Starting XI: Old enemies clash again in California Clasico, Atlantic Cup showdown on and off the field
The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) Can Jurgen Klinsmann's latest call-ups get through the weekend safe and sound?
The US national team coach broke from his recent pattern of waiting until the last minute (ie, after weekend league action) to announce his squad, which includes nine MLS standouts and will gather in Miami next week ahead of huge World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. Klinsmann – and USMNT fans – will hope that all are healthy and in form when it's time to leave for Florida.
10) Did Landon make the right call?
Landon Donovan might already have a claim to being the best player in MLS history and the lucrative new multiyear contract he just signed with the LA Galaxy sets him up to salt away that title in the years ahead. But as LA welcome his former team the San Jose Earthquakes to StubHub Center on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), it's worth wondering whether the wanderlust that befell him last winter will ever crop up again. Might Cambodia – and points even further afield – call to him again someday?
9) Will Real Salt Lake and Portland light up Sandy, Utah again?
These Western Conference rivals have met so often of late that players have jokingly compared the matchup to a practice drill. Many observers have enjoyed their first two matches, especially the wild 3-3 draw at JELD-WEN Field on Aug. 21, and they'll get a chance to make some more magic when the Timbers visit RSL on Friday night (10 pm ET, NBCSN).
8) Can the Revs avoid further hiccups against Toronto FC?
New England made a serious statement with that ruthless 5-1 dispatching of Philadelphia last week, though Jay Heaps' young side has shown a habit of inconsistency which makes Friday night's visit to BMO Field (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) harder to call than it should be. The Revolution were upset by TFC at home a few weeks ago, which makes it even more important to snare three road points this time around.
7) Can Chivas USA win two in a row for the first time since March?
The Goats are beaming after last Sunday's stunning 3-2 ambush of the New York Red Bulls. And with Sunday's clash at Vancouver (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), they have the chance to build a winning streak, something they have done since March 30 – when they beat the very same Whitecaps squad and climbed to second place in the West, likely the high-water mark in their difficult 2013 season.
6) What are the Dynamo, Crew and Union really made of?
Three teams found themselves on the wrong end of blowout results last weekend and though each game had its own characteristics, there is no escaping the fact that such losses represent an explicit challenge to players' individual and collective pride. A strong response is required as this trio meets Chicago, Seattle and Montreal, respectively.
5) It's time for “Sigi Bowl” 2013: Who's your pick?
On Saturday Sounders coach Sigi Schmid returns to the club he led to the 2008 MLS Cup championship as SSFC take on the Columbus Crew in central Ohio (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). This matchup has typically favored the Rave Green over the years, but the Crew, who are 3-7 in their last 10 games, are desperate for points at the moment.
4) What on earth happened to Sporting KC?
So much for cruising into Supporters' Shield contention. Whether it's CONCACAF Champions League taking its toll or simply a cluster of unlucky results, Kansas City have lost four of their last five and have slid down the standings accordingly. A strong display is needed when the red-hot Colorado Rapids invade Sporting Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
3) No, really...who's making their move in the Eastern Conference?
Parity: Some love it, others hate it. This season the East seems determined to carry the concept to its logical extreme, as just 12 points separate the conference's first- and eighth-place teams. The playoff picture remains enduringly murky with two months to go, which actually presents an opportunity for whoever (Montreal? New England?) can muster a late surge.
2) Can D.C. United find comfort in piling more problems on New York?
By now everyone is familiar with the extent of United's troubled 2013. Yet it's fitting that they may head into Saturday's Atlantic Cup decider (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN) with their spirits no lower than their old rivals the Red Bulls, who have been knashing teeth and bumping heads – perhaps literally, in the case of Thursday's training-ground dustup between head coach Mike Petke and megastar Thierry Henry – since Sunday's gut-punch loss to Chivas USA. D.C. would love to wreak further havoc on RBNY, but that will require them snaring their first road win of the season.
1) California Clasico: May we have some more goals, please?
LA and San Jose have rarely played a boring match in their long history of antagonism and both scoring and late drama have been plentiful in their recent meetings, with 21 goals scored in their last four regular-season duels. Saturday's tussle in SoCal looks like a tall order for the Earthquakes, who are without Rafael Baca, Victor Bernardez and Justin Morrow due to suspensions.