The top 11 questions heading into the weekend...
11) Will Deuce debut?
Think you've already heard plenty about Clint Dempsey's historic move to Seattle? Well, get used to it, because another wave of Dempsey-inspired fervor will wash over Puget Sound if the Sounders' newest arrival can overcome illness and make his first competitive appearance – most likely off the bench – in Rave Green at Toronto FC on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). TFC, for their part, are riding a three-game unbeaten streak.
10) What does Jurgen Klinsmann think – and who will get the call next week?
It's probably fair to say Deuce raised a few eyebrows when he revealed that he hadn't spoken to his national-team coach before deciding to return to MLS. Then again, perhaps captaincy has its privileges. The USMNT return to action with a brief gathering for Wednesday's friendly in Bosnia-Herzegovina (2:30 pm ET, ESPN2) and if an SI.com report is correct, the squad's skipper will be spared a draining trans-Atlantic trip in midweek.
9) Can the Crew make themselves anything more than a speedbump for the surging Red Bulls?
New York haven't lost to the “Yellow Football Team” in more than three years and current form suggests it will stay that way when RBNY visit Columbus on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The Crew have lost seven of their last nine league matches, while the red-hot Red Bulls are 3-0-1 since their humbling loss at Colorado on Independence Day.
8) How will Sporting handle the rigors of international play?
Sporting Kansas City got their CONCACAF Champions League campaign off to a solid start with a 2-0 win over Real Estelí in Nicaragua on Wednesday, the first of several draining weeknight CCL tests in the months ahead. There's only limited time to refocus ahead of the enigmatic New England Revolution's visit to Sporting Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
7) Will the goals keep flowing between D.C. and Philly?
Nine goals in two games (one league, one Open Cup) so far this year could portend a shootout when D.C. United make the short jaunt up I-95 to PPL Park Saturday (8 pm ET, NBCSN). And in general, these East Coast rivalry tussles have at least one or two unexpected twists to offer.
6) Who will bounce back best: Montreal or Chicago?
Strangely, both of Toyota Park's weekend combatants are hoping for a positive reponse to stunning setbacks at the hands of supposed Eastern Conference doormats D.C. United. D.C. stunned the Fire with Wednesday's 2-0 US Open Cup semifinal victory in the Windy City four days after cruising past the Impact 3-1 at RFK Stadium. Both teams need three points when they tangle at Toyota Park Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
5) Are the Rapids rising at the right time?
Colorado have battled through injury nightmares and the dips in performance that are inevitable with a young side, and now find themselves wrestling for playoff position with the best in the West. Then on Thursday they finally corralled their top midseason transfer target, Panamanian sniper Gabriel Torres, the club's first-ever Designated Player. They'll look to maintain momentum on a Sunday night visit to StubHub Center for a date with Chivas USA (11 pm ET, UniMas).
4) Is this San Jose revival for real?
The Earthquakes have spent most of the season laboring to keep their heads above water, only to reel off three wins in a row – their only league win streak of the year thus far – to breathe life back into their postseason hopes, though they kicked off CONCACAF Champions League with a loss in Montreal on Wednesday. They'll try to defeat their third Cascadia side in the past month when they meet Vancouver at BC Place (7:30 pm ET Saturday, MLS LIVE, TSN/RDS2 in Canada).
3) Can Houston overcome their acrophobia at Real Salt Lake on Saturday?
The Dynamo are known for making BBVA Compass Stadium a fortress. Yet it turns out that trips to high-altitude opposition in Colorado and Utah are something of an Achilles heel for the Orange, who have won just four games in 18 regular-season visits to RSL and the Rapids. This weekend Houston will hunt for their second-ever road win against the Claret-and-Cobalt (9:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
2) Can FC Dallas escape their tailspin?
The North Texans haven't won since May 25 (that's nine games ago) and look like a pale shadow of the squad that dominated the league all spring. It's just about do-or-die time for Schellas Hyndman and his men – and unfortunately, the defending league champions LA Galaxy strut into FC Dallas Stadium on Sunday (8 pm ET, ESPN2).
1) Who will get left out in the West?
Last year, Vancouver snuck into the last MLS Cup playoff spot with 43 points from a record of 11-13-10. Such numbers are highly likely to be well insufficient this season, with a tightly clumped pack where only eight points separates first place (RSL on 38 points) from eighth (San Jose on 30). That makes every point pivotal over the next three months, because three solid teams will be kicking themselves when the regular season ends in late October.