Midwest and Eastern Conference rivals Chicago and Columbus square off with the teams just a point apart in the standings, Western leader Houston pays its first visit to Seattle, and the Home Depot Center tenants meet for the second time this season with Landon Donovan away on international duty but David Beckham (and perhaps Zinedine Zidane) expected to be in the house.
SEATTLE FC (6-3-7) vs. HOUSTON (9-3-4), 4 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
The league's best team is missing a half-dozen regulars to injuries, callups or suspensions, and though Seattle midfielder Brad Evans is with the USA and Tyrone Marshall may be with Jamaica (see below), which plays Friday in the Gold Cup, the expansion team will be flying high in the wake of its 2-1 Open Cup win in Portland. KeepersKasey Keller and Pat Onstad reprise their meeting in the 2007 Gold Cup semifinals, won by the Americans, 2-1, over Canada.
Prediction:Sounders 1, Dynamo 0.
NEW ENGLAND (4-5-4) vs. KANSAS CITY (5-6-4), 4 p.m., Direct Kick
Still no Shalrie Joseph and Taylor Twellman for the Revs and with Steve Ralston questionable (hamstring), and Jay Heaps with the U.S. team, their spirit and determination may not be enough against a classy yet streaky team like Kansas City, which has won the last three meetings between the teams. New England won the three prior to that trio, so in this season of ties it might be about time for one, since Jimmy Conrad, Davy Arnaudand Roger Espinoza are also Gold Cupping.
Prediction:Revs 1, Wizards 1.
CHICAGO (6-3-6) vs. COLUMBUS (5-3-8), 8 p.m, ESPN2/Deportes
The Fire ended the Rapids home unbeaten run last week, 2-1, with a quick start and stubborn defending down the stretch, yet will need a cagier approach against the Crew, which is dangerous on the counterpunch. Two starters apiece are at the Gold Cup - Gonzalo Segaresand Logan Pause for the Fire, Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall for the Crew. The Fire wants homefield advantage in the playoffs after it lost the conference final last year in Columbus, so it needs this game.
Prediction:Fire 1, Crew 1.
COLORADO (5-4-6) vs. FC DALLAS (4-7-5), 9 p.m., Direct Kick
FCD has lost only one of its last eight and is inching toward playoff contention as the teams repeat their meeting of June 24, a 1-1 tie at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids are without Colin Clark and Omar Cummings because of Gold Cup duty, and Cory Gibbs is suspended; FCD is missing Kenny Cooper to USA duty. Colorado lost its unbeaten home record last week with a sluggish start in a 2-1 loss to Chicago, and won't start slowly this time.
Prediction:Rapids 2, FCD 1.
SAN JOSE (3-8-4) vs. TORONTO FC (6-6-4), 10:30 p.m., Direct Kick
If he is sufficiently recovered from an adductor injury, ex-Quake captain Nick Garcia gets to face his old mates. Another former Quake, Dwayne DeRosario and Amado Guevara can penetrate a San Jose back line that has been hit by injuries repeatedly this season. San Jose also has injury issues regarding Darren Huckerby and Bobby Convey, but the robust play of forward Ryan Johnson will be hard for TFC to contain. Local product Stefan Frei, who played college ball across the Bay at Cal-Berkeley, will have an entourage on hand.
Prediction:Quakes 2, TFC 1.
CHIVAS USA (8-4-3) vs. LOS ANGELES (4-3-9), 11 p.m., FSC/FSE
As if presence of David Beckham, who will attend as a spectator - as might Zinedine Zidane, who will make a promotional appearance with Beckham in LA before the game -- wasn't enough to charge up this rivalry, both teams could be affected by Jamaica's Gold Cup match Friday. A loss or tie and thus elimination would send Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts and Chivas USA defender Shavar Thomasback to their teams. And might Alecko Eskandarian, who scored on his Galaxy debut, be extra pumped to score against the team that just traded him? Wouldn't you be?
Prediction:Chivas USA 2, Galaxy 1.
Last week: 3-3. Season: 56-62.