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Top two in East head west
by Ridge Mahoney, August 7th, 2009 7AM

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[MLS PREDICTIONS] Eastern Conference leader and defending champ Columbus travels to the Pacific Coast to play San Jose, and second-place Chicago takes on the Western leader in Houston. The Revs and Galaxy put their unbeaten streaks on the line head-to-head at Gillette Stadium, and Seattle gets a chance to improve its dismal record on grass at Rio Tinto Stadium. FSC offers up a tripleheader of two MLS games followed by the Barcelona-Guadalajara friendly (11 p.m. ET). For all of Soccer America's predictions, as well as TV viewing information, and to see how Ridge Mahoney fared so far this season ...

(All times Eastern)

SATURDAY
NEW ENGLAND (6-5-6) vs. LOS ANGELES (6-3-10), 6 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports en Espanol

The Galaxy is the league's hottest team, with 13 points amassed in its last five games, though a 1-1 tie with Kansas City July 25 ended a four-game winning streak. It is also one of the toughest road teams, having won three and tied six of 10 away matches. Yet it has four possible starters - Alecko Eskandarian, Dema Kovalenko, Edson Buddle and Donovan Ricketts - listed as questionable.

Taylor Twellman is out and Gabriella Badilla is questionable, so despite a four-game unbeaten streak, home-field advantage, and a desperate need to pick up wins in its league-high 13 games remaining, the points may be shared. New England was held to a 1-1 tie by Toronto last week and a similar result is likely.
Prediction: Revs 1, Galaxy 1.

SAN JOSE (4-10-5) vs. COLUMBUS (8-3-9), 8:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports en Espanol
A sluggish start this year has given way to streaks of three straight wins and six games unbeaten that have lifted Columbus atop the Eastern Conference standings. It has posted shutouts in four of the last nine games, and beat San Jose, 2-1, on May 27, but the Quakes are radically overhauled since then, and midfielder Guillermo Barros Schelotto (hamstring strain) and Frankie Hedjuk (quadriceps strain) are still sidelined.

San Jose is on a more modest roll: a 2-2 tie with D.C. United and 4-0 thrashing of Seattle last Sunday. Newcomers Andre Luiz and Ramon Sanchez formed a nice central tandem against the Sounders, Cornell Glen scored his third goal in seven games as a Quake, and winger Darren Huckerby also netted his third goal of the season in a performance reminiscent of his rampaging efforts last year. San Jose will need all of those elements to beat the defending champ.

As a prelude to a Barcelona-Guadalajara friendly, the game will be played at Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco 49ers, which adds yet another variable to this San Jose "home" schedule.
Prediction: Quakes 2, Crew 1.

REAL SALT LAKE (6-8-5) vs. SEATTLE (7-4-8), 9 p.m., Direct Kick
RSL head coach Jason Kreis used a bye week to allow recent acquisitions Pablo Campos (from San Jose) and Rachid El-Khalifi (signed as a free agent) more acclimation time. Campos played 45 minutes three weeks ago against the Crew; El-Khalifi, who trained with the team in preseason, signed a contract last month. One or both could see action, since Yura Movsisyan - scorer of two goals in RSL's last league match, a comeback 4-2 thumping of Dallas two weeks ago - is out with a rotator cuff injury.

Seattle scored an own goal in the second minute and lost defender James Riley before halftime in last week's 4-0 thrashing at San Jose. It must improve off that showing, yet its 0-3-3 record on grass is becoming an issue, as is its 1-3-4 road mark. (Seven of its last 11 games are on the road, including six on grass). A bit more discipline might help: Riley's ejection was Seattle's league-leading seventh of the season.
Prediction: RSL 2, Sounders 1.

COLORADO (7-6-6) vs. CHIVAS USA (8-6-3), 6:30 p.m., Direct Kick
The Rapids, beaten at home 1-0 last week by Columbus, won't get a better opportunity to prove they are for real than this match against Chivas USA, with which they are tied in points (27) and fourth place. They outshot Columbus 16-5 but still lost for the fourth time in six games and also lost Ugo Ihemelu to a red card, which rules him out of this match.

Chivas USA holds two games in hand and returns to league action for the first time since July 19, before which they lost four straight league games. A slew of injuries and lackluster SuperLiga performances are testing the coaching powers of Preki, whose team has fallen off the top of the conference and is in danger of sliding out of the playoff places with a loss.
Prediction: Rapids 1, Chivas USA 0.

SUNDAY
HOUSTON (10-6-5) vs. CHICAGO (8-3-8), 8:30 p.m. Direct Kick

The Dynamo was anything but dynamic Thursday night in Dallas, stumbling to a 1-0 loss that kicks off a very busy month of eight MLS and Concacaf Champions League games. Midfielder Brad Davis was red-carded for coming off the bench, so unless a stay is granted to let him play this match until an appeal is heard, the midfield must make do without him.

Chicago played a hard 120 minutes Wednesday before losing to UNL on penalties in the SuperLiga final. Despite the league's best road record of 5-1-4, and the guile of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and pace of Patrick Nyarko and acrobatics of Jon Busch, a repeat of Houston's 2-1 win at Robertson Stadium last year seems due.
Prediction: Dynamo 2, Fire 1.

RIDGE MAHONEY'S 2009 PREDICTION RECORD
Last night: 0-1. Season: 73-71.



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