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-in-Chief Greg Lalas, is Manchester Orchestra, "Cope," because everyone's got to cope with a few player absences.
- Click HERE for the Week 11 TV schedule
- Click HERE for the current MLS standings
- Click HERE for the week's news from FutbolMLS
I. HELL HATH NO FURY: “Snub.” Ugly little word, although it sounds like it could be a tiny hero sandwich. In actuality, it describes the D.O.A. World Cup dreams of a number of MLSers. How will they respond to being passed over by their respective national team coaches? I can’t wait to find out this weekend. That’s why New York should be very afraid of Jermain Defoe, Portland must be wary of Jairo Arrieta, San Jose would be wise to mark Obafemi Martins and Montreal should be utterly terrified of Eddie Johnson. Sorry you aren’t going to Brazil, guys. But hey, you’ve all got more caps than this guy. – JONAH FREEDMAN
I m retiring from France team. It was a wonderful experience and after a record of #0 cap it's time to say goodbye and focus on my club— Sylvain Distin (@sylvaind15tin) May 14, 2014
II: AS THE IMPACT TURN: There is simply no team more fascinating in Major League Soccer right now than the Montreal Impact. Period. Their owner vowed changes after last week’s home debacle against Sporting Kansas City. Then he went at it with Edmonton FC coach Collin Miller after the Impact’s last-gasp escape from the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals on Wednesday. And now they’re back on the road at D.C. United on Saturday (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE), which could very well mark their sixth loss in 10 games this season or a much-needed victory. You can’t look away now, can you? – NICK FIRCHAU
III. TAKING ONE GAME AT A TIME … NOT: Now we get why that cliché is so overused by coaches all over sports. Heading into Week 11 (Saturday, vs. Columbus Crew at 10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), it appeared that the Portland Timbers had a mere MLS mole hill to overcome despite their 1-win-in-10 start the season. They're only six points out of a playoff spot in the West.
Well, that mole hill must now look like a mountain to Timbers fans after manager Caleb Porter pointed out exactly how many points the team needs to make the playoffs: He believes it's 42 from their last 24 matches, or the equivalent of 14 wins. "We're hoping to get at least six wins out of the next 10," he added. Setting goals is sometimes a good thing. But you know how many teams have been able to put a 6 of 10 stretch together this year? Just one (Seattle Sounders). – SIMON BORG
IV. GONE DADDY GONE: Seattle and San Jose will be missing valuable contributors when they face off on Saturday, and are arguably among the teams worst hit by the World Cup (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Can San Jose construct a credible defense with Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez out? Will a Quakes player step up in Chris Wondolowski’s absence? Who will run the attack for the Sounders with Clint Dempsey out? And will the losses of Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin further discombobulate Seattle? Should be an interesting battle out west. – ALICIA RODRIGUEZ
V. THE REPLACEMENTS: All the World Cup guys are gone. Tragic, I know. (No, seriously, I do. My fantasy team was bad before; now it's worse.) But a soccer squad, like nature itself, abhors a vacuum. One player's absence is another player's opportunity. This weekend, more than a few regular reserves will crack the starting XI. So, will the Crew's Eric Gehrig fill in for Michael Parkhurst? Will RSL's Cole Grossman deputize for Kyle Beckerman? Will Connor Lade return to the Red Bulls' lineup in Roy Miller's absence? And will Matt Besler's trip to Brazil mean we finally see young Sporting KC defender Erik Palmer-Brown in action?
Whatever the sub, whatever the role, the most important thing is to plan ahead and think things through. – GREG LALAS
VI. FALSE STARTERS: Here are two teams that have clear playoff potential, yet are somehow only a combined 4-7-9 this season. Columbus are winless in their last seven after a red-hot start; Portland’s offense continues to misfire even after putting three past D.C. United for a first win of the season, and the defense continues to struggle with conceding late goals.
So, something has to give — or does it? Don’t be surprised to see these teams add another draw to their record on Saturday (10:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE), but it shouldn’t take away from what should be an evening of attractive soccer at Providence Park.. – NICHOLAS ROSANO
VII. WHERE ART THOU CENTERBACKS?: For the past few seasons, Sporting KC have had the best centerback pairing in MLS. For the next couple weeks, Sporting will have to scramble just to assemble two true central defenders. With Matt Besler with the USMNT, Ike Opara out of the season, Aurelien Collin nursing a hamstring injury and Lawrence Olum headed to Kenya for international duty, head coach Peter Vermes is between a rock and a hard place this weekend in Chicago (Sunday, 3 pm ET on UniMas). Uri Rosell? Questionable. Erik Palmer-Brown? Well, he’s just a teenager. Time to start pulling names out of a hat. – ANDREW WIEBE
VIII. CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION: Philly, not so quick! You've got Diego Fagundez up next!
Yes, we all were WOWed by Philly’s midweek win at Sporting, and I get it: the adrenaline is pumping, the confidence is flowing, and they’ll be at home. But that wont be enough to contain Fagundez on Saturday (10:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE). Once this kid breaks through, he is simply unstoppable – we have all seen it. Philly has struggled too much in defense, and it will be very difficult for them to control Fagundez's speed. Three points on the road? Sounds good to New England. – KRISTEL VALENCIA
IX. IT'S ONLY A FLESH WOUND: For the first six weeks of the 2013 season, nobody was more fun than FC Dallas. For the first six weeks of the 2014 season, nobody was more fun than FC Dallas. For the last six months of the 2013 season, nobody was more depressing than FC Dallas. For the last six months of the 2014 season... you fill in the blank.
FCD and their roster of broken midfielders take on Chivas TBD this Saturday (8:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE). Will I watch? Of course. But there's one thing I want to say any Dallas lineup without Mauro Diaz... – MATT DOYLE
X. ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH, OR LOW, OR SOMETHING: The Colorado Rapids may be the reigning Rocky Mountain Cup holder, but on paper it looks like they’re already sunk for this Saturday’s Cup opener in Sandy (9:30 pm ET; FREE Stream of the Week). Despite a respectable 4-3-3 record and a fifth-place standing in the Western Conference, the Rapids are one of just two teams in the top 10 of the MLS standings with a negative goal differential and have scored the sixth-fewest in the league this season. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, are flying high with 21 goals scored, second-most in MLS. But RSL are missing their top goalscorer in striker Alvaro Saborio, as well as defensive mainstays in goalkeeper Nick Rimando and midfielder Kyle Beckerman. It’s just a glimmer of hope, but it might be enough for Colorado. – NATE SULAT
XI. GOING APE-SHIPP OVER HARRY: Last week's Shipp-load of goals that stunned the New York Red Bulls have created a real, um, Shipp-storm: US fans are now dreaming up all sorts of Shipp about the Chicago Fire's top rookie. Is this America's first No. 10 since Tab? Look closely and you can see the beginnings of the American Antonio Cassano. The only place the rook has fallen short: the ridiculous puns he keeps inspiring.
Still, let's all calm the Shipp down. We've seen this before (e.g., Chris Rolfe, Kyle Martino, Luis Silva). Let's see him do it for another 20 games, starting Sunday vs. Sporting KC (3 pm ET, UniMas). Then we'll see if he's really the Shipp. – SIMON BORG
FANTASY TIP FOR WEEK 11: Once again the transfer market is closed, but that doesn't mean you can't still tweak your team. Need a reason to have a strong bench? Double-game weeks should be your primary motivation.