By THOMAS FLOYD
To say Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders have gotten to know each other lately would be an understatement.
In November, the Western Conference powers met in the postseason for the second straight year, with Seattle coming out on top this time. They then met twice in the preseason Desert Diamond Cup. And in late-March, RSL downed the Sounders in league play.
The familiar foes will meet once more at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, highlighting MLS’ return to full throttle after two lightly scheduled weekends.
Elsewhere, FC Dallas will host Sporting Kansas City in a marquee inter-conference matchup; the New York Red Bulls will resume their I-95 feud with the Philadelphia Union; and the Los Angeles Galaxy will take on Chivas USA in a SuperClasico clash.
Here is a rundown of the Week 17 slate:
D.C. UNITED vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
Last season, San Jose won the Supporters’ Shield and D.C. finished with the league’s third-best record. Over the past six months, both teams have fallen on tough times, with United in the league cellar and the Earthquakes below .500 while adjusting to a new coach.
If Chris Wondolowski again lines up on the right flank, allowing Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart to start up top, keep an eye on how the MVP fares against recently acquired United left back Alain Rochat.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 8 p.m., MLS Live)
Fresh off a midweek win over Colorado, the Fire will look to make it two in a row as they ride the scorching form of Mike Magee (five goals in five games with Chicago) into Columbus.
Although the Crew have been devastated by injuries, with Eddie Gaven and Glauber going down for the season, they are optimistic Agustin Viana (hamstring) will return to the field Saturday for the first time since late April.
FC DALLAS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With just two wins in their past eight, Sporting have fallen onto somewhat precarious footing in the Eastern Conference — and matters won’t get easier Saturday when they travel to face league-leading Dallas.
On the plus side, Kansas City gets Matt Besler and Graham Zusi back from international duty. With Dallas missing suspended left back Jair Benitez, Zusi should find himself with a favorable matchup out wide.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live)
A week after getting its first victory since early March and first road win since July, Toronto will try to build off that momentum when its faces a Houston team that is winless in five.
This match presents an intriguing matchup in central midfield, as Houston veterans Ricardo Clark and Adam Moffat are poised to do battle with Toronto’s youthful duo of Jeremy Hall and Matias Laba.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Both teams are in fine form going into this contest, as Seattle has won four of its past five matches while RSL is enjoying a 3-0-1 run. The status of Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (quad) will be key.
U-20 World Cup obligations will take an exciting young talent away from each side, as Seattle will be without right back DeAndre Yedlin and RSL will be missing midfielder Luis Gil.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN)
MLS goals leader Jack McInerney, assists leader Sebastien Le Toux and the Union with three points at home can tie the Red Bulls for second place in the congested Eastern Conference.
New York coach Mike Petke will have to shuffle his lineup, as centerback Jamison Olave and playmaker Juninho both will be serving suspensions in this one.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Sunday, 7 p.m., NBCSN)
After maintaing their unbeaten record on the road by grinding out a draw at Los Angeles midweek, Portland will return to the comforts of Jeld-Wen Field in search of the full three points against Colorado.
The Timbers will get breakout winger Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica national team) back on the left side of their three-man front line, where he will look to cause problems for makeshift Colorado right back Brian Mullan.
CHIVAS USA vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Sunday, 11 p.m., UniMas)
Winless since May 27, the Galaxy will be excited to see their Home Depot Center co-tenants on the schedule, considering Chivas are mired in an 0-8-1 rut and offering no signs of snapping out of it.
Solidifying the Galaxy defense will be the return of Omar Gonzalez from U.S. national team duty. Marcelo Sarvas, meanwhile, will step back in at central midfield following his one-game suspension.