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Three MLS games to watch
by Ridge Mahoney, May 29th, 2014 9:05PM
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TAGS:  columbus crew, mls, portland timbers, real salt lake, seattle sounders, toronto fc, vancouver whitecaps


[PREVIEW: Week 13] The top two teams in MLS, the Seattle Sounders and unbeaten Real Salt Lake, square off Saturday in Seattle. RSL will set a record for the best start in MLS history with a win or tie. There's also an Eastern Conference rematch in Toronto, and the Cascadia Cup series resumes in Portland.

SEATTLE-REAL SALT LAKE. They have won just one MLS Cup combined, yet any meeting of Seattle (8-3-2, 26 points) and Real Salt Lake (6-0-6, 24 pts.) is a good one, and they occupy the top two spots in the overall standings as the weekend action kicks off (live at 4 p.m. on MLS Live) at CenturyLink Field.

They have met five times in the past two seasons, including the 2012 playoffs, with each team winning twice and one game ending in a 0-0 tie. Those aggregate scores are tied, 4-4. In the current standings, they are just two points apart and they are the league’s two highest-scoring teams (Seattle 25, RSL 23).

The difference is in the defense. RSL has conceded 13 goals (1.08 per game, third-lowest in MLS), eight fewer than the Sounders. Yet at home, Seattle is solid enough, allowing seven goals in its seven games at the Link, where it is 5-2-0. RSL is by far the league’s best road team at 3-0-3, which mirrors its mark at Rio Tinto Stadium.

RSL dominated possession against FC Dallas last weekend, controlling the ball 66 percent of the time, but couldn’t break through and wound up tied, 0-0. Though the tie enabled it to match the LA Galaxy's league record for longest unbeaten streak to start a season (12 games), its failure to exploit an opponent that had played, and lost, in midweek left a sense of frustration.

It will be shorthanded up front in Seattle. Against Dallas, Joao Plata aggravated an ouchy hamstring that ruled him out of three games earlier in the season. and Devon Sandoval picked up a knock that kept him out of training early in the week. Robbie Findley, who underwent knee surgery in December, made his first appearance of the season as a sub and played in a reserve game Monday. Sandoval is expected to be ready Saturday but not Plata. Findley is a maybe. So who will partner Olmes Garcia up front isn’t known.

The absence of Clint Dempsey hasn’t greatly slowed down the Seattle attack. Obafemi Martins has scored five goals, second on the team to Dempsey, and leads it with six assists. Martins nearly won that game in the final minutes but his shot came back off the post.

Midfielder Gonzalo Pineda converted a penalty kick for the tying goal in Vancouver and is establishing himself as a capable playmaker. Cole Grossman has done a good job of replacing Kyle Beckerman at the base of RSL’s diamond midfield but he’ll need some help containing Pineda, who is getting more adept at finding spaces in which to work. He’s second to Martins with four assists.

Whether Pineda or RSL maestro Javier Morales (4 goals, 5 assists) is sharper and more effective might decide the outcome of this weekend’s top tussle.

TORONTO FC-COLUMBUS. Several teams have already played rematches this season and the latest Eastern revival takes place between Toronto (4-4-1, 13 points) and Columbus (4-4-4, 16 points) Saturday (live at 5 p.m. ET on MLS Live) at BMO Field, where TFC tied Montreal, 1-1, Wednesday in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final and downed the Crew, 2-1, last July.

Toronto won the first 2014 meeting, 2-0, at Crew Stadium April 5, and though it will be missing USA international Michael Bradley, it has beaten New York, 2-0, and tied Sporting Kansas City, 2-2, without him in its last two league games. It has played three fewer games than the Crew yet can catch Columbus on points by winning, which even at this early stage of the season is a bad scenario for the visitor. Two assists by Federico Higuain propelled the Crew past Chicago, 2-0, last weekend.

PORTLAND-VANCOUVER. The first round of Cascadia Cup games concludes in Portland on Sunday when the Timbers host Vancouver (live at 9 p.m. ET on MLS Live) and any neutral observer will hope for a match akin to the previous two this season.

The Whitecaps surrendered a controversial penalty kick last weekend that knotted up a pulsating match against Seattle at 2-2. The Sounders and Timbers opened the Cascadia Cup schedule in early April by sharing eight goals in an incredible encounter at Providence Park, and a tie would be the likely outcome on Sunday as well, as these teams tied all three of their encounters last year.

