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Portland, Seattle take center stage in Major League Soccer's rivalry week

Portland coach Caleb Porter should have his team plenty fired up for their trip to Seattle for rivalry week.

The Portland Timbers could add to the Seattle Sounders current woes 

The heated Northwest rivalry between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders could reach a boiling point when the two sides face off on Sunday's marquee MLS match (5 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).

In a role reversal from last season, Portland now has the chance to set Seattle back in its chase to lock up one of the Western Conference's final playoff spots. The Sounders currently sit in sixth place, the last playoff spot, but are tied with the San Jose Earthquakes on points. Depending on Friday's match between the LA Galaxy and San Jose, Seattle could fall out of the postseason places for the first time this season -- ample motivation for the Timbers.

Last season, Portland lost 4-2 to Seattle at home, a result that set it back after a midseason rally from early season woes. The Timbers would miss the postseason after reaching the conference finals just the year before. Manager Caleb Porter is sure to remind his players of last August's game, if they needed it, when they travel to Seattle.

Despite another loss for Seattle last weekend -- this time in Salt Lake against RSL -- there are signs that the team's luck may be turning around. Obafemi Martins returned against Orlando City SC on Aug. 16 and sparked a 4-0 win over the side led by Kaka. Clint Dempsey, who has only played in one game since mid-June, is expected to return after recovering from injury.

If that isn't enticing enough, viewers should expect another exciting tifo from the home supporters.

-- Alex Labidou (@LabidouESPN)


The San Jose Earthquakes hope to cool the LA Galaxy's astonishing form 

For all the talk in MLS about rivalries, the one between the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy seems to occupy a peculiar place in league circles. Thanks to the Quakes' two-year hiatus from 2006-07, it isn't the longest running feud in MLS history and the set-tos involving, say, Seattle and Portland, or the New York Red Bulls and New York City F.C. rivalry seems to get more attention these days.

But for sheer drama and entertainment value, the matchup involving Los Angeles and San Jose is tough to top. The rivalry has decided an MLS Cup in 2001, and been witness to some epic playoff battles, including a 2003 Western Conference semifinals second-leg encounter that saw San Jose prevail 5-2. The Galaxy managed to get payback, winning the MLS Cup in 2005 and 2012 thanks to the help of former Quake Landon Donovan. Even some of the regular season scuffles have stuck in the memory, with Alan Gordon's stoppage time winner for San Jose back in 2013 just one example.

WEEKEND MATCHES

Friday 8/28
San Jose Quakes vs. LA Galaxy
Saturday
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact
NYCFC vs. Columbus Crew
Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revs
Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire 
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting KC
FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake 
Sunday
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
N.Y. Red Bulls vs. D.C. United

On Friday, the rivalry will resume, and it will feature two of the league's hotter teams. The Quakes are riding a three-game winning streak that included road victories against Kansas City and D.C. United. But if San Jose is hot, then the Galaxy has gone nuclear, having won eight of their last 10.

Both teams feature new additions that have been instant hits. The Galaxy duo of Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos has been electric so far. For San Jose, forward Quincy Amarikwa and midfielder Anibal Godoy were far less heralded, but have been critical to their side. The latter's addition to the center of midfield has given San Jose more bite and possession, though it will be interesting to see how the possible absence of Fatai Alashe factors into the proceedings.

Either way, Friday's match isn't to be missed.

-- Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle)

Will a Montreal Impact loss to Toronto FC spell the end for Klopas?

Even after the Montreal Impact came back from a two-goal deficit to salvage a tie against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final, it was always going to be tough for the club to win the return leg in Vancouver.

So it went Wednesday night at B.C. Place, as the hosts took the title with a 2-0 win. While the outcome was expected, especially with Didier Drogba (toe) unavailable for the visitors, it's fair to wonder what the Impact's continuing slide could mean for coach Frank Klopas should it continue.

The midweek defeat marked a fifth-straight game in all competitions without a victory for Klopas' side, and it ensured that Montreal -- which narrowly lost the CONCACAF Champions League finale in April -- won't play in the competition it prizes more than any other MLS club until 2017-18 unless it wins either the Eastern Conference title (they currently sit sixth) or MLS Cup itself.

And with a tough trip to archenemy Toronto FC looming on Saturday, the winless run could stretch to six before the Bleu-Blanc-Noir returns to Quebec. Impact owner Joey Saputo isn't known to be a patient man and the whispers around the club are that several key players aren't happy.

"When it's bad, it's bad," star defender Laurent Ciman said following last weekend's 1-0 home loss to the lowly Philadelphia Union. "We don't have any philosophy."

Those are damning words from a stalwart like Ciman. Klopas has already lasted longer than the Impact's two previous MLS managers in Jesse Marsch and Marco Schällibaum. Can he survive another setback in Toronto? We could find out soon enough.

-- Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN)

Can the New York Red Bulls inch closer to their rivals D.C. United?

It's the original MLS rivalry, built not just on geography, but on competitive history. No matter what they've been called since the start of MLS, the team from New York (that plays in New Jersey), which was once known as the Metrostars and now known as the Red Bulls, and the team from D.C. have been mortal enemies.

That will remain true on Sunday when United heads to Harrison, N.J. to face the Red Bulls on Sunday night. The game is loaded with all of the hatred that usually comes packed into a showdown between the two, but this time it has a few extra ingredients.

For the visitors, it's desperation. After two straight losses, United can hear New York's footsteps behind them in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. D.C.'s established identity as a team adept at grinding out games with smart defensive work and an opportunistic attack has gone missing. Even in the club's three wins prior to their current dip, a disturbing trend of giving up early goals was developing.

The Red Bulls not only bring the usual intense wish to beat United, but also a desire to catch their old antagonists in the standings. A win would put New York just two points back of D.C., While a positive result instead of the surprising loss they suffered on Wednesday night in Chicago would have presented a chance to overtake United on points, winning at home would set the stage for a dramatic run to the finish line.

The league's first organic rivalry, one that turned so much on events between the two teams over the years, gets yet another stage on which to shine.

-- Jason Davis (@davisjsn)

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