Starting XI: Who has Champions League hangover? Can Seattle Sounders roll on sans Clint Dempsey?
The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) What's it going to take for MLS to get it done in CONCACAF Champions League?
The league's participation in the current edition of CCL is over, but the questions will linger for quite a while. Why, precisely, do US and Canadian sides still fare so miserably against their Mexican counterparts? What needs to change? After two MLS teams advanced to the semifinal round a year ago, how can this week be seen as anything other than a stinging humiliation?
10) How will LA, SKC and San Jose manage their CCL hangovers?
Like it or not, the trio of clubs whose hopes were so harshly crushed in various circumstances south of the border have little time to grieve, with all three back in action on Saturday. Physical and mental fatigue will surely be an issue, but at least Sporting KC and the Earthquakes are on similar terms as they meet in Kansas (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
9) What's on Aurélien Collin's mind?
The SKC backline endured a torrid night at Estadio Azul on Wednesday – and what was nearly as shocking as the five goals allowed was the absence of its talismanic center back, who watched all 90 minutes from the bench. Afterward the passionate Frenchman hinted at his frustrations on Twitter; will he take the field on Saturday?
8) Just what is this Galaxy team's upside, anyway?
With a 1-0 aggregate lead, a short trip across the border and no high altitude to contend with, LA looked like the MLS squad best positioned to advance in CCL play. Yet that was all washed away in Tuesday's nightmarish first half-hour in Tijuana. A trip to Utah for a rematch with the Real Salt Lake side that sucker-punched them 1-0 at home on opening day provides a timely “gut check” moment for Bruce Arena and his out-of-sorts group (4 pm ET, NBCSN).
7) Will Montreal stand tall when the snow – and the Sounders – hit the Big O?
Stade Olympique, the Impact's early-season home until Stade Saputo thaws out, has a roof. But the top on the quirky old coliseum is sensitive to heavy snowfall, meaning that another incoming wave of winter weather has pushed their home opener back to Sunday as the Clint Dempsey-less Seattle Sounders visit town (4 pm ET, RDS, further TV TBD). At 0-2 already, the home team needs a good result.
6) You're not going to overlook Crew vs. Union, are you?
Other weekend matchups may draw more hype. But Saturday evening's clash in Columbus (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE) between two of the most improved teams in the league should be on every keen MLS observer's radar. Gregg Berhalter's Gold-and-Black were a study in cohesion and efficiency in their 3-0 disassembling of D.C. United and Philadelphia have looked like real contenders vs. Portland and New England. Interesting matchups all over the field in this one.
5) Will D.C. United stand and be counted at BMO Field?
Speaking of United, their own hopes of a dramatic 2014 turnaround were not helped by that opening-day home humbling and it only gets tougher as they visit resurgent Toronto FC (Saturday, 4:30 pm ET, TSN/MLS LIVE). Ben Olsen's side face need to show signs of progress to themselves as well as their fans, despite facing some heavy firepower in the form of Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and a revitalized BMO Field crowd.
4) Can the Revs stop the bleeding?
With two losses already, goals suddenly scarce and their best defender's status unclear, a Week 3 match has greater important than usual for the New England Revolution as Vancouver stop in for Gillette Stadium's 2014 opener on Saturday (2 pm ET, MLS LIVE, CTV BC in Canada). Three games and no points would be a daunting status, but the Revs need to find their midfield rhythm first and foremost.
3) How will the Goat Show look on the road?
Chivas USA have worked hard for their four points from two home games, and looked reasonably good in the process. Now coach Wilmer Cabrera must take his rapidly jelling group to Texas for a tussle with FC Dallas (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Will they be exposed in a more hostile environment, or will the battling spirit they showed in holding off the Whitecaps with 10 men persevere?
2) Can Colorado corral another high-powered attack when the Timbers drop in?
Given the heights they reached last year and the promising signs shown in preseason, it's no slight to state that Portland haven't found fifth gear yet this spring. And this weekend presents another challenge (Saturday, 6 pm ET, MLS LIVE) to that growth with a trip to lofty Dick's Sporting Goods Park, where the Rapids will make their home debut one week after taking the sting out of the usually explosive Red Bulls.
1) How will New York's front line get their guns blazing again?
About those Red Bulls ... Two goals in two games from the unit that notched a league-high 58 strikes last year suggests that coach Mike Petke may need to tinker with his lineup a bit, and he's said as much this week. Thierry Henry has been a live wire from the get-go, however, and right winger Lloyd Sam set up both of the aforementioned goals, making them the leading dangermen for the Chicago Fire to track at Toyota Park on Sunday (3 pm ET, UniMas).