Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
After putting together a 6-0 thrashing of the Chicago Fire in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal, the Seattle Sounders will face a much more daunting task when they take the field this Saturday.
Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin and co. head into the always-difficult Rio Tinto Stadium, where they will find Real Salt Lake and a battle for Western Conference supremacy.
Real Salt Lake, which sits just two points behind Saturday’s opposition, will be looking to pick up more than just three points, as the hosts will be looking to avenge a 4-0 thrashing from the Sounders in late May.
In other MLS action, Landon Donovan says his goodbyes to Columbus in the LA Galaxy’s clash with the Crew, Toronto FC look to make up ground when they take on Sporting KC, and the Vancouver Whitecaps look to continue their five-game winning streak against Chivas USA.
Here is a rundown of the Week 23 slate:
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Friday, 9 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
The Philadelphia Union look to continue their five-game unbeaten run on Friday evening with a trip to the Lone Star State to face the Houston Dynamo.
The Union are coming off the high of beating FC Dallas to earn a place in the U.S. Open Cup final and Carlos Valdes has seamlessly fit into the lineup. Only Cristian Maidana is listed as questionable for the Union, while the Dynamo have everyone fit. Getting Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis back to full health should give the Dynamo an advantage in midfield.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
In arguably the biggest game of the weekend, Real Salt Lake host the Western Conference leading Seattle Sounders.
RSL’s Luis Gil is coming into form in the main stretch of the season and midfielder Javier Morales has been running the show as usual, but they’ll be challenged by the likes of Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans in midfield. Clint Dempsey against Nat Borchers and Chris Schuler will be fun to watch at Rio Tinto Stadium. Obafemi Martins will miss the match with a red card suspension.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 6 p.m., MLS Live/TSN2)
Saturday’s clash between the Montreal Impact and the Chicago Fire could see the debut of the the Impact’s newest designated player.
Midfielder Ignacio Piatti could potentially make his MLS debut Saturday for a side stumbling through a seven-game losing streak. In their path lies a hungry Fire team with a midweek U.S. Open Cup demolition at the hands of the Seattle Sounders fresh on their minds. With the Eastern Conference playoff picture starting to define itself, the Fire will need to consistently pick up points if they hope to make the leap into the conference’s top five.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With both sides sitting on the outside looking in, Saturday’s meeting between the New England Revolution and Portland Timbers could go a long way for both sides in the race for playoff positioning.
The Revs enter the weekend well-rested, having had two weeks to ponder the 2-1 loss suffered to the Red Bulls last time out. However, Jay Heaps’ men face a side that looked dominant in a 2-0 victory over Chivas USA last time out. Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri has been truly special in recent weeks, and will seriously test a vulnerable New England midfield.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. LA GALAXY (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Landon Donovan farewell tour rolls into Columbus on Saturday in a matchup filled with plenty of emotional hellos and goodbyes.
Donovan, who will retire at the end of the season, will be honored by the Crew with a pre-game ceremony in what will likely be his final appearance at Crew Stadium. Meanwhile, Donovan’s teammate, Robbie Rogers, will make his first appearance at his former stadium since leaving the team in 2011. To top things off, Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter will face his mentor, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, for the first time since becoming his hiring in November 2013.
SPORTING KC vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live/TSN2)
A potential matchup of two of the league’s most prolific scorers hinges on Jermain Defoe’s health.
Defoe, who has been sidelined for two weeks with a groin injury, has scored 11 goals in 15 games since joining Toronto FC in January. TFC’s opposition this weekend, Sporting KC, boasts a forward that can score in bunches as well, as Dom Dwyer has scored 14 in 21 contests this season. The two sides have met twice already this season, with Sporting KC having grabbed four points from the pair of contests.
CHIVAS USA vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live/TSN)
The Vancouver Whitecaps enter the weekend having won five straight contests dating back to July 12. However, Pedro Morales and co. will need to defend that streak Saturday against the last team to hand them a loss.
Chivas USA have lost four straight since knocking off the Whitecaps back in July in a streak that has seen the team sink to the bottom of the table. Meanwhile, the play of Morales and Darren Mattocks has pushed the Whitecaps up to fifth in the Western Conference.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With a penalty kick loss to the Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup fresh on their minds, FC Dallas face a short turnaround before taking on the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
FC Dallas are set to take on the San Jose Earthquakes for the third time this season, with the Earthquakes having claimed the previous two encounters. Both sides enter the weekend riding unbeaten streaks, with the Earthquakes unblemished in their last four, while FC Dallas have gone eight games without a loss.
D.C. UNITED vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Sunday, 8 p.m., Univision Deportes)
If D.C. United are to emerge from the friendly confines of RFK Stadium with all three points, they will have to do so without striker Eddie Johnson.
Johnson will be serving the first of his two game suspension stemming from an incident that saw the D.C. United forward kick a ball at RSL defender Carlos Salcedo. D.C. United have dropped two in a row, but Sunday’s opposition, the Colorado Rapids, enter on a three-game losing streak of their own.
Which matches are you most anticipating? Can Real Salt Lake knock the Sounders out of first place in the West? Can the Whitecaps stay hot against lowly Chivas USA?
Share your thoughts below.