By THOMAS FLOYD
Last November, Sporting Kansas City was exposed on its home field at the most inopportune of times. This weekend, the club will look to right that wrong.
The Houston Dynamo will return to the site of their upset win over Kansas City in the Eastern Conference final, visiting Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday. Kansas City has been tough but not invincible there this season, going 6-2-0.
The fixture headlines another packed weekend of MLS action, which will also feature the Colorado Rapids' trip to take on the Seattle Sounders in an important Western Conference duel and a northeastern battle between the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution.
Here is a rundown of the Week 18 slate:
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 8 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
A midweek win over Montreal put Kansas City back in the win column and just a point behind D.C. United for first place in the Eastern Conference. With United idle this weekend, Peter Vermes' side can reclaim that top spot.
The status of Geoff Cameron (questionable with a hamstring strain) will be key for Houston. If Cameron is healthy, Dominic Kinnear could deploy him as a centerback or in holding midfield, a position he returned to last weekend.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
Winless in four, Salt Lake still is just three points back of first place. And Jason Kreis' side will have a prime opportunity to end the drought Saturday when it faces a 5-7-4 Portland team at Rio Tinto Stadium.
On the plus side for the Timbers, Salt Lake striker Fabian Espindola will be suspended for this one because of yellow card accumulation. That's good news for a defense this week bolstered by the acquisition of right back Kosuke Kimura from Colorado.
FC DALLAS vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 9 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
After a midweek loss to Portland, San Jose will want to avoid losing back-to-back games to the two worst teams in the Western Conference. That means getting a result on the road against a Dallas.
The home side, meanwhile, should be sparked by finally having 2010 MVP David Ferreira and 2010 MVP finalist Brek Shea back on the field together following Ferreira's return from a yearlong injury layoff midweek against Toronto.
CHIVAS USA vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
After defeating Chivas 1-0 at the Home Depot Center in March, Vancouver returns for a second trip as it plays the third match of a five-game road swing.
Both sides will be shorthanded in this one, with suspensions keeping Chivas midfielder Oswaldo Minda and Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks out of action. Chivas could also be without striker Juan Agudelo, who is questionable with a knee injury.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 11 p.m., NBCSN, TSN2)
Winless in nine, the Sounders have shown glimpses of promise in recent weeks (such as Eddie Johnson's goal-scoring form) but just haven't been able to put together a complete performance in any one game.
Colorado, on the other hand, has been erratic all year. Days after dismissing Portland 3-0, the Rapids dropped a disappointing 1-0 result to Vancouver at home midweek. Which Colorado side will show up for this one?
CHICAGO FIRE vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Sunday, 3 p.m., ESPN)
David Beckham's suspension has stolen the headlines ahead of this contest, but the match should be a good one between an inconsistent Los Angeles side and Frank Klopas' surging Fire team.
How Chicago's centerbacks cope with the Galaxy's forward partnership of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan will be crucial. With Arne Friedrich, Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry to choose from, Klopas does have plenty of formidable options for the position.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. TORONTO FC (Sunday, 4 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live, TSN)
These two teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference have actually been playing some pretty good soccer of late, as Toronto is unbeaten in five and Philadelphia has won two of its past three.
With Toronto striker Danny Koevermans on fire, scoring eight goals in as many games, Zac MacMath and the Philadelphia back line will certainly have their hands full trying to keep the Dutchman in check.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 7 p.m., Galavision)
Two points back of idle D.C. United and one point behind Kansas City, New York can again take over first place in the Eastern Conference with a win at New England on Sunday.
After using late equalizers to grab a pair of ties in their past two games, the Revolution will be looking to put together a complete performance and claim the full three points against a Red Bulls team that likely will be without the injured Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Heath Pearce.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick/MLS Live)
Alessandro Nesta will need a few weeks to gain match fitness, which means Montreal's back line will have to make due without its big-name reinforcement against the Crew on Sunday. Although the Impact do have the league's worst defense, the Crew's attack is the second-worst in MLS.
Montreal could have a tough time coping with suspensions in this match, with Davy Arnaud and Felipe Martins both serving bans.