MLS: Three games to watch

[PREVIEW: Week 21] The MLS weekend schedule, which again includes a Friday night special (Philadelphia-Sporting Kansas City) and several classics, is rife with important intraconference matches. Saturday play begins in the morning at StubHub Center with the LA Galaxy-Timbers game on NBC and ends in the evening with the San Jose-Seattle match that opens Levi’s Stadium, the NFL 49ers' new stadium.

MLS WEEK 21: Schedule:
Friday, August 1
8 pm ET
Sporting KC vs. Philadelphia, NBCSN
Saturday, August 2
2:30 pm ET
LA Galaxy vs. Portland, NBC
5 pm ET
Montreal vs. Toronto FC
7 pm ET
New York vs. New England
8:30 pm ET
Chicago vs. Columbus
9 pm ET
Colorado vs. Real Salt Lake
10:30 pm ET
San Jose vs. Seattle, NBCSN
Sunday, August 3
8 pm ET
Houston vs. D.C. United, UDN
10 pm ET
Chivas USA vs. FC Dallas

TIMBERS TRAVEL. Winner of two straight and better on the road than it has been at home, Portland takes on the Galaxy at StubHub Center bright and early Saturday (11:30 a.m. local time, 2:30 p.m. ET) to accommodate an NBC time slot.

The Galaxy blew away Seattle, 3-0, Monday night and has a day less rest than Portland, which knocked off Montreal, 3-2, in Stade Saputo on Sunday.

The teams are meeting less than a month after tying, 2-2, at StubHub on the Fourth of July. More than an hour of play best described as tepid burst into life when Marcelo Sarvas scored for L.A. in the 65th minute, and Portland ratcheted up the intensity by storming into a 2-1 lead when Diego Valeri and Jorge Villafana scored three minutes apart. But the Timbers let victory slip away when Rauwshan McKenzie scuffed a low centering pass into his own net.

Their first meeting in early May at Providence Park followed much the same pattern. It was goalless until stoppage time, when Robbie Keane scored in the 92nd minute for an apparent road win only for Valeri to equalize in the 95th. Keane is the Galaxy’s leading scorer with 10 goals; Maximiliano Urruti tops the Timbers with eight and has scored in the last two games.

Landon Donovan tormented the Sounders with a goal and two assists, yet Sarvas also played a role in all three goals and earned two assists himself. His midfield duel with Valeri, who has personally sealed Portland’s two consecutive victories by scoring both game-winning goals, will be one of the most intriguing battles to observe.

The Timbers are in seventh place, but among Western Conference teams, only Seattle (5-2-2) is better on the road than Portland (4-4-2).  Portland is the epitome of average-ness: overall record of 6-6-9, 35 goals scored, 35 allowed.

BAY AREA FUTBOL? The second game of an NBC Sports Group soccer doubleheader also features a Cascadia-California clash; the San Jose Earthquakes open up the new home of  another football team, the 49ers, against Seattle (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

It will be interesting to see how many 49er fans not only come out to see their new home but also torment the soccer team that shares CenturyLink Field with the Seahawks, which knocked off the 49ers in the NFC championship game last January on their way to a first Super Bowl victory.

San Jose hasn’t played for more than a week, and head coach Mark Watson will be hoping momentum generated by thrashing Chicago, 5-1, at Buck Shaw Stadium July 23 can propel his team against the Sounders. Portuguese loanee Yannick Djalo earned Player of the Week honors by shredding the Fire with a goal and three assists. He was paired with Chris Wondolowski when Steven Lenhart was a late scratch, but Seattle won’t be surprised as was Chicago by this radically different approach to lumping balls into the box and feeding on the scraps.

Seattle beat the Quakes May 17 at CenturyLink, 1-0, with a wonderfully chipped goal by Obafemi Martins. He is second on the team with eight goals, one behind Clint Dempsey. Much of San Jose’s troubles lie in its weak attack. Wondo has scored seven goals but no one else on the team has more than two, and as a team San Jose is tied for 16th in the league with 22 goals.

REVS' REVIVAL? Despite losing eight straight games heading into their game Wednesday against Colorado, the Revs knew they could regain a spot in the playoff tier by winning, which they did convincingly, 3-0. Lee Nguyen played one of his best games this season and played a role in all three goals; his wickedly swerving free kick for the second goal effectively sealed the victory.

