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MLS Weekend Preview: El Trafico, Cascadia Derby, and more

A pair of high-profile rivalries take priority in Major League Soccer this weekend with all four teams coming from the Western Conference.

El Trafico takes place once again in California with the L.A. Galaxy hosting Los Angeles FC at Dignity Health Sports Park. Carlos Vela and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead the attacking-minded sides, with Vela trying to silence his Swedish counterpart after trash talk ensued earlier this week.

Sunday’s headliner comes from CenturyLink Field as the Seattle Sounders welcome Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers to town. The hosts sit 11 points clear of the defending Western Conference champions in the table, but know anything is possible when the two sides meet up.

Elsewhere, Real Salt Lake hosts Minnesota United on Saturday night in Utah while D.C. United travels to Atlanta United in the opening match on Sunday. NYCFC also pays a visit to the Colorado Rapids, where Jonathan Lewis will surely be eager to score against his former club.

Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s top five MLS matches:

L.A. Galaxy vs. LAFC – Friday, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Two of the top three sides in the Western Conference will meet at Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday night to kick off the weekend’s action.

LAFC hold a 12-point advantage over rivals L.A. Galaxy and will continue to try and rise in the table. Since a 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids, Bob Bradley’s side have won three league matches in a row, outscoring their opponents 14-3 in that span. Carlos Vela continues his MVP campaign while Mark-Anthony Kaye and Eduard Atuesta are shining in midfield.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic feels he is the best attacking weapon in MLS.. and even better than Vela, who is having a sensational season. However, for Ibrahimovic to truly silence his rivals, he will need to put in a good performance on Friday and help his side to three points. The Galaxy are 2-3-0 in their last five matches across all competitions, and a win on Friday could spark a leap up the table.

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers – Sunday, 9:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Another West Coast showdown comes from the Pacific Northwest on Sunday night.

The Seattle Sounders come in off a 3-1 friendly loss to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in which saw Jordan Morris, Brad Smith, and Nicolas Lodeiro rested in-full. A 2-1 league triumph over Atlanta United six days ago boosted the Sounders ahead of the Galaxy and into second place. Raul Ruidiaz shined that day with a Goal of the Year nominee, and the Peruvian will need to be just as influential in this contest.

Portland are five points out of the final playoff spot and have taken seven out of their last possible nine league points. Sam Nicholson’s spectacular finish doomed the Timbers chances of a win over Colorado, despite Diego Valeri’s penalty kick. Valeri as well as Brian Fernandez shined in their U.S. Open Cup win over Seattle and could replicate the same in Seattle.

Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United – Saturday, 10 p.m. (ESPN+)

A pair of high-flying offensive attacks meet at Rio Tinto Stadium in Saturday’s headliner.

Real Salt Lake are coming off a 4-0 thumping of the Philadelphia Union, which saw Jefferson Savarino shine with a brace. A dominating offensive display left the Union frustrated most of the match while Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach also got in on the scoring. All three are capable of scoring at will, but will need to be strong defensively against a Loons attack who loves to hit on the counter.

Minnesota United fell 3-0 to Aston Villa in friendly action on Wednesday, but that shouldn’t hurt their morale of sitting fourth in the West. Mason Toye has come alive of late for Adrian Heath’s bunch, scoring four goals in five league appearances. Darwin Quintero and Kevin Molino will be the dynamic attacking threats, but Toye’s in-form play makes him a dangerous option as well.

This is the first of two matchups between these teams this season.

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United – Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

One point separates Atlanta United and D.C. United in the East as the pair meet up on Sunday down South.

The Five Stripes rolled past Houston 5-0 on Wednesday, thanks to Josef Martinez’s brace. Julian Gressel also put in a strong shift with a goal, while Emerson Hyndman continues to win minutes with his new team. A win paired with a Union defeat will see the Five Stripes jump atop the East, but they need to be aware of Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney for the Black and Red.

D.C. will see Acosta return from suspension after the Argentine was ineligible for Thursday’s trip to Nippert Stadium. Acosta has five goals this season and will look to provide Rooney with chances in front of goal. The former Manchester United and England star has 10 tallies to his name, including five assists in 20 appearances. Steve Birnbaum and Frederic Brillant will try and lock down Martinez who has 15 goals in 18 matches.

Colorado Rapids vs. NYCFC – Saturday, 9 p.m. (ESPN+)

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will play host to an inter-conference matchup between the Colorado Rapids and NYCFC on Saturday.

While Conor Casey’s side continues to impress in the West, Jonathan Lewis will be the player to watch for the host Rapids. Lewis, 22, scored three goals in his two-and-a-half years with NYCFC, but has totaled three in five appearances for the Rapids. The speedy winger will try to connect with Diego Rubio and Kei Kamara in attack for the Rapids.

NYCFC have lost three matches in a row in all competitions leading to this trip to Colorado and will try to avoid any slip-ups. While a 2-1 loss didn’t go their way at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, Domenec Torrent’s men need to get back to free-flowing attacking football. Valentin Castellanos was quiet against the Red Bulls, but luckily Heber found the back of the net. The Brazilian and Maxi Moralez have carried the attack of late and will need to do so for three points on the road.

Here’s a full schedule of this weekend’s action:

L.A. Galaxy vs. LAFC – Friday, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo – Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire – Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact – Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas – Saturday, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+)

Colorado Rapids vs. NYCFC – Saturday, 9 p.m. (ESPN+)

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Saturday, 10 p.m. (ESPN+)

Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United – Saturday, 10 p.m. (ESPN+)

Atlanta United vs. D.C. United – Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPN)

FC Cincinnati vs. New England Revolution – Sunday, 6 p.m. (ESPN+)

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls – Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers – Sunday, 9:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

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