1. Forget about those aesthetic concerns in Washington for now: D.C. United has now won two matches in two attempts without Dwayne De Rosario after an ugly 1-0 win over Philadelphia at PPL Park. For a club that hasn't played in the postseason since 2007, the exact nature of the victories matter far less than the final results. That balance isn't always the case for the folks at RFK Stadium, but the dogged determination of this particular group makes grinding out results a viable -- if somewhat dangerous, given the personnel on hand -- option during the final stages of the campaign.
2. United's victory ratchets up the pressure on Chicago, Columbus, Houston and New York...: Ben Olsen's side hopped over the Dynamo and the Crew to snatch fourth spot heading into the weekend. That lofty perch offers United a temporary resting place in the shuffle ahead with the second-placed Fire just five points ahead of the sixth-placed Crew heading into the weekend. Consistency remains the key for all five of those playoff chasers as they attempt to navigate through a scenario that changes so readily from week-to-week.
3. ...and underscores the importance of the six-pointer at Toyota Park: No team in the Eastern Conference can match the Fire's consistency over the past two months. Frank Klopas has his side playing well and scooping up points on a weekly basis. Columbus will provide yet another test for the Fire with Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain poised to pose problems for the home side's stout defense. The strengths of those two players underscore the importance of balance in this encounter. Both teams operate best when they sit and wait for the right moment to break. If one side chases the game too earnestly, then the scales could tip in favor of the other on the counter.
4. San Jose, Seattle meet in a match that could determine the top seed out West: Sounders FC must win this meeting at CenturyLink Field to cut the gap between the two sides to six points and maintain any viable hope of claiming the top seed. Those aspirations may prove a bit too ambitious given San Jose's remaining schedule (two home games, against FC Dallas and Los Angeles, and two away matches, in Colorado and Portland), but a victory here would help in the battle to stave off Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake and tie up the second seed.
5. Saborío's absence increases spotlight on his teammates: RSL could end up with a perilous play-in match against FC Dallas or Vancouver if it cannot find some way to compensate for Álvaro Saborío's right shoulder sprain over the next few matches. Saborío is expected to miss at least two weeks after sustaining the injury in Tuesday's 1-0 victory over Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League play, club officials told the Salt Lake Tribune. The injury will focus RSL to once again rely on the strength of its collective to eradicate the current scoring issues confronting players not named Saborío and generate some momentum heading into the postseason. A visit by Portland on Saturday night should provide a decent opportunity for RSL to find its feet ahead of a three-game road trip that starts next Saturday at Chivas USA.
Last week: 6/9 (67%)
This season: 101/219 (46%)
Sporting Kansas City @ Montréal (1:00p.m., TSN/RDS) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: After an emotional win at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, Sporting must guard against the inevitable letdown at Stade Saputo with midfield engine Roger Espinoza ruled out through suspension.
Prediction: Montréal win.
New York @ New England (7:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Cast aside any notions of a simple three points for the Red Bulls. New York hasn't won a regular season game at Gillette Stadium since June 29, 2002. Will the 15-game winless streak end here? Not if Thierry Henry sits to avoid playing on a turf surface that has already claimed the seasons of Danny Koevermans and Saër Sène.
Portland @ Real Salt Lake (8:00p.m., NBC Sports Network/TSN 2) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Life without Álvaro Saborío won't be much fun for RSL. But the real problems will likely start after this fixture.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Columbus @ Chicago (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Is a draw enough for the Crew here? The schedule – three home matches and a critical trip to RFK Stadium remain on the docket – indicates a point might suffice.
Prediction: Chicago win.
Toronto FC @ Los Angeles (10:30p.m., TSN/RDS 2) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: TFC usually doesn't travel well to the western reaches of North America. No reason to suggest this trek will unfold any differently against the in-form and utterly professional Galaxy.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.
San Jose @ Seattle (10:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: This match could offer a decent advertisement for the league: a game with a couple of creative schemers, a few goals and a handful of standout players. Seattle probably holds the edge here at CenturyLink Field even with Eddie Johnson banned for the match, but the Earthquakes may just benefit from the wakeup call supplied by the home draw against Portland on Wednesday.
Houston @ Philadelphia (4:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: One goal will do the trick for the Dynamo if the Union's recent stumbles in front of goal hold.
Prediction: Houston win.
Chivas USA @ D.C. United (7:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Columbus can attest to the potentially perilous nature of this affair against the Red-and-White. United is the better side even without De Rosario and will benefit from the suspensions of Shalrie Joseph, Oswaldo Minda and James Riley. In order to sustain a playoff push, United must find a way to turn its easiest remaining fixture into three points.
Prediction: D.C. United win.
Colorado @ Vancouver (7:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Forget about coasting into the postseason: Vancouver just needs to win a game to snap its five-game losing streak. The victory should come in this fixture against the Rapids. If the Whitecaps want to hold off surging FC Dallas, then this match – the first of four straight at B.C. Place – must end their recent poor run in short order.
Prediction: Vancouver win.
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