Photo by Rick Osentoski/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
Five months after facing off in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew are getting together once again.
With Columbus on top of the Eastern Conference and Salt Lake riding an eight-game unbeaten streak, the match headlines the weekend schedule as MLS gets back into full swing following Wednesday's All-Star festivities.
The action kicks off Friday when the Colorado Rapids travel to Philadelphia for FSC's "Soccer Night in America" broadcast, while Saturday's fixtures include a clash between the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders. On Sunday, FC Dallas will try to parlay its midweek Champions League success into a result against Chivas USA.
Here is a full rundown of the Week 20 slate:
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Friday, 7:30 p.m., FSC)
Two days after playing alongside Omar Cummings for the MLS All-Stars, Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon will try to shut down the striker and his Colorado teammates at PPL Park.
The match could also mark the return of Colorado MLS Cup hero Macoumba Kandji, who has missed the entire season thus far while recovering from an ACL tear suffered while setting up the Rapids' Cup-clinching goal in November.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FSC)
With David Beckham and Chris Birchall suspended, the Galaxy will be a bit shorthanded when it travels to face the Whitecaps at Empire Field.
On the plus side, the Galaxy is expected to have Landon Donovan in the lineup after he sat out the MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday with a calf injury. For Vancouver, having his World Cup teammate Jay DeMerit (questionable with an adductor strain) to help hold him check could be key.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Tally Hall, Geoff Cameron, Corey Ashe and Brad Davis will return from their time with the MLS All-Stars to help a Houston team currently two points out of the 10th and final playoff slot.
They will have stiff opposition, as the Sounders are unbeaten in nine contests and 5-0-1 in their last six. But Seattle will likely be battling some fatigue after traveling to Panama for a 1-0 loss to San Francisco in Champions League action Tuesday.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Can Kansas City continue its scorching run of form against a suddenly revived New England team? Coach Peter Vermes' club remarkably hasn't lost a league match since opening Livestrong Sporting Park in early June, but New England is coming off a surprising 1-0-1 road swing last week.
The Revolution will be without suspended defender Chris Tierney, though, and the back line could also be missing Kevin Alston (questionable with turf toe) and Ryan Cochrane (doubtful with foot pain).
REAL SALT LAKE vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
Don't look now, but coach Robert Warzycha's Crew team sits atop the Eastern Conference despite an offseason overhaul that left many thinking this would be a rebuilding year in Columbus.
The Crew will face a stern test Saturday when it travels to Rio Tinto Stadium to face Salt Lake, a team that is unbeaten since June 8 — when it dropped a 2-1 result in Columbus. The loss of centerback Jamison Olave, injured in the MLS All-Star Game, could be a tough blow for Salt Lake, even if backup Chris Schuler provides admirable depth.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
A Chris Wondolowski-less San Jose side defeated United in June behind the strength of a Steven Lenhart hat trick. United, though, started three rookies in the back during that contest, including two in central defense.
The D.C. back line has since been reinforced, most notably by a trade with San Jose for centerback Brandon McDonald. With Dejan Jakovic back after missing two months with a hamstring strain, coach Ben Olsen could deploy a McDonald-Jakovic partnership for the first time Saturday.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 11 p.m., Direct Kick)
Circumstances are growing increasingly dire with each loss for Portland, which, at 6-10-3, is beginning to fall out of the playoff hunt. But facing Toronto's ever-vulnerable back line could be just what the Timbers need to get back on track.
That said, the visitors could provide trouble for Portland if Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, Dasan Robinson and the rest of those new faces playing for Toronto coach Aron Winter start developing some chemistry.
FC DALLAS vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 7 p.m., Galavision)
Coming off a 1-0 win over Alianza in Champions League play Thursday, FC Dallas will turn its focus back to MLS with battle against coach Robin Fraser's hot Chivas USA side.
Dallas is 4-1-2 in its last seven league contests, while Chivas is 2-0-3. With a win and a Los Angeles loss, Dallas could draw even with the Galaxy in the race for the Supporters' Shield. Chivas, meanwhile, is currently hanging onto the final playoff spot and would like to make its position a little more comfortable as the season's stretch run approaches.