Starting XI: Friday night lights in New York & Portland, clash of leaders & California Clasico
Welcome to Starting XI, our Friday rundown of what to watch for – and what we're watching.
With MLS getting back into full swing amid the World Cup frenzy and the schedule offering up some tasty matchups, our recommended musical pairing, per Editor-in-Chief Greg Lalas, is Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA" because, well, d'uh!
1. TIM CAHILL, RETURNING HERO: The Australian lit it up at the World Cup, but his return to the Big Apple comes not a moment too soon. The Red Bulls star is available and expected to play against Toronto FC on Friday night (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE), and given New York's recent struggles – one win in their last six games – they could use a good performance from him. Maybe he can recreate another one of these. – GREG LALAS
2. ALAN GORDON! ALAN GORDON! ALAN GORDON! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! I love the Cali Clasico (Sunday, 10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, Free stream at NBCSports.com). – MATT DOYLE
3. IT'S THE BENNY FEILHABER SHOW: No, really, it is. Both on video and on the field. No word if the Sporting KC midfielder has healed from his shoulder injury completely -- despite his dancing in the video below. So with Graham Zusi still in Brazil, who will assume centerstage of SKC's attack? They struggled in the midweek US Open Cup home loss to Portland, but now comes the rematch, this time at raucous Providence Park (Friday, 11 pm ET, MLS LIVE). – GREG LALAS
4. WHO'S THE BEST? NO, REALLY? You probably expected the Seattle Sounders to be somewhere near the top of the table. But D.C. United? Even the sunniest optimist couldn't have hoped for this much of a bounce-back season. Unfortunately both teams will be missing their star forward - Obafemi Martins for Seattle and Fabian Espindola for D.C. – after some naughtiness. Nonetheless, there's still plenty of reasons to watch on Saturday – especially since it's free. (7 pm ET; FREE Stream of the Week) – MATT DOYLE
5. BEHIND THE CURTIN: The Philadelphia Union, languishing out of the playoff race, needed a jolt. And they got it when head coach John Hackworth was fired two weeks ago. Now it's up to interim boss Jim Curtin to start to right the ship. He's done pretty well so far, getting two consecutive wins in the US Open Cup, and dropping hints about possible player signings. But now he makes his league debut away to the scary-talented New England Revolution (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Good luck with that. – GREG LALAS
6. WILL THE REAL 'CAPS PLEASE STAND UP? After a two-week break, you would've thought Vancouver’s young guns would turn on the turbo boosters against Montreal. Instead, they were flat in the 0-0 draw on Wednesday, and they managed just nine shots, their lowest output in a home game all season. Luckily, they're on the road on Saturday against the healing Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE, TSN in Canada). Both teams have 22 points, so this game could be one of those that they look back on later as a turning point – for better or worse. – BEN BAER
7. TWEET OF THE WEEK: Teddy Goalsevelt is American in both coutenance and concept:
People are upset that Teddy Goalsevelt was created by an ad agency. I disagree. That's the most American thing I've heard all day! #USAUSA
— Pablo Maurer (@MLSist) June 27, 2014
8. NIL-NIL? WE'LL TAKE IT: The Montreal Impact host the Houston Dynamo on Sunday evening (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), coming off that scoreless draw at Vancouver. Given the Impact's struggles this year, that was a great result. Can they build on it? If so, they need to get Marco Di Vaio going. The 20-goal scorer in 2013 has only one goal this year, and that came way back on March 29.
9. RSL RARIN' TO GO: The World Cup couldn't have come at a better time for Real Salt Lake, who entered the break riding an 0-2-2 stretch. But the World Cup giveth and the World Cup taketh away, and even with rest and three weeks to prepare, RSL have to try and get back on track without three stars: USMNTers Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando and injured forward Alvaro Saborio. Then again, they face Chivas USA on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), who are at the bottom of the Western Conference standings but have acquired some defensive reinforcements . – NATE SULAT
10. KB2: "Who's the next Kyle Beckerman?" Suddenly that's a question with implications reaching beyond the borders of Utah, as the veteran's rock-solid play with the USMNT in Brazil has opened a nation's eyes to his gifts in terms of tempo control and positional awareness.
The correct answer for this type of question is always "I don't know, and no two players are exactly alike." But if you want to see a fair approximation of Beckerman in a younger package, then you'll want to watch Columbus metronome Wil Trapp take on FC Dallas on Saturday (8 pm ET; MLS LIVE). Trapp isn't there yet, but he's improved rapidly over the past 12 months and all USMNT fans should expect to see him at the heart of the 2016 Olympic team. – MATT DOYLE
11. 55 vs. 2: The Japanese can turn anything into a gameshow. Which USMNT or CanMNT players do you think would fare best in this one? – MATT DOYLE