MLS Week 19 Preview: Portland-Seattle, more

MLS Ball

We have passed the halfway mark in Major League Soccer, and enter the brief period of the summer where it stands largely unchallenged by other competitive soccer. The first Portland-Seattle Cascadia Cup match of the year gets the spotlight for itself on broadcast television. The week begins with a busy Wednesday slate: six games throughout the evening. None are nationally televised, though Wednesday marks the famous day with no other sports on the calendar.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Toronto FC, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

2016 is not treating Columbus kindly. Having reached MLS Cup last year, they find themselves with the second worst record in MLS through 17 games this year. Two home games this week give them a chance to change their momentum. First up is Toronto, who are making do without Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Clint Irwin.

New York Red Bulls vs. Orlando City SC, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

New York and Orlando have an Eastern Conference clash Wednesday night. Both teams are experiencing a funk at the moment. New York has not won in their last five games in all competitions, while Orlando is still adjusting to life without Adrian Heath. They’ve already played twice; the Red Bulls won at home and earned a draw in Florida.

Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

Chicago and Kansas City used to battle for midwestern supremacy, but conference changes have dampened whatever animosity may once have existed between these clubs. This is their only meeting of the season. SKC will be looking to keep up the momentum that has them unbeaten in their last five MLS games.

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas, Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

Seattle is having a long nightmare of a season so far. Things don’t get any easier, though. On Wednesday they will take on a Dallas side that leads the league with 37 points. Dallas has not allowed a goal in their last three matches, winning all three in the process.

Portland Timbers vs. Montreal Impact, Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

Portland and Montreal play for the only time this season Wednesday night. Liam Ridgewell has returned to the lineup for the Timbers, a big boost to a back line that often struggled without him. They have kept a clean sheet in their last two games; they’ve also failed to score in those games. It’s a busy week of travel for Montreal, who start out west before returning home.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake, Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

Wednesday night continues with an intriguing match between Vancouver and Salt Lake. Vancouver enters the week just above Portland for the final playoff spot out West, but with each team playing twice, that could change quickly. RSL took a 1-0 win over the Whitecaps in April.

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo, Friday at 11 p.m. on Unimas

LA and Houston have their second match of the season late Friday night. In April, the Galaxy fell behind early but stormed back to a 4-1 win over the Dynamo. Houston is one of a few teams in MLS who are yet to win on the road.

Columbus Crew SC vs. DC United, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Columbus hosts DC on Saturday night with both in need of three points. The black-and-gold have been decent at home, but have let too many wins turn into draws. DC likes to play on the counter, so expect the Crew to hog even more of possession than usual.

FC Dallas vs. Chicago Fire, Saturday at 9 p.m.

You deserve bonus points if you know that Dallas and Chicago compete each year for the Brimstone Cup. Dallas held the trophy for ten seasons between 2002 and 2011, but have lost all four games against the Fire since. Form and common sense would suggest that streak will end Saturday, but this is MLS.

Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City, Saturday at 9 p.m.

The Rapids haven’t lost in thirteen MLS matches. They are unbeaten at home. Both of those streaks will be on the line when they host Sporting on Saturday night. This is game three between Colorado and Kansas City; the Rapids took the first two.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Orlando City SC, Saturday at 10 p.m.

Orlando will make the long trip across the continent to play in Vancouver. The Lions haven’t scored in their last two games, but the Whitecaps, surprisingly, hold one of the league’s worst defenses so far this season. Something has to give, in theory.

Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution, Saturday at 10 p.m.

Salt Lake returns home for the weekend to host New England. The Revs are coming off of a big home win, and will have a full week’s rest before heading to Utah. No team has gone to Salt Lake and come away with three points this year.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 10:30 p.m. 

The East-West theme of the night continues when San Jose takes on Toronto. It’ll be the second road game of the week for the Reds, with significant travel in between. The Earthquakes need to get back on track; after a good start they have not won any of their last seven games.

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, Sunday at 3 p.m. on Fox

Halfway through the season, this is the first meeting between Portland and Seattle. Timbers fans will have no shortage of things to talk and sing about for this one. It’s the first game between the two sides since Portland won MLS Cup, and the Sounders currently occupy the bottom spot in the Western Conference. Lest the Timbers Army get too cocky, their team has work to do to get above the red playoff line themselves.

Montreal Impact vs. New York City FC, Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN

Soccer Sunday continues with a rare trip across the border to Montreal. One imagines Didier Drogba played a role in the decision making for ESPN, but he might not play a role in the game as he continues to deal with an injury. The Impact can pull within two points of NYCFC, who enter the week atop the East.

Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, Sunday at 7 p.m. on FS1

The week ends in Pennsylvania, where the Union are hosting the Red Bulls. You could be convinced, given the heat when these teams play, that this is a budding rivalry in the northeast. This is the first of three regular season games between Philly and New York, but they have already played in the U.S. Open Cup. The Union advanced 2-1 in that game late last month.