Photo by Tony Quinn/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
Saturday's showdown between the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas may be a rematch of last year's MLS Cup, but neither team has looked anything like a title contender lately.
Dallas is 0-6-1 in its past seven matches in all competitions, while Colorado has gone 1-5-1. Both clubs will look to get back to their winning ways Saturday, and with four points separating the two teams in the wild-card field, this meeting could considerably affect playoff seeding.
Elsewhere Saturday, two of the league's top three teams will clash when Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake meet at the Home Depot Center in a rematch of the 2009 MLS Cup. On Sunday, the Crew will host D.C. United in a crucial Eastern Conference tilt, while Vancouver will debut renovated BC Place with a Cascadia Cup match against Portland.
Here is a rundown of the Week 29 slate:
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 4 p.m., Telefutura)
Can Chicago continue its unlikely charge toward a playoff berth? Thought out of contention just weeks ago, the Fire has won five of six league matches to climb within three points of the current playoff threshold.
Houston, on the other hand, is in an odd position where it could jump to first place with a win or fall out of the projected postseason field entirely with a loss. Such is the state of the crowded Eastern Conference playoff chase.
TORONTO FC vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FSC, TSN 2)
As much negative attention has been heaped on the Red Bulls as of late, New York has gone a respectable 2-1-3 in its past six games and could take another big step toward securing a playoff berth with a win at second-to-last-place Toronto.
One storyline to watch will be how New York coach Hans Backe handles centerback Rafael Marquez. After suspending the disgruntled defender last week and recording a shutout win over Portland in his absence, the club could very well be better off with the Designated Player on the bench.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Trailing Los Angeles by seven points in the Supporters' Shield race with four games to play, Seattle could gain some ground this weekend by notching a win over the reeling Revolution and hoping Salt Lake gets a result against the Galaxy.
Look for New England, with Franco Coria suspended and A.J. Soares doubtful with a left adductor strain, to be vulnerable in the back in this one.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick)
Seeing as Colorado forward Conor Casey and Dallas midfielder David Ferreira have both fallen victim to long-term injuries, this match will lack some of the star appeal that made last year's MLS Cup such an intriguing encounter.
While Dallas will be hoping to catch Real Salt Lake for third place and secure automatic passage to the Western Conference semifinals, the Rapids are just four points ahead of D.C. United, the current first team out of the playoff field, and need results to simply ensure they are still playing come postseason time.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
After winning five in a row, Real Salt Lake has come back down to earth in the past week, falling by three goals to both D.C. United and the Chicago Fire. With a match against league-leading Los Angeles, which is coming off an emotional midweek triumph in Champions League play, matters aren't getting any easier.
Although Salt Lake will have playmaker Javier Morales available as he continues his comeback from a broken ankle, coach Jason Kreis' side will be without suspended captain Kyle Beckerman after the midfielder received a red card against Chicago.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick)
Kansas City enters the weekend at first place in the Eastern Conference and should have a good opportunity to maintain that positioning with a visit to the all-but-eliminated Earthquakes, who are winless in three and just 4-4-7 at home this year.
Having received another U.S. national team call-up despite his inconsistent form this season, Teal Bunbury will surely be looking to get back on the score sheet and build some momentum for himself heading into the U.S. camp.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 4 p.m., Direct Kick)
At 0-5-1 in its past six matches, Columbus has fallen from its perch atop the Eastern Conference to a slot that would currently have the Crew on the road for a wild-card playoff match. Needless to say, coach Robert Warzycha wants to get his team back on track before it's too late.
D.C. United, meanwhile, will be looking to salvage something from its two-game road swing after dropping a 3-2 result to Philadelphia on Thursday. The club could potentially be without both of its starting centerbacks, with Brandon McDonald suspended and Dejan Jakovic questionable with a hamstring strain.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., TSN 2)
The Cascadia Cup may be wrapped up for Seattle, but there will still be plenty of pride on the line when regional rivals Vancouver and Portland get together at BC Place.
Portland could certainly use a win over the league's worst team to enhance its playoff chances, but the absence of suspended midfielders Jack Jewsbury and Kalif Alhassan will make matters difficult for the Timbers.
CHIVAS USA vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Sunday, 8 p.m., Direct Kick)
A win and a draw last week renewed Chivas' long-shot playoff odds, but the club may have to win out if it realistically hopes to make the postseason. That task starts against a Philadelphia team coming off a hectic 3-2 win over D.C. United on Thursday.
The Union faces more or less the same situation as Kansas City, Houston and Columbus, as a win could launch Philadelphia into first place while a loss could drop the club back into the projected wild-card round.