Starting XI: What's up with Clint Dempsey? Can Chivas USA make SuperClasico matter again?
The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) How will Jurgen Klinsmann's selections influence a critical phase in the MLS stretch run?
The US national team is set to reunite in Kansas City on Sunday and Monday ahead of next Friday's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica (6:30 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas) and despite the fact that his team has already booked a place in Brazil 2014, Klinsmann wants more time with his first-choice players. The problem for several MLS teams is, that will require them to navigate a decisive stretch without some of their top performers.
10) What's up with Deuce?
The intrigue swirls thickest around Clint Dempsey, the USMNT captain who seemed close to overcoming a hamstring injury as his Seattle Sounders prepare to visit Colorado this weekend. On Friday, however, we learned he wouldn't make the trip with his teamates. Klinsmann previously said that Dempsey would play for SSFC on Saturday, and thus will be expected in KC on Sunday. But Rave Green fans are fuming, with some justification, about the extra mileage that could inflict on their star. Will he be available for the USMNT?
9) Will US Open Cup champs D.C. United prove a tougher out in their final four games?
“This is why we play the game. This is why I coach, this is why these players come to work every day and fight – it's to hold a trophy. And they did that. So I'm not letting people take that away from this club right now.”
That was United coach Ben Olsen's message on Thursday in the wake of his team's stunning USOC upset of RSL, a triumph he believes should tone down criticism of their last-place standing in league play. The Black-and-Red can drive home his point by playing spoiler against the playoff-chasing teams left on their schedule, starting with Chicago on Friday night (8 pm ET, NBCSN).
8) Can LA, RSL and SKC bounce back?
Several of the league's big dogs got smacked over the past week, with the Galaxy losing a close one in Portland, Real Salt Lake crashing and burning in the US Open Cup final and Sporting getting sucker-punched by Philadelphia on home turf. The manner in which they move on from these setbacks will surely affect the MLS Cup's final destination.
7) And can Philly maintain the momentum from last week's upset?
Union coach John Hackworth has well and truly played the “us against the world” motivational card, turning to a more cautious, grinding style and insisting that his team deserve more respect as they hang tough in the Eastern Conference postseason picture. It worked against KC; will it net them the three points they require when Toronto FC visit PPL Park on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)?
6) Can October be as good to Columbus as September was?
The Crew's 4-1 mark last month propelled them back into playoff contention and constitutes their best September since 2004. With a few tactical tweaks and a more assertive mentality, interim coach Brian Bliss has transformed his team, but plenty of work remains to be done, starting with a positive result on Sporting's visit to Crew Stadium Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
5) How will slumping Montreal manage a pressure-packed month?
While the Impact gutted out a resourceful 2-2 draw in Chicago last week that left the Fire cursing their lack of killer instinct, that result can't obscure Montreal's fade (they're 1-2-2 in their last five) over the past several weeks. Like Seattle, they have the most games in hand (five) of any MLS side, yet it's a daunting stretch with trips to Houston (Friday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), LA and a rivalry visit to Toronto in their final regular-season match. In which direction are L'Impact headed?
4) Who can stop New York?
Historically, the most common answer to this one is “themselves,” yet the Red Bulls showed real grit in earning a road draw at Seattle last week despite the absence of Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave. The task would seem to be easier Saturday as New England visit Red Bull Arena (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), but the enduring drama – and frustration – of RBNY is that you just never quite know.
3) Can Chivas USA add some meaning to the SuperClásico?
The Goats beat their StubHub Center coinhabitants the Galaxy 1-0 on May 19, 2012, their only win in this rivalry since August 2007 (which was also the only year Chivas USA have won the season series). LA have won nine of the last 11 SoCal derbies – a track record so lopsided as to endanger the whole concept of the rivalry. One day after their struggling mother club in Guadalajara meets Club America in the Mexican version of the SuperClásico, it's high time for the Red-and-Whites to strike back (Sunday, 5 pm ET, UniMas).
2) Are the Rapids ready for the big spotlight?
Seattle visit Colorado on Saturday night (10 pm ET, NBCSN) in a highly meaningful clash with playoff qualifying, seeding and Supporters' Shield implications – and it's also the second of only two nationally televised regular-season matches at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. With so much on the line on their home turf, this could be a defining moment for Oscar Pareja's young side.
1) Where is the Cascadia Cup headed?
Each of the three Pacific Northwest clubs have two games to play in this competition, and if Vancouver or Portland (sitting at 5 and 3 points in the mini-tournament, respectively) want to catch the frontrunning Sounders, a victory in their Sunday evening clash at BC Place (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE) would be pivotal.