Photo by ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
Those looking to get their MLS fix this holiday weekend should have no problem flipping through the channels and finding a game or two — or six — to their liking, as all but two of the league's matches will be nationally televised.
The schedule kicks off with D.C. United debuting new acquisitions Dwayne De Rosario and Brandon McDonald when the first-place Philadelphia Union invade RFK Stadium for FSC's "Soccer Night in America" broadcast. When that one's over, one can switch over to ESPN2 to see the two teams with whom United made its trades — the New York Red Bulls and San Jose Earthquakes – meet at Stanford Stadium.
On the Fourth of July, ESPN2 is serving up a holiday doubleheader, with Real Salt Lake hosting the New England Revolution before the Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders do battle in a 2010 playoff rematch.
Here is a rundown of the full week 16 slate:
D.C. UNITED vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 7 p.m., FSC)
All eyes will be on the debut of United playmaker Dwayne De Rosario, who seems poised to start in central midfield alongside veteran Clyde Simms. But the more impactful D.C. newcomer could very well be centerback Brandon McDonald, whose vocal presence will be key to a young United back line.
On the Philadelphia side, the focus will be on coach Peter Nowak's lineup selection after All-Star midfielder-forward Sebastien Le Toux's revelation that he wants to partner up top with Danny Mwanga, instead of play midfield or pair at striker with Carlos Ruiz.
FC DALLAS vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
Both sides have won three of four entering this clash at Pizza Hut Park, using the spurts to rapidly move up the standings. After both Zach Loyd and George John scored off Daniel Hernandez corner kicks during Dallas' 4-0 win over Portland last week, Columbus will surely be focusing on its set-piece marking.
For the Crew, winger Robbie Rogers will be back in the lineup, trying to shake some rust after spending a month with the U.S. national team but not seeing a minute of competitive action.
CHIVAS USA vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 10 p.m., Galavision)
Chivas enters this contest having lost three in a row, while Chicago comes into it having drawn three consecutive matches (giving the Fire a league-leading 11 ties on the season). At least one of those streaks will end at the Home Depot Center on Saturday.
The return of playmaker Marco Pappa from Guatemala national team duty helped Chicago pull out a 1-1 tie against New York last weekend when he found net in the second half, and his creative presence could very well be the different against Chivas.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN2)
With Ike Opara still out with a foot injury, San Jose coach Frank Yallop will have to shake up his back line for the time being after trading defender Brandon McDonald to D.C. United. New York, meanwhile, will likely debut its new-look holding midfield duo of Teemu Tainio and Dax McCarty after acquiring the latter from United on Monday.
Both teams will also be significantly boosted by Gold Cup returnees. San Jose gets reigning Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski back up top, while the Red Bulls will welcome back defender Tim Ream and forward Juan Agudelo. Considering the injuries to Rafael Marquez and Luke Rodgers, New York coach Hans Backe will be particularly pleased to have those two reinforcements at his disposal.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 11 p.m., Direct Kick)
Much like Portland did when it played its first stretch of home contests earlier this season, Kansas City is using momentum built by its newfound home-field advantage at Livestrong Sporting Park to quickly climb up the standings. To make matters better, once this match at Jeld-Wen Field is out of the way, Kansas City is scheduled to play 13 of its next 14 total matches at home.
The Timbers are currently on the other side of the spectrum, going 0-4-1 in their last five. If Kansas City can take advantage of this opportunity to get three points on the road against a struggling opponent before enjoying a long homestand, coach Peter Vermes' side will certainly be in a favorable position to make the playoffs.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Sunday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)
Just as Conor Casey and Omar Cummings finally got healthy at the same time, Casey picked up a red card for his reckless collision with Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer and will sit out this match against Houston.
The Dynamo last week earned a 2-2 draw thanks to a last-gasp equalizer from striker Brian Ching. Brad Davis' adductor strain during the contest, however, was a tough blow for a Houston squad that just can't seem to get all of its key players on the field at once.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN2)
The first half of ESPN2's Fourth of July doubleheader will feature a Real Salt Lake squad coming off a confidence-boosting 3-1 win over Toronto FC last weekend that saw Alvaro Saborio break out of his season-long slump with a brace.
Where Revolution coach Steve Nicol uses Benny Feilhaber will be an intriguing subplot to watch in this one. The U.S. national team player was used a striker during last weekend's 2-1 loss at Seattle and played well enough to make Nicol consider placing him there again against Salt Lake.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Monday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN2)
With starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts injured and backup Josh Saunders suspended, Los Angeles fans should probably be nervous about the prospect of 5-foot-9 third-stringer Brian Perk making his first career start against Seattle.
But considering they just watched midfielder Mike Magee deliver 48 minutes of shutout ball in goal last weekend against San Jose, they probably figure Perk will have no problem keeping Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez and Co. off the score sheet Monday. Of course, getting Landon Donovan — still the MLS leading scorer after a month of Gold Cup duty — back on the field can't hurt the Galaxy's chances either.