Welcome to Starting XI, our Friday rundown of what to watch for – and what we're watching.
I. SECOND OPINION: The US national team’s first game of the World Cup send-off series was a sleeper, no doubt about that. Some of that was nerves, some was about the weather, and some was about Azerbaijan parking the bus. But don’t expect the same when the Americans take on a talented Turkish team on Sunday at RBA (2 pm ET; ESPN2). There’s less room for excuses from the US squad now – the lucky 23 have been in Jurgen Klinsmann’s incubator for more than a week – and anyone hopeful for the US side’s chances in Brazil should expect to see something more closely resembling soccer with just a two weeks left to go before wheels up. – NICK FIRCHAU
II: HOT BLOODED: It’s not quite a geographic, historic rivalry in the sense of the Cascadia or Rocky Mountain Cups, but it’s impossible not to notice the fireworks when Seattle and Real Salt Lake meet, whether it’s in the playoffs or the regular season.
Expect more of the same when the top two teams in MLS clash at CenturyLink Field on Saturday (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE). Don’t worry about missing World Cup stars either — part of the reason we see these two teams contend year after year is that they have plenty of quality on the roster to deal with exactly these kinds of situations. – NICHOLAS ROSANO
III: MERCY FROM ON HIGH: The goals may not be flowing for Eddie Johnson, but that hasn't kept him out of the headlines (e.g. suspensions, pointed comments and World Cup snubs). Fortunately for all the Grown-Ass Man fans out there, an independent review panel came to its senses this week and rescinded the red card that would have deprived the D.C. United striker of a return to Kansas City (Sat., 7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Will he score? Will he even start? Why can't we look away? – ANDREW WIEBE
IV. EL TANQUITO HURTADO: Is Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado for real? Obviously he's disrupted a few defenses with the same blend of quickness, power, and confrontational style that makes Dom Dwyer dangerous. But up until now, he's been a bit of a surprise commodity. What happens when the Portland Timbers are expecting him this Sunday (9 pm ET; MLS Free Stream of the Week, TSN2 in Canada)? – GREG LALAS
V. OVER 9,000: Here's what we know so far about Clarence Goodson's omission from the US World Cup roster: He mad. He real mad. If the recent performances of snub-ees from the national team are any indication, FC Dallas may not like Clarence Goodson when he's mad. Dallas have scored some goals this year – 22 in 14 games – but the Quakes have only allowed 12 past 'keeper Jon Busch this season. It can't get much better, but there's always room for improvement. Expect Goodson to go Super Saiyan on Saturday (8:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE). – NATE SULAT
VI. TURN AND FACE THE STRANGER: Four weeks after Joey Saputo ominously vowed changes for his club, what’s different about the Montreal Impact? Not much. Heading into an imposing matchup against red-hot New England at Saturday at Stade Saputo (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE in the US, TSN/RDS in Canada), the Impact are still stuck in neutral at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with the fewest number of wins (one) in the league. Is their only hope to play it safe this weekend and save the best for next week’s decisive second leg of the Canadian Championship vs. Toronto? – NICK FIRCHAU
VII. AWAITING THE CAVALRY: It's only May, but both the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo, who face off in Commerce City on Sunday (8 pm ET, UDN) revealed this week that they have back-up plans up their sleeves. The injuries crises ravaging both sides demand it. But one man's misery is another's opportunity. Correct, Kamani Hill? – SIMON BORG
VIII. TWO DIMES FOR A QUARTER: Haha, OK smart guy, we got your joke. Mike Magee for Robbie Rogers was a terrible trade. How original you are, Mr. Comedian! And that’s your biggest story line for Sunday’s Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy showdown at Toyota Park (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Get over it, because one guy is hurt and the other guy has spent most of this season in USL PRO. How about the fact Landon Donovan is about to feast on another subpar defense and continue to send a message to Jurgen Klinsmann? Or how about that LA haven’t won a league game away from StubHub Center since last August? Get your narratives right, pal! – JONAH FREEDMAN
IX. MISSING MEN: No Michael Bradley for Toronto FC. No Federico Higuain for Columbus. In a lot of ways, Saturday's game between the two rivals (5 pm ET; MLS LIVE in the US, TSN in Canada) has lost a lot of its luster thanks to a World Cup call-up and suspension, respectively. Expect it to devolve into some ugliness through midfield – something that usually happens in this game. It's the league's most underrated rivalry, and there will be some hard, hard fouls. – MATT DOYLE
X. STAY ON TARGET: Well, well, well. Spanish outlets reported this week David Villa will join New York City FC for the next three seasons. But, if indeed that is confirmed, he might have to spend a few months on loan somewhere else or even play the 2014-15 season with Atlético if necessary, and won’t make the jump until mid next year. Should we get excited yet? Or maybe there's another big-name Euro we can focus on... – DIEGO PINZON
New York City FC has approached English international Frank Lampard about a move to MLS in 2015. I'm hearing this rumour has legs.— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) May 29, 2014
XI. PRODIGAL SON: Who wants to start placing their bets on what this means? I mean ... we're all thinking "first-ever NYCFC vs. RBNY bidding war," right? – MATT DOYLE
Looking forward to returning to my old/new home, next stop NY!! @Jermainejunior— Jozy Altidore (@JozyAltidore) May 29, 2014