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This Week in MLS – August 21, 2012

Union young guns to take on RSL vets this Friday on NBC Sports Network
The young guns of the Philadelphia Union play host to the veterans of Real Salt Lake this Friday on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The age gap between the teams and contrasting successes in the 2012 are stark: with a median age of 23** for Philadelphia, the Union have struggled to find a consistent groove, going 7-12-3 this season.
Comparatively, the Claret-and-Cobalt players have median age of 29**, and the club is only five points back in the Supporters’ Shield race.
When averaging the ages of the entire team (weighted by playing time), the Union’s 24.029 mark is lowest in MLS, while Real Salt Lake’s average age of 26.108 ranks 10th and almost exactly mirrors the league average (26.107).
Salt Lake will be coming off of a CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday that will see the team host Tauro FC at home in Rio Tinto before traveling to Philadelphia.
The Union are not out of the running for a playoff spot, but the team must make up a difference of 13 points in their remaining 12 league matches to slot into the picture. Three points against second-best-in-the-West Real Salt Lake may just be the kick start they need to contend for a postseason spot.
** Among players who have appeared in at least 10 regular season games
MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League: Group Play Fixtures
Three of the five MLS clubs participating in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) are scheduled to play group stage matches this week.
After reaching the CCL quarterfinals last year, the reigning MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy kick off 2012-13 CCL group play on Thursday against Isidro Metapán of El Salvador.
Real Salt Lake will be looking to make up some ground in group play after a 1-0 loss to C.S. Herediano of Costa Rica in their opening match on July 31.  The 2010-11 CCL runners-up will take on Tauro FC of Panama on Tuesday.
After a two-year CCL hiatus, the Houston Dynamo return to tournament by virtue of reaching the 2011 MLS Cup final, and take on Salvadoran club C.D. FAS this Wednesday.
CONCACAF Champions League Schedule
Tuesday, August 21
Real Salt Lake vs. Tauro FC, 10:00 p.m. ET (FOX Soccer/UDN2)
Wednesday, August 22
C.D. FAS vs. Houston Dynamo, 10:00 p.m. ET (FOX Soccer/UDN2)
Thursday, August 23
LA Galaxy vs. Isidro Metapán, 10:00 p.m. ET (FOX Soccer/Galavision)
MLS Week 25 National Broadcasts
Friday, August 24: Philadelphia Union vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, August 25: Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. ET (TSN2/RDS)
Saturday, August 25: Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC, 8:30 p.m. ET (TSN2)
Sunday, August 26: LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas, 7:00 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network/RDS2)
Sunday, August 26: Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2/ESPN3/ESPN Deportes/GolTV Canada/RDS2)
AT&T MLS Goal of the Week (Week 24) – CLICK HEREto vote
·         Fabian Castillo (DAL)
·         Lamar Neagle (MTL)
·         Brad Davis (HOU)
·         David Ferreira (DAL)
·         Cole Grossman (CLB)
Check it Out
Chicago Fire: Back to School
D.C. United: Rookie to Rookie
New York Red Bulls: Shep Chats with Lade
Seattle Sounders FC: Tifo Display at CenturyLink
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: A Visit to Camp Goodtimes
MLS Week 25 Previews
(Home team listed first; all times Eastern)
Wednesday, August 22
Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.
·         Tough Breaks: In 14 all-time meetings between the teams, Toronto FC have won just once -- a 4-2 victory last September 10 at Columbus Crew Stadium, snapping a 12-game winless run vs. Columbus.
·         Winless in Toronto: Toronto FC saw their winless streak stretched to four games in the club’s 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City last weekend.
D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire, 7:30 p.m.
·         Press ‘Pause’: The Fire are 49-44-20 all-time when the club’s captain is not available for play. Current skipper Logan Pause is out for 4-6 weeks after sustaining an injury on August 12.
·         Burned: D.C. United have not defeated the Chicago Fire since a 1-0 win at Toyota Park on Aug. 29, 2009. The Fire have won two of the four meetings since, with two draws.
·         Spreading the Wealth: Twelve different players on the Fire have tallied goals this MLS season while 10 different players have struck the back of the net for United.
Friday, August 24
Philadelphia Union vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
·         First Strike Has Last Laugh: Real Salt Lake is 11-1-0 in league play when scoring the first goal, a winning percentage that trails only Seattle Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire, respectively.
·         Claret-and-Cobalt Cooling Off: RSL has lost three consecutive MLS games, matching their season-long losing streak (also June 20-30). Those losing streaks are the club’s longest since July 4-28, 2007, when the club lost four in a row just a couple of months after head coach Jason Kreis took over.
·         Resourceful RSL: Real are undefeated all-time against the Union. RSL has won two of the four meetings between the clubs, both at Rio Tinto Stadium; the teams have played to two draws at PPL Park.
·         Savvy Sabó: Real striker Álvaro Sabório continued his hot streak, scoring his seventh goal over the last seven games in the club’s 2-1 loss to FC Dallas. Sabório is tied for second in the MLS Golden Boot standings with 14 goals.
Saturday, August 25
Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. (TSN2/RDS)
·         Mind the Gap: On average, United concede 0.99 more goals per game on the road than they do at home, the largest discrepancy in all of MLS.
·         Playoff Implications: The teams enter the week just a single point apart, with United holding fifth place and the final postseason berth ahead of the Impact.
·         Gaining Ground: The Impact have won four consecutive games, the longest in their expansion MLS season and tied for the fifth-longest in MLS this season.
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.
·         Hard-Luck Revs: In 14 one-goal games this season, New England has lost 12 times, the lowest mark in MLS.
·         Delightful Debut: Crew Designated Player Federico Higuain made his MLS debut in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Houston, coming on as a halftime substitute and recording his first assist on the Crew’s second goal.
·         Clever Crew: The Revolution’s last win in the series came Oct. 25, 2009 at Crew Stadium, a 1-0 win. The Crew have come away with points on their last six trips to Gillette Stadium.
Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC, 8:30 p.m. (TSN2)
·         Fortified Foundation: An away team has yet to take away three points from a BBVA Compass Stadium visit.
·         Seeing Red: Rookie Luis Silva has three goals and two assists for Toronto FC in the last MLS seven matches.
·         Words With Friends: After texting Crew goalkeeper (and former teammate) Andy Gruenebaum that he would score on him, Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat did just that, notching the tying goal in the 2-2 draw with Columbus on Sunday.
·         Not in Our House: The Dynamo extended their home unbeaten streak to 20 games in the draw, the third-longest stretch in MLS league play. The all-time record is 29 home games unbeaten, held by Real Salt Lake.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids, 10:30 p.m.
·         Go Big or Go Home: In 25 games this season, the Rapids have only two ties, the lowest amount of draws in MLS 2012.
·         Whenever, Wherever: The Earthquakes rank first in MLS in home goals-scored average (2.33/game) and second in road goals-scored average (1.54/game).
·         Feeling the Aftershocks: The Rapids have won just once in their last eight home games against San Jose. That win came August 7, 2010; the teams will meet October 6 in Commerce City.
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 10:30 p.m.
·         Setbacks: Whitecaps FC have suffered back-to-back shutout losses for the first time this season. They were shut out in consecutive games once previously: March 24-31, coming away with a scoreless draw in each match.
·         Road Warrior: Darlington Nagbe has netted three of the Timbers’ six away goals this season.
·         Expansion Kings: Vancouver has yet to defeat Portland in MLS play. The Timbers won both meetings of the MLS expansion class of 2011 last year, a 2-1 victory at Jeld-Wen Field and a 1-0 triumph at BC Place.
Chivas USA vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 10:30 p.m.
·         Superb Sub: Fredy Montero has notched six goals and two assists in 10 career MLS games off of the bench, the most recent one being the go-ahead goal against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday.
·         Road Blocks: Chivas USA is one of only two clubs—the other being the Columbus Crew—that, on average, has conceded less goals on the road than at home.
·         Tag Team: Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson have each scored four goals over the past six league games; the pair has combined for 19 goals total this season.
Sunday, August 26
LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas, 7:00 p.m. (NBC Sports Network/RDS2)
·         The Tops: FC Dallas’ fifth-ever homegrown player signing, Jonathan Top, scored his first MLS goal in the club’s 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on August 15.
·         Galaxy Givers: MLS assists co-leader Landon Donovan is one match-winning helper away from tying former Galaxy teammate Cobi Jones for third-place on the all-time list.
·         Castillo All Class: Fabian Castillo netted a goal for a third consecutive game – all FC Dallas victories, the club’s longest winning streak this season.
·         ‘Keane’ on Scoring: Robbie Keane struck the back of the net for a second consecutive match and the seventh time in the last eight games in the Galaxy’s last league fixture, a 1-1 draw at Columbus on August 15.
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN3/ESPN Deportes/GolTV Canada/RDS2)
·         Back in the KC Groove: Graham Zusi’s recorded his third assist in four games – setting up Kei Kamara’s ninth goal of the season – to lead Sporting to a 1-0 win at Toronto FC on Saturday. The three-game winning run is their longest since Sporting opened the season with seven consecutive victories.
·         Second Half Performer: The Red Bulls lead MLS in most goals allowed in the first 45 minutes of play (21), and yet hold a strong second place in the Supporters’ Shield race.
·         DefendSTRONG: Sporting Kansas City have only allowed, on average, 0.67 goals per game at home, the second-lowest mark in MLS.
·         Starting Strong: The Red Bulls’ newest Designated Player, Australian international Tim Cahill, scored his first MLS goal in the 3-2 win Sunday against Portland. Cahill has a goal and two assists in three MLS appearances.
“I told (general manager Adrian Hanauer) if he can keep getting 50,000, we'll keep winning, because every league game over 50, we've won. So we don't mind if for the next game they want to open up more seats and get another 55,000 in here.”
-- Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid after his team defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-0 before a crowd of 55,718 at CenturyLink Field
“Andy Gruenebaum is a good friend of mine and maybe that was a gift for my baby that was born a few months ago, or that’s what I’ll tell him.”
-- Houston Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat after his long-range effort slipped through Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, leaving the teams in a 2-2 draw on Sunday
“You Philly guys are tough, you know that? We just got a point on the road. We’re good. That’s a good result for us. I’m not disappointed.”
-- Philadelphia Union interim team manager John Hackworth after his team survived a drama-filled stoppage-time period for a 1-1 draw at D.C. United
“I have two bags to my name right now, and I’m staying in a hotel. But that doesn’t really matter — I’ve got my soccer shoes, I’ve got a good locker room full of guys that I enjoy and respect, and that makes it a pretty good environment to work in.”
-- D.C. United’s Mike Chabala on being traded from Portland last week
“It was just amazing. Sigi and I watched it together. Both of us had been in that experience of being in Azteca. It wasn’t full this time, but that atmosphere is amazing. (Playing there), the Mexican teams are so confident. ... It was a great feeling as a former national team player to pull for our team and have us pull out the victory.”
-- Seattle Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson on the US National Team’s first ever win over Mexico at Estadio Azteca
Sweet Tweets
@RyanTronovitch– August 18
A little #MLS36 sneak peek. DeRo cooking breakfast at about 7am today before training #DCU
@AroundTheHorn – August 15
I just spoke pterodactyl on that last Howard save.
@MauriceEdu– August 15
History makers! 1-0 in Azteca!
@MGspurning(Michael Gspurning)August 15
Sounders meet @Mariners :-)
‏@Dannycruz5– August 16
Both on and off the field...thanks again for the support and looking forward to seeing the Sons of Ben every week @PhilaUnion #Doop
@AJD_20(AJ DeLaGarza)– August 16
Dear Sharkweek, I am now terrified of ALL bodies of water. Much appreciated!!!
@BrekShea– August 17
I don't think I got the joke
‏@ebushel1(Evan Bush)– August 17
You know the guy at the cafe with the laptop that looks like he is working hard on something, but you know he is just on Twitter? #thatsme