1. A battle of conference leaders at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park: Sporting Kansas City puts its unblemished run on the line when Real Salt Lake visits on Saturday night. This match guarantees plenty for the neutral – both sides offer more than enough to please the eye in their own disparate ways – and promises to place two of the top MLS Cup contenders on the same field. Tempo, as always in a Sporting match, will prove important here as RSL tries to find moments to settle into its possession game. The back and forth in that battle could dictate the outcome of the affair.
2. Wondolowski's band visits Red Bull Arena: San Jose's bright start will come under severe scrutiny against New York on Saturday afternoon. The visitors have used a rebuilt back four (the central defensive pairing of Victor Bernárdez and Justin Morrow has barely put a foot wrong), a reinforced midfield and a couple of target players to allow Wondolowski to poach the goals up front. Wilman Conde's likely absence due to a groin injury could make Wondolowski's job easier (although the potential omissions of Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart through injury could make it harder), but the Colombian defender can point to two particularly in-form teammates – Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry – as the Red Bulls' insurance policy if the goals start to flow because he isn't around to plug the holes.
3. Brian Mullan's first visit to Seattle since that notorious tackle: All of the entreaties in the world – even ones from Steve Zakuani himself – won't dull the hostile reaction Mullan appears set to receive on Saturday afternoon. The key for Colorado under these circumstances: use the derision heaped upon a teammate to fuel a focused and professional road performance.
4. Unexpected battle of Western Conference cellar dwellers: Los Angeles and Portland will look to slide their seasons back on track at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night. David Beckham's potential return from a hamstring injury should boost the Galaxy, but the home side remains focused on its critical concerns at the back. Energetic teams – see New England and Sporting Kansas City, for example – have caused Los Angeles problems so far this season. Portland doesn't quite fit into that category, but it has other pieces – the bruising Kris Boyd to lead the line and wingers Kalif Alhassan and Franck Songo'o to stretch the field horizontally – that could expose weaknesses in the Galaxy rearguard.
5. Houston, Chicago meet in battle of depleted Eastern Conference playoff chasers: Both teams have watched their competitors stumble out of the gates while watching from the sidelines. One problem with all of that time off: neither side will hop back into the fray at full strength. Chicago must cope without defensive lynchpin Cory Gibbs after he had knee surgery this week, while Houston will definitely miss Colin Clark and Adam Moffat through suspension and may have to omit Brad Davis with a calf injury. That give and take favors Chicago (especially with Arne Friedrich set to debut in Gibbs' place), but the overall landscape leaves plenty of questions about the recuperative value of a matchday or two off during the early stages of the season.
Last week: 2/7 (44%)
This season: 22/42 (52%)
Columbus @ Philadelphia (3:30p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: No word on whether NBCSN went looking for another NHL playoff game to show in lieu of this rugged battle between two teams that will try to keep it tight first and foremost.
Prediction: Philadelphia win.
D.C. United @ New England (4:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Shalrie Joseph's one-match suspension gives United an ideal opportunity to halt the Revs' five-match winning streak in this particular series. Then again, it may not if United's attack doesn't display some semblance of cohesiveness.
Prediction: New England win.
Colorado @ Seattle (4:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Expect a rather uncomfortable afternoon for the visitors in this emotional meeting.
Prediction: Seattle win.
Chivas USA @ Toronto FC (4:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Have the Reds provided any reason to suggest that the Red-and-White's peculiar road winning streak ends here?
Prediction: Chivas USA win.
San Jose @ New York (7:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Injuries (Wilman Conde and Teemu Tainio) continue to threaten the Red Bulls' resurgence, but that rampant attack should keep the goals flowing through this match against the resolute Earthquakes.
Prediction: New York win.
Montreal @ FC Dallas (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Jackson's return from Brazil shows the desperate need for midfield reinforcements, but that lingering issue (and Ricardo Villar's foot injury) likely won't keep FCD from collecting all three points at home.
Prediction: FC Dallas win.
Real Salt Lake @ Sporting Kansas City (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: One fearless prediction: RSL will end Sporting's league-record run without allowing a shot on goal (245 minutes at this point) during this match.
Portland @ Los Angeles (10:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Keep a keen eye on those wide areas. If the Timbers' wingers show up and supply Kris Boyd with a few chances, the visitors could get their season back on track.
Prediction: Portland win.
Houston @ Chicago (7:00p.m., Galavision) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Two battered teams meet, one counterattacking side likely mends its wounds with all three points.
Prediction: Chicago win.
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