MLS Week 24 Preview: Big clashes out west, more

Yankee Stadium Soccer NYCFC

by RYAN BRISTER
MLS Writer

Week 24 of the Major League Soccer season is highlighted by a pair of big games in the Western Conference. The top four teams out west all face each other, and in games that kick off at the same time, to boot.

New York City FC vs. DC United, Thursday at 7 p.m.

NYCFC faces east-leading DC United for the first time in their history. United has won three straight games in three very different ways, most recently a 1-0 win on one shot in Montreal. They tend to play more conservatively on the road, and will look to shut down Andrea Pirlo and David Villa. Frank Lampard is a game-time decision.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids, Friday at 11 p.m. on Unimas

Hard to see many east coasters staying up for this one. The two worst records in the Western Conference face off late on Friday night, as the Earthquakes and Rapids try to spark late playoff pushes. Colorado rescued a 1-1 draw against San Jose back in May.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 7 p.m.

Toronto has been hard to figure out this year; they seem to alternate good performances with bad ones. If that pattern holds, it would spell trouble for the Red Bulls on Saturday night. The Red Bulls are coming off a victory over NYCFC, and could give themselves a sizable cushion on second place in the East with a victory.

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Quietly, the Dynamo have inserted themselves into the Western Conference playoff chase. With a win in Foxboro, they would leap frog Seattle for sixth place for at least 24 hours. The Revs had last week off, and are hoping that the return of Jermaine Jones will spur better performances than the ones they’ve seen lately.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Saturday at 9 p.m. 

This is a game with huge implications in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield races. Vancouver has five more points than fourth-place Kansas City, but SKC has three games in hand. While Vancouver has the best away record in MLS, Sporting Park has been a fortress this season where no road team has come out with a victory. In July, SKC went to Vancouver and won; the Whitecaps are unbeaten in four games since.

FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy, Saturday at 9 p.m.

Kicking off at the same time is another big game out West as Dallas hosts LA. The Galaxy have completed the assembly of their super team, but a trip to Dallas may be the toughest challenge they’ve faced since the arrival of Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool legend looked gassed after his last match in the Texas heat; the forecast is calling for 100 degrees on Saturday. Dallas came from behind to win 2-1 in the first meeting this season, back when Robbie Keane was injured and Gerrard and Giovani Dos Santos hadn’t shown up yet.

Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers, Saturday at 10 p.m.

The Timbers have played RSL twice this season, and have yet to score. The two sides played a 0-0 draw on opening night, and Salt Lake kept a clean sheet in their Open Cup victory over Portland. That doesn’t bode well for a Timbers side that has scored just three goals in their last five games.

Seattle Sounders vs. Orlando City SC, Sunday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2

Seattle will hope to have Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins available to them when they host Orlando for the first time. The Sounders’ struggles without their two biggest stars have been well documented, but this week they went out and added some talent at the transfer deadline. Panama international defender Roman Torres has joined the club as has Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez.

Orlando has hit a rough patch of their own, with just five points in their last seven matches.

Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire, Sunday at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

After beating them in the Open Cup on Wednesday, the Union will host the Fire again on Sunday. This is the second nationally broadcast match between these two teams this year, and those who have watched them play will wonder why. Playoff hopes are fading, but there is still time.