The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) Will the US national team roll past Cuba as easily as they did Belize?
The Scouting Report: USA vs. Cuba
Given Cuba's levels of fitness and organization, Saturday's match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah (3:30 pm ET, FOX, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) probably won't end up 6-1 like Tuesday's USMNT romp in Portland. That said, no one – especially their own fans – expects anything less than an assured win from the USA.
10) Can Carlos Bocanegra transform Chivas USA's fortunes?
The onetime USMNT captain could officially make his long-awaited return to MLS in the Goats' Friday night tilt against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). If the widely-respected defender can indeed bring positive “notoriety” to the ailing Rebaño Angelino, it would surely do wonders for his own World Cup ambitions.
9) Is Saturday's “Kreis Derby” in Frisco a playoff preview?
The team has changed its stadium, zip code, uniform and even its name since he left, but Jason Kreis' legendary scoring exploits for the Dallas Burn nonetheless ensure that he is woven into the fabric of FC Dallas' history. His current club, surging Real Salt Lake, drops into North Texas on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE) for the first of two important meetings with FCD down the season's final stretch.
8) Can the Red Bulls make amends?
Talented New York look every bit the MLS Cup contender on paper and in the standings, where they sit just three points off the Eastern Conference lead. Yet the frustration – disgust, even – was palpable amongst their most dedicated fans as they offered up a listless display in their Independence Day loss at Colorado. That should ratchet up the intensity for first-place Montreal's visit on Saturday (7 pm ET, TSN2/RDS, MLS LIVE).
7) Will their midseason moves make D.C. United easier on the eye?
The summer transfer window opened this week, and no one in MLS has been busier than United as they seek to turn around their last-place doldrums. The general prognosis is that an emphasis on young North American youth may not reap immediate benefits this season. Even if results don't swing dramatically in their favor, the soccer-savvy denizens of the capital city would hail the arrival of a more enterprising style than the occasionally dour displays put on by the 2013 Black-and-Red. On Friday, they host Mexican heavyweights Chivas de Guadalajara in an international friendly (8 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes).
6) Can New England take another big step?
Boosted by Saer Sene's return to full speed, the Revolution have really taken shape as a group in recent weeks, and they presently sit just beyond the East's playoff places with just one defeat in their last eight league games. The Houston Dynamo are the next team ahead of them in that race as well as their next visitors to Gillette Stadium (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), and would make a useful conquest on their way up the table.
5) What's the plan in Toronto?
Yes, it's a question we've asked here before. No one seems to know exactly where TFC stand with their reported Designated Player target Diego Forlán, but shipping Luis Silva to D.C. sent a message of its own. Did coach Ryan Nelsen really have no place for the creative youngster in his system? Will Reds fans come to rue that trade like they have others in the past?
4) Will the Earthquakes and Sounders bring the ruckus to Buck Shaw Stadium?
The Scouting Report: San Jose vs. Seattle
These two clubs have taken to promoting the matchup with a nod to their shared history in the old North American Soccer League. There's certainly been no shortage of drama in their games over the past year or two, with physical play, angry confrontations and postgame recriminations. Keep an eye out for more hijinks in Saturday's meeting in NorCal (10:30 pm ET, MLSsoccer.com Free Stream of the Week), where Seattle will welcome back some important faces.
3) Will the Fire respond to Mike Magee?
The veteran hitman has only been with his hometown club for a few weeks but that didn't stop him from ripping Chicago's effort and intensity in last week's home loss to Sporting KC, which he called “a joke” and “unacceptable.” We'll see how his teammates bounce back as they travel to Vancouver for a tough-looking clash on Sunday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), one of several challenging road trips coming up for the Men in Red.
2) Are the Galaxy back?
Three wins in their last four games – the most recent of which, last week's 2-0 dismantling of FC Dallas, was vintage LA – suggests that the defending champs are getting themselves sorted out. That theory will surely be tested by Saturday's national-TV tilt against the tiki-taka Timbers in Portland (11 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
1) Caleb vs. Bruce: Who is the chess master?
Speaking of tests, Timbers rookie boss Caleb Porter has been handling his MLS examinations with aplomb thus far and now the most prominent leader of the new school, if you will, gets to match wits with old hand Bruce Arena. JELD-WEN Field's technical areas might be almost as much fun to watch as the pitch itself this weekend.