Starting XI: Bulletin-board material for Bruce Arena? Any darkhorses left for USMNT's Jurgen Klinsmann?
Welcome to Starting XI, our Friday rundown of what to watch for – and what we're watching.
Our recommended musical pairing this week, as per editor Andrew Wiebe, is Kelela's "Enemy"
I. AMERICA'S TEAM: If you believe that fortune truly favors the bold, you've probably developed a soft spot for the Columbus Crew (Saturday vs. Vancouver, 7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE, TSN in Canada). They've gone six games without a win, but those results are no indictment of the team. Gregg Berhalter has the Canaries playing a wide-open, entertaining style of soccer, both home and away (see 1-0 loss in Houston on Wednesday). And the players are complying, logging miles of sprints to implement it.
It's been a breath of fresh air to see this Columbus team gamble like few dare to in MLS, throwing numbers forward at will. It's fun to watch, but it will ultimately be judged by whether they can make the postseason. Yet if there's somewhere the gambling can pay off, it's in MLS, where the margin for error – 34 games – is a healthy one. – SIMON BORG
II: RUN, GUN AND GOALS: Forget the St. Louis Rams of old: The Seattle Sounders are the greatest show on turf. And while Clint Dempsey gets the goals, Obafemi Martins may just be the best all-around attacker in MLS. He leads the league in assists (6) and has created the second-most chances from open play. Lock for Nigeria’s World Cup roster, right? Wrong. MLS fans get to enjoy this guy all summer long. Next up, a juicy Sunday date in New England (6 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
Oh, and make sure you're following the man on Twitter. Success apparently brings imposters. – ANDREW WIEBE
– OBA MARTINS (@oba_martins) May 2, 2014
III. DARKHORSE RISING: You know Jurgen Klinsmann has some big surprise waiting for us in the 30-man US World Cup roster he'll announce on Monday. It's highly likely that it could come from some MLSer in action this weekend. So who could it be? Benny Feilhaber, the real bubble guy? Some blast from the past like Chad Marshall, Lee Nguyen or Justin Mapp? Maybe Lula the Costa Rican cow? (Yes, that's just an excuse to include the epic GIF below.) Crazier things have happened. That's why I'll be paying a little closer attention this weekend in New England and Montreal. And so should you. Because you know Jurgen will be. Hey, it's like we'll all be watching together! – JONAH FREEDMAN
IV. A GOAT OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: What do Chivas USA’s trades for Marvin Chávez and Ryan Finley on Thursday signal? Wilmer Cabrera and the current front office aren’t afraid to make changes quickly. On top of that, it showed that Cabrera isn’t afraid to take on players with potential but also red flags in their past. Can either of them help Chivas on Sunday against Colorado (3 pm ET, UniMas)? It’s certainly a good opportunity to make a positive first impression. – ALICIA RODRIGUEZ
V. DON'T LOOK NOW, BUT HERE COME THE DYNAMO: It's not really a coincidence, is it, that Houston are unbeaten since Brad Davis returned to action? The USMNT World Cup hopeful is rounding into form at just the right time, notching a goal and two assists in the Dynamo's three-match unbeaten run. If they have any chance against still-undefeated Real Salt Lake (Sunday, 7 pm ET, MLS Free Stream of the Week), it's down to Davis. Period. – GREG LALAS
VI. WARNING SIRENS: Things are getting bleak for the San Jose Earthquakes. They’ve already seen two key offseason signings – Yannick Djaló and Andreas Görlitz – go down, the latter for the remainder of the season. They were shut out at home against Colorado on Wednesday. They are already looking up at six-point deficit in the playoff race. And now they pretty much have to get it done at home against an equally shorthanded and road-weary FC Dallas on Saturday (10:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE), or they will be deep into a crisis – just like last year. Time to panic? Not yet, but Quakes fans might want to take a few deep breaths. – NICHOLAS ROSANO
VII. TH14 MAKING MLS CAREERS ONE FORWARD AT A TIME: Luke Rodgers. Kenny Cooper. Now, Bradley Wright-Phillips. Need a career boost? A couple goals to get your confidence back and put a smile on your face? Just link up with Thierry Henry in New York. Titi is going to make it all better, promise. Odds on the French legend padding BWP's goal total (five in his last three games) this weekend against Chicago (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE)? No sweat. –ANDREW WIEBE
VIII. MERCURY RISING: Raise your hand if you had the Chicago Fire as the last winless team of 2014 in MLS. Liar. The Fire were supposed to be a whole lot better heading into another tough game on the road Saturday at New York, but there might be a bit of hope. Word broke on Thursday that Brian McBride has joined the coaching staff. Now, can he still give the club a few minutes off the bench?. – NICK FIRCHAU
IX. ALL ACCORDING TO PLAN: D.C. United are getting a results like the veteran team they are, which bodes ill for Philly (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE). I still think the Union make the playoffs, but after this awful start to the season, they've really got to stick the landing. – MATT DOYLE
X. FURTHER DOWN THE SPIRAL: Qu’à faire? – All those warm fuzzy feelings generated by the Impact’s first win of the season against the Philadelphia Union on April 26 are now gone after a 2-1 Voyageurs Cup loss to the NASL's FC Edmonton on Wednesday. Bad timing. On Saturday the Impact will host a Sporting KC team (4 pm ET; Univision Deportes, MLS LIVE in the US; TSN/RDS in Canada), that smoked them 4-0 less than a month ago, plus they have their second leg against Edmonton to consider on Wednesday. Which game will Frank Klopas have in mind when he sets his lineup against the MLS Cup champions? – NATE SULAT
XI. BLOOD IS UP: Let's play "Make Believe Trash Talk" with Portland hosting the LA Galaxy on Sunday afternoon (2:30 pm ET, NBCSN). Galaxy manager Bruce Arena says he still hasn't forgotten last July's trip to Providence Park, adding Caleb Porter's goal celebration will make for bulletin-board fodder. In fact, the Galaxy are bringing 10 iPads with them and they're spreading them around the locker room. They'll all be showing the following GIF. – SIMON BORG
FANTASY TIPS FOR WEEK 10: If you missed the transfer deadline on Wednesday, you're stuck with what you've got this weekend. Likewise, if you're starting XI consisted of double-week players, they're embedded for the round as well. That doesn't mean you can't make some crucial tweaks, though. Be judicious with your substitutions, and remember all is not lost if you spaced on Round 10. There are unlimited transfers in Round 11 to get your team back on track!