Timbers-Rapids kick off busy weekend

[MLS PREVIEW: Week 30] If Colorado is to win at Jeld-Wen Field for the first time in two years, it will have do something it failed to do in its last two visits: score a goal.

It must also break an eight-game winless run away from home to prevail at Portland Friday (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Portland thumped the Rapids, 3-0, at Jeld-Wen on June 23, but since then the Rapids have passed the Timbers in the standings and added two foreign attackers, Uruguayan Vicente Sanchez and Panamanian striker Gabriel Torres. Early in the season, the teams tied, 2-2, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and they are just two points apart in the standings heading into this meeting.

Colorado (12-8-9, 45 points) is clinging to third place, which provides an automatic spot in the conference semifinals. Portland (10-5-13, 43 pts.) is in fifth place, one of two wild-card slots. It can leap into third by winning and also holds a game in hand vs. the Rapids.

Frederic Piquionne, Will Johnson and Ryan Johnson scored in the Timbers’ victory at home on June 23. In the first meeting, Johnson tallied both of Portland’s goals; Hendry Thomas and Dillon Powers were on the board for Colorado.

Sanchez has played on the right and in the middle as Coach Oscar Pareja works him into the mix. Powers played a deep midfield role in a 1-0 defeat of the Galaxy, then worked in an attacking role in a 2-1 defeat of FC Dallas last weekend that featured Sanchez’s first MLS goal.

STUBHUB SHOWDOWN. NBCSN also has the other Western Conference clash of the weekend slated for a national telecast: Los Angeles-Seattle at 10:30 p.m. ET.

The Sounders posted their fifth straight win (four of them by shutout) last Friday night by stunning Real Salt Lake, 2-0, with a pair of early goals and riding the momentum of a huge crowd (55,107) to victory. Far fewer fans will be on hand for this intraconference classic, but the Galaxy will probably look to follow the same formula: apply pressure and strike early, then look for counterattack opportunities.

There’s always something extra on the line when these teams play, and with the best record in the league (15-8-4, 49 points) Seattle very much wants to keep fourth-place Los Angeles (13-10-5, 44 points) at bay. Though the all-time regular-season series is even at 4-4-2, there have been a few blowouts, including a 4-0 Galaxy home win May 27. Seattle won by the same score at CenturyLink Field in August of 2012, but last November in the playoffs, the Galaxy won the first leg, 3-0, at home and eventually prevailed on aggregate, 4-2.

Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid started his career at UCLA before winning MLS Cup titles with the Galaxy as well as the Crew. Both teams feature U.S. and foreign internationals, and the Sounders’ recent signing of Clint Dempsey adds to the American angle when he and Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans tangle with Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez. Donovan is second on the Galaxy with eight goals and the same number of assists. Robbie Keane leads in both categories with 13 and 11, respectively.

Injuries to Donovan (ankle) and AJ DeLaGarza (elbow) in last weekend’s 2-2 tie with D.C. United prompted head coach Bruce Arena to take them out of that match and leave them out of a 1-0 Concacaf Champions League victory over Isidro Metapan Wednesday Johnson and Dempsey played against RSL as subs and Evans, who missed the game because of a calf strain, is nearly ready to return and could replace Andy Rose, who set up Martins to score in the third minute.

AND IN THE EAST. There’s a mix of interconference and intraconference games for the teams vying for the five Eastern playoff spots. Second-place Montreal (13-8-6, 45 points) kicks off the proceedings with an early kickoff Saturday (2 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes, MLS Direct Kick) for its Canadian clash against Western struggler Vancouver (10-10-8, 38 points) which has fallen out of the playoff tier into seventh place.

Third-place Sporting Kansas City has the same point total as Montreal but has scored fewer goals, which is the second tiebreaker. SKC sat out last weekend and resumes play at ninth-place Toronto FC (4-14-11, 23 points). Fourth-place Houston (11-10-8, 40 points) edged back into the playoff tier last weekend with a crucial 1-0 victory at Philadelphia and is at home to Western cellar-dwellar Chivas USA (6-15-8, 26 points).

A thrilling 3-2 defeat of New England last weekend propelled Chicago (11-11-6, 39 points) into a fifth-place tie with Philly; the first tiebreaker, most wins, gives the wild-card edge to the Fire, which plays at eighth-place Columbus (10-14-5, 35 points). The Union (10-10-9, 39 points) gets the bye this week.

Conference leader New York (14-9-6, 48 points) takes a three-game winning streak into its nationally televised Sunday match (5 p.m. ET, UniMas) against FC Dallas (10-8-10, 38 points), which is sixth in the Western Conference and has won only twice in its last 15 games.

Friday, September 20
10 p.m ET
Portland vs. Colorado NBCSN
Saturday, September 21
2 p.m ET
Montreal vs. Vancouver, Univision Dep.
4 p.m ET
Toronto FC vs. Sporting KC
7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus vs. Chicago
New England vs. D.C. United
8:30 p.m. ET
Houston vs. Chivas USA
9 p.m ET
Real Salt Lake vs. San Jose
10:30 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle, NBCSN
Sunday, September 22
5 p.m ET
New York vs. FC Dallas UniMas
Eastern Conference:

48 (29) New York 14-9-6 46/36
45 (27) Montreal 13-8-6 46/39
45 (28) Sporting KC 13-9-6 41/27
40 (28) Houston 11-10-7 32/35
39 (28) Chicago 11-11-6 36/40
39 (29) Philadelphia 10-10-9 37/39
37 (28) New England 10-11-7 39/32
35 (29) Columbus 10-14-5 33/39
23 (29) Toronto FC 4-14-11 24/42
15 (28) D.C. United 3-19-6 18/46

Western Conference:
49 (27) Seattle 15-8-4 37/27
48 (29) Real Salt Lake 14-9-6 52/37
45 (28) Colorado 12-8-9 37/30
44 (28) LA Galaxy 13-10-5 45/335
43 (28) Portland 10-5-13 44/31
40 (28) FC Dallas 10-8-10 40/41
38 (28) Vancouver 10-10-8 39/38
38 (29) San Jose 10-11-8 29/40
26 (29) Chivas USA 6-15-8 28/40
17 Marco Di Vaio (Montreal)
16 Mike Magee (Los Angeles/Chicago)
14 Camilo (Vancouver)
12 Robbie Keane (Los Angeles)
10 Claudio Bieler (Sporting KC)
10 Diego Fagundez (New England)
10 Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
10 Blas Perez (FC Dallas)
10 Jack McInerney (Philadelphia)

Friday, September 27
8 p.m ET
Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia, NBCSN
Saturday, September 28
1 p.m ET
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United
7 p.m ET
Vancouver vs. Real Salt Lake
7:30 p.m. ET
New England vs. Houston
8:30 p.m. ET
Chicago vs. Montreal
 Sunday, September 29
3:30 p.m. ET
Portland vs. LA Galaxy, NBC
8:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas vs. Columbus
9 p.m ET
Seattle vs. New York ESPN
11 p.m ET
Chivas USA vs. San Jose UniMas
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