MLS preview: Orlando-Philadelphia Friday appetizer leads to tasty weekend

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With the MLS tables still looking topsy-turvey four games into the young season, Seattle has a golden opportunity to build on its first points of the year, while teams like Columbus, D.C., and New York will need big performances if they wish to get themselves back on track.

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More on that in a bit. First, a Friday taste brings us a pair of teams with surprisingly good starts.

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC – Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Orlando City leads the packed Eastern Conference and Philadelphia sits two points back as both teams come into today with a pair of wins on the season. Orlando is unbeaten thus far, and Kaka has returned after missing the first three games of the year, and he was stellar last week in a win over Portland. That record will be tested, as they will be without Brek Shea, who scored a goal in the Portland win, but had a yellow card changed to a red following the match, and thus is suspended. Also, Cyle Larin’s hamstring injury will keep him out, and Tommy Redding will miss with a head injury.

New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC – Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Two teams with just one win on the year meet at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. Toronto will have to buck a few trends to turn things around from two straight defeats and pick up some points. They have not scored in their last two matches, building on a dubious streak of 94 scoreless minutes. They also have lost four of their last five to New England, and seven of their last nine regular season road matches.

Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew – Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET

Montreal is another club that’s failed to score its last two times out, although their situation is different after picking up wins in their first two matches which still has them second in the East. Columbus will look to strike on Montreal’s slide, still without a win on the year and in the East basement. The Crew may also want to use some of their playoff mojo if any is leftover, having knocked Montreal out with a thrilling 3-1 extra time win in the second leg. Stat to note: Montreal has conceded four set-piece goals in four games, while two of Columbus’s three goals this season have come off corners.

D.C. United vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET

D.C. remains without a win, and they’ll need an upset in form if that will change this weekend. Vancouver is unbeaten in three conceding just a single goal across that span, and none since 52nd minute against Seattle back in mid-March. The Whitecaps have improved defensively, and D.C. will need to match them if they hope to pick up the season’s first win.

New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC – Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

The referees haven’t helped, but the defending Supporters’ Shield winners have just three points on the year. As they travel to a seemingly revived Sporting KC, the central defense situation hasn’t improved. Kemar Lawrence, already an emergency option in the middle, was injured last week and is likely out for this weekend. Damien Perrinelle, Ronald Zubar, and Gideon Baah all missed out last week and will likely do so again in this bigtime meeting. Sporting KC failed in an attempt to beat a shorthanded team last week, falling to Real Salt Lake at home, but they get another go at the situation again this time around.

FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

FC Dallas is maybe the league’s hottest team, taking last season’s momentum and carrying it over, translating to 10 points through five matches. With an already good start, it could get better with key attacking cog Mauro Diaz set to return, having already found his way back to training. This already feels like an important meeting, with the Western Conference so clogged with points already. San Jose has seven points through four games, a quality haul by any standards, and yet they sit in just seventh. Points here would be huge to vault up the table in the early going.

Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids – Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET

A pair of revived teams meet in a late Saturday match. Real Salt Lake has scored a whopping eight goals this season, quite the number after finding themselves shut out 14 times last season. That scoring form comes into this game against a Rapids side that will be shorthanded, with defender Mekeil Williams stuck in Trinidad & Tobago with a visa issue after playing for his national team in World Cup qualifying. Meanwhile, it’s the opposite for RSL as Kyle Beckerman returns from suspension along with Jamison Olave and Burrito Martinez.

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders – Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

The Seattle Sounders are still bottom of the Western Conference. That’s funky no matter what way it’s spun, but with their first win of the season last time out, they are poised to turn things around. All three of their losses came by one goal, and that’s how they won last weekend, so things could be turning their way. The Sounders will need to buck a trend if they wish to come back home victorious, having never won at BBVA Compass Stadium in six tries. Houston, meanwhile, has scored 11 goals this season and conceded eight, so they’ll need to bring that latter number down if they wish to take advantage of the colossal tally up front.

New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire – Sunday, 7:00 p.m. ET

A pair of clubs with five points on the year look for separation in the East. Mark Geiger will referee this match after having come under fire for some red cards early in this season. NYCFC manager Patrick Viera said some handed out so far have been “harsh” so keep an eye on the discipline of this game. Chicago defender Johan Kappelhof is one to watch, having started his MLS career off quite well, earning MLS Team of the Week honors last time out in a 1-0 win over Philadelphia.

L.A. Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers – Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET

Portland hasn’t seen victory since the first week of the season, and as a result, they are only buffered from the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings by Cascadia brethren Seattle. However, a 5-2 win over the Galaxy late last year sparked a stunning unbeaten run that ran them to the MLS Cup. Can they use the same opponent as a springboard yet again? They’ll need to improve quick, as Kaka tore them to shreds last weekend.  The Galaxy, meanwhile, been all over the map amidst a host of injury problems. Steven Gerrard is a question mark having not returned to full training from a calf injury, Robbie Keane is still on the shelf after knee surgery, and Gio dos Santos is back to training but still could be held back.