Recent loan signing Fanendo Adi scored both goals Wednesday for the revived Timbers (3-3-7, 16 points), who by beating Chivas USA, 2-0, won their second game in a row and are unbeaten in their last six. Still Portland has far more ties than it would prefer, as do the ‘Caps (4-2-5, 17 points), who held a 2-1 lead last Saturday on a spectacular goal by Erik Hurtado and an elegant chip into an empty net by Gershon Koffie but were re-tied by a controversial penalty-kick decision.

Portland needs a win. It was played two more games than the ‘Caps and by winning would vault over its foes into the playoff tier.

MLS WEEK 13, Results:
Wednesday, May 28
Chivas USA 2 Portland 0.
POR: Fanendo Adi 1 (Jorge Villafana, Darlington Nagbe) 65
POR: Fanendo Adi 2 (Diego Valeri) 71
Red Card: CHV -- Bobby Burling 84.
Att.: 3,702.
Tuesday, May 27

Sporting KC 1 New York 1.
SKC: Toni (Benny Feilhaber) 9
NY: Bradley Wright-Phillips (Thierry Henry) 50
Att.: 19,221.

MLS WEEK 13, Schedule:
Saturday, May 31
4 pm ET
Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake, MLS LIVE
5 pm ET
Toronto FC vs. Columbus, MLS LIVE
7 pm ET
Montreal vs. New England, MLS LIVE
D.C. United vs. Sporting KC, MLS LIVE
8:30 pm ET
FC Dallas vs. San Jose, MLS LIVE, UDN
10:30 pm ET
Chivas USA vs. Philadelphia, MLS LIVE
Sunday, June 1
4 pm ET
Chicago vs. LA Galaxy, MLS LIVE
8 pm ET
Colorado vs. Houston, UDN
9 pm ET
Portland vs. Vancouver, MLS LIVE

MLS Standings:
23 New England 7-3-2 21/14
19 Sporting KC 5-4-4 19/13
18 D.C. United 5-4-3 17/14
17 Houston 5-7-2 16/24
16 Columbus 4-4-4 15/14
15 New York 3-5-6 20/22
13 Toronto FC 4-4-1 11/11
12 Chicago 2-3-6 19/21
11 Philadelphia 2-7-5 16/24
7 Montreal 1-6-4 9/22

26 Seattle 8-3-2 25/21
24 Real Salt Lake 6-0-6 23/13
18 Colorado 5-4-3 16/15
18 FC Dallas 5-6-3 22/22
17 Vancouver 4-2-5 18/14
16 Portland 3-3-7 20/20
15 LA Galaxy 4-3-3 14/9
13 San Jose 3-4-4 13/12
10 Chivas USA 2-6-4 13/22
MLS: Leading Scorers
11+1 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York
10 Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC
8 Erick Torres, Chivas USA
8 Clint Dempsey, Seattle
7 Robbie Keane
, LA Galaxy
6 Fabian Espindola, D.C. United
6 Federico Higuain, Columbus
6 Joao Plata
, Real Salt Lake
6 Will Bruin, Houston
6 Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake

MLS WEEK 14, Schedule:
Wednesday, June 4
7:30 pm ET
Columbus vs. Real Salt Lake, MLS LIVE
9 pm ET
Colorado vs. Chicago, MLS LIVE
Friday, June 6
8:30 pm ET
Houston vs. Sporting KC, MLS LIVE
Saturday, June 7
4 pm ET
Toronto FC vs. San Jose, MLS LIVE
6:30 pm ET
D.C. United vs. Columbus, MLS LIVE
7 pm ET
Philadelphia vs. Vancouver, MLS LIVE
8:30 pm ET
Chicago vs. Seattle, MLS LIVE
8:30 pm ET
FC Dallas vs. Colorado, MLS LIVE
10 pm ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Portland, MLS LIVE, UDN
Sunday, June 8 
5 pm ET
New England vs. New York, MLS LIVE
8 pm ET
LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA, UDN

MLS WEEK 15, Schedule:
Wednesday, June 11
7:30 pm ET
Montreal vs. D.C. United, MLS LIVE
10 pm ET
Portland vs. FC Dallas, ESPN2, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes

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