Sunday, November 29, 2015

Games to Watch: Major League Soccer's 'Rivalry Week' takes center stage

Featured games include D.C.-New York, Seattle-Portland and Dallas-Houston.

Games to Watch: Major League Soccer's 'Rivalry Week' takes center stage


D.C. United at New York Red Bulls

12:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC,

Major League Soccer's first-ever “Rivalry Week” kicks off with a coveted appearance on network television.  It's fitting that this game gets the honor, as D.C.-New York is the most-played series in MLS history. This will be the 60th league game between the teams, and the 72nd overall.

It's their first matchup since last year's playoffs, in which United upset the Red Bulls - and Mother Nature. Bad weather forced the order of venues for the series to be reversed, and a snowstorm delayed the second leg at the last minute.

This time around, the skies will be clear. So all eyes will be on the teams' attacking stars: D.C.'s Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius, and New York's Designated Player duo of Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry.

There's an intriguing story on the sidelines, too. United manager and Red Bulls manager Mike Petke are two of their clubs' most loyal servants, having played for their respective teams before coaching them. But Petke also played in D.C., and won a championship alongside Olsen in 2004.

Saturday's game is the Red Bulls' home opener, and there's no better matchup for the occasion. It may only be the third week of the season, but this game could set a lasting tone for both teams. 

Chicago Fire at Sporting Kansas City

3:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network)

Chicago is the only team in the East that has yet to record a point – or score a goal – this season. Chris Rolfe and Jeff Larentowicz will have to step it up in order to win at one of MLS' most hostile venues, Kansas City's Sporting Park. 

(There's no LIVESTRONG sponsorship anymore in the wake of Lance Armstrong's fall from grace.) 

Making matters tougher for the Fire, this will be Sporting's home opener. Newly-signed Designated Player forward Claudio Bieler has scored in each of his team's games so far, and will aim to keep his streak going. Bieler's teammates will be looking to get Sporting back on track after losing at Toronto last weekend. 

This game will be followed by a two-and-a-half-hour studio show on NBCSN with live look-ins at games across MLS. Expect a format similar to the NFL's “Red Zone” channel, or CBS' old whip-around NCAA Tournament coverage. 

Arlo White, Kyle Martino and Russ Thaler will host the show from NBC Sports' studios in Stamford, Conn. – just hours after calling New York vs. D.C. Here's hoping they don't get stuck in traffic. 

Portland Timbers at Seattle Sounders 

8:00 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network) 

The final game of NBC's tripleheader will be the first game in this year's Cascadia Cup series. 

Seattle made MLS history on Wednesday, becoming the first American team to ever beat a Mexican team in the CONCACAF Champions League. Newly-signed forward Obafemi Martins - formerly of Inter Milan, Newcastle United and Spain's Levante - could make his debut. 

Portland will counter with its own new signing in midfielder Diego Valeri. The Argentine playmaker has been one of the most entertaining players in MLS so far, highlighted by this spectacular goal against New York:

Monterrey at Tijuana

11:55 p.m. Saturday (Uni Más)

Tijuana, the reigning Mexican champion, faces one of Liga MX's powerhouses. Based just half an hour from San Diego, the Xolos have many fans on both sides of the border. They also have four Americans on their roster, including U.S. national team regulars Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona.

Monterrey is led by Humberto Suazo, a goal-scoring machine for his club and Chile's national team.

Ajax Amsterdam at AZ Alkmaar

9:30 a.m. Sunday (

With the U.S. national team's next round of World Cup qualifiers looming, Jozy Altidore leads AZ against the first-place team in the Dutch Eredivsie. Altidore has scored 17 goals in 14 league games, including the last two straight. Ajax has a pair of rising stars in forward Viktor Fischer and midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas

1:00 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2)

The saying that everything's bigger in Texas applies to the soccer field too. In 6-foot-3 forward Kenny Cooper and 6-foot-4 forward Eric Hassli, FC Dallas has one of MLS' most imposing strikeforces.

Houston has the firepower to match, though: target man Will Bruin, speed merchant Omar Cummings, and dynamic midfielders Brad Davis and Óscar Boniek García. There may not be a better quartet in MLS.

Chivas USA vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

5:00 p.m. Sunday (Uni Más)

Chivas was mocked across MLS for its offseason fire sale, but proved doubters wrong with a 3-1 win over Dallas last weekend. Juan Agudelo led the way, scoring a goal with U.S. national team scouts looking on.

This will be a tougher test, as the Goats face their L.A. rivals at the stadium they both call home. Led by Mike Magee and Robbie Keane, the Galaxy pounded Chicago, 4-0, in their season opener. The hunt is on for an unprecedented third straight MLS title.
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, the National Women's Soccer League, the U.S. men's and women's national teams, and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Jonathan Tannenwald
Lauren Green Inquirer Staff Writer
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