Two more crucial Eastern Conference showdowns are on tap; Houston, Los Angeles, and D.C. United get back to MLS business after advancing to the SuperLiga semifinals; FC Dallas hopes to get well against Colorado after being smacked for six goals by the Galaxy; and the barmy BMO believers beckon to Becks.
CHICAGO (5-8-4) vs. COLUMBUS (6-5-7)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, HDNet
This really will be a meeting of many cultures.
Led by Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Crew takes on its closest geographic rival in the home MLS debut of Mexican international Cuauhtemoc Blanco on "Polish Night,' which refers to festivities staged in conjunction with the game and not solely what will be sold at the concession stands.
Also on hand will be Costa Rican international Paulo Wanchope, who along with Blanco must fire up a sluggish attack. A 3-0 victory at Toronto last week offers encouragement, but still Chicago is only one of two teams to be averaging less than a goal a game (eight goals in nine games) at home.
The Fire beat the Crew, 3-2, in early June playing a man down for the final 22 minutes, but struggled to quell Schelotto and Duncan Oughton, of all people, who assisted on a Chad Marshallgoal and scored one himself.
The Crew is also coming off a victory against Toronto in its last league match. Schelotto did all the scoring in a 2-0 win on July 22 prior to a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa last Saturday in a friendly.
Columbus plays three of its next four on the road, with a Texas two-step at Dallas and Houston to follow, and D.C. United is just a point behind, so there's urgency all around.
FC DALLAS (9-6-3) vs. COLORADO (4-8-6)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol
A six-goal SuperLiga scalding by the Galaxy Tuesday night damaged more than the FC Dallas players' psyches.
Carlos Ruiz suffered a bruised foot, Arturo Alvarez banged up his shoulder, Ricardinho strained a hamstring, and Dario Sala aggravated an MCL strain in his right knee. Clarence Goodson sat out the game with an MCL strain of his own and returned to training Thursday, so he may be available for this match.
Dallas hasn't played a league game since July 14, and defensive concerns were raised after the 3-3 tie with D.C. United in which Dallas fell three goals behind before rallying. Adrian Serioux, whom Coach Steve Morrow is counting on to toughen and tighten the back line, hasn't done it yet.
The plummeting Rapids haven't won in nine games yet last week rallied twice to earn a 2-2 tie against Kansas City at Arrowhead. Jovan Kirovski and Facundo Erpen scored as the team broke a three-game scoreless streak, and the addition of Mexican international striker Daniel Osorno can further bolster the attack.
Dallas has won both meetings this year, 1-0 and 3-1.
REAL SALT LAKE (1-9-6) vs. HOUSTON (10-5-4)
Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, Direct Kick, mlslive.tv
The worst and the best of MLS tangle in the aftermath of Freddy Adu's move to Benfica and Houston's unbeaten SuperLiga mark (2-0-1).
The Dynamo conceded just one goal in three SuperLiga games, but will be playing its fifth match in 13 days, so Coach Dominic Kinnearmay ask for volunteers. Patrick Ianni earned some strong minutes in central defense, which gives Kinnear yet another option as he rotates players in and out.
The busy, skillful play of Stuart Holden on the left side of midfield opens space in the middle for Dwayne DeRosario, and at times during the SuperLiga Kinnear played both of his big men, Nate Jaqua and Brian Ching. A Jaqua flick gave Ching the chance he buried to beat D.C. United, 1-0, in the SuperLiga Wednesday.
RSL gave New England a good tussle before succumbing, 2-1, last weekend to extend its MLS losing streak to four games. By beating Everton, 2-0, and tying Boca Juniors, 1-1, in friendlies, it picked up enough confidence to stay with the Revs for most of the game.
Each team will be missing an attacking catalyst to suspension. DeRosario picked up his fifth yellow card in a 3-3 tie against New England July 22, and Andy Williams received a straight red against the Revs six days later for crunching Andy Dorman.
NEW ENGLAND (9-3-6) vs. D.C. UNITED (7-6-3)
Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, Direct Kick, mlslive.tv
The Revs took control of the Eastern Conference by beating Kansas City, 2-0, on Thursday and can open up a big gap at the top by knocking off United, which lost its SuperLiga finale to Houston, 1-0, yet still qualified for the semifinals.
New England played a man short for the final 31 minutes yet tied United, 1-1, at RFK May 3. Andy Dorman scored just after halftime but Jaime Moreno equalized with a penalty kick in the 50th minute. United dominated play following the ejection of Shalrie Joseph for tackling Ben Olsen from behind but couldn't notch the winner.
Pat Noonan scored his third goal in as many games in the Revs' win over Kansas City, and it came on another feed from forward partner Taylor Twellman. New England rolled through July unbeaten and hasn't lost in MLS play since a 2-0 defeat to Chivas USA June 30.
United may have uncovered a left back during the SuperLiga in Marc Burch but Coach Tom Soehn still needs a stronger central core. Loose marking with Noonan, Twellman and Dorman buzzing around the goalmouth and Khano Smithand Steve Ralston hitting quality crosses will make for many close shaves at Gillette.
TORONTO FC (5-9-4) vs. LOS ANGELES (3-5-4)
Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
"Will he play?" is the question asked of Galaxy coach Frank Yallop, who asks himself, "Can we win without him?", and perhaps, "Where will I be working if we get swept on this road trip?"
David Beckham, who sat out the Galaxy's three SuperLiga games after his cameo appearance against Chelsea, is traveling with the team for a critical triple-jeopardy of Toronto, D.C. United and New England. If the Galaxy loses all three, which is certainly possible, it will be halfway through its season with a paltry 13 points and facing a second half consisting of glorified Becks barnstorming exhibitions.
Yallop's job isn't under threat, at least not imminently. By beating Pachuca and slamming six past FC Dallas in the SuperLiga, there should be belief within the Galaxy players that the worst is behind them. But there's no margin for error.
The Galaxy hits Toronto at the right time, no matter how raucous the setting at BMO Field or how tender the condition of Beckham, David: ankle, left. Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham, Marvell Wynne, Ronnie O'Brien and Greg Sutton are injured and not expected to play. Yallop can rest Beckham and gamble LA will beat TFC without him. Memo to Landon Donovan, Alan Gordon, Abel Xavier, et al: Stand and deliver.