Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By RYAN TOLMICH
For the third and final time of 2014 MLS regular season, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers are set to do battle in a Cascadia Cup showdown.
One of the league’s fiercest rivalries continues Sunday, when the Sounders and Timbers collide at Providence Park. Despite all of the story lines that accompany true rivalry games, both sides enter the weekend with plenty to play for as the MLS season enters its final third.
Elsewhere in MLS, the high-scoring LA Galaxy clash with the speedy Vancouver Whitecaps, second-place D.C. United visits first-place Sporting KC, and Toronto FC host the Chicago Fire.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s MLS slate:
FC DALLAS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Friday, 8 p.m., NBCSN)
FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake enter Friday’s Western Conference clash as two of the league’s hottest teams.
With the pair combining for 15 straight without a loss, both Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas have surged up the table and currently claim the second and third positions, respectively. FC Dallas, which reached their ninth-straight game without a loss with a 5-0 thumping of the San Jose Earthquakes last time out, can pull even with RSL with a win.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Direct Kick)
After enjoying a weekend off, Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls will have the benefit of fresh legs for Saturday’s matchup with the Montreal Impact.
The Red Bulls, last seen dropping a 1-0 contest to the Chicago Fire on Aug. 10, enter the weekend in possession of the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff position. League-leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips will now be tasked with breaching a generally leaky Impact defense. Montreal did hold the Fire scoreless last time out for the club’s first win in eight tries.
TORONTO FC vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Direct Kick)
After enduring a four-game road trip that saw the team pick up two wins and two losses, Toronto FC are finally prepared to welcome Jermain Defoe back into the fold.
The TFC striker is set to return from a groin injury that has kept him out for the past three contests. In Defoe’s absence, fellow Designated Player Gilberto has picked up the slack in recent weeks, scoring four goals in the past six games. Meanwhile, the Fire sit just three points out of playoff position despite their current spot in ninth place.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick)
Sitting just one point out of playoff position, the New England Revolution will now be tasked with handling Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres.
Fresh off a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers, the Revs remain in the summer-long slump that has defined their season, as the team has picked up only one victory since May. Meanwhile, Chivas USA enter on a cold streak of their own, having gone winless in their past five.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick)
After hitting a rough patch from May to July, the Houston Dynamo appear to have found their footing.
Having earned just one point between May 21 and July 12, the Dynamo enter Saturday’s clash with the Columbus Crew with two victories over Eastern Conference playoff contenders in three weeks. They will have to do so again Saturday when they take on the Crew, who sit in third place following a 4-1 statement victory over the LA Galaxy.
SPORTING KC vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick)
The top two teams in the Eastern Conference collide Saturday when league-leading Sporting KC takes on D.C. United at Sporting Park.
Both sides enter Saturday’s clash boasting big victories last time out, as Sporting KC and D.C. United put four past TFC and the Colorado Rapids, respectively. With just three points separating the two sides, D.C. United, who will be without Eddie Johnson due to suspension, can claim the conference’s top spot with a victory.
LA GALAXY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick)
Despite being undefeated in their last seven, the Vancouver Whitecaps are feeling pressure from the rest of the Western Conference.
The Whitecaps have drawn six of their last seven contests and now face an LA Galaxy side fresh off a momentum-shifting comeback victory over the Colorado Rapids. Saturday could see the debut of the Whitecaps’ latest addition, Mauro Rosales, who the team acquired Thursday from the Galaxy’s crosstown rival, Chivas USA.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN2)
Despite sitting atop the Western Conference standings, the Seattle Sounders enter their clash with the Portland Timbers as the colder team.
The Sounders have won just one of five games since their victory over the Timbers on July 13, with their last outing resulting in a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. Meanwhile, the Timbers have been on a tear, picking up 10 points from their past five contests, which has pushed Caleb Porter’s side within two points of a playoff spot.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Sunday, 8 p.m., Univision Deportes)
With stars Yannick Djalo and Matias Perez Garcia both out due to injury, the depleted San Jose Earthquakes face a Philadelphia Union side desperate to move up the table.
The Union have picked up nine points from their past six contests and currently sit just one point out of fifth place. Meanwhile, the Earthquakes have shown steady improvement in recent weeks, having earned victories over the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders in the past month. However, Sunday’s contest is a virtual must-win for the Union, who need to keep up in the always-crowded Eastern Conference.
Which matches are you looking forward to? How do you see the Sounders clash with the Timbers playing out? Who will sit atop the Eastern Conference come Sunday morning?
Share your thoughts below.