Starting XI: Is Jay DeMerit back? Can Columbus keep climbing? Is Sunday in Seattle MLS' hottest ticket ever?
The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) What's really on Landon Donovan's mind, and in his future?
Listen to one interview with the soon-to-be-out-of-contract LA Galaxy superstar and it's clear that he's eager to re-sign with his hometown club and finish his career in SoCal. Listen to another, and he sounds intrigued by at least a few of the overseas clubs he says have expressed interest in his services. In the mean time, this weekend LA head to British Columbia to battle the Whitecaps, who are a mean proposition on their home turf, on Saturday night (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE, TSN2/RDS).
10) Will this be the weekend that Jay DeMerit makes his triumphant return?
Vancouver's showcase defender has defied the doubters – and medical convention – by healing his ruptured Achilles tendon well ahead of schedule, adding yet another inspiring chapter to his singular life story. He may finally be ready to return to game action, less than six months after he injured himself on opening day.
9) Can the Fire keep their heads vs. KC Friday night?
Chicago and their head coach Frank Klopas were left fuming (Klopas was ejected) by refereeing, performances and circumstances in last week's 2-0 road loss to New England, underlining the pressure on the Men in Red as they attempt to claw into the Eastern Conference playoff places with Kansas City in town (8:30 p ET, NBCSN).
8) Can the Crew keep climbing?
Let's be honest, plenty of us – including some Crew fans – saw Columbus as dead and buried as they stumbled through seven losses in an 11-game stretch. Yet two straight home wins have lifted spirits in central Ohio and the team is only seven points out of the East's final playoff spot. Now a real challenge arrives in the form of a visit to league leaders Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 9:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
7) Has the monkey really fallen off FC Dallas' collective backs?
That was how FCD coach Schellas Hyndman described the impact of Wednesday's startling comeback victory over Chivas USA, his squad's first win since Memorial Day weekend. The question is, do they have the gumption to dive back into the mosh pit that is the Western Conference playoff scrum? Oh, and speaking of mosh pits, the league's headbanging specialists, the San Jose Earthquakes, invade FC Dallas Stadium on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
6) Should the Dynamo be Montreal's role models this fall?
Houston visit the Impact on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE, TSN2/RDS), an appropriate time to note that the Quebec club is wading into the very same choppy waters that greeted the Dynamo a year ago: Juggling CONCACAF Champions League ambitions with the relentless hunt for an MLS postseason spot. Houston wobbled a bit in the league last season but still slipped into the playoffs and conquered the East side of the bracket, while also booking a place in the CCL knockout rounds...Not a bad example to follow.
5) Can D.C. United take some revenge against their old hero Ryan Nelsen?
Now in charge of Toronto FC, United's former captain snared all three points on the Reds' previous 2013 visit to RFK Stadium on June 15. TFC return to the US capital on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) and may find the Black-and-Red a more difficult proposition thanks to a promising youth movement and a strong home crowd expected at RFK.
4) Will Chivas USA haul themselves off the canvas for RBNY's arrival?
Home losses always sting. But it's particularly galling to fall 3-1 in a match you led until the 71st minute and might have salted away were it not for some controversial penalty-kick no-calls, as was the case for the Goats on Wednesday. The Red Bulls will be in no mood for sympathy when they hit town on Sunday (5 pm ET, UniMas), however.
3) Can the Revolution chart a course for the promised land?
Postseason involvement was once a given for New England and coach Jay Heaps is determined to restore that state of being – but if it's to happen this season, it's go time. The inconsistent Revs are presently sitting at .500, which likely won't be good enough to get in this year. It does help them that every single one of their remaining games is against Eastern Conference opponents, starting with the Philadelphia Union's visit to Gillette Stadium on Sunday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
2) Is Sunday's Sounders-Timbers game the hottest ticket in MLS history?
The latest installment of the Cascadia Cup (and Clint Dempsey's home debut) will play out in front of an overflow crowd of nearly 70,000 souls at Seattle's CenturyLink Field on Sunday (10 pm ET, ESPN2), and demand is strong enough to merit comparisons to iconic events like the league's inaugural match, David Beckham's MLS debut and showcase MLS Cup clashes. Will you be watching?
1) Is Dempsey ready to add his name to the annals of the Seattle-Portland rivalry?
Deuce has shown purpose and menace in his Sounders appearances thus far, but a true breakout moment has been elusive. The tigerish Texan has always had a flair for big moments, and his first match in front of the home faithful – as well as the arrival of his new club's most hated rival – looks like a just such an occasion.