Starting XI: Top 11 questions heading into the weekend

The countdown of the 11 most intriguing questions facing MLS clubs, players and coaches heading into the weekend.

11. What will unfold for Landon Donovan on his return to the blue side of Liverpool?

It started with a cryptic tweet from the man himself on Thursday morning, and within hours the American soccersphere had exploded with chatter about the LA Galaxy star’s decision to join Everton on a two-month loan starting next month. His 2010 stint was a hit, helping the club and laying the groundwork for his World Cup heroics that summer – can he reach those heights again this time?

10. Will that much-anticipated Everton-Tottenham match have as much edge as everyone thinks?

Brad Friedel’s recent comments about LD were probably blown a bit out of proportion, and it probably only took a brief conversation for the two former US national team colleagues to clear the air. But that levelheadedness won’t keep all of us from watching intently when their clubs meet in London on Jan. 11, an English Premier League clash that has instantly become destination viewing for US fans.

9. What can Lee Nguyen bring to the Whitecaps?

Thursday also brought news of an MLS destination for Nguyen, another of North American soccer’s lost sheep. Much like Freddy Adu, the diminutive Texan was a dazzling phenom at the youth level. Perhaps in hindsight, he moved overseas a bit too early, and now returns to a promising opportunity in Vancouver, where he could offer width and trickery on the left flank in new coach Martin Rennie’s system.

8. Are the Earthquakes finally ready to move some dirt?

Many words have been written about D.C. United’s endless stadium travails, yet it’s worth noting that San Jose’s first incarnation was also a founding member of MLS and pulled up stakes for Houston in 2005 due to the very same issue. So hopefully this week’s promising news about the Quakes’ slow but steady progress towards construction of their new home will soon be followed by a long-awaited groundbreaking.

7. Colombians in Cascadia: Which one will be El Mero Mero in 2012?

First there was Fredy, then came Jhon Kennedy. Jorge and Diego arrived a couple of years later and now José Adolfo has arrived. Portland’s signing of José Adolfo Valencia is historic because he is the league’s first “young DP” and the son of onetime MetroStars great Adolfo “El Tren” Valencia. But he’s also Colombia’s fifth addition to the Timbers and Sounders, two clubs who glower at one another from opposite sides of the great river which bears the same name (even if it’s spelled Columbia).

6. Where is the Aron Winter era headed in Toronto?

TFC’s candid Dutch boss didn’t exactly say that making the MLS Cup Playoffs didn’t matter for his team in 2012 in this week’s interview with Goal.com, but he definitely stressed his focus on the long view. However, his club’s parent company has recently changed hands, meaning that new decision-makers may weigh in with expectations, and timetables, of their own.

5. How will Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium earn a nickname?

RBA, RFK, HDC, DSGP: For better or worse, many MLS stadia have taken on acronym-based tags over the years. That might be a challenge with the Dynamo’s new home – BBVACS doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Here’s hoping the Orange and their fans can find an organic label for what promises to be a gorgeous facility when it opens in May.

4. What’s happening in Colorado?

Or is it more a case of “what’s not happening in Colorado?” Grappling with turnover in two pivotal management positions this offseason, the Rapids have reason to take their time and find the right head coach to replace Gary Smith. That said, the clock is ticking down to the combine, the SuperDraft and the opening of the international transfer window – occasions in which every coach wants to be involved.

3. Will the New York Cosmos – what’s left of them – ever find their way into MLS?

Commissioner Don Garber wants MLS’ 20th team to be based in New York, and as MLSsoccer.com’s own Steve Davis noted this week, around the world the Cosmos are deeply, eternally linked with Gotham soccer. But the departure of Cosmos vice chairman and well-known FOB (friend of Beckham) Terry Byrne this week continued the personnel turnover at a club which still remains mostly a marketing concept. One thing hasn’t changed: Their MLS expansion hopes will boil down to stadium plans and financial heft.

2. Is Herculez Gomez about to hit the big time with his move to Mexican heavyweights Santos Laguna?

The likes of Clint Dempsey, Friedel and now Donovan tend to draw the most attention when it comes to Americans Abroad, thanks in part to the EPL’s inescapable hype machine. Yet it’s possible that no Yank will appear on more television sets across the US this year than Gomez, who has joined the ambitious Primera División contenders in time for an intriguing March face-off with Seattle in the knockout rounds of CONCACAF Champions League.

1. How big will Bruce Arena’s offseason rebuilding project become in LA?

The Galaxy coach may be wondering why so many of his mainstays are contemplating the exit even with championship-party music still ringing in their ears. While David Beckham ponders Paris, Sean Franklin and Chris Birchall also mull moves and now Omar Gonzalez is reportedly attracting interest – from both club and country – south of the border. The Cup winners could look quite different in ’12.

Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.