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Friday MLS Forecast: Week 18 - Heralding the protracted star of a blossoming talent

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MLS Preview: Seattle Sounders FC - Sporting Kansas City
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MLS Preview: Seattle Sounders FC - Sporting Kansas City

1. Graham Zusi makes a statement with new Sporting deal: The influential midfielder has agreed to a contract extension with Sporting Kansas City, according to a tweet from club CEO Robb Heineman on Thursday night, which was followed by an official announcement Friday morning. The new pact marks the second fresh deal for Zusi in as many years and reaffirms his commitment to club in the face of potential European interest. At this stage, the revamped agreement protects both sides – more compensation for Zusi, more leverage for Sporting to reject any potential suitors – for the present and the future.

2. Clubs brace for the impact of the Gold Cup: U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann named 10 MLS players – including Los Angeles midfielder Landon Donovan and Philadelphia striker Jack McInerney – in his squad for the tournament. Other coaches from around the region will include several others in their congregations for the gathering. Some teams – think Philadelphia without McInerney, Real Salt Lake without Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando and Álvaro Saborío – will feel the brunt of the selection process more than others. One silver lining: most of the regularly afflicted teams received a modest reprieve when Klinsmann omitted his regulars pursuant to an agreement struck with MLS prior to the latest round of World Cup qualifying.

3. San Jose welcomes Los Angeles to Stanford Stadium: More than 40,000 fans are expected to pack into the former World Cup venue for the California Clasico. Los Angeles will hope this derby match offers a bit more spark than the limp victory against Chivas USA. Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski cares enough about the affair to push through a foot injury to feature. Perhaps those factors – and several others – will ensure a spectacle worth the additional scrutiny afforded by the significant crowd.

4. Contract wrangling in Seattle: Summer always carries a bit of intrigue in Seattle. The next month or two will certainly fall into that category with former star Fredy Montero linked with a move to Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon and current midfielder Mario Martínez in line for a new deal in fairly short order. Seattle stays at the top of the Western Conference pack because it usually manages these situations deftly. Another tidy summer – and the lucrative sale of Montero to a European side – will ensure the Sounders remain on their usual course through the second half of the season.

5. New England, Real Salt Lake seek to break their peculiar hexes: RSL has not won on five previous trips to Toronto. New England has not registered a victory over Chivas USA in six attempts. This weekend provides an opportunity for both teams to rectify those concerns and scoop up the three points they expect to claim against these sputtering sides.

Last Forecast: 4/8 (20%)

This season: 57/132 (43%)

Saturday

Toronto FC – Real Salt Lake (1 p.m., TSN) – Goal.com preview

Overview: Is this the visit that RSL finally ends its drought at BMO Field? Form suggests yes. Precedent suggests not.

Prediction: Draw.

Philadelphia – FC Dallas (5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com preview

Overview: Does the heavy victory over New York create a bit of a trap game for the Union against a chastened FCD side?

Prediction: FC Dallas win.

Montréal – Colorado (7 p.m., TVA Sports/Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview

Overview: These are exactly the sort of games the Impact find a way to win. In order to buck that trend, Colorado must push forward at the right points and track Marco Di Vaio carefully.

Prediction: Montréal win.

D.C. United – Vancouver (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview

Overview: Can United keep its recent string of results going against the Whitecaps? With two U.S. Open Cup wins and a league triumph over San Jose in the bag, D.C. is working its way up from the bottom.

Prediction: D.C. United win.

Sporting Kansas City – Columbus (8:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview

Overview: Both teams must deal with suspensions ahead of this match. Matías Sánchez's ban probably carries more weight than C.J. Sapong's absence given the Crew's selection issues at the moment.

Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.

San Jose – Los Angeles (10:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview

Overview: Do not expect a ton of soccer in this match. These meetings often descend into the muck and the mire. But one of these sides desperately needs a victory and possesses 40,000 or so reasons to deliver upon that desire.

Prediction: San Jose win.

Chivas USA – New England (10:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview

Overview: The past week provided a reality check for the Revolution. Will the visitors learn from those missteps and secure the desired triumph here?

Prediction: New England win.

Sunday

New York – Houston (2 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes) – Goal.com preview

Overview: Both teams enter this match in a bit of a rut. New York's work on the ball should prove the difference here.

Prediction: New York win.

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