By THOMAS FLOYD
We’re barely a month into the 2013 MLS campaign, but it’s already time for Round 2 of one of the league’s most heated rivalries.
After playing to a 1-1 draw three weeks ago at Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids will write the next chapter of the Rocky Mountain Cup story Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. For RSL, the match could mark Jason Kreis’ first opportunity this year to put playmaker Javier Morales and striker Alvaro Saborio on the field together.
Elsewhere across the league, Sporting Kansas City will host D.C. United in a key Eastern Conference tilt; FC Dallas will look to continue the team’s early-season success with a result at Toronto FC; and the Vancouver Whitecaps will travel to face a San Jose Earthquakes club that finally is getting healthy.
Here is a rundown of the Week 6 slate:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. D.C. UNITED (Friday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With winger Nick DeLeon (hamstring) and playmaker Dwayne De Rosario (adductor) sidelined, United will need to lean on depth players such as Marcos Sanchez and Kyle Porter if Ben Olsen is going to improve his 0-4-0 mark against Kansas City.
Look for United to flow their attack through Chris Pontius, who if deployed on the left flank will be doing battle with steady Kansas City right back Chance Myers.
TORONTO FC vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 4 p.m., MLS Live/TSN)
Dallas has been a major surprise thus far this season, with the offensive production of David Ferreira (one goal, three assists) and Jackson Goncalves (two goals, one assist) complementing a quietly stingy back line.
On the Toronto side, keep an eye on opportunistic striker Robert Earnshaw, whose runs and goal-poaching tendencies should provide a good test for Dallas centerbacks George John and Matt Hedges.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 5 p.m., UniMas)
After missing the postseason a year ago, both of these clubs have gotten off to solid starts in hopes of playing November soccer once more. Going into Saturday, the Crew are 3-0-0 against the Union all time when playing from the comforts of home.
For Philadelphia, one key will be holding Columbus playmaker Federico Higuain in check, a responsibility that will fall on centerbacks Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo, as well as holding midfielder Brian Carroll.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN)
Salt Lake has slowly but surely returned to health, with Nat Borchers back in the starting lineup, Javier Morales again a factor off the bench and Alvaro Saborio shaking his recent knee ailment.
The Rapids, on the other hand, are still without Martin Rivero (foot) and Jaime Castrillon (knee), and they’ve also seen Matt Pickens (arm), Pablo Mastroeni (quad) and Diego Calderon (knee) sent to the sideline in recent weeks, making their winless start all the more understandable.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With Steven Lenhart poised to make his return from a knee injury, the Earthquakes could finally have the trio of Lenhart, Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon available again.
That’s not good news for a Vancouver team that has lost back-to-back contests after starting the season with a pair of victories. For centerbacks Brad Rusin and Andy O’Brien, stopping a recharged San Jose front line could be a tall task.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Still searching for the first win of the Caleb Porter era, the Timbers will host a Dynamo side that in all competitions this season is 4-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. Not having Will Bruin (hamstring) will make the challenge Saturday even tougher for Houston.
The battle in central midfield should be an intriguing chess match, with the Portland trio of Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury and Will Johnson hoping to get the upper hand against Houston’s efficient duo of Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN2)
With attackers Tim Cahill (calf), Fabian Espindola (hamstring) and Thierry Henry (knee) all listed as questionable, health is a concern for New York heading into this trip to face a desperate Chicago squad.
While the return of Arne Friedrich (hamstring) would be a major boost to the Fire’s back line, the German veteran who returned to training recently told reporters this week he isn’t quite ready for game action.