Photo by USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
With the regular season heading toward the home stretch, this weekend’s MLS action features a few good old-fashioned six pointers.
Headlining the action is a battle between Supporters’ Shield hopefuls, as the league-leading Seattle Sounders host Real Salt Lake, who sit just five points behind Friday’s opposition for the league lead.
The weekend boasts plenty of other action with playoff implications, as the Philadelphia Union host the New York Red Bulls, the Vancouver Whitecaps battle FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo take on the Columbus Crew.
Here’s a look at this weekend’s MLS slate:
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Friday, 10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
With the Supporters’ Shield race in full swing, Friday features a battle of two top contenders as the Seattle Sounders take on Real Salt Lake for the third time this season.
Having split the previous two meetings, both sides enter Friday’s clash with postseason positions all but locked up, meaning the match will be all about the two sides’ Supporters’ Shield aspirations. Despite having a game in hand, the Sounders have a five point advantage over RSL, who will need a victory this weekend to keep the quest for regular season silverware alive.
The Sounders are on a four game unbeaten streak, with their last loss coincidentally coming to RSL back on Aug. 16. If RSL can replicate that result, it could open up a dogfight for the league’s top spot as the season heads towards its conclusion.
CHIVAS USA vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Friday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
For the first time in recent memory, Sporting KC are in a slump.
The reigning MLS Cup champions enter the weekend having lost four straight for the first time in five years, with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Despite remaining in second place, Sporting KC need to right the ship sooner rather than later, as the rest of the Eastern Conference has begun to catch up in recent weeks.
Sporting KC will take on a team that, on paper, looks like the perfect opponent to provide a confidence boost, as Chivas USA enter the weekend on a nine game winless streak of their own. To make matters worse, the hosts will be without star Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, who will miss out due to suspension.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 3 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
Fresh off a season-saving victory over D.C. United Wednesday night, the New York Red Bulls are forced to jump right back into the fire.
Wednesday’s victory earned the Red Bulls a playoff position for the time being, as Thierry Henry and co. currently occupy fourth place. However, just one point separates the Red Bulls from the Union, giving Philadelphia a chance to stake its claim with a result.
While the Red Bulls’ fatigue is sure to play a part, Saturday’s clash could hinge on the health of forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was removed from Wednesday’s victory with hamstring tightness.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With four-straight victories in their back pocket, the New England Revolution have made their push toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Revs currently occupy the conference’s third position, sitting just three points behind second place Sporting KC. Riding a four-game stretch that has seen the team outscore opponents 9-2, the Revs have overcome that midsummer face-plant that threatened to derail their season.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s opposition, the Montreal Impact, demonstrated their ability to pick up points against the league’s best Wednesday in a 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy. However, the Impact also demonstrated what has become the team’s Achilles’ heel, conceding a two goal lead in Wednesday’s effort. The Impact will need to remedy their defensive mistakes, as Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones and co. look to push their streak to five straight.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Having claimed nine points from their last four games, the Houston Dynamo have reasserted themselves as long-shots at claiming a playoff position out of the Eastern Conference. However, if the Dynamo are to continue that push, they will have to do it against the only side to defeat them in the past month: the Columbus Crew.
Having picked up a dominating 3-0 victory over the Dynamo just three weeks ago, the Crew are sure to enter Saturday’s clash with a bit of confidence. With another 3-0 victory over Chivas USA in the rearview mirror, the Crew currently occupy fifth place with the rest of the Eastern Conference chomping at their heels.
One of the teams itching to get at the Crew is the Dynamo, who sit five points out of a playoff spot with two other teams in their path. This weekend is do-or-die for the Dynamo, who will need to emerge with points if they hope to keep their season alive.
FC DALLAS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live/TSN2)
Following back-to-back defeats that saw the team pick up its first losses since May, FC Dallas faces yet another test Saturday in a clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
FC Dallas will be glad to return to the friendly confines of Toyota Stadium after dropping a pair of road games to the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake. Despite the losses, the team remains in fourth place, five points ahead of Saturday’s opposition, the Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps face a short turnaround, having picked up a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes Wednesday night. A Whitecaps victory would further increase their hold on fifth place, which they currently occupy due to a two point advantage over the Portland Timbers.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
After an offseason of hope and expectations, Toronto FC are in serious danger of seeing their playoff hopes slip away.
TFC are winless in their last five, which has seen the team pick up just one point since an August 9 victory over the Columbus Crew. With a coaching clear-out behind them, TFC must now continue to look towards the postseason, as the team sits three points out of the final spot with a game in hand.
Friday’s matchup will give TFC a chance at recovery as they take on the Chicago Fire, which happens to be the only team to concede a point to TFC in the last month. Saturday’s clash is a must win for TFC, but they will have to contain Quincy Amarikwa and Robert Earnshaw, who will be forced to step up to replace the injured Mike Magee.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live)
Winless in their last seven and scoreless in their last 240 minutes, the Colorado Rapids have seen their playoff hopes dwindle.
In need of a late-season miracle to qualify for the postseason, the Rapids are now tasked with taking on one of the league’s more potent attacks in the Portland Timbers, who enter Saturday in the midst of their own playoff battle.
The Timbers are fresh off a frustrating 3-3 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, as the team was once again let down by its shoddy defense. Sitting just two points out of fifth, the Timbers are very much in the playoff fight, but they will have to fix a leaky defense in the very near future if they hope to be a serious contender.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. LA GALAXY (Sunday, 3 p.m., UniMas)
One of the league’s fiercest rivalries has lost a bit of its luster due to a pesky yellow card.
Sunday’s California Clasico between the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy was set to be the final of Landon Donovan’s career, but the former Earthquakes star will miss the proceeding due to suspension stemming from a yellow card picked up in Wednesday’s draw with the Montreal Impact.
Despite Donovan’s absence, the Galaxy will need to focus on all three points, as the team is very much in the Supporters Shield race. The Galaxy sit just one point behind the Sounders, who have a game in hand, making Sunday’s clash all the more important in the quest for regular season glory.