Starting XI: After a tumultuous week in MLS, who can keep calm and carry on in Week 8?
The top 11 questions heading into this weekend…
11) Will Stuart Holden come home to wear his country's colors this summer?
The injury nightmares may finally be over for Holden, who almost instantly showed the potential to become one the most successful MLS exports of the past decade after his 2010 transfer from the Houston Dynamo to England's Bolton Wanderers. The midfielder has ramped up his painstaking two-year recovery on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and is surely hoping to push himself into US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann's Gold Cup plans.
10) Can the Revolution put a traumatic time behind them?
It'd be hard to fault New England for turning in a distracted performance at New York this weekend (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) as their home region continues to grieve after Monday's horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon. This tragedy struck particularly close to home, with goalkeeper Matt Reis' father-in-law seriously injured as he waited for his daughter to cross the finish line. But coach Jay Heaps and his men will carry the colors as proudly as they ever have on the journey down the I-95 corridor to visit their old adversaries.
9) How will the Red Bulls rebound?
One could contend that there's no great shame in falling to hot Sporting Kansas City, who have now rounded into their expected form with three straight victories. But for a team with New York's talent and ambition, a response to Wednesday's 1-0 home loss is necessary, even with uncertainty at the goalkeeping position and lingering doubts about the health of center back Jámison Olave.
8) Will the Jekyll-and-Hyde Dynamo cure their away woes in Toronto on Saturday?
Congratulations to Houston for setting a new home unbeaten record. Dominic Kinnear's bunch are beasts at BBVA Compass Stadium, plain and simple. They're something much less intimidating elsewhere, however: the Orange have lost in all three of their ventures away from the Bayou City in all competitions this season, scoring just two goals. They'll try to change that against TFC at BMO Field (4 pm ET, TSN).
7) Is it Seattle's week yet?
Sometimes it's not easy being Rave Green. Over the past month, the ranks of winless MLS teams have dwindled down to just one – the Sounders are now 0-3-2 as they head to Denver for a Saturday duel with the Rapids (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE). It's not all gloom and doom: Only three defenses have allowed fewer goals than the SSFC back line. And Steve Zakuani may finally be rounding into the devastating form that was interrupted almost exactly two years ago by the broken leg he sustained under a challenge from Colorado's Brian Mullan.
6) Will Vancouver end their Lone Star skid?
Another team unbeaten at their home venue and winless away from it, the Whitecaps return to Texas – where they came ever so close to knocking off Houston last month – this week to play league leaders FC Dallas in Frisco (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The modern-era 'Caps remain winless in the state and they'll need to improve on their seven goals in six games thus far in order to keep pace with free-scoring FCD, who also top the MLS scoring stats with 11 strikes.
5) Who will win the '05 expansion derby at Rio Tinto Stadium?
Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA entered MLS at the same time just over eight years ago. And while their fortunes have rarely coincided since those early days, lately it's been extremely rare to see the Goats sitting five standings places (even if only two points) above RSL as they do today. Their meeting at the RioT (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE) features an intriguing tactical clash between Real's “tiki-taka lite” and the physical, counterattacking style brought to Chivas by José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá.
4) As D.C. United try to stop the rot, is it time for Ben Olsen to give the Little Fishy a chance?
As they prepare for a Sunday afternoon visit from nearby rivals Philadelphia (5 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), the Black-and-Red have the blues due to a 1-4-1 start with just two goals scored. Olsen readily admitted after last week's Atlantic Cup loss to New York that his team just isn't very dynamic right now. Will he turn to Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruiz, the veteran MLS goal king sitting on his bench, or will Ruiz's midweek trip to Panama to receive the first-ever CONCACAF President's Award keep him in a substitute's role?
3) Can the Chicago Fire slow down their old teammate Dominic Oduro when the Crew hit town?
With three goals in his first 500 minutes in a Columbus kit, the Ghanaian speed merchant has done his best to prove that his new team got the better end of their offseason swap with Chicago. Surely he'd enjoy nothing more than finding the net in front of the Toyota Park faithful on Saturday evening (8:30 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week). In fact, he said as much on Thursday's edition of ExtraTime Radio.
2) Will the Galaxy have all their stars polished in time for Sporting KC's arrival?
“Now that is the Sporting we expected!”
Their results of the past three weeks have prompted many MLS observers to contemplate something to that effect, and their next challenge is a timely one in Southern California. Peter Vermes' squad must face the two-time defending champs on their own turf (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) in the second half of a four-day, coast-to-coast road swing from KC to NY to LA and back again. “To be the best, you've got to...”
Well, we all know the rest.
1) Can cooler heads prevail in the next installment of Quakes-Timbers?
The teams that clashed in Portland last Sunday are at it again a week later at the Earthquakes' Buck Shaw Stadium home (11 pm ET, UniMas). San Jose striker Alan Gordon will be absent for this and three more matches due to his ill-advised actions – and words – in the Timbers' 1-0 win in PDX. But he might still be bulletin-board material for Will Johnson & Co. as they look to add to their four-game unbeaten streak at the expense of the shorthanded Quakes.