The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) How will Bakary Soumaré – likely to make his first start of the year for the Union – fare on his return to Chicago?
The big center back made his name in the Windy City, owns a home there and plans to retire there. Yet he wound up in Philly when he made his return to MLS last year, only to find himself chained to the Union bench (and duly requesting a trade) this season. Now Jeff Parke's hamstring injury has him in line for his 2013 debut against his old team at Toyota Park, an important match for both clubs (1:30 pm ET, NBCSN).
10) Along a similar theme, what is Edson Buddle capable of in Columbus?
Like Soumaré, Colorado's showcase striker faces the club where he began his MLS career this weekend as the recovering Rapids visit the Crew (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Rocky Mountain-high expectations for Buddle have been deferred by injury troubles thus far this season, though last week's game-winner against Toronto has coach Oscar Pareja hoping for an imminent breakout.
9) Can Real Salt Lake lure Montreal out to play at Stade Saputo?
This week, RSL starlet Luis Gil talked of “not just getting a result, but winning and doing it in our way” ahead of his team's visit to New England. The slick-passing Utah side backed up his words with a 2-1 win and flew straight to Quebec for Saturday's clash with the cagey Impact (2 pm ET, MLS LIVE), where the task of playing both pretty and effective soccer will be even tougher with Marco Di Vaio rested and ready.
8) Will San Jose and Seattle resist the urge to scrap on Saturday, and play some soccer instead?
Their rivalry can be traced all the way back to the NASL heyday of the 1970s, and these two teams have gotten fairly “old-school” in some pugnacious meetings over the past year or two. The Earthquakes own a four-game regular-season winning streak on the Sounders, who will be keen to garner their first home league win of 2013 when San Jose enter CenturyLink Field (4 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
7) How will the Galaxy kick off their week-long, cross-continent, three-game road trip?
Just when it seemed the reigning MLS Cup champs were well and truly back, they go and drop a home loss to Houston with Landon Donovan missing his second penalty kick of the year. So they'll surely carry an extra chip on their shoulder as they jet to Vancouver this weekend (7 pm ET Saturday, MLS LIVE) before visits to Philadelphia and New York next week.
6) How far can West-leading FC Dallas extend their unbeaten run?
It's been eight matches and two months since the North Texans tasted defeat, something that's only happened once all year. Few expect that streak to end this weekend as slumping D.C. United enter FC Dallas Stadium (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), but upcoming clashes with Seattle and San Jose will further test FCD's championship credentials.
5) Has United's collective spirit been broken already?
Make whatever sort of government analogy you like – the situation in Washington, D.C., has spun out of hand as last year's Eastern Conference playoff finalists crash-landed in the league's basement with sickening speed and ugliness. A six-game losing skid has gutted Ben Olsen and his team and left their fans wondering if the miserable 2010 campaign will be repeated. How can they escape this mess?
4) What is the next trick up El Chelís' sleeve?
Another team in need of answers hits the road this weekend as Chivas USA travel to imposing JELD-WEN Field (5 pm ET Sunday, UniMas) without the suspended Carlos Alvarez in search of their first win since March. Coach José Luis “Chelís” Sánchez Solá just lost his top striker (Juan Agudelo) to a trade he says he had nothing to do with, posing another challenge for the man who is expected to perform nothing short of alchemy with his modest roster.
3) How good – and how long – can the Juan Agudelo era be in New England?
Chelís' loss is Jay Heaps' gain this week, though questions still swirl around the talented young US international as he finds himself on the third destination of his relatively brief MLS career. Can he settle in with the Revolution – and perhaps even sign a new contract – or will his wanderlust grow stronger as European dreams persist?
2) Will TH14 finally make an appearance at Gillette Stadium?
While Agudelo hopes to make his Revs debut on home turf when his former team the New York Red Bulls hit town Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), many New England fans are also hoping Thierry Henry shows, too. The Frenchman has contrived to avoid playing in Foxborough since his arrival on North American shores three years ago.
1) Can Sporting KC finally take revenge on Houston?
By now it's a tired old tale for SKC fans: Their team's promising playoff prospects have been cut short for two years running by the canny Dynamo. That and coach Peter Vermes' famous intensity should be all the motivation Sporting need as they seek to end the Orange's league-record unbeaten streak at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday night (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE).