(All times Eastern)
SEATTLE (8-6-9) vs. TORONTO FC (8-8-6), 4 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
Gut-check time for these teams, separated by just three points and plagued by inconsistency much of the season. Seattle comes home, where it is 6-2-4, after taking an important road point in Houston to face another team familiar with artificial turf. TFC is 2-5-3 on the road following a 2-0 loss to Chivas USA in Southern California, but in its only away game on turf managed a 1-1 tie with New England.
Freddie Ljungberg came back after a two-game absence to prompt the attack against Houston, and his presence opened up space for Steve Zakuani, who seems poised to finish his rookie season strongly. Roger Levesque gained his first MLS start and scored his first goal, which gives the TFC defense another factor to worry about in addition to Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero.
Prediction: Sounders 2, TFC 1.
NEW ENGLAND (8-6-6) vs. SAN JOSE (5-11-5), 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick
With four wins in the last six games, the Revs are rolling into the stretch. Their injury list is still lengthy, but they've been cranking out results, and found another hero last weekend when Kheli Dube hit a hat trick in a 3-1 defeat of Real Salt Lake.
The Quakes may not have forward Cornell Glen (hamstring strain) and though they beat Kansas City at home, 1-0, without him Saturday, they needed eight saves from Joe Cannon to keep the game goalless until they scored in the 92nd minute. The midfield has been revamped with the addition of Ramon Sanchez and Andre Luiz yet isn't yet equal to Steve Ralston, Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz. Unless San Jose's flank players can trigger a few sharp counters, the Quakes will struggle to create chances.
Prediction: Revs 2, Quakes 0.
CHICAGO (10-5-8) vs. D.C. UNITED (6-5-11), 8:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel/Fox Sports en Espanol
A late-game collapse against Toluca Wednesday darkened the United mood and now it heads to Chicago, where fans are still celebrating a comeback from two goals down to beat Colorado, 3-2, last weekend. Still, a Fire defense without Bakary Soumare, sold earlier this week to French club Boulogne, is far from secure, so there should be room to operate for Santino Quaranta and Luciano Emilio, deprived of a legitimate goal by a terrible offside call in the seventh minute of United's 0-0 tie with Los Angeles a week ago.
Somehow, United has extracted six ties out of 12 road games while conceding 26 goals and scoring 19; the Fire has a tepid home record of 4-3-4. But despite resting a few regulars, United ran hard and long on Wednesday, and after scoring late goals to earn results earlier in the season, its tendency lately has been to give them up.
Prediction: Fire 2, United 1.
KANSAS CITY (5-9-6) vs. REAL SALT LAKE (8-9-6), 8:30 p.m., Direct Kick
The Wizards' plight, though dire, does have a glimmer of hope, in that it has played at least three fewer games than several teams, including RSL. It has scored just one goal in the past six games and has to break out of that slump sometime. It won at RSL in May, can it do the business at home?
RSL's 4-0 thumping of Chivas USA Wednesday at Rio Tinto moved it into the logjam of teams with 30 points; now comes a chance to improve its appalling road record (1-8-2). Yura Movsisyan is still out injured, yet Fabian Espindola is rounding into form and Robbie Findley's pace is always a threat.
Prediction: Wizards 2, RSL 1.
LOS ANGELES (8-4-11) vs. CHIVAS USA (10-8-3), 11 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes
Chivas USA trails the second-place Galaxy but has two games in hand, yet by winning can take over the playoff-guaranteed slot of second place. It had won two games by 2-0 scores after losing five league games in a row before taking a 4-0 hammering in Utah Wednesday, and sports a somewhat different look with the additions of midfielder Jesus Padilla and forward Marcio Santos.
The Galaxy came to earth with a harsh bump in its last home game, losing to Seattle, 2-0, but rebounded on the road by beating Chicago and tying D.C. United, both by shutout. This is poised to be perhaps the best SuperClasico of them all.
Prediction: Galaxy 3, Chivas USA 1.
COLORADO (8-7-6) vs. HOUSTON (11-6-7), 3 p.m., TeleFutura
The silver lining to having three players sent off Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions' League is that Coach Dominic Kinnear knows Stuart Holden, Andrew Hainault and Corey Ashe can't play against Pachuca in three weeks, so he can take them out of the rotation and use them at will for league play. Houston is off next week and plays at Columbus Sept. 13, so it may gun for an early goal and try to use the altitude against the home team.
This is a vital game for the Rapids, duh, and in MLS desperate teams playing at home win more often than not, but Houston has the best road defensive record in the league (11 goals conceded in 12 games) and is adept at scorching teams on the counter. Last year at DSG Park Houston won, 3-1, and tied, 0-0.
Prediction: Rapids 1, Dynamo 1.
NEW YORK (3-16-4) vs. COLUMBUS (10-3-9), 6 p.m., Direct Kick
The Red Bulls marked the departure of coach Juan Carlos Osorio with a spirited 3-2 defeat of FC Dallas last week, but this is a much tougher test. If New York can press the pace and Columbus is a bit fatigued from its midweek match and travel, it can give the defending champ a very tough game on a fast surface. Juan Pablo Angel looked spry and confident last week while scoring two goals and the Crew backline took a beating in Mexico City.
Columbus and is eager to atone for that 5-0 thrashing by Cruz Azul Wednesday in the Concacaf Champions' League. The loss broke a streak of six straight wins in all competitions; Guillermo Barros Schelotto came off in the 54th minute of that game and should be ready to rock, though he usually doesn't play the full 90 minutes on turf.
Prediction: Red Bulls 1, Crew 3.
RIDGE MAHONEY 2009 PREDICTION RECORD
This week: 0-1. Season: 82-83.