After a two-day recovery period from the dramatic second edition of El Trafico, Major League Soccer’s Week 22 schedule kicks back up on Saturday.
Saturday’s eight-game slate is headlined by a crucial clash at the top of the Western Conference at Children’s Mercy Park.
A pair of contests on Sunday bookend the weekend’s action, as three of the four teams who were in action on Thursday take to the field on the west coast.
Below is a deeper look at the 10-game slate across MLS to finish off Week 22.
Game of the Week
FC Dallas at Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Saturday’s game in the national spotlight could be a preview of the Western Conference final.
FC Dallas is trending in the right direction at the top of the West, as its won three of its last five games, while Sporting Kansas City’s dropped down to third after suffering losses in three of its last four contests.
Each of the three meetings in 2017 between the two teams were tight, with one win going to each side and a draw starting off the three-game slate.
Keep an eye on how Oscar Pareja utilizes newly-acquired forward Dominique Badji, who could bring another dimension to the attack including Maxi Urruti, Roland Lamah and Michael Barrios.
Since Sporting KC’s given up 11 goals in its last four matches, FC Dallas could have a field day in the final third, especially if Urruti and Badji are combined up top.
Other Games to Watch
Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The New York Red Bulls have an opportunity to separate themselves from the Columbus Crew by 10 points in the Eastern Conference on Saturday.
The Bradley Wright-Phillips-led Red Bulls could strike a distinct line in the East, with Atlanta United and New York City FC joining them in the fight for the top three playoff spots.
Columbus enters Red Bull Arena with a wave of momentum after Wil Trapp’s wonder strike in stoppage time led it past Orlando City in Week 21.
Chris Armas’ side already pulled out a draw at Mapfre Stadium on June 9, and it’s been successful at home with an 8-1-1 mark, which is second best to NYCFC in the East.
Chicago Fire at Toronto FC (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
There are a handful of teams in the East cheering for Chicago when it takes to BMO Field on Saturday night.
The Fire, who fell to Toronto FC at home a week ago, need a result in Ontario to prevent the Reds from sneaking back into the East playoff conversation.
As it stands now, the Fire are in eighth place five points back of sixth-place New England, while TFC is lingering in 10th place on 19 points.
If the Reds pick up a second consecutive win over the Fire, it will set up a crucial two-game stretch after the All-Star break against Atlanta and NYCFC that could shape their season.
New York City FC at Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN)
It’s going to be tough for NYCFC to recover from Thursday’s win in the Florida heat to play a competitive 90 minutes at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
Domenec Torrent’s men could use Sunday as a throwaway game and focus more on the upcoming August slate, but with margins so tight atop the East, it’ll be hard to justify that.
Just like Toronto, Seattle is attempting to make a late charge up the standings in orderr to secure a playoff berth.
The Sounders are in better shape than Toronto, as they are undefeated in five games and are just seven points back of sixth place.
No matter who NYCFC decides to rest for Sunday’s clash, the Sounders will use the clash with the East power as a litmus test for the rest of the 2018 campaign.
Atlanta United at Montreal Impact (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, TVA Sport, ESPN+)
Atlanta United will try to secure its East lead entering the All-Star Game with a trip up to Quebec.
The Five Stripes had no problem dealing with the Montreal Impact in their first meeting on April 28, but they did lose in their lone trip to Stade Saputo a year ago.
Although the Impact have played well of late, they’ll still face a hard time dealing with the multi-faceted Atlanta attack.
If the Impact fail to win on home soil, it could open the door for New England, Philadelphia and Chicago to make up ground.
Colorado Rapids at D.C. United (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
We get it, it’s hard to strum up excitement for the Colorado-D.C. clash.
On paper, the Black and Red should cruise to their second win at Audi Field and recover from Wednesday’s loss to the rival Red Bulls.
The Rapids are 1-6-2 on their travels and haven’t picked up a victory since July 1.
If there was ever a game for Wayne Rooney to ignite his form in front of goal, this would be it.
Minnesota United at Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
While you’ve been busy paying attention to everyone else in the West, Minnesota United’s moved up to seventh place and could leap over Real Salt Lake into the playoff positions in Week 22.
The Loons strung together wins in four of their last five games, and they’ve done so by finding the back of the net.
The Darwin Quintero-led attack scored 12 goals in the recent run of four wins, with five coming against LAFC on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Vancouver is on the opposite track with losses in four of its last five games.
With Minnesota, RSL, Houston and Seattle playing well at the moment, the Whitecaps need a victory to avoid a drop further down the standings.
Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Good news hasn’t been associated with the San Jose Earthquakes at all, unless Minnesota lines up on the other end of the field.
However, the Quakes are going up against an RSL side that is 1-8-1 on the road in 2018 and they drew in Utah on June 23.
Saturday might be the best opportunity Mikael Stahre’s team has to move away from the label of MLS laughingstock.
Of course, more of the same could happen and the Claret and Cobalt could pummel the Quakes with an eye on keeping sixth place in the West.
Houston Dynamo at Portland Timbers (Saturday, 11 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
On paper, the Portland Timbers should have an easy time with Houston, but the Dynamo possess one of the top in-form forwards in MLS in Mauro Manotas, who has six goals in his last seven games.
The Dynamo’s attack will be diminished a bit since Tomas Martinez will be serving a one-game suspension, but they still have plenty of viable options in Manotas, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto.
On the other hand, the Timbers are on a 13-game unbeaten run in league play and they’re treading water beneath the LA teams, Sporting KC and FC Dallas.
A win over one of the contenders for sixth place would be a boost to their standing, especially if Sporting KC falls to FC Dallas.
Orlando City at LA Galaxy (Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET, FS1)
The Lions travel out west to take on MLS’ lion of a human being in the Week 22 nightcap.
Orlando City is still reeling after a loss to NYCFC on Thursday, and life won’t get much easier with a trip to StubHub Center occurring on short rest.
The Galaxy also played Thursday, but they only had to travel to Banc of California Stadium.
Expect the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-led attack to cause all sorts of problems to the Lions defense that is shambles.