Top two in East square off

[MLS Week 24: Three Games to Watch] A week after Real Salt Lake beat Seattle, 2-1, in a matchup of the top two Western Conference teams, Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City hosts second-place D.C. United on Saturday.

The weekend’s play begins Friday when surging FC Dallas hosts Real Salt Lake, and on Sunday Portland hosts Seattle in a Cascadia Cup clash.

All MLS teams are in action this weekend except Colorado, which blew a pair of two-goal leads Wednesday in a 4-3 loss to the Galaxy.

MLS WEEK 24: Schedule:
Friday, August 22

9 p.m. ET

FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake, NBCSN
Saturday, August 23
7 p.m. ET

New York vs. Montreal
Toronto FC vs. Chicago
7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus vs. Houston
New England vs. Chivas USA
8:30 p.m. ET
Sporting KC vs. D.C. United
10:30 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver
Sunday, August 24
5 p.m. ET

Portland vs. Seattle, ESPN2, WatchESPN, ESPN Deportes
8 p.m. ET
Philadelphia vs. San Jose, UDN.

CRUNCH TEST IN K.C. Since establishing itself as a legitimate playoff contender after the World Cup break, D.C. United has also stubbornly hung tough in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. On Saturday (8:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick) it faces an acid test of its quality at Eastern Conference rival Sporting Kansas City, which is one of three teams tied atop the overall standings just two points ahead of United.

D.C. won the first meeting, 1-0, at RFK Stadium May 31 against an SKC team battling injuries and missing U.S. World Cup stars Graham Zusi and Matt Besler. It’s a measure of United’s incredible rebound from last year’s three-win season that -- with one fewer game played -- it has the same number of wins (12) and goals scored (36) as a defending champion that looks quite capable of repeating.

SKC is coming off a long, draining trip to Nicaragua, where it tied Real Esteli, 1-1, in the Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday. Head coach Peter Vermes fielded most of his starters, though Benny Feilhaber and Dom Dwyer -- No. 2 MLS scorer with 16 goals -- came off the bench in the second half.

SKC mustered just four shots and got a big game in goal from backup Jon Kempin. It fought back from an early own goal conceded by Jorge Claros and tied the game 10 minutes later on an excellent free kick by Toni Dovale. SKC’s recent league form is sparkling: a 7-1-2 record in the last 10 matches. It has lost only once at home, yet has tied one-half of the games at Sporting Park (5-1-6).

United also played a CCL game Wednesday and with a lineup of mostly reserves and backups beat Jamaica's Waterhouse FC, 1-0, on a goal by Eddie Johnson, who is suspended for the SKC showdown. A 4-2 defeat of Colorado Saturday snapped a two-game MLS losing streak; Luis Silva scored twice and fill-in left back Taylor Kemp earned two assists.

TOUGH TEST IN TEXAS. Another team that has reversed a forgettable 2013 season, FC Dallas, hosts Real Salt Lake Friday (9 p.m., NBCSN) in a great kickoff match for the weekend.

An eighth-place team last year, FCD is in third place and unbeaten in the last nine games (6-0-3) after trampling San Jose, 5-0, Saturday. Paired together in the attack, rookie Tesho Akindele hit a hat trick and Fabian Castillo scored twice. (Blas Perez came off the bench.) Akindele has scored all seven of his goals this season in his last 12 games as a starter, and Castillo’s pair pushed him into the team lead with eight goals.

RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland registered a goal and an assist last week in a 2-1 RSL defeat of Seattle that ran its win streak to three games and its unbeaten run to six (4-0-2). FCD must find a way to contain quicksilver forward Joao Plata, who leads RSL with nine goals and has scored the last two in the last two games by heading home serves from Mulholland.

RSL sports a dismal 1-9-2 all-time record at Toyota Stadium, but that one victory occurred in its last visit, a 3-0 triumph 13 months ago. RSL and FCD tied, 0-0, May 24 at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first of their three meetings this season

NORTHWEST RENEWAL. The annual three-way series between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver started off with a bang this season; 19 goals crossed the goal line in the first three showdowns, including eight in a spectacular 4-4 tie April 5 in the Cascadia Cup opener between Portland and Seattle, which stage a rematch at Providence Park Sunday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2/Deportes).

