By DAN KARELL
The winless Portland Timbers hit the road this week to take on Real Salt Lake in the highlight of MLS Week 7.
RSL are coming off a tough 2-2 draw at the Philadelphia Union but they should be boosted with the return of Luis Gil from injury. The Timbers, meanwhile, continue to stun their fans with their defensive frailties and offensive inconsistency early in the 2014 season. If the Timbers fall again, the panic lights will be going on around the Rose City. If RSL loses, it will be their first loss of the season.
Elsewhere in MLS this weekend, the Whitecaps get another crack at the LA Galaxy when Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, and co. visit BC Place, a Jermain Defoe-less Toronto FC travel to Texas to face FC Dallas, and the Chicago Fire aim for their first win of the season against the New England Revolution, who could be without Jose Goncalves.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s slate in MLS:
CHICAGO FIRE vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 4 p.m., NBC Sports Network)
The Fire return home searching for their first win despite scoring nine goals already this season, a majority coming from Quincy Amerikwa.
Mike Magee has scored just once so far but the team will be boosted by the return of Dilly Duka to full fitness. Gonzalo Segares is likely to miss out with an ankle injury. On the other side, the Revolution could be traveling to Chicago without injured star defender Jose Goncalves. Even with their win over Houston, they’re in desperate need of Diego Fagundez to score his first goal of the season.
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 4 p.m., MLS Live)
The Union are looking to end their worrying trend of conceding goals late in games from winning positions against the stuttering Houston Dynamo, who have lost three games in a row.
The Dynamo have some advantages heading into this matchup however. They have a full week’s rest as opposed to the Union, who played the Red Bulls on Wednesday, and David Horst is expected to return to the starting 11. Brad Davis’ status is still up in the air though.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 6 p.m., MLS Live)
The Rapids have proven two weeks in a row that they can win games with brute physicality or through dominating the midfield and passing the ball in the final third. They’ll have to rely on brute force again with the Earthquakes coming to town.
Alan Gordon showed rust last week but he’ll be needed for the ‘Quakes to score goals this week against a very strong defense. Drew Moor and Shane O’Neill will have their hands full in defense for the Rapids.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. LA GALAXY (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
The Whitecaps get a quick shot at revenge when they host the Galaxy on Saturday, just a week after falling in Carson, Calif., 1-0.
Carl Robinson’s side was without Matias Laba so his return to the lineup is huge but they’ve struggled to get the best out of Pedro Morales and Kenny Miller consistently. Bruce Arena has found that Stefan Ishizaki is best played in the No. 10 role and has been terrific in the last two games, setting up Robbie Keane last weekend.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. D.C. UNITED (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Crew’s early season momentum has gone away but they’ll try to get it back against an opponent that they dominated in Week 1.
Gregg Berhalter is likely to pick the same starting 11 as he did the last two weeks, with Dominic Oduro essentially operating as a long striker and Josh Williams and Waylon Francis providing overlapping runs on the outside. D.C. United is, amazingly, on a two-game winning streak and it will be interesting to see if they set up to attack or to try and earn a point in Columbus.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Sporting KC will be without the services of Uri Rosell after the Spaniard’s red card two weeks ago ruled him out against the Impact. It shouldn’t be a huge issue as long as the Sporting KC defense holds up against Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney.
The Impact defense continues to be an issue and they’re still without Hernan Bernardello and Nelson Rivas due to injury. The Impact have also taken the most shots in the league (97) but have scored just six times.
FC DALLAS vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Oscar Pareja’s side succumbed for the first time this season last week against the Sounders, but they’ll be relieved to learn that Jermain Defoe is expected to miss his third straight game.
Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio’s statuses are also still up in the air but they’re expected to travel to Dallas. Bradley or Kyle Bekker will be key in forcing Mauro Diaz off the ball or out of his comfort zone in the middle of the field.
REAL SALT LAKE vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 9:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Jeff Cassar and RSL face another good test on Saturday when former RSL man Will Johnson and the Timbers visit Rio Tinto Stadium.
Luis Gil is expected to return after being upgraded to probable, but Nick Rimando is still struggling to overcome a knee injury. The Timbers meanwhile have everyone available outside of Rodney Wallace, on the disabled list, and Steve Zakuani, who is questionable. Keep an eye on how RSL’s full backs defend the Timbers’ wingers and overlapping full backs.
CHIVAS USA vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Coming off a strong draw against a Cascadia side, Chivas USA hopes to earn another good result when they host the Sounders at the Stubhub Center.
Mauro Rosales faces his old side with forward Erick Torres in fantastic form for the Goats, but the same could be said for Clint Dempsey, who has knocked in five goals in his last two games. Chivas USA defender Eriq Zavaleta is unable to play due to the intra-league loan rules. The Sounders attackers should feast on the weak defending from Chivas USA unless Carlos Bocanegra puts in a man of the match performance.