Friday MLS Forecast - Week 21: Absences alter showcase showdown

Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City must adjust to the circumstances as the respective conference leaders prepare for their high-profile clash on Saturday night.

1. Top-of-the-table clash missing some key pieces: Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City enter their anticipated clash at Rio Tinto Stadium at something less than full strength. RSL acquired Brandon McDonald from D.C. United to fill a gaping, injury-induced void in central defense this week and watched four starters -- Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran and Alvaro Saborio -- remain with their countries at the Gold Cup through the weekend. Sporting KC lost center back stalwart Matt Besler to the same event, but it can at least count on forward C.J. Sapong, recalled from his loan to Orlando City, if it so chooses. Both teams possess enough strength in depth to cover, and both teams still boast their creative fulcrums in Javier Morales and Graham Zusi. Those missing pieces strip away some of the meaning from this enticing affair, though.

2. Seattle copes without Eddie Johnson, retains Osvaldo Alonso: Sounders boss Sigi Schmid lamented the loss of his U.S. international striker to Gold Cup duty, but he at least welcomed Alonso back into the fold after an independent review panel retracted that ridiculous red card from the defeat at San Jose last weekend. The best news ahead of Colorado's visit: Johnson's departure means Schmid can return to the potent Obafemi Martins-Lamar Neagle partnership this weekend.

3. Galaxy try to sidetrack surging Vancouver: Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena retained the services of Omar Gonzalez -- off to the Gold Cup after this match if the United States advances to the semifinals -- for this difficult test against the in-form Whitecaps. Martin Rennie's side has lost in each of its four trips to Carson, Calif., but this particular affair -- especially given the outbursts over the past few weeks -- provides a compelling chance to end that streak.

4. Will the struggles end for one of the two sides at Stade Saputo?: Montréal enters this match without a win in its past four games. The recent downturn in form prompted Impact investor/operator Joey Saputo to bat away Colombian-based rumors about lining up Juan Carlos Osorio to replace incumbent coach Marco Schällibaum. FCD coach Schellas Hyndman spent much of his week discussing impending reinforcements Erick and Mauro Díaz, but he must conjure up more instant solutions to end his side's seven-game run without a victory.

5. Toronto FC copes with another departure, shirks responsibility for poor results: Darren O'Dea decamped for Ukraine this week after he failed to come to terms with the Reds on a new deal. He wanted to stay, but the proposed revisions to his max-plus deal forced him into a lucrative move to Eastern Europe. TFC uttered the usual tropes about the mistakes of predecessors without offering solutions to the current malaise. And the abject display in the 1-0 defeat at Chivas USA on Wednesday suggest Ryan Nelsen and company have plenty of work to do ahead of New York's visit on Saturday afternoon.

Last Forecast: 4/8 (50%)

This season: 67/156 (43%)


Seattle – Colorado (4 p.m.) – preview

Overview: The Sounders have won seven consecutive matches against the Rapids. Another vibrant performance from Neagle and Martins up front could make it eight.

Prediction: Seattle win.

Toronto FC – New York (4 p.m., TSN/RDS2) – preview

Overview: The visitors enter this fixture with an eight-match unbeaten run against the Reds. And the meek display offered by TFC in midweek, even while holding a man advantage, suggests the Red Bulls will receive ample opportunity to extend the streak this weekend.

Prediction: New York win.

Montréal – FC Dallas (7 p.m., TVA Sports) – preview

Overview: This match probably came a week or two too early for FCD. Fabian Castillo's one-match ban comes at an inopportune juncture given the Impact's overall dearth of pace, while the prospect of adding one or two more talented players into the mix could have provided FCD with a better chance for success in Quebec.

Prediction: Montréal win.

Philadelphia – Portland (7:30 p.m.) – preview

Overview: The league's most prolific first-half side (Philadelphia with 15 goals before the break) meets the league's most prolific second-half team (Portland with 21 goals after the interval) at PPL Park. Jack McInerney's return provides hope that the Union can produce another bright opening period and snatch a result here.

Prediction: Draw.

Columbus – New England (7:30 p.m.) – preview

Overview: Expect the visitors to improve upon a poor midweek display at Colorado to claim a point at Crew Stadium.

Prediction: Draw.

Chicago – D.C. United (8:30 p.m.) – preview

Overview: No excuses for the Fire in this match: three points or bust against a side that hasn't scored from the run of play in what feels like several years.

Prediction: Chicago win.

Real Salt Lake – Sporting Kansas City (10 p.m., – preview

Overview: One of the most intriguing battles in football, possession versus pressure, should play out neatly at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL probably shades this match on home soil, but it must keep careful watch for a potential letdown after that long-awaited victory in Texas over FC Dallas last weekend.

Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.

Los Angeles – Vancouver (10:30 p.m.) – preview

Overview: Camilo – 10 goals since May 10 – can't keep scoring forever. And this sort of game, especially with the Galaxy perturbed in the wake of yet another late defeat last weekend, might offer a natural stopping point.

Prediction: Los Angeles win.