Starting XI: Sporting eye revenge, Cascadia in the balance
The countdown of the 11 most intriguing questions facing MLS clubs, players and coaches heading into the weekend.
11) What’s Landon’s status update?
We’re not talking social media here, but rather hamstrings, and match fitness. Landon Donovan ran riot as a second-half sub in the Galaxy reserve team’s 4-0 win on Tuesday, and tonight he’ll hope to get a runout for the senior squad – apparently as a striker – against the desperate Colorado Rapids, who have won just two games since Independence Day.
10) Are Sporting KC ready for a Friday night fight with the Dynamo?
WATCH: Sporting KC prepare for Dynamo
Not many of this weekend’s games loom larger than this rematch of the 2011 Eastern Conference final at Livestrong Sporting Park. Houston punctured Sporting’s delirious late-season run last year, and despite a surprisingly tenuous fourth-place spot at the moment, remain a snake in the grass in the East. Expect fireworks in this one.
9) Will Toronto FC rise to Darren O’Dea’s public challenge?
TFC’s Irish center back took a substantial gamble after Wednesday’s 2-1 home loss to Chicago, calling out the team he joined barely a month ago for a performance he called “poor, to say the least,” and noting that “the run we are on at the minute is so far off anyone’s standards, it’s incredible.”
Does he already carry enough weight in the locker room to draw a rapid response from his new colleagues when Philadelphia visit BMO Field tomorrow afternoon? The Reds faithful certainly hope so.
8) What will post-DeRo D.C. United look like?
Tuesday night’s CONCACAF World Cup qualify loss in Panama, the nadir of a truly unpleasant trip to the Canal Zone, made for grim watching for Canadian national team fans and their misery soon spread to the US capital when news of Dwayne De Rosario’s season-ending MCL injury dropped on Thursday. The Black-and-Red just recently slipped out of the playoff places and now must mount a rescue mission without their MVP attacker – “We have a pressure situation here,” coach Ben Olsen told The Washington Post – starting at home against New England on Saturday.
7) Will Marcus Tracy wear an Earthquakes game jersey this year?
Out of sight, out of mind: It’s easy to forget how exciting certain young domestic talents are once they move on to a less visible stage. That’s what happened to Marcus Tracy, the Wake Forest product who occupied the undivided attention of many MLS clubs before he elected to start his pro career in Denmark three years ago. If he can put his knee problems behind him, San Jose’s new allocation lottery prize could go down as one of the steals of the decade, though it would be a real triumph to see him play in 2012.
6) Might Vancouver and Dallas soon be trading places after their clash in Texas?
A few weeks ago it would’ve been incomprehensible that cellar-dwelling FC Dallas could pull to within one point of the West’s final postseason berth with a win over the Whitecaps this weekend. Equally shocking would’ve been the revelation that it is Vancouver who are in danger of being overtaken. After a brilliant start to the campaign, Martin Rennie’s men have lost seven of their last 10, and perhaps their identity as well.
WATCH: Crew break down NY visit
5) Are the Crew really for real?
Columbus saw their four-game winning streak slip away on a banana-peel game in New England last week, and it gets harder with a trip to Red Bull Arena, which Thierry Henry & Co. have rendered one of the league’s fortresses with their 9-0-3 home mark. Between Henry and Crew maestro Federico Higuain, neutrals should find compelling viewing at both ends of the field.
4) Do San Jose have the eye of the tiger?
If New England was Columbus’ “trap game,” then this week’s Home Depot Center date with listing Chivas USA might be the same thing for the league-leading Quakes. Frank Yallop is surely reminding his squad that upcoming duels with Seattle and LA cannot justify overlooking the Goats in their own den.
3) What else do the Fire have in store?
Thanks to schedule idiosyncrasies, Chicago have been carrying around the proverbial “games in hand” for much of this season. And unlike many other teams handed that mixed blessing, they’ve made good use of them, vaulting into second place in the East. Beyond their own interests, The Men In Red will inevitably shape the final conference standings due to the fact that every single one of their final seven games are against East rivals, including Montreal’s must-win visit to Toyota Park tomorrow.
2) Can Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson maintain their untouchable form?
With 24 goals and eight assists between them, the Sounders front-line duo has found their chemistry and run with it. Their individual gifts contrast and complement one other’s and they’re looking like the most dangerous attacking tandem in the league these days. They can pose problems for any defense, much less a Portland rearguard which has allowed the second-most goals in MLS thus far.
WATCH: Portland vs. Seattle on NBC
1) Or will the Timbers salvage their season with the capture of the Cascadia Cup?
After all the unhappiness that’s befallen Stumptown’s soccer club in this, their year of the sophomore slump, it’s fairly amazing that they can secure a trophy with a victory over Seattle at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday afternoon. That’s right: Portland will win Pac Northwest bragging rights if they beat their hated northern neighbors in front of the home fans. If they don’t, however, the door opens for Seattle to haul them back later this fall.