1. Defiant rearguard action places Sporting in position to thrive: Peter Vermes' side extended its run without conceding to 519 minutes in Wednesday's 1-0 victory at New York. There aren't a lot of secrets behind the stretch: Sporting presses high to unsettle the opposition and relies on a stout shape to repel any attacks eventually mounted. The standout performers – Aurélien Collin garnered most of the plaudits in midweek, for example – change from match to match, but the significant commitment exerted throughout the team consistently underpins the overall success. Sporting must rely on that steady industry to ensure the streak continues at Los Angeles on Saturday.
2. New York faces an awkward task against reeling New England: Real-life events, not results, are the problem for the Revolution right now. In the past couple of weeks, Jay Heaps' side has coped with Kevin Alston's leukemia diagnosis and the injuries incurred by members of the club's extended family in the Boston Marathon tragedy. Soccer offers an escape from the serious matters at hand, but it is difficult to maintain focus with all of the off-the-field matters swirling around right now. Those issues did not prevent the Revs from claiming a 0-0 draw at Seattle on Saturday. They must produce a similarly resolute and perhaps more potent showing in order to claim a first result at Red Bull Arena (three defeats in three previous trips).
3. FC Dallas aims to continue its table-topping run against Vancouver: George John's header handed FCD a 1-0 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday and pushed Schellas Hyndman's group to the top of the MLS table. FCD will maintain its perch with a home result against the impotent Whitecaps. If FCD can find a way to keep things moving fluidly through midfield and take advantage of set piece opportunities, then it should maintain its surprising place atop the league for another week against a Vancouver side poised to travel to Texas without Kenny Miller (hamstring) and Corey Hertzog (concussion-like symptoms).
4. United looks up at the rest of the Eastern Conference: The reason behind the early stumbles isn't hard to decipher: Ben Olsen's side enters Sunday's crunch clash with Philadelphia with just two goals scored. That sort of return isn't acceptable for a group with Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius in its ranks. Olsen could use a prototypical striker to replace the Lionard Pajoy-Carlos Ruiz combo, but there are enough pieces here to carve out opportunities on a regular basis. United must show its capabilities against the Union to stop the rot and work its way out the cellar.
5. San Jose adjusts to Alan Gordon's absence: Gordon procured a four-match ban for his choice of language (three games) and his flailing elbow (automatic one-match suspension for two yellow cards) in the 1-0 defeat at Portland on Sunday. His absence actually clarifies the selection process because it pushes Chris Wondolowski up top to partner Steven Lenhart for the return match against the Timbers on Sunday night, but it does remove some of the cover and some of the flexibility afforded by having all three strikers available. The home side will hope to improve significantly from a week ago and secure the points against an improving Timbers outfit.
Last week: 2/9 (22%)
This season: 19/58 (33%)
Toronto FC – Houston (4 p.m., TSN) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Oscar Boniek Garcia's return to health offers the Dynamo a timely boost in its bid to procure a road result against the Reds.
Colorado – Seattle (6 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Colorado enters this game with some momentum after securing two straight wins. Seattle needs to find its shooting boots to register its first win of the season. The previous two sentences point to a home victory. But there is something about this game – maybe the prospect of the Rapids' luck running out after two consecutive 1-0 victories, perhaps the lack of pressure for Sounders FC playing away from home against a team that will leave spaces to exploit – that leads this currently errant pundit to point to an away victory.
Prediction: Seattle win.
New York – New England (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: In this particular case, the Red Bulls' midweek game may not help the Revs much at all. New York has stumbled in its attempts to win consistently this season. And the poor display against Sporting Kansas City – plus the one-match ban incurred by Juninho Pernambucano – could prompt a significant improvement.
Prediction: New York win.
Chicago – Columbus (8:30 p.m., MLSsoccer.com) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Columbus emerged from Stade Saputo with a draw last week. If former Fire striker Dominic Oduro continues his form in front of goal, then the Crew will possess the necessary sharpness to turn its ability to frustrate into another road point.
FC Dallas – Vancouver (8:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Whitecaps boss Martin Rennie may have to recall Darren Mattocks with Corey Hertzog (concussion-like symptoms) and Kenny Miller (hamstring) omitted from the travel party. His pace should fit in nicely with the track meet likely to unfold at Pizza Hut Park.
Prediction: FC Dallas win.
Real Salt Lake – Chivas USA (9 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Go ahead and guess which Chivas USA team will show up from week to week. The Red-and-White's volatility suggests a response here is in order, but RSL will likely play the ball into the right spots to expose the frailties of the visitors' three-man defense.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Los Angeles – Sporting Kansas City (10:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Neither team will operate at full strength with the Galaxy in the midst of an injury crisis and with Sporting saddled with effects of a midweek game and a cross-country trip. What does it mean for this affair? Both teams will operate cautiously and take the point most likely on the table.
D.C. United – Philadelphia (5 p.m., ESPN2) – Goal.com preview
Overview: At some point, Dwayne De Rosario will just throw United on his back and carry his teammates out of this drought. Those efforts might as well take place against a Union side that will struggle to track the canny playmaker as he floats into dangerous areas.
Prediction: D.C United win.
San Jose – Portland (11 p.m., UniMas) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Alan Gordon's suspension complicates matters for the Earthquakes. It won't prevent them from dishing out a little revenge after last week's defeat at JELD-WEN Field, though.
Prediction: San Jose win.