MLS Week 25 Preview: Rivalry Week returns

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

Week 25 is Rivalry Week in Major League Soccer. It’s a very hectic week on the schedule and certainly in the standings. There are six games on Wednesday night before the rivalry festivities begin in earnest on Friday.

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

Orlando and Toronto kick the week off. The last time TFC went to Florida, Kaka scored a 100th minute penalty to give the hosts a controversial 3-2 win. Since then, Toronto has gone on a tear, and OCSC has changed managers.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Philadelphia goes to Columbus for an interesting match on Wednesday night. The Crew are coming off a win for the first time in months; can they turn that into momentum going forward? They enter the week five points back of the last playoff spot in the East; they could end up above the red line by the end. A Union side with middling form as of late will be as good a test as any for the Black and Gold.

Montreal Impact vs. DC United, Wednesday 7:30 p.m.

Fifth and sixth in the East face off on Wednesday night. Montreal has five points on DC heading into the week, but the Impact have won just three of their last 11 games. United could make the Eastern Conference playoff race a lot more interesting if they can get three points in Montreal.

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

The only game this year between Chicago and LA is on Wednesday night. The Fire got that awful monkey off their back last week in Montreal, but things won’t get much easier for them when hosting LA. The Galaxy are coming off their first loss since June, and need good results this week to keep pace in the wild Western Conference.

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders, Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Seattle can jump to sixth place with a win in Houston Wednesday night. The Sounders have been resurgent since signing Nicolas Lodeiro, and have now won three in a row. The Dynamo are coming off a win as well; they shouldn’t be taken lightly.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. New England Revolution, Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

San Jose and New England will play Wednesday night, with both teams looking up at the red line. The Earthquakes will have a chance to leapfrog Seattle and/or Portland, and likewise New England could climb to sixth. But either side would need all three points for that to happen.

Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, Friday at 8 p.m. on Unimas

The stakes are Rocky Mountain high for Salt Lake and Colorado on Friday night. These rivals have renewed life in 2016, and enter the week with the second and third best records in the Western Conference.

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City, Saturday at 7 p.m.

When Philadelphia and Kansas City last played, it took penalties to decide last year’s Open Cup final. The first rematch of that final is on Saturday night. SKC goes cross country this week; on Tuesday they played in Vancouver in the CONCACAF Champions League.

DC United vs. Chicago Fire, Saturday at 7 p.m.

DC and Chicago don’t quite fit the rivalry theme, but they’re playing as well. The Eastern Conference playoff race is tight; DC will be viewing this as three valuable points, despite the Fire’s win last week.

Columbus Crew SC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday at 7:30 

Columbus hosts San Jose on Saturday night. It’s a big week for both teams, six points could swing the difference between missing the playoffs and making it. The Earthquakes’ travel makes it a more difficult prospect for them.

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The 401 Derby takes place on Saturday night. BMO Field has been a fortress lately; Toronto have won eight of their last nine home games in all competitions. That includes a Canadian Championship victory over Montreal. TFC also beat the Impact away in the regular season back in April.

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas, Saturday at 9 p.m.

The Texas Derby will have an hour or so to itself on Saturday night. It’s a busy week for Dallas, who have a trip to Nicaragua in the CCL on Wednesday. This is the fourth meeting of the year between these teams, including the US Open Cup. Each has won, lost, and drawn once.

LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

LA returns home for the weekend to play Vancouver. This is a gut check for the Whitecaps, who have lost their last four games in MLS, and seen their playoff hopes greatly diminished as a result. They’ve failed to score in two games against LA this year.

New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN

New York and New England get paired off in this edition of Rivalry Week. The Red Bulls will be glad to be home; their way results have been frustrating of late. The Revs have a game in midweek, and on the other side of the country at that; Jay Heaps will have to figure out a way to keep his side fresh to have any chance on Sunday.

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN

Boy, this seems familiar. Just seven days after their last meeting, Portland and Seattle will play once again. This week’s match is in Portland, where the Timbers will be hoping for a better result than they got on Sunday. The Sounders may well be ahead of their Cascadia rivals in the standings when this game kicks off, raising the stakes further for both sides.

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC, Sunday at 7 p.m. on FS1

By virtue of joining the league at the same time, Orlando and NYCFC get paired off for occasions like this. NYCFC leads the East for now, but Orlando’s midweek game against Toronto may change that. Keep an eye on Cyle Larin, who has six goals in four games against NYCFC.