By THOMAS FLOYD
Riding a three-game winning streak, Sporting Kansas City has climbed back to the top of the Eastern Conference — a spot the New York Red Bulls are keeping a close eye on from a short distance.
That first place slot will be on the line Sunday when Kansas City hosts New York in a nationally televised clash at Livestrong Sporting Park in the first of three matches between these two clubs in the next two months. The match will feature Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler, one of the league's top centerback pairings, going up against the likes of Kenny Cooper, Sebastian Le Toux and Tim Cahill. Sporting KC gets a bit of a break in the sense that Thierry Henry will be unavailable for the match after the birth of his son on Friday.
Elsewhere around MLS, the Cascadia Cup will continue with a contest between the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal and D.C. meet in a key Eastern Conference match with postseason implications and two in-form Western Conference foes will meet when the Los Angeles Galaxy host FC Dallas.
Here is a rundown of the Week 25 slate:
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Friday, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports)
With three straight losses in league play, Salt Lake will look to get back on track against a Philadelphia team it has never lost to in four matches all-time (2-0-2).
A Union defense that will be without suspended right back Sheanon Williams will be keeping an eye on RSL striker Alvaro Saborio, who has scored seven goals in as many matches, raising his season total to 14 tallies and putting a bit of pressure on Chris Wondolowski in the race for the league's golden boot.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 4 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick/TSN2)
After scoring just three goals in their past five games, United broke out of the slump with a 4-2 midweek win over Chicago. Next up for D.C. is a Montreal team United tied 1-1 and beat 3-0 in games at RFK Stadium earlier this year.
The Impact, winners of four straight, will be short-handed in the back with Nelson Rivas and Hassoun Camara suspended, but Alessandro Nesta is expected to return after missing time with a knee sprain.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Hanging on in the race for an Eastern Conference playoff bid, the Crew are essentially facing a must-win match this weekend against a New England team that is winless in its last seven games.
Giving the Crew a boost has been the addition of striker Federico Higuain, who has notched a goal and two assists in just two matches with Columbus and is living up to the DP hype.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Luis Silva (four goals, two assists in his past eight games) has been a bright spot lately for a Toronto team that has reverted to its early-season struggles, going 0-4-1 in its past five.
For the Dynamo, this contest presents a prime opportunity to pick up three points and stave off Chicago and D.C. in the race for the top three seeds in the East and the first-round byes that come with them. Houston deployed a reserve-laden squad for Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League match against CD FAS, meaning that Dom Kinnear should have a fresh squad of first-team players from which to choose.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
At 1-2-1 in their past four, the Earthquakes have surrendered some ground in the Supporters' Shield race. Now, they lead Kansas City by just one point.
Although a game against a Colorado team that has won just one of its past nine games would seem to be an enviable matchup, San Jose will be devastated by suspensions, with centerbacks Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez and striker Steven Lenhart all sidelined.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Portland, winless since July 3, would love to get interim coach Gavin Wilkinson his first victory in this Cascadia Cup match at Jeld-Wen Field and play spoiler against a Vancouver team that suddenly finds its playoff prospects in some doubt.
Both teams will be missing a key piece in central midfield, with Portland's Diego Chara and Vancouver's Gershon Koffie suspended. On the plus side for Vancouver, captain Jay DeMerit seems poised to return from a concussion after returning to training.
CHIVAS USA vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)
Fredy Montrero and Eddie Johnson have both notched four goals Seattle's past six games, with Montero scoring in back-to-back matches coming off the bench. In 10 career games off the bench, Montero has six goals and two assists.
Trying to keep them in check will be Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who continues to keep his offensively challenged squad competitive game after game.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. FC DALLAS (Sunday, 7 p.m., NBCSN)
Coming off a 5-2 win over Metapan in Champions League action, the Galaxy will return to league play against a Dallas team that has won three straight behind the production of David Ferreira (two goals, three assists during the streak).
The status of Los Angeles captain Landon Donovan is in question after he missed the Metapan match with a hamstring ailment.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 9 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/GolTV Canada)
With just 22 goals allowed, Kansas City boasts the top defense in MLS. With 43 goals scored, New York offers the league's third-best attack. Come Sunday, those two units go head-to-head.
Although attackers such as New York's Tim Cahill and Kansas City's Graham Zusi might get more attention, this match could be won by a gritty midfield battle between Dax McCarty and Roger Espinoza, two players who have turned in stellar campaigns thus far.