FC DALLAS (11-7-3) vs. D.C. UNITED (12-6-3)
Saturday, 8:30 P.M. ET, Direct Kick
Might this be a preview of MLS Cup 2007? Perhaps, as both teams boast firepower aplenty and are tightening up their defenses for the stretch run.
United coach Tom Soehn has installed veteran defender Greg Vanney and holding midfielder Clyde Simms to good effect. United has won five league matches in a row while conceding just one goal.
Soehn addressed some issues after FCD rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie United, 3-3, at RFK on July 14, and has kept Vanney in the lineup while moving Bobby Boswell to the bench. Simms' stability has helped Fred, Ben Olsen, and Christian Gomez to interchange and connect more fluidly with forwards Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno.
Dallas played well defensively yet still lost to Houston, 1-0, last week with Juan Toja missing because of an ankle injury and Arturo Alvarez off form. Toja is officially listed as questionable for this game. Brazilian Denilson, who began training with the team Monday, is awaiting issuance of his work visa.
United midfielder/defender Josh Gros, bothered by headaches after suffering concussions this season, has resumed training but says he doesn't expect to make the traveling roster.
HOUSTON (11-7-5) vs. KANSAS CITY (9-9-5)
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol
The good news is Houston has compiled four points from the last two games. The bad news is in game one the Dynamo, playing at home, scored just one goal after suffering consecutive shutout losses to Real Salt Lake and Colorado.
Last week, Houston played a man up for more than 50 minutes against the Crew and managed only to equalize. "I think overall communication, passing, finishing wasn't going our way today," said midfielder Ricardo Clark. "Even though we got the tie, which is a decent result, it feels like a loss. It feels like we should have gotten the win."
Kansas City really had no chance to win Wednesday in Salt Lake City, falling behind in the first minute and conceding a second goal before halftime in a 3-1 loss.
Attacker Davy Arnaud returns after sitting out the RSL game because of a suspension, and he may help sharpen the Wizards offense. Several promising buildups were betrayed Wednesday by poor crossing and finishing on set plays needs to be sharper.
Defender Pat Ianni scored his first MLS goal when Houston beat Kansas City, 1-0, at Arrowhead. With forward Brian Ching hobbled by a calf sprain, Houston needs someone to step up: it has scored only three goals in the past five league matches.