-forth game.
The speedy Whitecaps have already scored 22 goals this season and look very dangerous on the counter-attack with Pedro Morales orchestrating things from the midfield for Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado to run onto diagonal balls. The Union hope to have Austin Berry in the lineup but he and Fred are listed as questionable. The Whitecaps have no injuries to key players.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Obafemi Martins-led Seattle Sounders hit the road to take on the struggling Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Now on a three-game unbeaten run, the Sounders are looking to extend their lead at the top of MLS as Martins, Lamar Neagle, and Gonzalo Pineda have all played big roles in this season’s success, on top of Clint Dempsey, who is away with the U.S. Men’s National Team. The Sounders do have some issues in defense with Djimi Traore and Dylan Remick both out, while midfielder Andy Rose is out injured as well. Pat Nyarko is out for the Fire and both Mike Magee and Logan Pause are doubtful.
FC DALLAS vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
FC Dallas are hoping to rebound from a poor outing last weekend when they host the Colorado Rapids, unbeaten in three games.
Pablo Mastroeni has been very successful this season taking over for current FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja. Pareja’s side has struggled since losing Mauro Diaz and then Hendry Thomas to injury. Michel is listed as questionable for FC Dallas and Adam Moffat is out due to suspension. Edson Buddle, Vicente Sanchez, Nathan Sturgis, and Gale Agbossoumonde are all questionable for the Rapids.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 10 p.m., Univision Deportes/MLS Live)
Real Salt Lake renew their rivalry with the Timbers in arguably the must-see match of the weekend.
Facing off for the eighth time in the last calendar year, RSL are coming off a near-win in a 1-1 draw at the Crew and the Timbers have turned their season around—with the exception of last week’s wild 4-3 defeat to the Whitecaps. Joao Plata and Robby Findley are questionable but are expected to be available for selection, while Michael Harrington, Norberto Paparatto, and Ben Zemanski are all short-term injury issues for the Timbers.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 5 p.m., MLS Live)
The New York Red Bulls will likely be very shorthanded when traveling up Interstate-95 to take on the New England Revolution on Sunday evening.
Both Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave are expected to miss the match, which will be played on field turf despite grass being laid down for an international friendly between Portugal and Mexico on Friday. As such, the Red Bulls could be missing up to five starters against one of the hottest teams in the league. Only Charlie Davies (questionable) and Shalrie Joseph (out) are on the injury report for the Revs, while Dax McCarty remains out with a knee injury for the Red Bulls.
LA GALAXY vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 8 p.m., Univision Deportes)
The LA Galaxy host Chivas USA for the last time before Chivas undergoes a rebranding in the offseason.
With Landon Donovan back to play alongside Robbie Keane, the Galaxy are hoping to take advantage of a porous Chivas USA defense that has given up 25 goals already this season. Chivas USA will be without Oswaldo Minda again due to a red card suspension and Carlos Bocanegra is listed as questionable. Todd Dunivant is out for LA and Marcelo Sarvas is questionable with a knee sprain.
Which matches will you be watching this weekend? Think the Sounders can continue their winning ways in Chicago? Think Portland can rebound from last weekend’s emotional loss?
Share your thoughts below.