The Labor Day holiday weekend is here in the United States, and while the European leagues are off this weekend for the FIFA break, there's Saturday action in MLS for your viewing pleasure. So sit back, turn on the viewing device of your choice, and check out what's on tap Saturday.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York Red Bulls (7 pm ET, TSN1, MLS LIVE)
A tale of two teams in drastically different form kicks off the Saturday slate at BC Place in Vancouver. The hosts are only four points out of the playoff positions in the Western Conference, but are on a seven-game winless skid that has seen the goals dry up as they slide right on down the table. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are on a nine-game unbeaten run, and their brass ring is not merely the playoffs but first place in the Eastern Conference. If they win, they'll be within a point of their NY Derby rivals NYCFC atop the East.
Having said all that, would you believe the Whitecaps have never lost to the Red Bulls? They've posted a 3-0-3 mark all-time against New York, and that slog all the way across North America to British Columbia is about as long a road trip as there is in MLS. Will it be recent form or all-time history that wins out in this game? It should be an interesting game, either way.
New England Revolution vs. Colorado Rapids (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
This would have been Jermaine Jones' first meeting with his first MLS team since a contentious departure in the offseason, but the US international is still recovering from a knee injury and won't play an on-field role in this game.
Instead, these teams are looking to regain some early season magic. The Revolution, though they await their US Open Cup final date with FC Dallas coming up later this month, are sinking in the Eastern Conference and need to pick up points fast to get back in the playoff reckoning. The Rapids are in far better shape, but have lost some of their mojo, which was much better with Jones in the lineup. It may not be a statement game, but it's the kind of match that can spark a key late-season run for a team.
Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
Is this Philadelphia Union team for real? Sure, they won't have their top lineup with both Alejandro Bedoya and Andre Blake on international duty, but they're on a two-game winning streak and picking up a road win will keep them in the thick of the first-place chase in the East, and show they have the depth to grab points in the season's home stretch. The Fire, who admittedly have only lost two games at home this season, won't be pushovers, but another win would help keep the Union in form with the playoffs fast approaching.
FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
This is MLS, so you know that just about anything can happen. But on paper this is the game of the night. FC Dallas are in the running for a domestic treble, and a full three points against the Timbers will help keep them ahead of the rest of the league in the Supporters' Shield race. For an organization that hasn't won a major trophy since 1997, they aren't taking anything for granted.
And then throw in the historic entertainment value between these two teams, who played out an epic clash in last year's Western Conference Championship. The Timbers haven't won on the road yet this season, but it would be in the nature of this series for them to do it at Toyota Stadium. With Dallas edging the all-time series 6-5-4, a Dallas-Timbers game is nearly always exciting and features at least one sweet golazo. Expect that to continue on Saturday.
LA Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew SC (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
The MLS nightcap features two teams that have been struggling with injuries, international duty and departures. Does that mean a sloppy, bland game is on tap? Not necessarily.
The smart money gives LA a huge edge here, even if they've been sputtering a bit lately. This is the kind of late-season game squad depth is meant to weather. Bruce Arena has assembled a roster of experienced veterans and Homegrown youngsters to support the starting XI, and some of those players will get a big chance against Columbus. Until losing late in the US Open Cup semifinal last month to Dallas, those depth players had played pretty well this year.
If you're Columbus, does that mean you don't have a prayer? Of course you do! Jelle Van Damme is out injured, and Nigel de Jong's departure doesn't necessarily help LA on the defensive front. Columbus could strike the ultimate rope-a-dope: A struggling underdog travels cross-country and...wins! It's happened plenty of times in MLS, and it's certainly a possibility on Saturday.