The Starting XI: Eleven storylines we're following this weekend.
I. #CASCADIA. Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders. Saturday, 3 pm ET. NBCSN. Seriously, need we say more?
II. RIVALRY ONLY GOES SO FAR. For all the rancor and rhetoric between the Timbers and Sounders, their supporters have always been able to put aside their sporting differences for the right reasons.
Some things are above rivalry. During Saturday's match, we're supporting Red Cross efforts to help mudslide victims in Oso, WA. #RCTID— Timbers Army (@timbersarmy) April 4, 2014
It's a similar thing for supporters of the New England Revolution and D.C. United, who this weekend will all get behind ex-Rev and ex-United midfielder Clyde Simms and his quest for a kidney transplant.
III. CAN CREW CUT IT? MLS's "Rivalry Week" continues on Saturday evening with the #TrilliumCup. The still-perfect Columbus Crew welcome recently humbled Toronto FC to Crew Stadium (Sat., 6 pm ET, MLS Live in USA, Sportsnet in Canada). The big news for TFC is missing players: Jermain Defoe -- yes, the guy with all their goals this year -- will miss the match due to an injury, and captain Steven Caldwell is suspended.
It seems Crew coach Gregg Berhalter didn't know about Defoe. "Really? That's great," he said on Thursday. He also said, "Michael Bradley is the best midfielder in the league." Actually, many people think Bradley's prowess extends beyond MLS.
IV. GO AHEAD, MESS WITH TEXAS. Down in the Lone Star State, the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas renew the #TexasDerby (Sat. 8 pm ET, Free MLS Stream of the Week) with both sides feeling pretty good. Houston's Will Bruin will be aiming to retake the lead atop the MLS scoring charts. If he does, Dynamo fans should celebrate with the the new beer created in honor of the Dancing Bear's support of animal rights.
FCD, of course, boast the best record in MLS and the reigning Etihad Airways MLS Player of the Month, Mauro Diaz. Plus they'll get defender Je-Vaughn Watson back after his phantom red card was rescinded on appeal. All good signs for retaining #ElCapitan.
V. MIND IF WE TRASH-TALK A LITTLE? An MLS Cup final rematch is always going to be hyped and heated. But when the two sides start hurling insults at each other the way Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake have done this week ahead of their clash (Sat., 8:30 pm ET, MLS Live), it gets even tastier. A few choice morsels:
VI. RISE UP, CARIBOU NATION! The Colorado Rapids hope to own the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday (6:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE / InfoGraphic) in much the same way they owned April Fools' Day. The funny thing about their April 1 stunt is the fact that soccer fans around the nation now actually want to see the Rapids go retro and don the Caribous of Colorado kits. Ex-NFL kicker Matt Bahr even comes out of the woodwork to chime in on the topic.
But the Whitecaps will have the edge at home, especially because their supporters have a special rapport with the players:
VII. NO MORE COASTING. D.C. United gave a jolt to their winless campaign during the week, acquiring creative midfielder Chris Rolfe in a midweek trade. He's expected to make his debut at RFK Stadium on Saturday against the New England Revolution (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). But more importantly, Rolfe's dog has a new home! He reveals to DCUnited.com the identity of the new owners and also why he has beef with NBA star LeBron James:
Revs fans are more interested in the fact that Charlie Davies seems to have found his appetite again. "I'm hungry," he said after a strong performance last week.
VIII. MONTREAL = GOALAPALOOZA
They're gonna have to replace the nets biweekly in Montreal. @divaio9 & Jack attack shooting on the same goal at same time? Oh no— Mike Magee (@magee9) April 4, 2014
In Marco Di Vaio and newly acquired Jack McInerney, the Montreal Impact now have two of the most lethal goal scorers in MLS. But McInerney won't be in town in time to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE and TSN/RDS). As they await Jack Mac's arrival, all eyes will also be on another member of the Impact: left back Heath Pearce, whose time with RBNY ended in controversial fashion last year. His teammates know how bad he wants to beat NY because of what happened: "I think we owe it to him to get three points for him.”
IX. THE INFIRMARY REPORT. For all you MLS Fantasy players -- you know who you are -- a few big injuries to take note of: TFC's Jermain Defoe, as mentioned before, will miss the Columbus match. D.C.'s Luis Silva be out of action for three weeks, and Chris Pontius is out for even longer. For the New York Red Bulls, Tim Cahill will not travel north to Montreal. Timbers, talisman Darlington Nagbe is questionable for the Cascadia derby match, while the Sounders' Brad Evans is most likely a no-go.
X. FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD. Meanwhile, over in Jolly Old England, NYCFC coach Jason Kreis continues his education in the "City way."
And here's a timeline of Kreis's recent journey from celebrated RSL coach to MLS Cup 2013 to the toast of the Big Apple soccer scene.
XI. THAT'S SO CLASICO. Portland vs. Seattle gets all the headlines during Rivalry Week, but it's Sunday's SuperClasico between Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy (3 pm ET, UniMas) -- the only intra-city rivalry in MLS this year -- that has us most intrigued. The Goats are once again the underdogs, but there's a new belief about them (it helps to have the hottest scorer in MLS -- "El Cubo"). And while the team's ownership status is changing, what hasn't is their desire to beat "Hollywood." But whatever happens on Sunday, should this rivalry get a new name?