New England Revolution manager Steve Nicol could be set to include newly signed defender Steve Howey in his matchday squad for Saturday's home match against D.C. United.
The former Bolton Wanderers defender received the necessary paperwork midweek, and trained with the Revolution on Thursday morning.
"Obviously, we won't know about his fitness until we get him into training," said Nicol on Tuesday prior to Howey's arrival. "He's been training with Bolton (English Premier League) trying to keep fit."
Howey's fitness level likely precludes him from the starting lineup. With Jay Heaps out of favor, the central defensive pairing of Avery John and Rusty Pierce looks set to continue another week.
The return of Clint Dempsey could come as early as this weekend. The rookie standout has been upgraded to probable as he recovers from his broken jaw. In practice earlier this week, Dempsey was seen without the "no contact" bib he had been wearing in previous sessions.
If Dempsey returns to the starting 11, he is likely to start up top, with Pat Noonan sliding into right midfield to force Richie Baker out of the side.
Joey Franchino has not practiced this week with oblique problems, while Adin Brown is yet to be cleared by the necessary medical staff. Brown is still suffering from the side effects of a concussion suffered in July against Chicago. Both are listed as doubtful.
"He's not cleared to play," said Nicol of Brown on Tuesday. "He took a whack last week [in training].
Long term casualties Kyle Singer (shoulder), Carlos Llamosa (knee sprain), and Joe-Max Moore (knee sprain) will also continue on the sidelines.
Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston admits that the match has crucial bearing on the Eastern Conference table. With a victory, the Revolution would move into a tie for third with United, making this match the proverbial "six-pointer".
"It's a huge game," said Ralston. "If we win, we're in a tie for third place. It's there for the taking. We'll be up for the match. [Coach Nicol has] challenged us to be ready. We'll be ready."
Matt Reis, who will continue in goal with MLS pool 'keeper Doug Warren as his backup, believes that his side needs to look inside in order to claim a victory.
"Every player needs to look at themselves in the mirror," said Reis. "We need to show more heart and commitment to the cause. We need to give a good performance on Saturday."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.