1. Cascadia Cup holders Portland begin their title defense in Seattle: More than a few MLS rivalries – actual and perceived – carry some sort of name or prize to justify their relevance. Only a few of them actually inspire the sort of enmity shared between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Caleb Porter's side makes the short journey north to kick off this slate of derbies again this weekend. Portland prefers a silkier game with the former Akron man now in charge, but the outcome of these affairs tends to rely more on grit and organization. Unfortunately for the visitors, Seattle can rely on both qualities after securing safe progress to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in midweek.
2. Returning playmakers offer some creativity ahead of the Atlantic Cup: Dwayne De Rosario (suspension) and Juninho Pernambucano (left calf strain) are poised to return for the matinée at Red Bull Arena. De Rosario will likely feature from the start against his former side, while the ex-Brazilian's role remains uncertain. Both teams could use the ideas supplied by their creative fulcrums, but the Red Bulls should probably focus on shoring up matters at the back and stopping their players from encroaching on penalty kicks first.
3. Sporting Kansas City heads home for a statement game: The Eastern Conference favorites sputtered through their first two games. One victory through two away matches represents a decent return, but a pair of poor first-half performances left plenty of cause for concern. Chicago's arrival on Saturday afternoon offers Sporting a chance to move its season back on track against an opponent facing significant selection concerns in defense.
4. Canadian sides renew hostilities at Olympic Stadium: Montreal returns home to play Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon after a wildly successful trip through Seattle and Portland. Marco Schällibaum's side churned out those results by keeping matters tight at the back and pushing forward prudently. That approach may not suffice against a TFC group likely to adopted a measured mindset for this tricky away fixture. In order to continue the positive work from the first fortnight, the Impact must display an ability to control the proceedings and use its superior quality to dismiss the visitors.
5. RedZone hits MLS: NBC Sports Network will introduce the concept to MLS for the first time during a three-hour spell between televised matches on Saturday night. The program represents an important step forward for a league craving for more investment from its fans and its television viewers. Executives in Connecticut and New York will hope the action from the four matches during the window (5:30p.m. to 8:00p.m.) creates compelling fare for the consumer.
Last week: 2/8 (25%)
This season: 6/17 (35%)
New York – D.C. United (12:30p.m., NBC) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Expect a significant response from the Red Bulls in the wake of the needless collapse at San Jose on Sunday.
Prediction: New York win.
Sporting Kansas City – Chicago (3:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Look for C.J. Sapong to feature from the start (perhaps on the left side of the front three) as Sporting attempts to expose the Fire's tenuous situation at right back (Wells Thompson or Michael Videira could earn the nod with Jalil Anibaba covering for the injury Arne Friedrich in the middle and Logan Pause and Steven Kinney both hurt).
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.
Montréal – Toronto FC (4:00p.m., TSN, RDS) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Neither side will commit too many resources forward in search for the winner in this game. The home side boasts the necessary quality to take advantage of its opportunities, though.
Prediction: Montréal win.
Philadelphia – New England (5:00p.m., Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: How will the Union lineup this week after fielding two different formations in the first two weeks? And what will the Revolution do to counter that approach?
Columbus – San Jose (5:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Consider this excursion to Crew Stadium as a bit of a trap game for the Earthquakes. The late show against New York did not cure the injury concerns within the group.
Prediction: Columbus win.
Real Salt Lake – Colorado (6:00p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Rio Tinto Stadium isn't the spot for Colorado to sort out its issues.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Seattle – Portland (8:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Did the second-half fightback against Tigres offer a sign of better things to come from Sounders FC?
Prediction: Seattle win.
FC Dallas – Houston (1:00p.m., ESPN2) – Goal.com preview
Overview: This task suits the Dynamo a bit more than that midweek trek to Torreón did. If the visitors can limit David Ferreira's influence on the game, then they should leave with a point.
Los Angeles – Chivas USA (5:00p.m., UniMas)
Overview: Jose Villarreal's return from U.S. under-20 duty adds another dangerous component to an already imposing lineup. As if the champions needed more firepower.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.