MLS preview: NYCFC vs. Red Bulls, Timbers vs. Sounders highlight Rivalry Week

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Week 17 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon, and it’s (Again? Already?) Rivalry Week. That means local rivalry after local rivalry on your TV, computer, tablet and/or smartphone all weekend long.

Predictions record through Week 16: 26-33

So, if you’re to watch just four MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only four games? — might I suggest the following four:

New York City FC vs. New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, ESPN)

Not even a month ago, this game would have been a joke to include among this week’s “Rivalry Week” matchups (not least because it’s still not a real rivalry, one game in and all). Then, NYCFC decided it was time to do a little winning (three in a row), while the Red Bulls thought to themselves, “That good start to the season we had? Eh, screw it, let’s throw it away.” (Four straight losses before winning mid-week)

Now, they’re separated by just three points while trending in completely opposite directions. NYCFC’s David Villa has tallied three goals and an assist in his last two games, while RBNY’s Bradley Wright-Phillips had two penalties saved just last weekend. With well over 40,000 expected at Yankee Stadium, Sunday’s second installment of the #NYSoccerWarz is bound to entertain, at the very least.

Prediction: NYCFC 2-2 Red Bulls

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Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Speaking of teams trending in opposite directions, we’ve also got the Timbers (four straight wins before losing mid-week) and the Sounders (two straight losses after winning three of four) facing off Sunday night.

There will be no Clint Dempsey (suspension), Obafemi Martins (groin) or Osvaldo Alonso (hamstring) for the Sounders. Gonzalo Pineda might also be unavailable (knee). Without their midfield and forward quartet, Sigi Schmid’s side struggled mightily against the San Jose Earthquakes and suffered a rare home defeat. Now they travel 175 miles down I-5 and enter MLS’s most daunting in-stadium atmosphere to face a suddenly-healthy Timbers team. I’ll cut them some slack for Wednesday’s shellacking because, well, it was the Galaxy.

Prediction: Timbers 3-2 Sounders

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New England Revolution vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

We saw once again last week that the Revolution have trouble controlling and killing off games without Jermaine Jones in the heart of their midfield. We also learned that Jay Heaps still has no desire to dial back his side’s overall tempo and attacking instinct. Coming up against the Whitecaps this weekend, we’re all in store for a treat, because the Whitecaps are still the best counter-attacking team in the league and the Revs, in their current state, provide so many counter-attacking chances.

One promise for this game: goals. Plenty of goals. Who doesn’t love goals?

Prediction: Revs 1-2 Whitecaps

[ MORE: Dempsey given additional suspension for USOC, and it’s a big one ]

Toronto FC vs. D.C. United (Saturday, 5 pm ET, MLS Live)

These two played just three weeks ago, and TFC grabbed a shocking (to some) road victory over the leaders in the Supporters’ Shield race. Fast forward three weeks, and finally we’ve got a matchup with two teams playing equally well at the moment about which to get excited.

Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore combined for five goals scored and assisted on (all three goals scored) in Wednesday’s victory over the Montreal Impact. They’ve found in just three months the kind of chemistry and continuity that usually takes teams years to create. This is the last game for the latter two before departing for the Gold Cup, so keeping that momentum rolling 90 minutes more is vitally important for the Reds.

Prediction: TFC 2-1 DCU