The fireworks will extend beyond the Fourth of July in MLS Week 19. Three of the next four days will feature intense MLS action.
The league kick-started a congested Week 19 schedule with five mid-week matches.
Only the Seattle Sounders and Chicago Fire were able to capture victories Wednesday night. Toronto FC allowed the Montreal Impact to equalize after holding a two-goal lead in the second half. Sporting Kansas City failed to hold onto a one-goal lead of their own, and Real Salt Lake valiantly fought back to equalize with a penalty kick in stoppage time.
Eleven matches will follow during this all-important, four-day weekend. Three will be decided Thursday night.
But with so much action on tap, what warrants your attention in Week 19?
Read on to find out.
Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to the official MLS Press Box Stats and Standings.
Which match will you—the fan—be watching this weekend?
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 19.
The results from Wednesday's action have been posted as well.
Toronto FC 3-3 Montreal Impact
Chicago Fire 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Real Salt Lake 2-2 Philadelphia Union
Seattle Sounders 2-0 DC United
FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA, 9:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Colorado Rapids vs. New York Red Bulls, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Columbus Crew, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
New England Revolution vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union, 9:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders, 11:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City, 3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers, 5:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Montreal Impact vs. Chivas USA, 7:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Colorado Rapids vs. DC United, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Well, that didn’t last long.
The Red Bulls announced on Wednesday that the club mutually agreed to part ways with Brazilian veteran Juninho Pernambucano. He signed with New York in December of last year.
The 38-year-old midfielder released a statement on the team’s official website following his departure:
Before I leave for home, I want to thank the New York Red Bulls for the opportunity to experience MLS and to wish my teammates and the club’s excellent fans every success for the remainder of the season.
But according to SI.com's Grant Wahl, a post on Juninho's official Facebook page stated that a strained relationship with head coach Mike Petke led to this decision.
The Brazilian midfielder also stated that his recent form was another factor.
Now, it should be noted that Juninho led New York with four assists this season. Even if two were secondary assists—which are necessary to build the run of play that leads to a goal—he still led the team in assists.
But suspensions and poor form cut this experiment short.
Juninho collected more yellow cards than assists this season. His five yellow cards were also enough to lead the team.
The Red Bulls have already provided enough storylines to last a season. But how they respond to Juninho’s departure Thursday night will be all the fireworks you need this Fourth of July.
Welcome back to MLS, Carlos Bocanegra...well, sort of.
In a surprise move, the former United States captain signed with Chivas USA on Monday. The Goats traded up to the first spot in the allocation order to obtain his rights.
The move couldn’t have come at a better time.
Chivas USA have allowed a league-worst 31 goals this season. If you’re looking for a bit of silver lining, only DC has a worse goal differential with minus-19.
If you’re looking for more silver lining, look no further than the other reinforcements on the way. According to Ives Galarcep, young Mexican forwards Erick Torres and David Izazola will also be joining the Goats this week.
It took 10 losses and an embarrassing 11-game winless streak, but things might be on the up-and-up in Goat land. Just don’t hold your breath for a quick turnaround.
Let the 11-game winless streak come to an end first.
The Timbers have not lost since Week 3.
Fifteen opponents have tried. Fifteen have failed.
A huge part of that success is attributed to the team’s defensive effort in recent weeks.
Portland enters the Week 19 with a 278-minute shutout streak. The last team to strike against the Timbers were the Fire in Week 13. The clock has been running since Daniel Paladini’s equalizer in the 82nd minute.
Now, Portland must carry that impressive streak 2,435 miles to Columbus.
True, the Timbers are unblemished on the road in 2013 (2-0-7). But defensively, the away version hasn’t been as impressive as its home counterpart. Portland boasts two shutouts on the road this season. Compare that to the six shutouts the team has secured at JELD-WEN Field.
But does Columbus pose a significant threat in Week 19?
The numbers say no.
The Crew are a pedestrian 2-3-3 at home this season. Even worse, their 1.13 scoring average at Columbus Crew Stadium is tied for third-worst in the league. Only Chivas USA (1.00) and DC United (0.70) have been more feeble before a home crowd.
Something has to give on Sunday.
We know the Galaxy don’t want to, and Week 19 is their opportunity to rebound...fast.
The StubHub Center will be the host of L.A.’s redemption weekend.
Two matches in four days will serve as an opportunity for the Galaxy to ascend the Western Conference standings. But wiping that bitter, Stanford taste from the team's mouth is of the utmost importance this weekend.
As the old saying goes in L.A.: “There’s always another game.”
But if the Galaxy hope to capture an all-important six points in Week 19, they must first stop bleeding late goals. L.A. leads the league with 13 goals allowed in the final 15 minutes of matches.
According to the Galaxy’s official website, closing out games is just “another challenge” for head coach Bruce Arena.
It’s a challenge that must be met against FC Dallas and the Crew in Week 19.
MLS fans wanted an encore.
The wait is over.
A capacity crowd of 53,679 witnessed a wild affair between Seattle and Vancouver at CenturyLink Field in Week 15. A first-half brace from Camilo Sanvezzo put the Whitecaps in a position to capture their first ever Cascadia Cup victory.
But Lamar Neagle would not be denied.
The 26-year-old forward drew a penalty in the 69th minute. Servando Carrasco left little doubt in taking it. Eleven minutes later, Neagle’s game winner drove the 50,000-plus into an impassioned frenzy.
Fast forward a few weeks.
Vancouver enters Week 19 with a four-game unbeaten streak. The team has not lost since that faithful night at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders on the other hand, have been all but absent from the field in recent weeks. Wednesday night’s win over DC was only the team’s second match since Week 15.
Prepare yourself for another Cascadia Cup classic.
Saturday night's match will also be the NBC Sports debut of John Strong. The former play-by-play voice of the Timbers signed a deal with NBC Sports Group on June 24.
Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC