MLS Week 26: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend

Eduardo Mendez@@Mendez_FCCorrespondent IIAugust 22, 2013

MLS Week 26: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend

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    More than 67,000 eyes will be fixated on Seattle in MLS Week 26. But there are four other stories that also warrant the attention of your eyesight this weekend.

    The midweek action picked up with a battle between a pair of Western Conference elites. The Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake ended a thrilling 90 minutes in a 3-3 draw. Both teams remain separated by three points in the standings.

    FC Dallas snatched three points of their own. A 3-1 victory over Chivas USA snapped the club's 11-game winless streak.

    Nine matches will follow this weekend. But with so much action on tap, what warrants your attention in Week 26?

    Read on to find out.

Complete Schedule and Guide

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    Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 26. The results from Wednesday's matches are posted as well.

    The Colorado Rapids are idle.

    Wednesday

    Chivas USA 1-3 FC Dallas

    Portland Timbers 3-3 Real Salt Lake

    Friday

    Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

    Saturday

    Montreal Impact vs. Houston Dynamo, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    D.C. United vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 9 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Sunday

    Chivas USA vs. New York Red Bulls, 5 p.m. ET, UniMas

    New England Revolution vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN 2

The Story to Watch: All Eyes on Landon Donovan

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    There won't just be American eyes on Landon Donovan this weekend.

    In an interview with Fox Soccer Daily, the former captain hinted at a possible move in the offseason:

    We have received offers from teams in different countries that are intriguing. I'm still going to speak with the Galaxy and see how they value me and see where they want to go going forward. I'm really open in a way that I haven't been before. In the past, I was pretty content to stay in L.A., but if it doesn't work out and we can't come to an agreement here, then I'm ready for a different challenge.

    You couldn't stop the rumor mill from spinning fast enough after comments like that.

    Greg Seltzer—a writer for MLS' official website—led the way with a report that Italian clubs Genoa, Sassuolo and Hellas Verona are all interested in his services. The heavy rumor, of course, linked Donovan with a potential move to AC Milan.

    Grant Wahl put the kibosh on that rumor immediately.

    But rumors or not, a very confident Donovan is ready for action in Week 26. A 2-0 victory over Cartagines on Tuesday continued the Galaxy's stellar form. Even Robbie Keane—who has 10 goals and nine assists in league play—couldn't refrain from heaping praise on the former captain.

    His comments were posted on MLS' official website following the win:

    You see the difference when Landon came on. We're very in tune with each other. We know each other's runs and where we want to be, so it was the case with the two goals, and lucky enough for us we got the two goals.

    With a trip to Vancouver in the cards for Week 26, Donovan will have to make another "difference" if the Galaxy hope to walk out of BC Place with a result.

The Number to Watch: 67,000...ish

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    Will you be one of the 67,000 fans that will #WatchDempsey at CenturyLink Field this Sunday?

    The exact figure isn't known yet. But according to Joshua Meyers—a columnist for the Seattle Times—the Sounders are threatening history in Week 26.

    In 2012, a capacity crowd of 66,452 packed CenturyLink to witness a 3-0 demolition of the Portland Timbers. It was the most ever on hand for a regular season match in club history. Just a year before that, 67,052 fans were on hand to witness a friendly against Manchester United. The match wasn't competitive, but it remains as the benchmark for attendance in club history.

    Both attendance records are in jeopardy of falling this Sunday.

    The Sounders have gone as far as offering standing-room-only tickets for the first time in club history for an MLS match this weekend.

    According to Seattle's official website, head coach Sigi Schmid believes a statement can be made both on and off the field:

    It’s huge. It’s huge for MLS because the rivalry is a thing that sustains sports. It’s huge for the Northwest because it really puts the stamp on the Northwest as being one of the hotbeds of soccer – if not the hotbed of soccer – in this country. When you can sell out CenturyLink Field for a game between two American teams, I think that makes a huge statement for our league.