The Timbers come home after a road trip of about 10,000 miles: to Boston for a league match with New England last Saturday that ended 1-1, and a long-haul jaunt to Guyana, where it beat Alpha United, 4-1, in its Concacaf Champions’League opener Tuesday. Head coach Caleb Porter took 28 players on the team’s charter flight to the East Coast, then broke up his squad to carry 18 on to Guyana and send the others home to prepare for Seattle, which is coming off a 1-1 tie at home against San Jose Wednesday.

Martins set up Chad Barrett to score against the Quakes less than a minute after the second-half kickoff for the goal against the Quakes, which equalized in the 65th minute. Lamar Neagle and Clint Dempsey came off the bench, but Seattle, which outshot San Jose, 24-10, wasn’t able to nick a winning goal.

The Sounders won the last Cascadia Cup match July 13 at CenturyLink Field, downing Portland, 2-0. Playing in his first game since returning from World Cup duty, Dempsey scored in the 74th minute to break open a goalless game and forward Obafemi Martins added a clinching goal in the final minutes. Since that game, Seattle is 1-3-1 in league play and is tied with Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake atop the overall standings though the Sounders have played one fewer game than those teams.

MLS WEEK 24: Results:
Wednesday, August 20

Colorado 3 LA Galaxy 4.
COL: Marlon Hairston 14
COL: Edson Buddle (Dillon Powers) 17
LA: Robbie Keane (Dan Gargan) 20
COL: Marc Burch 30
LA: Omar Gonzalez (Landon Donovan) 55
LA: Alan Gordon (Omar Gonzalez) 68
LA: Landon Donovan (Robbie Keane) 80
Att.: 14,011.

Seattle 1 San Jose 1.
SEA: Chad Barrett (Obafemi Martins) 46
SJ: Chris Wondolowski (Cordell Cato) 65
Att.: 38,909.

MLS Standings:
42 Sporting KC 12-6-6 36/23
40 D.C. United 12-7-4 36/26
32 Toronto FC 9-8-5 33/34
30 Columbus
7-8-9 32/32
28 New York 6-7-10 35/34
27 New England 8-12-3 30/36
27 Philadelphia 6-9-9 36/39
25 Houston 7-12-4 25/42
25 Chicago
4-6-13 29/35
17 Montreal 4-14-5 23/41

42 Seattle 13-7-3 39/31
42 Real Salt Lake 11-4-9 38/28
39 FC Dallas 11-7-6 43/32
37 LA Galaxy 10-5-7 39/26
33 Vancouver 7-4-12 33/29
30 Colorado 8-11-6 37/39
30 Portland 7-7-10 39/39
25 San Jose 6-9-7 26/28
24 Chivas USA 6-11-6 21/36
MLS: Leading Scorers
18 Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York
16 Dom Dwyer, Sporting KC
14 Erick Torres, Chivas USA
13 Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy
11 Jermain Defoe, Toronto FC
11 Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake
10 Will Bruin, Houston
10 Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy
10 Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia
9 Federico Higuain, Columbus
9 Clint Dempsey
, Seattle
9 Chris Wondolowski, San Jose

MLS WEEK 25: Schedule:
Wednesday, August 27

10:30 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy vs. D.C. United
Friday, August 29
8 p.m. ET
Sporting KC vs. Houston, NBCSN
Saturday, August 30
4 p.m. ET
Seattle vs. Colorado
5 p.m. ET
Toronto FC vs. New England
7:30 p.m. ET
Montreal vs. Columbus
8:30 p.m. ET
Chicago vs. FC Dallas
10:30 p.m. ET
San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake
Vancouver vs. Portland
Sunday, August 31
2:30 p.m. ET
D.C. United vs. New York, NBCSN
8 p.m. ET
Chivas USA vs. LA Galaxy, UDN

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