Friday MLS Forecast: Week 26 - Fanning the flames of a bitter rivalry

The Forecast discusses yet another Cascadia Cup matchup and weighs the injury to Dwayne De Rosario ahead of yet another full weekend of matches.
1. Can the fare match the hype in Portland?: The bright lights (and the NBC cameras) will once against shine on JELD-WEN Field when Seattle visits on Saturday afternoon. The buildup to this nationally televised affair once again offered its fair share of bluster as these traditional rivals meet yet again. Timbers general manager/interim coach Gavin Wilkinson even said he'd place the Cascadia Cup second in his championship pecking order as his team tries to secure a piece of silverware in this otherwise lost season. For all of the outlandish statements offered before the match, these affairs often underwhelm from a technical perspective. Seattle's recent form suggests this encounter could differ from previous meetings, but the odds still favor a game that turns on graft and industry rather than brilliance. Then again, those concerns probably won't matter quite as much to the viewers at home given the raucous atmosphere expected in Portland for this encounter.

2. How will D.C. United adjust to life without Dwayne De Rosario?: The reigning MLS MVP will miss the next 10-12 weeks after sustaining a grade III MCL sprain in Canada's 2-0 defeat against Panama on Tuesday. It couldn't come at a worse time for a club already displaying signs of cracking under the strain of trying to secure a first playoff berth since 2007. Other players – notably Andy Najar and Chris Pontius – can help to pick up the slack, but De Rosario is simply irreplaceable as a singular operator. The looming home date with New England should provide an interesting glimpse into how this tense unit will cope with the unexpected loss of its captain.

3. The 4-3-3 purveyors meet again at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park: Houston enjoys the upper hand in this series after collecting a win and a draw back in July. Sporting will want to reverse the trend with Chicago closing in quickly on top spot. Both sides need to control the tempo – Sporting will want to play a bit faster – and produce the odd opportunity or two to maintain their chances of snagging the full complement of points.

4. Columbus tries to keep its playoff foothold in New York: Robert Warzycha's side enters the weekend with a slender one-point lead over D.C. United for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That position will come under threat at Red Bull Arena. The compressed table and the impending visit by Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday increases the pressure on New York to collect all three points. If Columbus remains patient and summons a solid defensive performance, the Crew could nick a point here with a timely foray on the break.

5. Roster freeze deadline hits: No amount of work will allow MLS sides to add or subtract from their roster once Saturday passes. A few teams may tinker around the edges (unless Seattle can somehow sign Eidur Gudjohnsen), but big moves are hard to seal at this late stage of the season. Expect a few minor signings over the next day or two to close out a fairly active window in league circles.

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This season: 95/210 (45%)


Houston @ Sporting Kansas City (8:30p.m., NBC Sports Network) match preview
Overview: Expect a committed and rugged affair between these two Eastern Conference heavyweights. It may not resemble the Dynamo's determined defensive display in a 0-0 draw here back in July, but this match shouldn't have a ton of goals, either. Will the home side muster the sharpness required in front of goal to secure all three points?
Prediction: Draw.

Colorado @ Los Angeles (11:00p.m., Univision Deportes) match preview
Overview: Consider this week a particularly hectic one in Galaxy injury news. David Beckham may sit with a left ankle sprain after missing practice this week, according to the Galaxy website. Edson Buddle may return for more than five minutes if he has his way. Landon Donovan isn't hamstrung any more. Christian Wilhelmsson wants to play. To sum it all up in a sentence: the home side looks primed to dispatch the Rapids and extend their recent run of fine form.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.


Philadelphia @ Toronto FC (1:00p.m., TSN/RDS) match preview
Overview: Will post-match hidings from Darren O'Dea and Paul Mariner after the failings on Wednesday night procure substantial improvement against the Union?
Prediction: Toronto FC win.

Seattle @ Portland (3:30p.m., NBC) match preview
Overview: In the final accounting of these rivalry meetings, the result usually favors the more determined outfit. Both sides will bear down to claim the points, but Sounders FC is simply more capable of turning the match.
Prediction: Seattle win.

Columbus @ New York (7:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: The usual cadence – New York possesses, Columbus counters – may not apply as rigidly as usual here, though it probably should. Robert Warzycha's side hasn't defended as well as usual in the past few weeks. Keep an eye on the communication at the back for the Crew as the Red Bulls flood the attacking third and interchange often to create matchup issues. As the second goal at Gillette Stadium last week showed, the Crew sometimes struggles to keep all parties on the same page.
Prediction: New York win.

New England @ D.C. United (7:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: Anything and everything is on the table for this match, including a Revolution victory. New England has pitched two straight shutouts and hasn't lost in three matches. If United can't sort itself out before the match, this game could result in dropped points at an inopportune juncture. With that warning mentioned, it does appear more likely that Ben Olsen will rally his troops for this manageable affair.
Prediction: D.C. United win.

Vancouver @ FC Dallas (8:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: Whitecaps boss Martin Rennie told The Province he didn't plan to shift his side into a 4-4-2 setup ahead of this contest. It is a decision that won't go over well in British Columbia if it holds, but it seems sensible enough given the side's devotion to a 4-2-3-1 approach this season. In the absence of a formation switch, the Whitecaps will need to produce more energy and more incisiveness in the final third in order to turn around the recent run of poor form against a fellow playoff contender. Don't discount the impact of the international break in the outcome as the Whitecaps sorely needed some rest for a few key figures prior to the stretch run.
Prediction: Vancouver win.

Montréal @ Chicago (8:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: This match represents something like last chance saloon for the Impact. Montréal just doesn't enough games left to drop points against another Eastern Conference playoff rival. Unfortunately for Jesse Marsch and his players, the Fire continues to churn out results without drawing much attention. This game should prove no different.
Prediction: Chicago win.

San Jose @ Chivas USA (10:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: Not a single team in the league thought San Jose needed another striker, but the lottery process handed Frank Yallop another option anyways. Marcus Tracy won't feature much before the end of the season with Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski ahead of him in the pecking order, but his modest price tag ensures his status won't matter too much. As for the game, the visitors should roll over a disorganized Red-and-White outfit that can't defend right now.
Prediction: San Jose win.

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