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Complete preview for MLS week 26: MLS plays on despite international window

We’ve got MLS games on tap for the weekend despite the international break.

MLS: New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an international break this weekend, but because MLS is weird, there are still a few (diminished) matches on the schedule for this week. Everyone else in the world is taking the week off so that teams don’t have to deal with their best players out on national team duty, but not us. Oh well.

Anyway, five games are coming up on the weekend. NYCFC and D.C. United played on Thursday for reasons unknown to me.

The slate kicks off at 7:00et, 4:00pt on Saturday with Vancouver and the Red Bulls playing at BC Place. This comes a week after NYRB extended their 12-game unbeaten streak (in all competitions) with a somewhat unconvincing 1-0 home win over New England, a team in a similarly dire position as the Whitecaps. The ‘Caps can’t score, can’t play defense, and are falling fast, making this game another favorable one from a New York perspective.

The reigning Shield winners — currently on the run of form that every contender hopes for in August — have an opportunity to jump into a tie with Toronto for first in the East with three points in Vancouver. They’ll be without starting No. 10 and professional assist-getter Sacha Kljestan, who (finally) received a USMNT call-up and will be busy living it up in the Caribbean.

It will be interesting to see whether they will be able to replace his ability to penetrate opponent’s backlines and put Bradley Wright-Phillips — one of the main catalysts in their recent hot run — into scoring positions. I’m not sure whether Felipe or Sean Davis or Gonzalo Veron will come close to replicating Kljestan.

A half-hour after that game, the aforementioned-Revolution will take on Colorado in what will be a nice opportunity for the Shield-contending Rapids to grab an away three points.

If you’re trying to choose which games to watch that evening — unless, of course, you’re planning on watching Ivory Coast vs. Sierra Leone in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, in which case, more power to you — I wouldn’t say Revs vs. Rapids would be my recommendation. Colorado will settle for an away point and thus won’t exactly be throwing the kitchen sink at Bobby Shuttleworth/Brad Knighton’s goal; while New England are in a bit of a drought at the current moment, so I wouldn’t count on them breaking the Rapids’ sturdy back six.

Since I said that, it’ll probably finish 5-3 or something, but whatever.

At 9:00et/6:00pt, the best match of the evening (in my opinion) will be taking place. FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers will clash in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference final, with Dallas arriving comfortably atop of the Shield standings and Portland coming in on a high after decimating Seattle at home last weekend.

This will be at Toyota Park, by the way, so no “f—- Dallas” chants for TV people to get annoyed about.

FCD are coming off a too-close-for-comfort 3-1 comeback win in Houston, in which Michael Barrios showed that he is among the best attacking wingers this league has to offer. Their main problem remains unsolved, however: They lack an elite, consistent goal-scorer, whether that is a true No. 9 or a winger. Maxi Urruti is not the answer.

Portland almost blew it last week against the Sounders, but managed to nab a 4-2 victory. They’re fighting for their playoff lives, and will need at least a point from Dallas.

Prior to that game is an Eastern Conference matchup between the Fire and the Union. Chicago are clearly in the middle of figuring out how they’re going to play and what personnel they want executing that blueprint; they went from a 3-0 win in Montreal to a 6-2 loss to D.C. They’re an interesting case.

The Union are securely above the red line, and are now fighting with the New York teams for higher playoff seeds. They shouldn’t have a particularly hard time with the Fire, but one thing to look out for is how they deal with Chicago’s speed in attack. Fabinho is their only defender who really has significant chase-down speed, and I’m not sure about Ken Tribbett and Richie Marquez’s ability to contain David Accam.

Saturday’s nightcap is a match between LA and Columbus (10:30et, 7:30pt). It will be the Galaxy’s first game since Nigel de Jong was transferred to Galatasaray, and their first since injuries occurred to Steven Gerrard, Gyasi Zardes, and Jelle Van Damme.

Bruce Arena will have some lineup reshuffling to do.