KANSAS CITY (3-1-0) vs. COLUMBUS (1-0-3)
(Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, Direct Kick)
This game will provide the first indication of how far these teams have come since missing the playoffs the last two years and which one has the better chance of carving out a postseason slot in 2007.
Since opening the season with a wild 4-2 victory in D.C., Kansas City has conceded just one goal in three games. Yet after losing to the Fire, 1-0, in Chicago, the Wizards have beaten pointless and goalless Toronto FC twice, so their true quality is yet to be proven.
The Crew has already rallied with a late goal to tie New England, 2-2, and beaten D.C., 1-0, at home, but last year on the road it was 4-9-3, including a pair of losses in K.C. Kansas City swept the season series 4-0 and outscored Columbus, 9-1.
There could be an Argentine showdown between the Wizards' Carlos Marinelli and recent Crew signing Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who has returned to the United States after being honored by Boca Juniors, has been issued a work visa, and will be in uniform.
SALT LAKE (0-2-2) vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (3-0-1)
(Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, HdNet)
By the time this game kicks off, Jason Kreis will have been a head coach all of three days, so both between the lines and on the sidelines this is a mismatch. Kreis will have the motivation of going up against one of the coaches, Bruce Arena, who snubbed his national team ambitions.
Yet RSL surely can play better than it has this season and the home fans will be loud and passionate. Expect Mehdi Ballouchy and Chris Klein and Jeff Cunningham to come out flying in their quest to break the perfect Red Bull defensive record. No other team in MLS history has begun a season with four shutouts.
"We know we can play better," says New York right back Hunter Freeman, who's still getting to know his teammates since being traded from Colorado just before the start of the season. "I wasn't here last year but I think people maybe overlooked the fact that [defenders] Jeff Parke and Carlos Mendes had formed a good pairing in the middle.
"We know our primary job is to defend and that's what we concentrate on."
COLORADO (2-1-1) vs. HOUSTON (1-2-1)
(Saturday, 9:30 ET Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol)
Paul Dalglish and Brad Davis led the Dynamo charge last year in the Western Conference final which Houston won, 3-1, after conceding an early goal. Dalglish scored the first and second goals, Davis assisted on the second and third to spark yet another comeback win.
So far this season, Dalglish and talisman Dwayne DeRosario have sputtered offensively. Houston has scored just one goal, a Brian Ching header from a Brian Mullan cross that downed Chivas USA, 1-0. Still, wide men Mullan and Davis should relish the broad surface at DSG Park, so the attack may ignite.
Colorado returns home after winning in Salt Lake City, 2-0, with goals four minutes apart by Roberto Brown and Kyle Beckerman. Brown's duels against equally physical Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson are not to be missed, though the match may be decided on which pair of central midfielders - DeRosario and Ricardo Clark against Pablo Mastroeni and Kyle Beckerman - wields control.
CHIVAS USA (2-2-0) AT D.C. UNITED (0-3-1)
(Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, Telefutura)
Christian Gomez. Luciano Emilio. Jaime Moreno. Fred. Ante Razov. Maykel Galindo. Francisco Mendoza. Preki.
Now that's entertainment!
Rumors of a trade that would send Amado Guevara to Toronto FC in return for midfielder Paulo Nagamura and a draft pick petered out Thursday afternoon. He's been basically invisible for Chivas USA anyway, except for shoving an assistant coach on the bench and being ejected last week, so his absence doesn't change the prospect that this showdown of high-powered attacks could be the most entertaining MLS match played so far this season.
United, though, has to focus on defense; despite shoring up its porosity last week, a 1-0 loss to the Crew dropped it further behind Eastern Conference leaders New York and Chicago. It did earn a 1-1 tie with New England Thursday night but couldn't capitalize on a man-advantage when Shalrie Joseph was ejected and scored only on a Moreno penalty kick on a questionable foul.
If the speedy Galindo can be isolated against Bobby Boswell, D.C. will be in trouble. United has been slow to pick up opposing attackers around the edge of the box, which is one of the areas Ante Razov likes to operate.
NEW ENGLAND (2-1-2) vs. CHICAGO (3-0-1)
(Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, Direct Kick)
These teams finished just a point apart in the standings last season and they finished their Eastern Conference semifinal series tied, 2-2, before the Revs advanced on penalty kicks, 4-2. Chicago won the regular-season series 2-1-1 with a narrow 7-6 edge in goals scored.
New England and Chicago opened the season against each other April 7 and the Fire won, 1-0, on a Logan Pause goal in the fourth minute.
Yes, these teams are evenly matched.
New England outshot Chicago, 18-11, but keeper Matt Pickens thwarted the Revs with some spectacular saves. "We should never have lost there in a million years," said New England coach Steve Nicol. "There's no justice in the game sometimes."
Nicol's sense of injustice surely raged Thursday night when James Riley was whistled for a penalty after jarring Jaime Moreno off the ball with what seemed to be a rugged, yet fair, shoulder charge and the dismissal of Shalrie Joseph for a tackle on Ben Olsen. The Revs clung on grimly following the ejection for a 1-1 tie but Joseph is suspended for this match.
Both teams sport different looks in attack than they did last year. Clint Dempsey's departure has loaded more offensive responsibility on Revs midfielder Andy Dorman; without strikers Nate Jaqua and Andy Herron, Chad Barrett is in the spotlight. Dorman has three goals and Barrett two; they rank second on their teams in scoring behind, respectively, Taylor Twellman (4 goals) and Chris Rolfe (2 goals, 3 assists).