Marquee Matchups: The Battle For The West

USA TODAY Sports

With the ho-hum matchups of weeks past now out of the way, we look forward to a much more interesting set of games this weekend. None of them, however, compare in intrigue to the showdown at FC Dallas Stadium.

Normally in this weekly bit we tend to cover either games that are underrated, or big explosive ones that you shouldn't miss. FC Dallas is usually ignored since our readers are usually aware of the coming opponent and the circumstances involved. This week is an exception, because the match our team is involved in this week is far and away the most important one in MLS.

Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact // Saturday 1:00 p.m. CT, Stade Saputo, MLS Live

Sporting Kansas City or the Houston Dynamo might think of themselves as the head honchos of the East, but if Montreal or Columbus continue their respective run of form things could get quite crowded at the top.

Montreal's excellent defense will meet Columbus' threatening attack. The Crew boast a Goals For average of 1.60, well above the 1.16 that currently ranks as the league standard. Meanwhile Montreal have only allowed four goals the entire season, and two of those goals came at the hands Sporting Kansas City. This Impact side will certainly want to get back in the saddle and pick up another win, and playing at home after a loss will motivate them plenty.

With the crowd pumping them up, I think Montreal will defend with tireless resolve and simply outwork the Crew's offense. Federico Higuain can't do it all on his own (though it sure seems like he can at times), but he is the X factor in this game. If Higuain is locked in, the Impact could have their hands full covering just one man, opening up space for the rest of his teammates. Can Columbus capitalize should that occur?

1-0 Montreal.

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union Saturday 3:00 p.m. CT, PPL Park, MLS Live

Picking between this and the Chivas-Rapids match was difficult, but I finally settled on this one for two reasons.

The first is Toronto FC has legitimately impressed so far. Not because they're tearing up the charts and stomping on every team with merciless efficiency, but because they're so much better than the TFC Circus from last year. I mocked MLSE to no end for hiring Ryan Nelsen while he was still with Queen's Park Rangers, but so far he's making the critics take a second look.

Like Chelis, the Reds clearly have bought into whatever Nelsen is selling.You never know if they will come out alive and kicking to start the match, or if they will wait until the 80th minute affects the score. When they do switch on though they're a dynamic bunch.

The other reason is John Hackworth.

The young manager of the Union has not had yet caused his team to charge up the table like Montreal's new coach, but that's a hard standard to live up to. They hold a record of 2-2-1, a perfectly respectable average in most cases. Average results aside, those numbers ignore the details of what got them there.

Like Toronto, Hackworth is attempting to rebuild a team that greatly disappointed last year. With the Prodigal Son (Sebastien Le Toux) returning to the team that helped build his reputation, Hackworth has more options than Nowak did last year. Le Toux's return has so far only yielded a dramatic opening day goal, but at least his presence in the lineup has settled the midfield a bit.

Philadelphia is thoroughly average, which is a compliment compared to last year's showing. Can the Union put the brakes on Toronto's momentum?

0-0 Draw

LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas // Saturday 6:30 p.m. CT, FC Dallas Stadium, NBC Sports Network

This is the biggest match of FC Dallas' season to this point, and it's one all hardcore MLS followers will be watching. Drew will cover this in more depth in his big preview, but it goes without saying that laying an egg in front of a national TV broadcast audience would be morale-shattering for the fanbase.

If you saw the Galaxy play against Monterrey on Wednesday, you should fear what they bring to the Oven this Saturday. Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan both played a full 90 against Los Rayados, and while that might mean they're tired it doesn't make them any less dangerous. Omar Gonzalez, the Wall of Los Angeles, will be very difficult to beat in the air or on the ground and his form has been rather excellent the past 8 months or so.

Dallas' recent set-piece scoring should give Hoops fans hope that one well placed free kick can break through their aerial defense. All it takes is one lucky bounce.

If I'm honest with you, I'd settle for a draw in which FC Dallas performs well. A win would be swell, but this LA team is an excellent side when properly motivated. Underestimate them at your own peril.

2-2 Draw

As a side note, If you haven't seen them yet, check out Drew's blog for a quick match prediction of every game this weekend. Here's to hoping his prediction regarding the FCD game is the correct one.

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