Long-awaited meeting arrives at critical time for Orlando City, Sporting Kansas City
Connections bind Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City together as the two sides prepare for their first MLS meeting on Sunday (live, 7:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO). Dom Dwyer's exploits during a loan spell in Orlando paved the way for his success at Sporting and sparked a tampering fracas earlier this year. Graham Zusi grew up in the Orlando area. And the two teams once shared a successful partnership truncated by Orlando City's MLS ambitions.
All of those ties are all well and good, but both teams enter this affair with bigger priorities at hand. Orlando City can't defend or score reliably. Sporting Kansas City sits in the middle of a furious race for Western Conference playoff positioning. Suffice it to say there are more pressing matters for both teams to weigh. Orlando City must stop the rot defensively -- 17 goals conceded during the current six-match winless streak -- to harbor any chance of obtaining a result with Kaka hobbled. Sporting must locate the necessary spark to exploit those concerns to claim a first win in five attempts. Those fundamental concerns might obscure the amusing sidelines, but they warrant every last dollop of attention given the serious stakes at hand.
Defensive concerns leave Impact exposed in Los Angeles
If only Didier Drogba could partner Laurent Ciman in defense, too. Drogba's hat trick in the wild 4-3 victory over Chicago salvaged a dire display at the back. Ciman returns for the daunting trek to LA Galaxy on Saturday. His presence shores up the back four considerably, but he is only one man tasked with setting out a defiant stall against a Galaxy side capable of tearing teams apart. The issues for the Impact -- particularly with the lack of mobility in central midfield and the unhealthy reliance on Ciman to pull everything together -- pile up in those sorts of scenarios. Drogba must combine with Ignacio Piatti to do his part once more to give Montréal any chance of escaping with a result.
Surging Revs kick off grueling week in Toronto
After emerging from the annual rough patch during the middle of the campaign, New England travels to BMO Field on Sunday with a six-match unbeaten run in tow and a difficult stretch ahead. TFC represents the first hurdle in a three-match week including a home date with New York Red Bulls and a visit to Montréal. It is by some distance the most difficult period remaining on the Revs' otherwise manageable schedule. In order to start off the exacting run properly, the Revs must close off TFC's ability to mine the channels and stretch the Reds' midfield shape with the sort of torrid movement that pulled apart Orlando City last weekend.
Earthquakes host Sounders in genuine six-pointer
Seattle continued to emerge from a summer swoon with a nervier-than-expected 2-1 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday. The frailties exhibited in that game -- particularly the continued struggles on set pieces -- pose a problem against a clever Earthquakes outfit already boasting two victories over Sounders FC this season. San Jose possesses all of the tools -- the clever movement from Quincy Amarikwa and Chris Wondolowski, the industry in midfield with Anibal Godoy back from international duty, the willingness to use pace in the wide areas -- to unsettle Seattle at Avaya Stadium. The key for the Earthquakes: cutting out the mistakes that cost them so dearly against Philadelphia last weekend. If they can accomplish the feat and locate their usual solidity, then they might just end the weekend above the red line.
Dynamo, Real Salt Lake target a climb toward the red line
Most of the discussions surrounding the Western Conference playoff picture focus on the top seven sides. Houston and Real Salt Lake linger on the fringes of the debate. Their meeting on Saturday provides an opportunity to shift the discussion somewhat. Owen Coyle's side poses a more obvious threat: a victory over RSL could bring the Dynamo within three points of the red line by the end of the weekend. Whether Houston -- one of the league's patchier outfits this season -- can muster the sustained run of form necessary is another story entirely. RSL stands on the cusp of irrelevancy after suffering four defeats in the past five matches. This trip to BBVA Compass Stadium stands as perhaps the last opportunity to keep those flickering playoff hopes alive.