MLS: Week 18 talking points

Despite being eclipsed by the World Cup’s final, the lineup of MLS actions this weekend shouldn’t be short of spine-tingling excitement.

With squads returning to full health, the level of the play will be at a season-high in the 18th week. The league’s parity almost guarantees that every team competing will give it their all in this crucial stage of the season.

Coaches will be more attack-minded, road teams will put in a valiant effort in order to secure valuable points, and the awareness of teams competing in front of their fans will be at an all-time high because failure to secure all three points can – and will ‒ be damaging for their playoff chances.

As usual, there are numerous topics that deserves attention, but none are more intriguing than these three.

Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers, who wins?

If you’re a fan of high intensity soccer with thousands of fans deliriously screaming from the stands, then you cannot afford to miss this game that will be aired live on ESPN2 on July 13, 2014.

This game will be the second time these two teams play each other in four days. In the US Open Cup qauarterfinal, the Timbers were persistent for 90 minutes, but couldn’t stop Seattle from scoring twice in extra time.

Chris Wondolowski

Chris Wondolowski

Their previous league match is certainly one of the best MLS games this season. Clint Dempsey stole the show with his first hat-trick in a Sounders jersey, but Seattle could only come away with a point as the game ended in a 4-4 tie.

The American captain will make his return this weekend along with USMNT teammate Deandre Yedlin. Seattle fans will also get to watch MVP candidate Obafemi Martins make his return.

Despite Seattle’s tremendous offensive arsenal, Portland will not go down without a fight. Caleb Porters’ team desperately needs three points, and I’m sure they’d like to begin their upward surge in front of their nemesis’ supporters.

Can Wondo revive San Jose Earthquakes’ season?

Just to think that San Jose was the top team in MLS two seasons ago makes it even tougher to believe that the same team sits at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Mark Watson’s side hasn’t picked up a point from its previous three matches. Jon Busch did all that he could, but San Jose’s forward seem to have forgotten how to score a goal.

It no surprise that the Canadian coach is delighted to see his only Designated Player and captain return. Chris Wondolowski is coming off the biggest miss of his career against Belgium in the World Cup, but the 31-year-old is ready to put that behind him. The lethal scorer will have a tough task trying to lead his team past Eastern Conference leader, DC United.

Unlike San Jose, United has recovered from a horrific 2013 season. The veteran players have meshed well with the youngsters to form a formidable unit.

The game will be aired live on NBC Sports Network on July 11, 2014 at 11 p.m. ET.

Will Bradley Wright-Phillips’ hot streak continue?

New York Red Bulls’ leading scorer has been beyond amazing this season. The English forward is seizing his opportunity and making a solid case for MVP. In just 13 starts, he already has 14 goals (his teammates have only scored 12 goals).

This weekend, he goes up against a stingy Columbus Crew defense that’s only allowed 19 goals. BWP will have to be at the top of his game because his team desperately needs a win. New York drew its last two games.