Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
A surprising Montreal Impact side may have cruised to the top of the Eastern Conference standings with a hot start to 2013, but over the past month, Sporting Kansas City have reminded MLS why they’ve claimed the East’s No. 1 seed two straight seasons.
While the Impact have been mired in an 0-2-3 skid, Sporting have gone 4-0-1 in the same span, overcoming an early hole and moving back atop the conference. On Saturday, Montreal will try to seize back momentum when the clubs meet at Stade Saputo.
The match highlights a nine-game slate this weekend. Elsewhere around MLS, the New York Red Bulls host first-place Real Salt Lake; the Los Angeles Galaxy visit the Colorado Rapids in a key Western Conference clash; and the San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers renew their budding feud.
Here is a rundown of the Week 22 schedule:
TORONTO FC vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 2 p.m., MLS Live/TSN)
After snapping their 11-game winless stretch with a win over D.C. United, Toronto didn’t wait to build a new drought, going six games without a victory since.
Not helping matters against Columbus, which has lost four of five itself, will be Toronto’s depleted forwards corps, with Robert Earnshaw (hamstring) and Danny Koevermans (calf) again sidelined.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7 p.m., TSN2)
Marco Di Vaio figures to be in the lineup for Montreal after attending to personal matters in Italy, which is bad news for a short-handed Kansas City back line.
With Matt Besler on U.S. national team duty and Aurelien Collin suspended, Sporting coach Peter Vermes likely will go with Ike Opara and Lawrence Olum in central defense.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
Although RSL will be down the U.S. Gold Cup contingent of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Tony Beltran for one more game, the club does get Costa Rica’s Alvaro Saborio back in the mix.
The suspension of left back Chris Wingert is a tough blow for RSL, especially considering the fine form of late from Eric Alexander on the right side of New York’s midfield.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/Univision Dep.)
The suspension of big target forward Conor Casey means Philadelphia could reunite the early-season forward duo of Jack McInerney and Sebastien Le Toux.
The match will feature two of the top attack-minded right backs in MLS bombing up the flanks, with Philadelphia’s Sheanon Williams on one side and Vancouver veteran Lee Young-Pyo on the other.
D.C. UNITED vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
Amid the buzz surrounding United’s tentative $300 million stadium deal, the team Saturday must return to the reality that is its 2-14-4 campaign — albeit with a new sense of franchise optimism.
New England will be looking for its first victory of the season against lowly United after settling for a scoreless draw at home in league play and falling to D.C. in the U.S. Open Cup.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. LOS ANGELES GALAXY (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)
With Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan on international duty and Robbie Keane (hip flexor) sidelined, a depleted Galaxy side will face the tough task of getting a result at altitude in Colorado.
With a win, the Rapids would pass the Galaxy in the Western Conference standings and could jump from beyond the playoff field to as high as a tie for second place.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 9 p.m., NBCSN)
With Chicago making an unlikely postseason push and Houston on precarious ground in the current playoff field, this match could prove crucial come November.
While new forward Juan Luis Anangono is still awaiting official clearance to play, the Fire surely feel confident in the duo of in-form strikers Chris Rolfe and Mike Magee.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
A week after getting Will Johnson back in the mix, the Timbers now get Rodney Wallace in the fold as well following Costa Rica’s elimination from the Gold Cup.
The Earthquakes, on the other hand, are still without U.S. national team forwards Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon, though Gordon is suspended for this match anyway.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 11 p.m., MLS Live/Univision Dep.)
Battling through the cloud of negativity stemming from the “Real Sports” expose this week, Chivas will try to get their focus back on the field when they face the Sounders.
Winless in three and still outside the playoff picture, this will match against a 4-11-5 Chivas team without the suspended Eric Avila will be considered an essential must-win for Seattle.