Friday MLS Forecast: Week 14 - Celebrating the most prominent of local derbies

The Forecast discusses the high-profile affair between Portland and Seattle and ponders a few other key storylines ahead of a compelling Week 14 slate.
1. Another Cascadia clash will draw top billing … : Expect the barbs and the tackles to keep flying when Portland and Seattle meet at JELD-WEN Field on Sunday afternoon. Both teams are struggling for form at the moment, but these sorts of matches often deviate from the standard fare. Vim and vigor usually matter more than strategies and tactics. It may not make for a particularly smooth transition from England-Italy for those ESPN viewers (then again, it may just do so with the way Roy Hodgson's side approaches the game these days), but this match should provide compelling theater to those people who stick around for it nonetheless.

2. … but another rivalry game may exert more influence on the table: Two of the top three sides in the top-heavy Eastern Conference meet at a sold-out Red Bull Arena in the nightcap on Sunday. D.C. United rests atop the table after a gritty victory at Philadelphia last weekend, while New York sits in third spot after snatching a point in Vancouver on Wednesday night. This Red Bulls starting XI should look considerably stronger than the midweek group with Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez both expected to feature. New York coach Hans Backe is also back on the sidelines after missing the midweek trek due to personal matters. In order for the Red Bulls to ward off the dangers posed by Dwayne De Rosario and his teammates, they will have to receive a strong and somewhat mobile performance from Márquez if he starts to snuff out United's dynamic attacking group and test the United back four with runs down the channels.

3. Midweek meltdown provides plenty of inspiration for Real Salt Lake: Jason Kreis' side squandered a two-goal lead in midweek to lose 3-2 at home to Los Angeles. RSL just doesn't beat itself like that very often (or ever at home, according to the club record books). And when the Claret-and-Cobalt slips up, you can bet a response is forthcoming with haste. San Jose won't make it easy on the Western Conference leaders after popping up at the death to stun Colorado with a 2-1 victory at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. That late show – complete with a theatrical tumble by Alan Gordon to win the decisive penalty – reinforced the Earthquakes' sterling credentials in the final stages of matches and supplied yet another talking point for RSL ahead of the affair. The home side will have to cut out those defensive mistakes from midweek to come away with three points against a better opponent.

4. Are the Galaxy really for real this time?: Optimism is running high in southern California these days after that victory in Sandy on Wednesday night. Two wins on the trot – particularly with the second one coming in such stunning fashion – could herald a new dawn for a side that has struggled mightily for much of the campaign. Saturday's date with Vancouver poses a tricky test for the Galaxy because they will have to sustain their momentum against a Whitecaps side capable of slicing through their ramshackle defense. With the way this season has gone to date for the Galaxy, this visit by the Whitecaps may just reveal this two-game stretch as a tempting oasis in the middle of this unconvincing title defense.

5. Old friends reunite in Toronto: It seems fitting that Paul Mariner would host New England in his first home match as TFC boss. Mariner has perked up the Reds in his first two matches, but he'll have a difficult task on his hands to lift up his charges after Houston fought back to secure a 3-3 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday night. TFC's performance for much of the first 70 minutes or so will give Jay Heaps plenty to ponder as he tries to pull one over on his former coach, though.

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Last week: 4/9 (44%)
This season: 52/114 (46%)


New England @ Toronto FC (5:30p.m., GOL TV Canada) match preview
Overview: Don't discount the impact of Clyde Simms' likely return after four matches out with an ankle injury, but the Reds should come out with a point to prove after wilting in Houston in midweek.
Prediction: Toronto FC win.

Sporting Kansas City @ Philadelphia (7:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: Credit Peter Vermes with a deft bit of squad rotation in midweek. He left out a handful of key starters and still managed to coax his team to a 1-1 draw at Seattle. With a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against Dayton looming on Tuesday night, how will he juggle his lineup for this affair against a Union side in desperate need of a result? For that matter, how will John Hackworth cope with similar demands?
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.

Houston @ Montréal (7:30p.m., TVA Sports) match preview
Overview: Those surprisingly persistent hiccups at the back could prove fatal to Houston's chances at Stade Saputo.
Prediction: Montréal win.

Columbus @ Chicago (8:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: The recent setback on the DP search in Argentina won't boost the Crew ahead of this game, but the Fire's inability to locate any semblance of consistency still leaves the door open for a seventh straight result with another committed performance at the back.
Prediction: Draw.

San Jose @ Real Salt Lake (9:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: Is this another night for late magic for the visitors or is it a night of atonement for the home side?
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.

Chivas USA @ FC Dallas (9:00p.m., Galavision) match preview
Overview: FCD may welcome back Brek Shea off the bench, but Chivas USA's consistency on the road should allow the Red-and-White to notch a second win on the trot.
Prediction: Chivas USA win.

Vancouver @ Los Angeles (10:00p.m., TSN/RDS) match preview
Overview: Isn't it just a bit scary to ponder how the Whitecaps will fare with Barry Robson and perhaps another defensive signing in the fold over the next month or so?
Prediction: Draw.


Seattle @ Portland (5:00p.m., ESPN/ESPN Deportes) match preview
Overview: Mike Fucito has received a significant amount of attention this week after switching sides via Montreal earlier this year. Will he have the opportunity to back up those comments on the field or will his words just provide a distraction from the main course?
Prediction: Draw.

D.C. United @ New York (7:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) match preview
Overview: The big nights often end with a whimper for the Red Bulls. But this particular occasion – especially with Henry back in the mix – may just buck the trend.
Prediction: New York win.

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