MLS Week 8 Preview: Cascadia Cup, NY vs. LA, more

Image, SoundersFC.com

by RYAN BRISTER
MLS Beat Writer

The value of Major League Soccer’s new television deal is readily apparent in the eighth week of the season. Out of nine games in total, five will be nationally televised in the U.S. Of those, the highlights are on Sunday, with a cross-country match between LA and New York, and the first Cascadia Cup match between Seattle and Portland.

Chicago Fire vs. New York City FC, Friday at 8 p.m. on Unimas

It’s been so long since the Fire played that some people have forgotten they’re in MLS. In all seriousness, their two-week break, a product of getting out of Montreal’s Champions League path, has given the Fire plenty of time to prepare for NYCFC. So far this year the visitors haven’t shown that such preparation is necessary. David Villa remains out of the lineup with a hamstring issue, while Mix Diskerud is questionable. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders is out due to a suspension.

Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas, Friday at 10 p.m. on Unimas

It’s unlikely that Dallas has forgotten what happened the last time they played Colorado, seeing as it was only two weeks ago. The Rapids destroyed Dallas, embarrassing them with a 4-0 defeat in front of their own fans. It’s not a coincidence that Dallas wore their road kits last week at home; they were hiding their identities. Now they get a chance for a revenge and to restore their good name, on the same channel to boot. For the Rapids, Marcelo Sarvas is suspended due to his stomp on Clint Dempsey last week.

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

Columbus and Philly played twice last October in a race for the final playoff spots in the East. The Crew pulled out two late wins, and made the playoffs, and the Union faded down the stretch. They carry similar momentum heading into this meeting; Columbus won comfortably last week against Orlando, while Philly blew a second-half lead against New England.

New England vs. Real Salt Lake, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 

It won’t receive as much attention as some of the other games this week, but New England vs. RSL has the potential to be a very good game. It could also be dull; they’ve combined for four scoreless draws so far in 2014. The Revs appear to be re-discovering last year’s quality, and all of a sudden are tied for first in the East. RSL is trying to figure themselves out as tactics shift under Jeff Cassar. Salt Lake will be without Jamison Olave and Sebastian Saucedo, who both saw red last week.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Houston vs. Kansas City turned into something of a rivalry for a couple years while they battled in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now they are in the west, and while it is early in the season, games like this could go a long way towards determining who will make the playoffs. Both teams enter the game with nine points, but in the tight Western Conference, Houston is 6th and SKC is 9th.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. DC United, Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

Another really good match-up this week pits first place in the West against first place in the East. The Whitecaps return home after a hard-fought win last week against RSL, boasting the most points in MLS. In DC, they meet an opponent with a similar predilection for grinding out low-scoring victories.

New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy, Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2

The defending champions make their only trip to New York this season on Sunday. When the Galaxy and Red Bulls met last year, LA thrashed New York to the tune of 4-0. A lot has changed since them. The Red Bulls have been one of the most impressive teams in MLS so far this season, but the Galaxy are their toughest opponent yet. LA has found a way to squeeze results out of sub-par performances and a lineup nagged by injuries. Robbie Keane, for example, is doubtful for Sunday’s game.

Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC, Sunday at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

Rumors are swirling about Greg Vanney’s job security ahead of Toronto FC’s trip to Orlando. The Reds have lost four games in a row despite the big offseason signings of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. In Orlando, they’ll be greeted by 30,000 fans and a team that’s started the season better. The Lions will be without Rafael Ramos, who got sent off after a brief but bad showing in Columbus.

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers, Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

No matchup in MLS produces quite the same noise as Sounders vs. Timbers. On Sunday, they meet for the 89th time, and the 12th in MLS. Seattle had the advantage last year, taking two wins and a draw from their Cascadia rivals. Those three games produced 16 goals. Both teams are still sorting themselves out this year. A single point separates them, though Portland has played one more game.