MLS preview: Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Crew SC vs. FC Dallas headline Week 27

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Week 27 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, which means it’s time to talk about how awesome lame it is that MLS continues to schedule league games during FIFA’s international windows. Furthermore, only half the league has to play this weekend, handing a decided advantage to the league’s other 10 teams who aren’t forced to play a game without some of their best players. Fun times!

Predictions record through Week 26: 40-49

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

Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)

It sounds as though Clint Dempsey might actually play in this one, given he’s expected to join US national team camp for Tuesday’s friendly against Brazil, so that’s pretty neat. Dempsey and Michael Bradley each skipped the USMNT’s friendly against Peru on Friday to be available for one of MLS’s highest-priced (salaries, that is) showpiece games.

With Benoit Cheyrou out with injury, Bradley could be forced into a deeper-sitting midfield role against the Sounders, which is a bummer for him, for TFC and for anyone who enjoys watching an American player enjoying a real purple patch of form, but should offer an interesting tactical battle as Dempsey and Obafemi Martins look to combine through Bradley’s part of the field in front of the porous TFC defense.

Prediction: Sounders 2-1 TFC

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Columbus Crew SC vs. FC Dallas (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Any other week, this is the no. 1 game I’m circling on the calendar and looking forward to for three or four weeks prior. Alas, international call-ups have completely stripped these two super-fun teams of their super-fun parts — Crew SC: Kei Kamara, Wil Trapp, Justin Meram and Waylon Francis (among others); FCD: Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, Tesho Akindele and Moises Hernandez (among others).

Let’s be real here: this is going to be an awful game, but one man, Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay, is going to have an absolute blinder in this one and, for 90 minutes at least, look like the best player in the world. Without Hernandez, who generally starts at left back (and very capably so) for FCD, Finlay is going to run riot over Ryan Hollingshead, who has deputized in Hernandez’s absence of late. Jack McInerney will squander a number of quality chances created by Finlay, only to tap in a free rebound with about 15 minutes left in the game.

Prediction: Crew SC 1-0 FCD

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San Jose Earthquakes vs. Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS Live)

“Why in the world would this guy tell me to watch San Jose and Philly,” is what I know you’re screaming at your computer/smartphone/tablet. It’s mostly because the Earthquakes have been good for three weeks now. Like, really, really good. They’ve won four straight, and knocked of Sporting Kansas City, D.C. United and LA Galaxy, in that order, by a combine score of 8-0.

That’s all well and good, to play that way against some of the league’s top teams with your season on the line (the ‘Quakes are suddenly level on points with the Sounders for the sixth and final playoff place in the Western Conference, and have a game in hand). Wouldn’t it just be “peak MLS,” though, for one of the league’s hottest teams to lay an egg against the last-place-in-the-league Union, at home, immediately following the above run of results? Don’t get MLS’d this weekend, and I’m ready to consider the Fighting Dom Kinnears real playoff contenders.

Prediction: Quakes 2-2 Union