    The stakes couldn't be higher in Week 26.

    The Sounders enter the weekend two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. A win could go a long way in rectifying that.

The Player to Watch: Ibrahim Sekagya

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    Every injury presents an opportunity.

    This week's belongs to Ibrahim Sekagya.

    Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave will be sidelined for 10 to 12 days with a mild tear in his left quad. The 32-year-old was forced to leave last Saturday's scoreless draw with the Union in the 76th minute. His partner for the evening will now be the one in his place ahead of Sunday's visit with Chivas USA.

    According to MLS' official website, head coach Mike Petke is confident in Sekagya's abilities moving forward:

    Something we've loved about Ibrahim since he's been here, is, with his experience and where he's played, he reads the game incredibly well. There was some talk and a little whisper about age and this and that, but … he reminds me of Robin Fraser a bit the last three, four years of his career when perhaps he lost a step from years past but his knowledge of the game is so good that he puts himself in great positions.

    Coach Petke has every right to feel confident entering Week 26.

    According to the Opta Chalkboards, Sekagya had a pair of timely tackles and interceptions last Saturday. Add three headers and a clearance, and you have an impenetrable force that contributed to Philadelphia's scoreless effort.

    His distribution was equally superb. The Ugandan completed 57 of his 62 attempted passes coming out of the back.

    If the Red Bulls hope to capture an all-important three points on the road, Sekagya must contribute another immaculate performance to his club.

The Team to Watch: Real Salt Lake

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    Real Salt Lake still sit atop the Supporters' Shield standings, but the club enters Week 26 in a bit of a funk.

    Even with a valuable point earned at JELD-WEN Field on Wednesday, RSL have captured just five out of a possible 18 points in their last six matches. Strength of schedule finally caught up with the Claret and Cobalt. Their last six opponents are still in position to make the playoffs.

    But a bit of a break follows this Saturday when Columbus visits Sandy, Utah.

    The Crew are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference with a pedestrian 29 points.

    Despite a drop in the level of competition, head coach Jason Kreis believes he'll have no issues motivating his players this weekend. His comments were posted on the club's official website following a draw with the Timbers:

    I think the beauty of it all, is that typically when you're in August, you're starting to think about "How am I going to motivate these players?" "How are we going to continue to give our best every game when there's nothing really there to fight for?" Typically, there's somebody so far out in front that your chances of catching them are very slim. Typically, there's a lot of people down at the bottom, so your chances of not making the playoffs are very slim. So, you begin to kind of lose your way. But this year, I think every single game is being like [tonight], with that intensity, and I think that's fantastic because it should put us in a really good place for the playoffs.

    Some major reinforcements should aid Coach Kreis' cause in Week 26.

    Kyle Beckerman served a one-game suspension on Wednesday due to yellow-card accumulation. Both Nick Rimando (stomach virus) and Alvaro Sabrio (calf strain) missed action as well.

    All three could see the field this Saturday.

    RSL will see a full three points when they do.

The Match to Watch: Montreal Impact vs. Houston Dynamo

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    It won't carry the sex appeal of 67,000 fervent fans, but the battle between Montreal and Houston will carry huge implications for the Eastern Conference standings.

    The top five teams in the East are separated by a total of three points entering Week 26. The Dynamo sit three points behind the leading pace. The Impact are two points better.

    Both clubs have a pair of games in hand. Both clubs have the opportunity to change the landscape of the Eastern Conference with a win on Saturday.

    But it won't come easy for either of these two Eastern Conference powers.

    CONCACAF Champions League action put some miles on the feet of Montreal and Houston this week. Both clubs had the dubious honor of traveling in the region for competitive matches. The Impact fell 1-0 to Costa Rican side Herediano. The Dynamo salvaged a point in Trinidad and Tobago with a scoreless draw against W Connection.

    Both clubs will look to rebound and capture a full three points this Saturday.

    Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics.

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