[MLS WEEKEND TV PREVIEW] Five intra-conference games are featured this weekend, with the only crossover game sending Columbus to Western leader Houston. In the East, D.C. heads north to Canada where FC Toronto could set a league record in scoring futility, first-place New England hosts New York, and Kansas City plays Chicago for the second time in four days. Chivas USA stays at HDC to play Real Salt Lake, and the Galaxy Futility Tour heads to Colorado.
TORONTO (5-11-5) vs. D.C. UNITED (11-6-3)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol
TFC coach Mo Johnston will do his best to rally his troops, but with striker Jeff Cunningham and midfielder Ronnie O'Brien lost for the season to injuries, the expansion team's playoff hopes are dim.
That won't impair his team's ability and desire to blunt United's quest to overtake New England atop the Eastern Conference, and D.C. is due for an emotional decompression after thumping New York, 3-1, at home Wednesday night on the occasion of Jaime Moreno's record 109th MLS regular-season goal.
But TFC hasn't scored in 552 consecutive minutes, just five minutes shy of the league record. United is riding a streak of four straight league wins, three of them by shutout, and Luciano Emilio leads the league with 14 goals. Moreno converted a penalty kick for the winning goal when D.C. beat Toronto, 2-1, at BMO Field May 19, after ex-D.C. forward Alecko Eskandarian tallied just before halftime. An own goal by Kevin Goldthwaite provided the equalizer. Coach Tom Soehn must again replace Josh Gros, whose post-concussion complications may sideline him for the season.
NEW ENGLAND (11-5-6) vs. RED BULL NEW YORK (10-8-3)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
The niggling problems that have bothered New York for much of the season bubbled to the surface in its 3-1 loss to D.C. United Wednesday and the spectacular 5-4 win over the Galaxy last weekend. Erratic goalkeeping, defensive miscommunication, and sporadic connections through midfield are flaws that head coach Bruce Arena has yet to correct.
Against D.C., right back Hunter Freeman struggled through a shocker, and forward John Wolyniec failed to click with Juan Pablo Angel and was replaced on the hour by Mike Magee.
Yet RBNY did rally after falling behind, 2-0, after eight minutes and before Moreno's clincher generated several chances to tie the game. The Revs have yo-yoed through their MLS schedule the past four games, beating the Galaxy and Kansas City, 1-0, in-between miserable 3-0 losses to Colorado and D.C.
The downward part of the cycle is due this week but since this is only one of the three meetings to be played at Gillette, the cycle may be broken.
HOUSTON (11-7-4) vs. COLUMBUS (6-7-8)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
When the teams played in Columbus June 10 they had just swapped forwards Joseph Ngwenya and Alejandro Moreno. Each scored against his former team before a Chad Marshall own goal - on a cross delivered by Kelly Gray, who has since been traded to the Galaxy - proved to be the decider in a 2-1 Houston win.
This is the second of four straight home games for Houston, and its quest to finish first in the Western Conference probably hinges on how many points it accumulates during this stretch. It plays four of the last five on the road. Columbus needs points as well just to stay in the playoff tier. It sits in the eighth spot, only three points ahead of Chicago.
CHICAGO (6-9-5) vs. KANSAS CITY (9-7-5)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m., ET, HDNet
By turning the tables on the Wizards after losing 3-2 in Kansas City the Fire can tie the Crew for the eighth overall spot if Columbus comes up empty in Houston.
Chicago did enough Wednesday to get at least a point but Wizards keeper Kevin Hartman stoned them several times, the most notable of which was thwarting a Cuauhtemoc Blanco penalty kick.
Still, Blanco set up Chad Barrett for the first goal and flighted a ball that triggered a scramble from which Dasan Robinson netted the second. Chicago, though, couldn't contain Jose Burciaga Jr., whose serves from the left flank set up two goals before he pierced the penalty area to score the winner himself. He also picked up a yellow card which rules him out of this match. Rookie Michael Harrington, consigned to the subs' bench Wednesday for the first time this season, is the likely replacement, though Nick Garcia has extensive experience in that position.
COLORADO (6-9-6) vs. LOS ANGELES (3-9-5)
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, Galavision
Two straight victories have revived the Rapids' playoff hopes and nothing seems capable of kick-starting the Galaxy, which won't have midfielder Kevin Harmse, who was sent off Thursday night during a melee at the end of the first half.
Colorado has beaten two of the league's best by shutouts: Houston (1-0) and New England (3-0) at home, after not winning at DSG Park since May 26. The victim that night was the Galaxy, thanks to a goal by former Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez.
Incredibly, he leads the team with just four goals yet still it might have enough firepower to win.
Colorado is selling standing-room only tickets for the match and a record crowd is expected to see what might be one of David Beckham's last games with his team still in playoff contention. Yes, L.A. is that bad, and if not for several brilliant saves by Joe Cannon, it would have lost to Chivas USA by more than 3-0.
CHIVAS USA (10-6-3) vs. REAL SALT LAKE (2-10-6)
Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
Don't look now, but with just 19 games played and 33 points after embarrassing the Galaxy, 3-0, on The Worldwide Leader in Sports Thursday night, Chivas USA has just as much chance to finish with the league's best record as Houston, New England, and D.C. United.
Chivas USA also has the second-best defensive record (19 goals conceded in 19 games) and unless hung over from beating its landlord for the first time this season, can grab another three from RSL, which has been conceding soft goals.
In a 2-0 loss to Chicago last week, Paulo Wanchope outjumped both Ritchie Kotschau and Eddie Pope to head in a corner kick from about three yards out with keeper Nick Rimando motionless. RSL stunned Houston, 1-0, three weeks ago and its only league win before that came against D.C. United. Those are its only two wins of the season.