MLS Week 12 Preview: Rivalry Week returns

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

It’s Rivalry Week in Major League Soccer, which means high profile matches between longtime and newfound rivals.

Teams with less fortunate geographic circumstances are also playing.

Toronto FC vs. New York City FC, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

TFC has won and lost in their two games at the new BMO Field and they’ll try to get back into the win column in game three against NYCFC. The Blues are on a bit of a hot stretch at the moment, with three wins in a row propelling them towards the top of the East. In March, Toronto and New York played to a 2-2 draw at Yankee Stadium.

New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

There are only two teams in MLS who have earned less than a point per game so far this season; they’ll play Wednesday night at Red Bull Arena. Red Bulls fans must feel it’s been a long time since they last played Chicago. On that day last October, the Red Bulls claimed the Supporters’ Shield with a win over the Fire. The stakes are lower this time, but both teams could use three points.

Philadelphia Union vs. DC United, Friday at 7 p.m.

Is Philly and DC a rivalry? Well, there’s interest in making it one. Both teams have recently solicited fan opinions on what to call their matches:

In their six seasons so far, the Union have rarely played games of import, making it difficult to generate genuine rivalries with their older opponents, despite the proximity. At any rate, they are off to a good start in 2016, and United enter this match off a win against a rival of their own.

New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls, Saturday at 3 p.m. on Fox

The year’s first Hudson River Derby is a Saturday afternoon affair at Yankee Stadium. The first year of the rivalry was dominated by the Red Bulls, but City has spent the early season above their neighbors in the standings. NYCFC is currently 2nd in the East, while the Red Bulls continue to search for last year’s form. This also marks the first time MLS has appeared on Fox’s broadcast network; the game will follow their broadcast of the FA Cup final.

Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew SC, Saturday at 5 p.m.

There’s no sign as of yet that Columbus has cured their early season malaise. Toronto has had success this year, but they need to show that their loss last week against Vancouver was just a fluke for an otherwise solid backline. They will be, again, without Jozy Altidore. The match was previously scheduled for 7 p.m., but moved to accommodate Canadian TV and the Toronto Raptors.

Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo, Saturday at 5 p.m.

Well, this doesn’t quite fit the theme, unless battling last-place teams count as a rivalry. Chicago will host Houston on Saturday as both teams try to scrape themselves off the floor of the standings. The Dynamo have shown signs of life lately, with two wins in their last three. The Fire…not so much.

New England Revolution vs. FC Dallas, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Two teams who both won over the weekend will meet in Foxboro on Saturday. For the Revs, that win was just their second of the year, but enough to lift them into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Dallas seems to have gotten their groove back of late, but they have struggled on the road.

Orlando City SC vs. Montreal Impact, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Montreal enters the week with a slight edge on top of the Eastern Conference; they could be six points back by the time they kick off in Orlando. After a strong start to their season, OCSC has not won in their last six games, going back to early April. To their credit, they have yet to lose at home. Didier Drogba is recovering from a slight hip injury, and might not have played on the turf in Orlando regardless. He will not be available for Mauro Biello. Here’s a weird fact: this is the first Saturday home game Orlando has played this season.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Sporting Kansas City joined the Western Conference in 2015, and quickly bred a contempt for Real Salt Lake. SKC and RSL played a trio of heated matches last season, which probably explains their place in rivalry week. The two teams enter week 12 with the same number of points, but Sporting has played three more games than Salt Lake.

Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids, Saturday at 10 p.m.

The first-place Colorado Rapids head to Seattle to take on the Sounders. Just last month, the Rapids beat the Sounders 2-1 at home. But the Rapids’ road form has lagged significantly behind their success at home, a fact that could bode well for the Sounders in this rematch.

Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN

Seattle is the odd Cascadia team out for this rivalry week; Portland and Vancouver will instead meet for the second time this month. The first meeting was in Vancouver on the seventh. After falling behind, the Whitecaps controlled the match and came out with a win. They have won two games since; the Timbers have lost two games since. Vancouver will be without Fraser Aird, suspended for his red card last week.

LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Sunday at 7 p.m.

The California Clasico caps off rivalry week. LA has gotten the best of their NorCal rivals in each of their last four matches, including a 3-1 win back in March. San Jose is still seeking their first away win of the year, and the StubHub Center now seems like a particularly tough place to find it.


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