By DAN KARELL
The conversation about the merits of Michael Bradley over Kyle Beckerman will reach a boiling point on Saturday as Bradley’s Toronto FC travel to face Beckerman’s Real Salt Lake.
The highly-anticipated match will be the first occasion for fans to see the two American midfielders face each other since Bradley left the league after the 2005 season. While TFC were able to dispatch the Seattle Sounders on the road in Week 2, the TFC attack will face a stern test from RSL as Jermain Defoe tries to break down the defense of Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers, with Nick Rimando waiting in the wings.
A win for RSL would only further instill confidence in head coach Jeff Cassar from players and fans alike as the first-year coach tries to fill the enormous shoes left behind by Jason Kreis.
Elsewhere in MLS, the Colorado Rapids host defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, high-flying FC Dallas look to continue their winning ways when they host the Portland Timbers, and the Columbus Crew travel to face the Seattle Sounders in the hopes of returning to Central Ohio with a massive three points.
Here’s a rundown of the Week 4 slate:
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 4pm, MLS Live)
The Union look to rebound from a tough road loss to the Columbus Crew when they welcome the struggling Impact to PPL Park.
While the Impact have faltered in the first three games of the season, they return Marco Di Vaio to the starting lineup. Union head coach John Hackworth will likely be without Austin Berry again and will have to put converted forward Aaron Wheeler alongside Amobi Okugo for the second match in the row.
D.C. UNITED vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 4pm, NBC Sports Network)
Ben Olsen and D.C. United were busy this offseason but have done little to show fans that this year will be much better than last year.
The Fire gritted out a tight draw at home with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday but they’ll be missing Lovell Palmer for the second match in a row. The Fire won all three matchups between these two clubs last season.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 6pm, MLS Live)
Pablo Mastroeni faces his latest test as a first-year manager when his Rapids side hosts Sporting KC.
The Rapids earned a crucial three points last Saturday against the Portland Timbers and have exceeded expectations so far. Sporting KC had their first extended break after a stretch of five games in 15 days and should expect Matt Besler to be back on the field.
Chance Myers recently returned to full training but it’s unknown whether he’ll unseat Kevin Ellis at right back just yet.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 7pm, MLS Live)
After two tough draws on the road, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps return to the friendly confines of BC Place as Robinson continues to tinker with his midfield.
Pedro Morales came off the bench at halftime but his addition wasn’t enough to provide the breakthrough against the New England Revolution last Saturday. The Dynamo on the other hand used a bye week last weekend to heal up some minor injuries to midfielders Tony Cascio and Ricardo Clark.
Dom Kinnear will be hoping that forward Will Bruin can take advantage of the experienced but aging Whitecaps defense.
FC DALLAS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 8:30pm, MLS Live)
The Timbers look to find last season’s consistency when they take a trip to Toyota Stadium to face FC Dallas.
Oscar Pareja has quickly turned FC Dallas into a formidable opponent with a 2-0-1 record in their first three games. The Timbers have remained winless as head coach Caleb Porter continues to mix around his front three.
Both squads will be missing key players for this match due to suspension. FC Dallas will be without holding midfielder Hendry Thomas while the Portland Timbers are without goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 9:30pm, MLS Live)
The upcoming match between RSL and Toronto FC represents not just a high-profile inter-conference match but also a battle between two philosophies; TFC’s high spending and RSL’s long-term team and homegrown development.
Central in the match will be the midfield battle between Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman, though one should keep an eye on how Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers deal with Jermain Defoe. Jackson will be missing due to suspension, but despite TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen’s pleas, Alvaro Saborio is available for selection.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 10pm, MLS Live)
The Seattle Sounders return home after a comprehensive 2-0 victory against the Montreal Impact to face a new kind of opponent.
Gregg Berhalter has the Crew playing an attractive style of soccer but the team, with one of the league’s strongest spines thanks to the offseason acquisitions of Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez, proved last Saturday that they could grind out a victory. Osvaldo Alonso will have his hands full dealing with Federico Higuain.
Clint Dempsey misses out for the second of his two-game suspension, but Brad Evans is expected to be back in the lineup.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 10:30pm, MLS Live)
The New England Revolution have been the surprise team of the season, and for all the wrong reasons.
Despite expectations for them to take a step forward this year, so far they’ve failed to not only win a game but to score, too. Having Jose Goncalves back in the lineup helps but Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe can’t afford to keep misfiring. The Earthquakes came close to scoring against Sporting KC and they’ll make the Revolution play as physical as possible at Buck Shaw Stadium.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 3pm, UniMas)
The New York Red Bulls continue to search for their first win of the season, but they’ve been handed a glorious opportunity on Sunday.
Chivas USA, though improved, looked short of talent last Saturday as they succumbed to a late surge from FC Dallas in a 3-1 defeat. Erick Torres has talent but Thierry Henry should be able to break through the Chivas USA defense. Then again, the Red Bulls have had trouble scoring this season and lost to Chivas USA last year in Carson City, which sparked the late season run that lead to them ultimately being Supporters Shield winners.
Which match-up are you most looking forward to? What are your predictions for Week 4?
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