This is by far the most contentious weekend of league play to date. Six games in two days through which answers regarding many MLS teams will be provided. Among the clashes: D.C. United looking for only its second win of the season when it faces rising Toronto; a rematch of last year's final; the season's second Chivas USA-Los Angeles clasico.
TORONTO FC (2-4-0) vs. D.C. UNITED (1-3-1)
(Saturday, 3:30 ET pm, Direct Kick)
United is reeling, plain and simple. Jaime Moreno is so sluggish opponents are cracking down on Luciano Emilio, Christian Gomez, and Fred, thus strangling much of D.C.'s attack. If TFC has its legs back after winning twice in four days, including a bruising, slip-and-slide victory over Houston Wednesday, it could nick another win.
Carl Robinson and Maurice Edu did a good job thwarting Dwayne DeRosario; Ben Olsen and Brian Carroll aren't nearly as potent, so the TFC duo should be able to get forward and put direct pressure on United's backline.
Olsen and Carroll can trigger counterattacks when the ball turns over and get early balls to Gomez; he will force fouls and generate chances against a defense that is banged up and could be fatigued.
But if Gomez can't pick up the slack as Moreno slows down, and its flank play doesn't sharpen, D.C.'s playoff hopes will flicker.
Danny Dichio, scorer of the first goal in TFC franchise history last weekend against Chicago, returns from suspension. Ronnie O'Brien's knee has been bothering him, so his inclusion might be a game-time decision for coach Mo Johnston.
NEW YORK (3-1-2) vs. COLUMBUS (1-1-4)
(Saturday, 7:30 pm ET Direct Kick)
Due for a clunker after going five games unbeaten, NYRB duly provided one by losing at home to Colorado, 1-0, last week. A good first half by the Crew ebbed into a 1-1 tie with Chivas USA.
Seth Stammler and Dema Kovalenko are capable midfield destroyers, but without Claudio Reyna, who is questionable with a groin strain, the Red Bulls lack cohesion. The Crew's defensive record - four goals allowed in six games - isn't likely to impress Juan Pablo Angel and Clint Mathis and Dave van den Bergh, who can exploit the spaces often left by Columbus.
Hopefully, word has gotten around town that Guillermo Barros Schelotto, while far from brilliant last Sunday, is a pretty good player and the Crew will draw a nice crowd. But if Coach Sigi Schmid is truly counting on Alejandro Moreno for goals, he needs to turn the clock back two years and revive the Moreno who scored eight that season for San Jose. Since then, Moreno has just three. In 35 games, all but two as a starter. And Eddie Gaven needs some additions to his repertoire; the cut inside to hit a rising blast either a yard over the bar or straight to the keeper is getting old.
HOUSTON (2-3-1) vs. NEW ENGLAND (4-1-2)
(Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol)
The first matchup of last season's MLS Cup finalists is tilted in the Revs' favor, which is just the kind of situation the Dynamo often relishes. Yet Coach Dominic Kinnear has concerns about his attack, which has scored only one goal in its two previous home games.
Paul Dalglish is still hobbled by a bad ankle, and Kinnear's latest addition, Joseph Ngwenya, botched his two chances in a 1-0 loss at Toronto before being replaced by Stuart Holden, who played some impressive games in his rookie season but has only garnered 51 minutes in 2007. Someone needs to take the load off Brian Ching, who spends much of the game wearing an opponent.
Unless Ricardo Clark can get forward occasionally to support Dwayne DeRosario and feed balls in dangerous positions to outside mids Brad Davis and Brian Mullan, the five-man Revs midfield will smother Houston's attack.
Taylor Twellman leads the league with six goals but he's done much more than score. He's working both sides of the midfield line as well as the opponent's penalty area, carving open space and finding teammates with passes. Like most of his teammates, TT is adept on the counterattack, so the Dynamo had best score first.
COLORADO (3-2-2) vs KANSAS CITY (4-2-0)
(Saturday, 9 pm ET, HDNet)
Like New York, Kansas City paid the price last week for a smug approach and its second-half rally fell short in a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas. This meeting with the Rapids is another crucial test of which team is the current class of the Western Conference, along with FC Dallas, which impressively beat the Fire, 2-1, in Chicago Thursday night.
Injury doubts about Carlos Marinelli (hamstring) and Scott Sealy (ankle), and the likely absence of defender Jimmy Conrad (hairline jaw fracture), deprive Coach Curt Onalfo of several options. Someone - maybe Sasha Victorine - needs to set the tempo in midfield and also monitor Kyle Beckerman, whose crunching tackle and outlet pass set Herculez Gomez clear to set up the goal that beat New York.
Rapids goalie Bouna Coundoul has been acrobatic and dependable so far this season, so the Wizards' finishing needs to be sharp. They're not likely to get a soft goal.
CHIVAS USA (2-3-1) vs. LOS ANGELES (1-2-1)
(Sunday, 5 pm ET, TeleFutura)
Superclasico II of 2007 finds both teams under .500 and searching for answers. Galaxy coach Frank Yallop welcomed former Portuguese international Abel Xavier onto the roster this week but he can't play until June 15, so the current cast must sort out its slack marking on set plays, loose defending on the flanks, and concentration lapses such conceding a goal to the Revs less than a minute after equalizing.
Laurent Merlin, a forward on paper, played right mid for Chivas USA last week and earned the free kick from which Ante Razov scored in the 1-1 tie at Columbus. Maykel Galindo has been inconsistent, but he's a handful, especially against a team that can't seem to defend competently for 90 minutes. To score his third goal of the season two weeks ago against United, he knifed into the box, forced his way past Josh Gros, and blasted a shot into the roof of the net.
FC DALLAS (4-3-1) vs. REAL SALT LAKE (0-2-4)
(Sunday, 7 pm ET, Direct Kick)
Parity often produces a different team to beat every week and FC Dallas wears that mantle after toppling the Fire, 2-1, on the road Thursday night.
The season is only six weeks old, and yet this is already the third time FCD will play matches three days apart. Its results to date: a 3-0 loss to New York and a 1-0 loss to New England. That trend should cease, though Jason Kreis gets his first chance lead the team he coaches against the team he used to play for.
Dallas beat the Fire without Carlos Ruiz as Kenny Cooper and Juan Toja stepped up to score in their second consecutive games. If RSL's Carey Talley can contain Ramon Nunez, there's still myriad problems for Kreis' men to sort out.
RSL showed signs of life in tying the Rapids last week yet will need even more from Medhi Ballouchy, Freddy Adu and Chris Klein to free up Jeff Cunningham, who hasn't scored from the run of play since he got both RSL goals when these teams tied, 2-2, on the opening weekend.
Defenders Chris Gbandi, Clarence Goodson, Alex Yi and Drew Moor permitted the Fire only seven shots, but three hit the woodwork. RSL has guys who like to run at defenders and this causes Morrow's guys problems.