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By DAN KARELL
Two of the Western Conference’s top teams face off on Saturday night in a classic showdown.
These two sides faced off two weeks ago, with FC Dallas coming out on top, 2-1, at Toyota Park. Now, with the venue switching to Rio Tinto Stadium, Luis Gil and Real Salt Lake are looking to turn the tables and move well ahead of Tesho Akindele and FC Dallas in the Western Conference standings.
Elsewhere in MLS action this weekend, Sporting KC visit the shorthanded New York Red Bulls, the LA Galaxy host the Colorado Rapids, and first-place D.C. United travel cross-country to face the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s MLS slate:
LA GALAXY vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Friday, 10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
With heavy hearts, the LA Galaxy will take the field on Friday, hoping to keep up their strong run of form and win this next game in honor of AJ DeLaGarza and his family.
The Galaxy have won four consecutive matches behind strong play from Landon Donvan, Gyasi Zardes, and Robbie Keane. The Galaxy will be without Keane and DeLaGarza on Friday, but they shouldn’t be too worried as the Rapids continue to be without Shane O’Neill on top of a litany of other injuries. Jose Mari and Vicente Sanchez are eligible to play, however.
TORONTO FC vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 2 p.m., MLS Live)
Greg Vanney’s MLS head coaching debut got off to a poor start with a defeat last Wednesday, but he and TFC have a chance at instant revenge when the Union travel north to BMO Field.
TFC will be without Ashtone Morgan, who is serving a one-game suspension, in addition to a number of players who are questionable, including Jackson, Jonathan Osorio, Warren Creavalle, and Justin Morrow. The Union are without four players due to international duty and midfielder Vincent Nogueira is questionable.
A defeat for TFC could see them fall out of the playoff places, which would be disastrous considering the amount of money spent.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network)
For a match that’s always highly anticipated, this upcoming game has a bit of a different edge to it.
Both the Red Bulls and Sporting KC are still trying to search for some late-season consistency, with the Red Bulls losing two out of three and Sporting KC dropping their last three straight. The Red Bulls will be without some key players due to international call-ups, including midfielder Tim Cahill and left back Ambroise Oyongo, while Sporting KC added Jacob Peterson to their long injury list.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
In what’s usually a feisty affair, a re-awakening Dynamo team look to win for the second consecutive week against the high-flying Impact
The Impact recorded their second win in three games against the Crew last Saturday, behind a brace from new signing Ignacio Piatti, while the Dynamo won their third game in their last five in an impressive road victory at Sporting KC. However, the Dynamo were hit with injuries to Will Bruin and Jermaine Taylor, and they’ll already be without starter Kofi Sarkodie due to yellow card accumulation. Hassoun Camara will miss the match for the same reason.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 10 p.m., MLS Live)
First-place D.C. United will look to extend their lead in the Eastern Conference when they meet with a Western Conference side fighting just to stay in the playoff picture.
The Whitecaps sit just below the fifth and final spot to advance to the playoffs and will likely throw everything they can at D.C. United. The visitors could potentially give a debut to new right back Samuel Inkoom, who was signed on Friday. The Whitecaps will be without Johnny Leveron due to international duty and Gershon Koffie due to injury, while D.C. United are missing Chris Rolfe now for six weeks due to a fractured arm.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday 10 p.m., MLS Live)
Two of the best teams in the Western Conference face off at Rio Tinto Stadium in a game that could make for a great highlight reel.
Both clubs like to play fast, dynamic soccer, as evidenced by 85 goals scored by the two teams combined, and a win for FC Dallas would allow them to leapfrog RSL into third place in the Western Conference. FC Dallas are coming off their first loss since May, and have no new injuries to report, and their opponents, RSL, were able to upgrade Alvaro Saborio to “doubtful” for the match.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 3 p.m., UniMas)
The Crew look to rebound from a poor loss at the Impact when they host Chivas USA in a Sunday matinee.
The game will be devoid of some of the stars that are normally expected on paper due to injuries and suspension. The Crew are without central midfield pairing Wil Trapp and Tony Tchani due to yellow card accumulation, while Chivas USA will be without three starters, Osvaldo Minda, Erick “Cubo” Torres, and Bobby Burling, due to either yellow card accumulation or in Torres’ case, MLS Disciplinary Committee action.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Sunday, 4:45 p.m., ESPN2)
It’s a late-afternoon Western Conference battle at Providence Park as the Portland Timbers face the upstart San Jose Earthquakes.
The Earthquakes may be eight points out of the final playoff spot, but their two recent draws against RSL and the Sounders have given fans hope, along with the play up top of Tommy Thompson. While the Timbers have a clean bill of health, both Yannick Djalo and Steven Lenhart are listed as questionable.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Sunday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
Three weeks ago, this match wouldn’t have meant much, but as of this weekend, you can bet that the Chicago Fire will be out for revenge.
The Revolution beat out the Fire in a blind draw for Jermaine Jones’ signature, and after starting last Wednesday against Sporting KC, Jones could make his second straight start, against the team he nearly signed for. Shalrie Joseph and Chris Tierney are both doubtful for the Revolution, while Steve Kinney and Mike Magee are questionable for the Fire.