COLUMBUS (4-3-7) vs. NEW YORK (2-11-4), 7:30 p.m. ET, FSC/FSE.
The Red Bulls have not won any of their last 21 games and even a tie seems out of their reach against the defending champion seething from a 2-1 loss in Dallas last week. It beat the Crew twice at home last year, but for this game, defender Mike Petke is suspended, and Albert Celades, Juan Pablo Angel and Macoumba Kandji are questionable.
Despite its tie-laden start to the season, Columbus is just four points behind Eastern Conference leader D.C. United, which is off this week and has played two more games. The Crew's collapse in Dallas last week marked the fifth time it had blown leads in the last 10 minutes. It may get back goalie William Hesmer (back) and defender Frankie Hejduk (groin) from the injured list.
Prediction: Crew 3, Red Bulls 1.
REAL SALT LAKE (4-6-4) vs. TORONTO FC (6-5-4), 9:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
These teams might well be scrapping for the same playoff spot come October, so RSL needs to cut into the four-point gap that currently separates them. Four points in road matches at Los Angeles and Houston sets up RSL to take advantage of a team playing on two days' rest, although defender Jamison Olave (suspended) and midfielder Will Johnson (with Canada) are difficult to replace.
TFC handled New York at home Wednesday, 2-0, and can get a result if it doesn't fall behind too early. Chasing the game at altitude, however, for a long stretch will tax the legs and lungs, though rookie midfielder Sam Cronin (USA) won't be leaving for the Gold Cup until after this game.
Prediction: RSL 2, TFC 1.
SEATTLE (5-3-7) vs. COLORADO (5-2-6), 4 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
The Rapids are proving to be a pesky foe but squandered a string of chances Wednesday at home prior to a late Omar Cummings goal that pulled out a 1-1 tie with FC Dallas. It only has to jump one time zone but expended a lot of energy to get that point and may not have enough legs to withstand a 90-minute battle in hostile conditions.
Seattle is winless in its last three after beating San Jose at home two weeks ago, and gets back to Qwest Field after a 1-1 tie in the Meadowlands. It has conceded four goals in the last two games and hasn't posted a shutout since its first Quakes game, a 2-0 win April 25. Look for Coach Sigi Schmid's team to play it tight, lock down in midfield, and rely on the game-breaking Freddies, Lungberg and Montero, for chances and goals.
Prediction: Sounders 1, Rapids 0.
LOS ANGELES (2-3-9) vs. HOUSTON (8-2-4), 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPNDeportes
The Galaxy's 2-0 loss to RSL two weeks ago was its first of the season at home; a second defeat may be on the cards with Landon Donovan in South Africa to play in the Confederations Cup final. The crosses and set pieces of Eddie Lewis, back from suspension, may exploit a depleted Houston backline.
Craig Waibel (hamstring) and Wade Barrett (calf) are injured, and Andrew Hainault has left to join the Canadian national team, so the Dynamo may only have four healthy defenders. It must also fill gaps in midfield, with Ricardo Clark on national team duty and Richard Mulrooney an option at right back. But its potent fleet of attackers is intact, and the Dynamo has scored three goals apiece in three of its last six games.
Prediction: Galaxy 2, Dynamo 3.
RIDGE MAHONEY'S 2009 PREDICTION RECORD
This week: 1-1. Season: 50-58.