Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Seven Hot Matches

Major League Soccer's regular season wraps up this weekend with many nationally-televised games.

Seven Hot Matches

Ted S. Warren/AP file photo
Ted S. Warren/AP file photo

Seven Hot Matches

D.C. United at Chicago Fire 

4:00 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network) 

Sporting Kansas City has locked up first place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference, but that's all that's decided right now. D.C., Chicago and the New York Red Bulls are all jockeying with the Houston Dynamo for playoff seeds – and to avoid the Wild Card round. 

Right now, D.C. holds second place, with Chicago in third and New York in fourth. The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds will play that Wild Card game (Wednesday night on ESPN2; time TBA), and the winner will play Kansas City. The No. 2 seed will get home-field advantage against the No. 3 seed in the conference semifinal round. 

San Jose Earthquakes at Portland Timbers 

6:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC Sports Network) 

San Jose's Chris Wondolowski needs to score just one more goal to equal Roy Lassiter's MLS single-season record of 27. Lassiter will be on hand at Portland's JELD-WEN Field to see if Wondolowski can make history against a Timbers team that has nothing to play for. 

Lassiter's record has stood since 1996, MLS' inaugural season. The former D.C. United and U.S. national team stalwart has been openly rooting for Wondolowski to break his record, fully understanding just how hard it is to be such a prolific scorer. 

Ajax at Feyenoord 

7:30 a.m. Sunday (ESPN3.com)

Fresh off a 3-1 thrashing of English powerhouse Manchester City in the Champions League, Ajax hits the road to contest Dutch soccer's signature rivalry. De Klassieker, as the game is known, will be contested for the 166th time this weekend. 

Amsterdam-based Ajax holds the series lead, with 73 wins to Rotterdam-based Feyenoord's 54. More importantly, Ajax has the lead in Eredivisie championships, 31 to 14. The matchup to watch this time around is between Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen and Feyenoord defenders Joris Mathijsen and Bruno Martins Indi. 

Liverpool at Everton 

9:25 a.m. Sunday (ESPN2; ESPN3.com) 

It's rare to find an intra-city soccer rivalry with as much friendliness as this one. Sure, there's plenty of passion, but the two fan bases in the city of Liverpool have a history of getting along quite well. 

That said, the red half of Merseyside hasn't been a good mood lately. The Reds have won just twice in eight games this year, while Everton is in fourth place. American goalkeeper Tim Howard is a big reason for that. He'll get a good test in this game from one of England's hottest young talents, Liverpool midfielder Raheem Sterling. 

Boca Juniors at River Plate 

2:30 p.m. Sunday (GolTV) 

There are not many more heated soccer rivalries anywhere in the world than the biggest one in Argentina. It divides Buenos Aires not just by fan bases, but by socioeconomics. Boca Juniors is widely viewed as the team of the city's working class, and River the team as the team of the wealthier neighborhoods. 

Boca has lorded it over River in recent times. Los Xeneizes won the Apertura (opening half-season) championship last February, while River was stunningly relegated to Argentina's second division in late 2011. But they're back on the big stage now. 

Among the reasons why River is back on the big stage is former French national team star David Trezeguet. The native of Buenos Aires moved to France in 1995, and helped Les Bleus win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship. He returned to his home town earlier this year to begin winding down his stellar career. 

Seattle Sounders at Los Angeles Galaxy 

9:00 p.m. Sunday (ESPN) 

MLS' regular season concludes in southern California, with a matchup of two teams that have developed a healthy dislike for each other. This game will probably be less tense than usual, though, as both teams prepare for the upcoming playoffs. 

Their playoff seeds are all but locked in – Seattle will be either the West's No. 2 or No. 3 seed, and L.A. is set at No. 4. But while some stars may be rested, there's more than enough attacking talent on both benches to give this game some entertainment value. 

Vancouver Whitecaps at Los Angeles Galaxy 

10:30 p.m. Thursday (NBC Sports Network) 

Canada's MLS teams have brought a lot of passion and color as to the league. But until this year, none of the three – Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal – had ever reached the postseason. Now that wait is finally over, as the Whitecaps managed to barely hold on to the Western Conference's last postseason berth. 

They did so in large part due to two former Union stalwarts: goalkeeper Brad Knighton and defender Jordan Harvey. After spending much of the year on the bench, they stepped up and played major roles at the end of the regular season. 

The winner of this game will face San Jose, the West's top seed, in a two-game series that will begin next weekend. If it's the Galaxy, there will be another chapter in one of MLS' great rivalries. If it's the Whitecaps, there could be fireworks for a different reason: Vancouver beat the Earthquakes in both meetings at B.C. Place this year. 

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.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.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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