Toronto FC travels to D.C. United for the first meeting this season between two inextricably linked clubs.1. Nelsen, Payne return to R.F.K. Stadium: Toronto FC president Kevin Payne and coach Ryan Nelsen will don opposing colors in the District for the first time when the Reds visit D.C. United on Saturday night. The two teams share a host of bonds – including those two prominent figures and ex-TFC forward Dwayne De Rosario – and an innate need to produce results sooner rather than later. The circumstances add plenty of spice to an otherwise abject game between two teams currently floundering at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
2. Another club connection creates further concerns in southern California: Chivas USA sporting president Dennis te Kloese told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday that C.D. Guadalajara will likely include Eric Avila and Giovani Casillas in its squad for the upcoming Liga MX campaign. The decision to strip Chivas USA of two of its primary assets – Avila ranks high on the short list of players to burnish their reputations with the club this season – in the middle of the MLS season creates a dangerous precedent. It is one thing for Chivas USA to function as a sister club. It is quite another for it to operate as a farm team for the more illustrious side south of the border.
3. Portland, FC Dallas renew acquaintances in a clash of unexpected heavyweights: Both teams enter this meeting at JELD-WEN Field perched near the top of the Western Conference. A previous meeting between the teams yielded a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas Stadium on May 8. Expect this match to offer a bit more incisiveness in the attacking third – the two teams mustered one goal from the run of play last month – and plenty of entertainment for the Timbers Army and everyone else watching around the country.
4. Mark Watson takes his bow in Commerce City: The former assistant coach assumed interim control in San Jose when former Canadian international teammate Frank Yallop parted ways with the club last Friday. Watson faces a difficult task to alter the Earthquakes' robust approach without sacrificing the usual – if, at this point, surprisingly absent – effectiveness in the final third. He will start his quest when he takes his charges to Colorado for a date with the surging Rapids (unbeaten in their past six matches). Perhaps he can pick up a few pointers from Oscar Pareja's retooling efforts along the way.
5. Keep an eye on the Open Cup fallout: Five of the 10 teams poised to take the field this weekend wrestled with midweek cup fixtures. Most of the managers juggled their sides appropriately, but one team sustained a fairly important injury (Columbus defender Glauber limped off in the Crew's 2-1 defeat at Chicago on Thursday) and others may have to compensate for those additional demands this weekend (particularly the Crew with the short turnaround, though only a handful of starters featured at Toyota Park).
Last Forecast: 6/9 (67%)
This season: 52/119 (44%)
Portland – FC Dallas (5:00p.m., ESPN) – Goal.com preview
Overview: The placement of this match – directly after the Confederations Cup opener between Brazil and Japan – offers an ideal platform for these two Western Conference powers to impress. Portland must avoid conceding set pieces in dangerous spots – Michel usually provides threatening service to one of several threatening options – and stop FCD from playing on the break in order to procure the desired result.
Prediction: Portland win.
D.C. United – Toronto FC (7:00p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Expect United coach Ben Olsen to restore Dwayne De Rosario to the starting XI for this match against the Reds. His hat trick in the Open Cup victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday night certainly stacks the evidence in his favor. The prospect of condemning TFC to another defeat and drawing United's 12-match winless streak to a close supplies the former MLS MVP with plenty of impetus to repeat his Open Cup heroics.
Prediction: D.C. United win.
Columbus – Montréal (7:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Columbus must grapple with the fallout from its rearranged Open Cup defeat against Chicago on Thursday. The quick turnaround certainly won't help matters for a trio of starters, but the knee injury incurred by Glauber could prove more influential. If the Brazilian defender isn't fit enough to feature against the Impact (sans the suspended Alessandro Nesta), then the Crew must compensate quickly in order to avoid extending its winless streak to five league matches.
Prediction: Montreal win.
Colorado – San Jose (9:00p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Mark Watson's first match in charge presents a difficult test for the in-form Rapids. Every established trait – and particularly the direct work through midfield toward the front men – comes under close scrutiny now. Oscar Pareja and his players must suss out how the Earthquakes will amend their approach under Watson and tinker with their own work accordingly in order to collect maximum points.
Vancouver – New England (10:00p.m., TVA Sports) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Whitecaps boss Martin Rennie faces significant selection issues in central defense with Jay DeMerit (Achilles), Andy O'Brien (hamstring) and Brad Rusin (calf) ruled out for this encounter. New England has shut up shop to claim two draws during its two previous excursions to this region of North America, but this affair may offer an opportunity to pursue a road victory if the match remains close in the waning stages.
Follow KYLE MCCARTHY on or shoot him an email