That victory moved New England into a third-place tie with Toronto FC and Columbus and just a point ahead of sixth-place New York, which by beating New England at Red Bull Arena Saturday (7 p.m. ET, MLS Live/Direct Kick) could flip that portion of the standings and land the Red Bulls in third place.

New York also played Wednesday and extracted a rare success at Rio Tinto Stadium, a 1-1 tie with Real Salt Lake marked by a sublime equalizer by Thierry Henry. The second game of New England’s eight-loss plummet occurred June 8 at Gillette Stadium when the Red Bulls inflicted a 2-0 defeat; but since then New York’s record is 1-1-4. That defeat of the Revs was also the Red Bulls' last shutout.

MLS WEEK 21, Results:
Wednesday, July 30
D.C. United 3 Toronto FC 0.
DC: Eddie Johnson 4 (Perry Kitchen, Sean Franklin) 8
DC: Chris Rolfe 4 (Nick DeLeon, Luis Silva) 59
DC: own goal 67
Att.: 16,171.

New England 3 Colorado 0.
NE: own goal 10
NE: Lee Nguyen (unassisted) 75
NE: Kelyn Rowe (Lee Nguyen) 78
Att.: 13,831.

Chicago 0 Vancouver 0.
Att.: 13,532.

Real Salt Lake 1 New York 1.
RSL: Joao Plata (Chris Wingert) 18
NY: Thierry Henry (Tim Cahill, Bradley Wright-Phillips) 57
Att.: 20,295.

Monday, July 28
Seattle 0 LA Galaxy 3.
LA: Gyasi Zardes (Landon Donovan, Marcelo Sarvas) 8
LA: Landon Donovan 18
LA: Stefan Ishizaki (Marcelo Sarvas, Landon Donovan) 36
Att.: 39,304.

MLS Standings:
38 Sporting KC 11-5-5 31/19
37 D.C. United 11-5-4 32/20
26 New England 8-11-2 28/33
26 Toronto FC 7-7-5 27/28
26 Columbus 6-7-8 25/27
25 New York 5-6-10 33/32
23 Philadelphia 5-8-8 33/35
21 Chicago 3-5-12 27/33
19 Houston 5-11-4 22/40
14 Montreal 3-12-5 21/37

38 Seattle 12-5-2 35/27
33 Real Salt Lake 8-4-9 32/267
30 LA Galaxy 8-4-6 29/16
30 Colorado 8-7-6 31/27
30 FC Dallas 8-7-6 34/31
29 Vancouver 6-4-11 31/29
27 Portland 6-6-9 35/35
23 Chivas USA 6-9-5 21/33
20 San Jose 5-8-5 22/20
MLS: Leading Scorers
17 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York
14 Erick Torres, Chivas USA
14 Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC
11 Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
10 Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
9+1 Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake
9 Clint Dempsey, Seattle
8 Obafemi Martins, Seattle
8 Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia

MLS WEEK 22: Schedule:
Wednesday, August 6  
9:30 pm ET
MLS All-Stars vs. Bayern Munich, ESPN2, UniMas
Friday, August 8   
10:30 pm ET
LA Galaxy vs. San Jose, NBCSN
Saturday, August 9
7 pm ET
Philadelphia vs. Montreal
7:30 pm ET
Columbus vs. Toronto FC
9 pm ET
FC Dallas vs. Colorado
10 pm ET
Real Salt Lake vs. D.C. United
10:30 pm ET
Portland vs. Chivas USA
Sunday, August 10
8 pm ET
Chicago vs. New York, UDN
Vancouver vs. Sporting KC
10:30 pm ET
Seattle vs. Houston, ESPN2, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes

MLS WEEK 23: Schedule:
Friday, August 15
9 pm ET
Houston vs. Philadelphia, NBCSN
Saturday, August 16
2:30 pm ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle, NBCSN
6:30 pm ET
Montreal vs. Chicago
7:30 pm ET
Columbus vs. LA Galaxy
New England vs. Portland
8:30 pm ET
Sporting KC vs. Toronto FC
10:30 pm ET
Chivas USA vs. Vancouver
San Jose vs. FC Dallas
Sunday, August 17
8 pm ET
D.C. United vs. Colorado, UDN

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