By THOMAS FLOYD
As much as I-95 bragging rights matter to the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union, this weekend’s clash is about much more than mid-Atlantic superiority.
With the Red Bulls one point out of the top spot and the Union just two back of first-place Sporting Kansas City, Red Bull Arena on Saturday will play host to a critical match for the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Elsewhere around the league, Clint Dempsey returns to Texas as the Seattle Sounders take on the Houston Dynamo; the Colorado Rapids meet the Vancouver Whitecaps in a key tilt out West; and the Los Angeles Galaxy continue their feud with Real Salt Lake.
Here is a rundown of the Week 25 slate:
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 7 p.m., TSN2/MLS Live)
With back-to-back losses and just one win in its past eight, Montreal has faded following a hot start and now finds itself in danger of falling out of the playoff field.
Just two weeks after starting for the Impact in a 3-1 loss to United at RFK Stadium, Swiss left back Dennis Iapichino will be eligible to play for D.C. in this one after being signed off waivers Thursday.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The clubs meet again three weeks after Toronto came from behind late to pull out a 2-1 win over Columbus. The Trillium Cup, which has only been claimed by TFC once in the rivalry’s history, will go to the winner of this one.
Although Argentine forward Maximiliano Urruti is training with Toronto, the 22-year-old still has not officially signed and is unlikely to be eligible in time for Saturday.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
With both teams barely on the outside looking in at an Eastern Conference playoff berth, this meeting at Gillette Stadium presents an opportunity for the clubs to make crucial progress while hindering a direct competitor.
Charlie Davies is poised to make his Revolution debut, while fellow forward Juan Agudelo (knee sprain) also appears ready after a full week of training. Chicago’s Mike Magee (calf strain) is a question mark, and Patrick Nyarko (concussion) is out.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 8 p.m., NBCSN)
The status of New York’s pricey designated player duo will be key in this one, with Thierry Henry (Achilles inflammation) poised to start and Tim Cahill (torn PCL) a possibility off the bench.
The Red Bulls will want to keep an eye on former New York midfielder Sebastien Le Toux, who leads MLS with 12 assists, including three in the past two matches.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live)
Clint Dempsey is set to make his first start for the Sounders after debuting last weekend with 56 minutes off the bench against Toronto. With Eddie Johnson suspended and Obafemi Martins away tending to personal matters, Dempsey will be leaned on heavily.
Having reeled off three straight wins, Seattle has climbed into a tie for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Houston, meanwhile, is two points ahead of Chicago for the last postseason place in the East.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Unbeaten in eight matches, the Rapids will try to make it nine as they face a Whitecaps squad tied with them for second in the Western Conference.
New Rapids designated player Gabriel Torres is braced to make his MLS debut. On the other side, Whitecaps DP Kenny Miller returns to the lineup after scoring for Scotland in a midweek friendly loss to England.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
While Salt Lake is sitting atop the West, the Galaxy find themselves tied with Seattle for the fifth and final playoff position after two missed offside calls cost them two points at Dallas last weekend.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena could give newly acquired goalkeeper Jaime Penedo his first start after yet another lackluster effort from veteran Carlo Cudicini at Dallas.
PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 11 p.m., MLS Live)
With its winless stretch now at 10 games, Dallas has gone from first in the Western Conference to seventh. The Timbers, meanwhile, have dropped to fourth while grabbing just one win in their past five.
With Will Johnson (scapular contusion) questionable for Portland, coach Caleb Porter might have to shake up his squad by sliding Jack Jewsbury to holding midfield and giving Alvas Powell the start at right back.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Sunday, 10 p.m., Univision Dep./MLS Live)
If the Earthquakes want to avoid going from the Supporters’ Shield to missing the playoffs, they’ll need to forget last week’s loss to Vancouver and return to the form of their three-game winning streak heading into that match.
With Graham Zusi (quad strain) back in full straining, the U.S. national team midfielder should return to the field for the first time since the All-Star Game. Winger Kei Kamara (ankle sprain) is questionable.