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East meets, and hosts, West in week 18
by Ridge Mahoney, July 17th, 2009 7AM

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[MLS PREDICTIONS] All five games this weekend match teams from opposite conferences, and all of the Eastern teams are at home as the playoff race - with the top four teams in the East bunched within a point - tightens up. For all of Soccer America's predictions, as well as TV viewing information, and to see how we've fared so far this season ...

(All times Eastern)
SATURDAY
TORONTO (7-6-4) vs. HOUSTON (9-4-4), 1 p.m., ESPN2

The Dynamo blitzed TFC with three goals in five minutes in a 3-0 win May 30; since then, TFC is 3-2 in league play, but two victories over New York and a 3-1 win in San Jose don't necessarily translate to playing the league's best team. TFC is 2-5-1 against Western Conference teams. Captain Jim Brennan held down the left midfield flank in San Jose and may be handed the same assignment with Brian Mullan. Houston is still hampered by Gold Cup absences but in the last two league games has won 1-0 at Kansas City and lost unluckily in Seattle last weekend, 2-1.
Prediction: TFC 1, Dynamo 1.

COLUMBUS (5-3-9) vs. REAL SALT LAKE (5-6-5), 5 p.m., DirectKick
Gold Cup absences and suspensions - Emmanuel Ekpo for the Crew, Fabian Espindola of RSL - denude both teams of important players, and the fitness of Guillermo Barros Schelotto (hamstring strain) may not be known until kickoff. RSL stomped Columbus, 4-1, at Rio Tinto in early April. The Crew's only win in the last four games came against New York and beating a decent team at home is a prime opportunity to start building momentum for the defending champion.
Prediction: Crew 2, RSL 1.

D.C. UNITED (5-3-9) vs. COLORADO (6-4-6), 5 p.m., DirectKick
United suffered its worst defeat of the season, 3-0, at Colorado June 20 but the goalscorers that day, Omar Cummings (2) and Colin Clark, are on Gold Cup duty. So are Dejan Jakovic and Santino Quaranta (Canada) of D.C.; still, United's home record of 4-0-4 is one of the best in the league and it has conceded only seven goals at RFK. Coach Tom Soehn will have some tough lineup decisions with a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against Rochester on Tuesday complicate his choices.
Prediction: United 1, Rapids 0.

CHICAGO (6-3-7) vs. SAN JOSE (3-9-4), 5:30 p.m., DirectKick
The Fire gets a great chance to improve its home mark of 1-2-4; the only other team below .500 at home is New York. A hard-fought 2-1 win over New England on Wednesday may induce some fatigue but a good bench can get the job done. The Quakes fell meekly at home to Toronto, 3-1, last weekend and have unloaded another forward, Pablo Campos, who was signed during the offseason to punch up the attack, in exchange for two draft picks. Is this an omen they are already planning for the future?
Prediction: Fire 2, Quakes 1.

SUNDAY
NEW ENGLAND (4-5-5) vs. CHIVAS USA (8-5-3), 6 p.m., DirectKick

Seven straight games without a win, including SuperLiga and U.S. Open Cup, has dragged Chivas USA off the top of the Western Conference and it has this last chance prior to the All-Star Game to get points. New England hit the woodwork three times in losing its SuperLiga semifinal to the Fire on Wednesday even though Lithuanian striker Edgaras Jankauskas scored his first goal for his new team. The Revs have played the fewest games of any team in the league but games in hand don't automatically equal points, and New England is seven points out of a playoff spot.
Prediction: Revs 2, Chivas USA 1.

RIDGE MAHONEY'S 2009 PREDICTION RECORD
Last night: 1-0. Season: 61-64.



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