MLS Week 16 Preview: California Classico, more

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

Major League Soccer is nearing the halfway point of its regular season. This week, there are 12 matches going on. If you’re not interested in the third place match at Copa America, MLS will have a busy Saturday night slate of soccer.

Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Philadelphia had a rough go of it at Yankee Stadium over the weekend; they return home to face Chicago in what should be a very winnable match. The Union remain atop the Eastern Conference despite their stumble, and Chicago has been lifeless away from Toyota Field this season.

Real Salt Lake vs. New York Red Bulls, Wednesday at 10 p.m.

The red-hot Red Bulls head west to take on Real Salt Lake in midweek. RBNY enters having won their last four matches by a combined 13-0. Their staunch defense will be tested by one of the most potent attacks in the league. RSL has 10 goals in their last four games in MLS, and they have scored in every home game so far this season.

LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids, Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

LA and Colorado bring very different forms into their Wednesday night meeting. LA has not won since early May. Colorado is unbeaten in their last ten matches, the longest streak any team in MLS has managed this year. In March, before that streak began, the Rapids surprised many with a late win over the Galaxy. LA shouldn’t be surprised if the Rapids hold them tight this time around.

Seattle Sounders vs. New York City FC, Saturday at 5 p.m.

Having lost to a New York team over the weekend, the Sounders will host the other on Saturday. NYCFC has enjoyed their away trips this year; they’ve grabbed 10 points from six matches. The Pigeons already have wins over Portland and Vancouver, and they can complete the Cascadia sweep. Seattle desperately needs to prevent that from happening.

DC United vs. New England Revolution, Saturday at 7 p.m.

DC has an opportunity to leapfrog New England for the sixth and final playoff spot when they play each other on Saturday. In two games so far this season against United, the Revoluntion haven’t managed a goal. These teams played a scoreless draw in March, while DC won at home the following month.

Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Whitecaps began their week in Toronto, where they lost in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final. There will be no aggregate goals involved when they play the East’s best team. It will be interesting to see if Carl Robinson sacrifices his lineup at all with the second leg looming next Wednesday.

Montreal Impact vs. Sporting Kansas City, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Kansas City picked up a much-needed win over the weekend, but their ability to turn that into slump-busting momentum will rest on a trip to Montreal. SKC enters the week fourth in the West; they could end it in eighth. The Impact sputtered to a draw over the weekend, and will hope to prolong their visitors’ troubles.

Columbus Crew SC vs. New York Red Bulls, Saturday at 7:30p.m.

When Columbus and New York last met, the width of the post proved the difference between the Crew moving on to MLS Cup, and the Red Bulls being eliminated from the playoffs. The stakes are much lower this time around, but Columbus could really use the points as they try to climb out of the Eastern Conference’s cellar. It’s a very busy week of travel for the Red Bulls, who also played at home on Sunday.

Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City welcomes Toronto FC to the Citrus Bowl on Saturday night. No team in MLS has drawn more games than Orlando, and last week’s draw was probably the most disappointing of the eight. Give them this much; they don’t play boring games. Toronto’s results have been a bit better, but with low totals in both goals scored and allowed.

FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake, Saturday at 8 p.m.

Two of the three best records in MLS will face off in Frisco. Dallas is looking to recover from an unlucky loss over the weekend, where refereeing may have cost them a result in KC. Salt Lake has played three fewer matches than Dallas entering the week; they’ll make up for that discrepancy in part during midweek.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy, Saturday at 10 p.m. on Univision

50,000 people will be at Stanford Stadium Saturday night for the California Classico. Less than halfway through the season, this is the third meeting between San Jose and LA. The Galaxy trounced their rivals in March, but the Quakes earned a draw last month. This will be the first MLS game broadcast on over-the-air Univision since 1999.

Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo, Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2

Before the Copa America final kicks off, one more MLS game squeezes its way into the schedule. Portland plays Houston for the first time this season on Sunday. The Timbers and Dynamo both find themselves below the red line out west entering the week.