By THOMAS FLOYD
If the San Jose Earthquakes want to get their 2013 campaign back on track, notching a California Clasico win against the rival Los Angeles Galaxy would be a good place to start.
Before the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and the Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski join the U.S. national team for Gold Cup duty, the duo will face off at Stanford Stadium. For San Jose, which has just two wins in its past 13 games, the match is particularly critical.
Elsewhere around the league, the Philadelphia Union will host FC Dallas in a matchup featuring two 2013 surprise stories; Sporting Kansas City take on the Columbus Crew in a key Eastern Conference tilt; and the Houston Dynamo visit the New York Red Bulls in another influential battle in the East.
Here is a rundown of the full Week 18 slate:
TORONTO FC vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 1 p.m., MLS Live/TSN)
With Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio bound for the Gold Cup for RSL, and Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Kyle Bekker and Jonathan Osorio playing in the tournament for Toronto, this match for both teams presents the last chance to gain points before coping with depleted personnel.
In a stroke of luck for Toronto’s back line, though, Saborio has already reported to Costa Rica camp and will not be available to wreak havoc up top.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN)
Coming off back-to-back 3-0 wins, the Union will try to keep the momentum going as they take on a Dallas squad that has cooled off slightly following its scorching start to 2013.
Before Philadelphia poacher Jack McInerney joins the U.S. Gold Cup squad, keep an eye on how he fares against Dallas’ stellar centerback pairing of George John and Matt Hedges.
D.C. UNITED vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
After snapping a 13-game winless drought last weekend with a win over San Jose, United are looking to make it two in a row as they welcome the Whitecaps (4-1-1 in their past six) to town.
Rising Whitecaps star Russell Teibert likely will go head-to-head with former teammate Alain Rochat, who has offered United a steady presence at left back since being acquired earlier this month.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/Univision Dep.)
With the Rapids mired in a three-game losing streak, matters don’t get any easier this weekend when they face the Impact, who top MLS in points per game and have won four of their past five.
While injuries likely will knock Justin Mapp and Sanna Nyassi out of the lineup for Montreal, the club still boasts the likes of Andres Romero and Andrea Pisanu to provide service to Marco Di Vaio from out wide.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Having gone four games without a win, Kansas City will look to get back on the right path against the Crew, who are just three points back of Sporting in the Eastern Conference standings.
Kansas City will be without forward C.J. Sapong, which could pave the way for Jacob Peterson, Lawrence Olum, Peterson Joseph or Benny Feilhaber to step into the starting 11 as coach Peter Vermes continues to look for the right formula.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who has lamented the rarity of his complete squad being together, will get one more game at full strength before Landon Donovan reports for the Gold Cup.
Keep an eye on that matchup out wide, as Donovan goes up against his 2012 All-Star teammate Justin Morrow. Central midfield, where the Sam Cronin-Rafael Baca duo battles with Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas, also will be key.
CHIVAS USA vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
New England striker Juan Agudelo will face the club that abruptly traded him earlier this season when the Revolution meet a Chivas side that has lost seven in a row and is winless in 10.
The Revolution will be missing suspended right back Andrew Farrell, which should give Darrius Barnes the opportunity to make just his third start of the season.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Sunday, 2 p.m., ESPN2)
Winless since May 19, New York will try to end that drought when it welcomes Houston to Red Bull Arena. While Oscar Boniek Garcia seems poised to return from a hamstring injury for the Dynamo, Brad Davis will be sidelined by a hamstring ailment of his own.
The Red Bulls, meanwhile, will get Tim Cahill back from a groin injury, as well as the returns from suspension of Jamison Olave and Juninho.