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Reduced schedule still fraught with importance
by Ridge Mahoney, September 4th, 2009 7AM
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[MLS PREDICTIONS] The international schedule shrinks the MLS menu to just three games, all with crucial playoff consequences for at least one of the participating teams. The national telecast is on Fox Soccer Channel, and showcases the first of back-to-back meetings matching Colorado and Toronto, which are separated by just two points in the overall standings. 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)

NEW ENGLAND (9-6-6) vs. KANSAS CITY (5-10-6), 7:30 p.m., Direct Kick

Last week the Wizards outshot Real Salt Lake, 17-5, while playing a man up for the entire second half, and still lost. On paper, the Wizards are healthier and have more starters available, so maybe with a good showing and a few breaks they can get off their doppelschneid: one goal in the last seven games, none of them victories.

But don't count on it. The Revs are only five points behind the Fire in the race for second place and the guaranteed playoff spot that goes with it; with three games in hand, and only three more at home this season, they will be focused and fierce, and much sharper then when they tied K.C., 0-0, at Gillette July 11.
Prediction: Revs 2, Wizards 1.

FC DALLAS (6-11-5) vs. D.C. UNITED (7-5-11), 8 p.m., Direct Kick
A crucial run of five straight home games starts next Wednesday, yet United can't be distracted by that, nor discouraged by its 2-1 loss at home to Seattle in the Open Cup final. FCD has won four straight at home after winning just one of its first seven at Pizza Hut Park, where it beat United, 3-0, last year.

After scoring in three straight games, FCD's Jeff Cunningham has been blanked in the last two, so he's due, and his speed will cause problems for United's inconsistent back line that will be missing the suspended Dejan Jakovic. Away from RFK, United is second in goals scored and first in goals conceded, so a tight 1-0 game, by which D.C. beat Chicago on the road last weekend, isn't likely.
Prediction: FCD 2, United 2.

COLORADO (9-7-6) vs. TORONTO FC (8-8-7), 10 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol
The Rapids are 7-2-3 at home this season but shorthanded in midfield. Colin Clark is out for the year with an ACL tear, and MLS has tacked on an additional two-game suspension for captain Pablo Mastroeni for a hard foul on Houston's Andrew Hainault that ruled him out of this game anyway because of caution points. Also out is defender Cory Gibbs with a thigh strain, so Drew Moor could go right into the lineup soon after arriving in a trade with FC Dallas.

TFC outplayed Seattle last week at Qwest Field but squandered chances left it with just a goalless point. If it can replicate its sharp midfield play with similar finishing, it can replicate its win in Colorado of last season and move ahead of the Rapids in the overall standings, albeit by just a single point, heading into the return meeting next week at BMO Field.
Prediction: Rapids 1, TFC 2.

Last week: 2-6 (ugh!). Season: 84-88.

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