Friday MLS Forecast: Week 5 - Assessing derbies and marquee matches alike

The Forecast heralds the debut of Canada's most prominent spat and previews the other weekend fixtures.
1. Is MLS ready for the debut of (potentially) its biggest rivalry?: Plenty of contenders already lay claim to that crown (including one pair of combatants this weekend), but the palpable hatred between Montréal and Toronto exceeds all of the other contenders by quite some distance. Neither side has produced anything close to its top form in domestic play this season, though TFC will point to its recently concluded CONCACAF Champions League run as a sign of its potential. Graft, however, could prove the more important point on a day when Canada's two largest cities meet for the first time on this stage and the Olympic Stadium crowd offers a glimpse into the palpable disgust cultivated through years of political, social and sporting disagreements.

2. Big game for Galaxy, but will the big time players show: Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena kept the availability of David Beckham (various maladies, Arena told ESPN Los Angeles) and Landon Donovan (quadriceps) for Saturday's marquee clash at Sporting Kansas City under wraps this week. If both men can walk, they should probably play. At this point, the Galaxy need all hands on deck to stop the rot. In order to accomplish that goal against the league's lone unblemished side, Beckham should increase his work rate in central midfield and Donovan must offer the incisive runs that drive this team forward. Even those alternations (if they come to pass) might not prove sufficient against a Sporting side capable of pushing the tempo far too high for Los Angeles' liking.

3. Univision Deportes debuts with a glimpse at the Thierry Henry show: The new, Spanish-language sports channel hits the airwaves on DISH Network on Saturday. One of its first programs will showcase the in-form Henry as he and his Red Bull teammates attempt to extend their winning streak to three matches. Columbus may try to reproduce the formula it used successfully in Toronto last Saturday – soak up pressure and wait for the break to snag a goal – as it attempts to somehow slow down Henry and company. The local markets in Columbus and New York will see this potentially interesting battle on regional carriers, but the limited carriage for the network elsewhere may just limit other viewers to highlights.

4. Consistency the key as D.C. United and Seattle meet: Both sides will want to establish a base line in the wake of surprising results last weekend. Seattle fell to San Jose after Marc Burch conceded a needless penalty by hacking down irritant extraordinaire Steven Lenhart off the ball during the first half. For a team with lofty goals, that type of result at home simply won't do. United faces the alternative problem after its resounding 4-1 victory over FC Dallas: can Ben Olsen's side replicate the marauding performance used to collect three points last Friday? Anything less could leave D.C. in some trouble against a Sounders FC group poised to rebound from its unexpected setback.

5. Rocky Mountain tussle poses significant test for Real Salt Lake: Jason Kreis will look back on that enthralling 3-2 victory at Portland on Saturday and wonder if that joyous occasion represented a rare respite from the plague of injuries that continues to ravage through his squad. Ned Grabavoy (dislocated rib) and Javier Morales (hamstring strain – out two to three weeks, according to the Salt Lake Tribune) appear set to miss out on this crunch clash with Colorado at Rio Tinto Stadium after suffering injuries during Wednesday's tedious 1-0 victory over Montréal. RSL's run of three matches in eight days and the Rapids' neat passing game inject even more intrigue into a derby match that usually brims with vigor from the opening whistle.

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Last week: 4/9 (44%)
This season: 20/35 (57%)


Toronto FC @ Montréal (12:00p.m., TSN/RDS) – match preview
Overview: The first MLS match in this surefire derby could go the way of the side that actually exhibits some form of defensive shape.
Prediction: Draw.

New York @ Columbus (3:00p.m., Univision Deportes) – match preview
Overview: Three wins from three represents the only acceptable result for a Red Bulls side currently riding Thierry Henry's terrific run of form. Columbus' defiant defensive shape may prevent that outcome, however.
Prediction: Draw.

Los Angeles @ Sporting Kansas City (4:00p.m., ESPN/ESPN Deportes) – match preview
Overview: Talk about a statement game for the Galaxy. The only problem: Sporting plays with too much energy to allow them to settle the match down enough to make it.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.

Vancouver @ San Jose (7:30p.m.) – match preview
Overview: Is any game this weekend more likely to end up as a nil-nil draw?
Prediction: Draw.

Seattle @ D.C. United (7:30p.m.) – match preview
Overview: The Marc Burch bowl brings Sounders FC back to RFK Stadium. Unfortunately for the home side, these meetings – remember that painful Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup demise? – tend to favor the visitors.
Prediction: Seattle win.

Colorado @ Real Salt Lake (9:00p.m.) – match preview
Overview: These two sides genuinely don't like each other. It makes for quite the spectacle, though few people outside the Rocky Mountains will actually see it.
Prediction: Draw.

Chivas USA @ Portland (10:30p.m.) – match preview
Overview: No excuses for the home side here. Playoff teams place the disappointments of last week behind them and win these sorts of games in their own building.
Prediction: Portland win.

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