The countdown of the 11 most intriguing questions facing MLS clubs, players and coaches heading into the weekend.
MLS TV Listings: Where to watch all the action in Week 25
11) Where’s the mullet headed?
Toja! For many long-time MLS observers, just saying the word conjures up fond memories of the dynamic Colombian and his flowing mane, both of which lit up FC Dallas in 2007 before Europe came calling. The news that Juan Toja will return to the league via allocation, with New England holding first dibs, represents a potential wild card for the stretch run.
10) Can Freddy Adu make the most of another meeting with another of his former teams?
The Union host Real Salt Lake in a national television matchup with several intriguing plotlines on Friday night (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), starting with Philadelphia’s mercurial No. 11. Last week, on his return to his hometown for a showdown against his original MLS club D.C. United, Adu was disappointed to be substituted after 69 minutes. The playmaker will surely be hoping to make a bigger impression on coach John Hackworth against RSL.
Union's Hackworth: Adu needs to produce every game
9) Or will RSL find a way to end their league skid?
The Utahns snared a 2-0 crucial victory over Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League play on Tuesday. Friday’s match is almost as vital given that RSL are riding a three-game losing streak in league play, all three coming at the hands of Western Conference adversaries to boot. Jason Kreis’ bunch is one of several MLS squads dealing with a congested period on the calendar, though at least they’ll have an eight-day lull after the duel in Philly.
8) Can the Impact win their sixth straight at Stade Saputo when weary D.C. visit on Saturday?
Sunday match, Wednesday match, international travel, Saturday match: this week has served up a demanding schedule for D.C. United, and tomorrow’s clash in Montreal, which has become a graveyard for even the best MLS sides this summer, will surely test their fitness and resilience. Though the hosts will miss suspended defender Hassoun Camara, striker Marco Di Vaio’s movement could stretch United’s backline.
7) Will Sporting KC move past San Jose?
Quietly, steadily, the Supporters’ Shield race has tightened up significantly in recent weeks. San Jose have lost enough momentum to allow Sporting to draw within one point and several others snap close at their heels, including the Red Bulls, who visit Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday for the weekend’s glitziest matchup. If the Quakes fail to beat Colorado, an SKC win would mean a new Shield frontrunner.
GOAL: Higuain opens MLS account
6) Will New England have an answer for Federico Higuaín and the surging Crew?
Apparently the Columbus brain trust chased their new midfield maestro for a year. Based on his early displays in canary yellow – a goal and two assists in barely more than two hours of play – it’s easy to understand why. The Argentinean’s intelligence and passing range will test the organization and discipline of Clyde Simms and his Revolution midfield mates in Ohio on Saturday.
5) Do Toronto have a snowball’s chance in Houston on Saturday night?
At first glance, no. Historically strong at home, the balanced Dynamo remain undefeated in their new BBVA Compass Stadium digs and this weekend’s Canadian visitors have not won a match in more than a month, with coach Paul Mariner unable to maintain the rally that followed his accession to the hot seat. He must get his Reds motivated nonetheless, and craft a tactical approach that can make headway against the relentless Orange.
4) You’re not going to miss the Cascadia game this weekend, are you?
Find a way to watch the Timbers-Whitecaps game at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday. Yes, Cascadia Cup action just happened last week with Seattle-Vancouver. And OK, catching a 10:30 pm ET kickoff on a Saturday night, one that couldn’t be fit into a national TV slot, might complicate your social calendar a bit. You won’t regret watching a PacNW backyard brawl at everyone’s favorite beer-stocked, rain-kissed shoebox stadium, though.
3) What’s Oscar Pareja’s next move in Colorado?
If coaching a pro team – especially one navigating a long-term rebuilding process – was easy, anyone could do it. Less than a year into his first professional head coaching gig, the Rapids boss has had both successes and setbacks in his quest to transform the Mile High Club’s identity. This week he brought in Hendry Thomas, a high-profile two-way midfielder meant to add backbone to Colorado’s stylish setup. A road trip to face the league-leading Earthquakes offers the latest test for Pareja & Co.
2) Out west, can Shalrie Joseph rediscover his best?
HIGHLIGHTS: LA top Metapán 5-2 in CCL play
It’s been an uneven month for the big Grenadian-American midfielder, whose relocation to a new environment at Chivas USA just hasn’t quite taken root yet. This week he’ll have his hands full with the Sounders midfield, a dynamic bunch who aren’t likely to give him much time and space.
1) Can Landon Donovan overcome hamstring troubles to boost LA?
D.C. United played three in seven this week as part of their league slate; due to CCL, the Galaxy opened a similar stretch with their 5-2 win over Isidro Metapán on Thursday night. Sunday’s visit by a hot FC Dallas squad will arrive quickly for LA’s tired legs, which could make Donovan’s potential involvement particularly pivotal.