UNITED LOOKS FOR SEPARATION. The only intraconference game matches D.C. United with Toronto FC at RFK Stadium (live at 7 p.m. on MLS Direct Kick), and though a win won’t edge D.C. past first-place Sporting Kansas City, it would open up a nine-point gap on third-place Toronto.
This is the third regular-season meeting. A Jermain Defoe goal decided the first one at BMO Field March 22 in favor of TFC, 1-0, which marked the first time since it joined MLS in 2007 it had won its first two games of the season. United then went on a 7-3-4 run before running into TFC again at BMO Field July 5, and this time D.C. prevailed, 2-1.
In that game, Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen scored before and after a Luke Moore goal had briefly tied the game. Kitchen got his head to a Lewis Neal cross in the 70th minute to nail the winner. TFC finished the match with 10 men after rookie Nick Hagglund was sent off for dragging down Eddie Johnson on a breakaway.
D.C. sat out the league program last week. TFC comes into the match simmering over refereeing decisions in a 2-1 home loss to Sporting Kansas City that prompted some bitter criticisms from Michael Bradley and head coach Ryan Nelsen. There’s also frustration at play here; TFC has won just once in the last seven games.
RED BULLS ON THE BUBBLE. Fortunes in MLS can fluctuate wildly; case in point is San Jose, which won the 2012 Supporters Shield but failed to make the playoffs last year.
So far, the Red Bulls are treading on that same thin ice. The best record in 2013 hasn’t carried over to this season, as New York (5-6-9) is clinging to fifth place in the Eastern Conference and draws a tough road assignment at Real Salt Lake (live at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
RSL has seemingly shaken off the dull form that limited it to one victory in eight games from May 24 to July 19. Still, it didn’t put away the feeble Montreal Impact until the last 20 minutes in its 3-1 victory last weekend, and the final two goals by Olmes Garcia ended a personal year-long scoring drought. Though Joao Plata (eight goals) has picked up some of the scoring burden in the injury absence of Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio, RSL is still searching for consistent production.
New York’s road record of 2-4-5 doesn’t inspire much confidence, but so far in 2014 it has been very much a hit-or-miss team. It holds just a slim one-point lead for the final playoff spot over New England, which has lost eight straight games. Hard to believe, but true.
If the Red Bulls don’t win, the floundering Revs would move into the playoff tier by beating Colorado at Gillette Stadium (live at 7:30 p.m ET on MLS Direct Kick). The Rapids are coming off an emotional 3-0 defeat of Chivas USA before which head coach Pablo Mastroeni was inducted into the team’s Gallery of Honor. A letdown is possible, and New England certainly needs something to reverse its season.
Sixth-place Vancouver has played two more games than the fifth-place Galaxy, so though the ‘Caps have won only two of 10 road games this season, they’d best go for the three points at Chicago (live at 8:30 p.m. on MLS Direct Kick). The Fire players have had a full week to think about the 5-1 lashing San Jose inflicted last week, and they are four points out of the playoff group, so this game has desperation written all over it.MLS WEEK 21, Results: