After a two-week international break, Major League Soccer returned last weekend. Every team is in action this week, and most teams in the league will play twice in a half-week span. Key top-of-the-standings matchups include Real Salt Lake hosting San Jose, Seattle hosting San Jose and New York hosting D.C. However, with teams further down the standings getting results on their returns to league play last weekend — such as Montreal smacking Seattle 4-1 and Los Angeles getting a crucial win against Portland — the league is as tight as it has ever been. Liviu Bird is a professional soccer player for the Kitsap Pumas and freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter, @liviubird, and visit his blog, thebootroomblog.com.
Last week: 19. Toronto has a new head coach, but things barely look better than before. On top of a tough road trip that sees the Reds play in Kansas City and Houston, three players were arrested outside a nightclub in Houston on Monday.
This week: at Houston, Wednesday at 7 p.m.; vs. New England, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Last week: 18. The Union also has a new coach in former assistant John Hackworth. The first result under new management was familiar, though, as Philadelphia lost 1-0 at home to D.C. United.
This week: vs. Kansas City, Saturday at 5 p.m.
Last week: 17. A 0-0 tie with Columbus will leave fans wanting more after a long layoff. Luckily for New England, the team’s schedule ensures a slow transition back into league play; the Revs play Toronto next.
This week: at Toronto, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Last week: 15. Columbus has enjoyed recent success on the road. The Crew has given up just one goal in its past four road games.
This week: at Chicago, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Last week: 16. The Impact opened up Stade Saputo last weekend by defeating the Seattle Sounders emphatically, winning 4-1. Former Sounder Lamar Neagle scored the final goal, his first for his new club.
This week: at Chivas, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.; vs. Houston, Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Last week: 13. Portland didn’t prepare itself too well for its big Cascadia Cup matchup this weekend, losing in Los Angeles last week. However, the Sounders play in midweek while the Timbers don’t, giving the Oregonians more time to think about what is sure to be an electrifying fixture.
This week: vs. Seattle, Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN).
Last week: 14. Goalkeeper Josh Saunders returned to the Galaxy lineup against Portland, leading Los Angeles to its first shutout of the season. The Galaxy is really back in form but will have to get results against Real Salt Lake and Vancouver this week to prove it is really back to championship form.
This week: at Salt Lake, Wednesday at 7 p.m. (CW 30/ESPN 700); vs. Vancouver, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Last week: 11. In the first Texas derby of the season, Dallas lost narrowly in Houston last weekend. Even while missing seven normal starters due to injury, Dallas recovered from conceding a goal in the third minute to keep the game interesting.
This week: vs. Chivas, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Last week: 12. The Orange structure that is BBVA Compass Stadium looks like a fortress early on in its existence. The Dynamo is 3-0-1 in its new downtown Houston home.
This week: vs. Toronto, Wednesday at 7 p.m.; at Montreal, Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Last week: 9. Chivas had its six-game unbeaten streak in all competitions snapped at home last weekend by RSL. This week might be a good chance to regain some of that momentum though, as the Rojiblancos face two teams below them in the table.
This week: vs. Montreal, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.; at Dallas, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Last week: 10. The Rapids were pretty close to defeating — or at least tying — Vancouver last weekend. Colorado hit the post twice in the last 10 minutes, leaving coach Oscar Pareja to lament his team’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
This week: vs. San Jose, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Last week: 8. Chicago was one of just four teams in action over the international break, and it came away looking in better form than the rested New York Red Bulls after winning 3-1 last weekend. The biggest story from that game was another piece of evidence in the case for goal-line technology in the sport.
This week: vs. Columbus, Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Last week: 4. It hasn’t looked too good for the Sounders recently. A five-game league winless streak could very well be extended to seven by the end of this week.
This week: vs. Kansas City, Wednesday at 8 p.m.; at Portland, Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN).
Last week: 7. Vancouver continues to surge up the Western Conference table, passing Cascadia rival Seattle and taking over third place after a win last weekend. Two stern tests await again this week against New York and Los Angeles, both trying to build up some positive momentum.
This week: vs. New York, Wednesday at 9 p.m.; at Los Angeles, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Last week: 6. After winning in Philadelphia last weekend, D.C. took a solid hold of first place in the conference. However, if United doesn’t win against New York on Sunday, it will take a step back in its quest for the top playoff seed in the East.
This week: at New York, Sunday at 5 p.m. (NBC Sports Network).
Last week: 5. Julio Cesar’s volley off a corner kick against Toronto should be in contention for MLS Goal of the Year. Cesar smashed the ball into the net and squashed Toronto’s hope of a stunning road result under new coach Paul Mariner in his first game.
This week: at Seattle, Wednesday at 8 p.m.; at Philadelphia, Saturday at 5 p.m.
Last week: 2. The Red Bulls’ unbeaten streak was snapped at six league games by a 3-1 defeat in Chicago. New York will miss Designated Players Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez for at least one more game through injury.
This week: at Vancouver, Wednesday at 9 p.m.; vs. D.C., Sunday at 5 p.m. (NBC Sports Network).
Last week: 3. San Jose got an extra week of rest, not having a game scheduled last week. A big game in Salt Lake awaits the team’s return to league play this weekend.
This week: at Colorado, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.; at Salt Lake, Saturday at 7 p.m. (CW 30/ESPN 700).
Last week: 1. A big revenge result against Chivas will give RSL confidence heading into two home games against dangerous teams this week. Even if Real can navigate a tricky test against a resurgent Galaxy on Wednesday, it won’t get any easier against second-place San Jose on Saturday.
This week: vs. Los Angeles, Wednesday at 7 p.m. MDT (CW 30/ESPN 700); vs. San Jose, Saturday at 7 p.m. (CW 30/ESPN 700).