Welcome to Starting XI, our Friday rundown of what to watch for this weekend in MLS and beyond. And don't forget to get your Spanish-language fix with FutbolMLS.com's complete coverage of the ongoing Copa Centroamericana.
1. THAT TIME OF YEAR: With two goals on Wednesday, New England’s Lee Nguyen semi-officially announced his candidacy for Volkswagen MLS MVP. He’s not alone, though. This year’s a real toss up. Along with Nguyen, there’s Budweiser Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips; D.C. everythingman Fabian Espindola; LA’s dynamic duo, Donovan and Robbie Keane; and Seattle’s equally awesome pair, Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. The Seattle guys have the weekend off, but everyone else has a big game this weekend. As we enter the final third of the MLS season, it's time for real MVPs to pick it up. – GREG LALAS
2. CAMBODIA ON HIS MIND: Retirement has done the man some good, right? Landon Donovan created 35 chances in the month of August, more than double anybody else in MLS. His monster month vaulted him up past RSL's Javier Morales into first place in the league for total chancees created and into a tie for chances created from the run of play:
Good luck, Colorado (Friday, 10:30 pm ET; NBCSN) – MATT DOYLE
3. PARTY BOY'S RETURN:Uh-oh, D.C. United. Do you have an on-field disaster to manage? Well, disaster may be a bit dramatic, but Chris Rolfe's attacking prowess needs replacing after the veteran broke his arm on Wednesday during training. Rolfe's out an estimated six weeks, but United may actually have a ready-made replacement on tap. Common sense says D.C. won't rush Chris Pontius back, but there's a chance we could see him this weekend in Vancouver. I, for one, am salvating at the possibility (Sat., 10 pm ET on MLS LIVE, TSN in Canada). – ANDREW WIEBE
4. GOT GOALS? The Budweiser Golden Boot race reaches a pivotal point this weekend as the two leading scorers in MLS come together at Red Bull Arena (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET; NBCSN). new York's Bradley Wright-Phillips has 20 goals, three more than Sporting KC's Dom Dwyer, and with KC’s defense in the doldrums, a couple goals from Dwyer could settle some nerves (while propelling him to the forefront of MVP discussions, right?). On the flipside, how excited must Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry be to come up against a backline that’s conceded three goals in each of its last three games? – NICHOLAS ROSANO
5. RIVALRY RENEWED: Chicago and New England played each other in the playoffs five straight years, from 2005 to 2009. The Revolution won the first three times, and the Fire took the last two. But that's ancient history now. Their most recent duel came off the field as they both pursued US star Jermaine Jones. The veteran says he can play 90, and seems to want to do a little bit of everything. Maybe that will include reigniting a dormant on-field rivalry? (Sunday, 7 pm ET; MLS LIVE) -- BEN BAER
6. ANOTHER LEGEND CALLS IT QUITS: When you log 110 caps and many as captain, as Carlos Bocanegra has, you deserve the title of American soccer legend. And now the question becomes: When one US legend announced his retirement (Donovan), they showered him with gifts and called him up to the USMNT … in October. Does Bocanegra, who announced Thursday he'll be hanging them up, receive the same treatment? He was always a little more understated than LD. Still, longtime USMNT teammate Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew might do something when Bocanegra and Chivas USA visit on Sunday (Sept. 7, 3 pm ET on UniMas). – SIMON BORG
Carlos Bocanegra now announcing his retirement. Its like the #USMNT of my youth is all going off into the sun-set.— Drew Epperley (@wvhooligan) September 4, 2014
7. TWEET OF THE WEEK: What did you do, Ray?
8. NEXT DYNAMO STUD: Houston like to bring along their goalkeepers SLOWLY. It took Tally Hall two seasons before Pat Onstad finally made way and he became the No. 1. It's been six seasons that Homegrown 'keeper Tyler Deric has been waiting behind both Onstad and Hall. But the latter's ACL tear means all eyes will be on the 26-year-old Deric come Saturday when Montreal come to town (8:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE). And although the last-place Impact don't look scary on paper (27 goals in 25 matches), new DP Ignacio Piatti is feeling it and Marco Di Vaio is due a goal.– SIMON BORG
I'm being told I won't be faking any more injuries for 6-9 months #ACLjokes— Tally Hall (@tallyhallGK) September 2, 2014
9. WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN: Two weeks ago, FC Dallas sent a statement through MLS with a 2-1 win at home over Real Salt Lake, while playing most of the game down a man. On Saturday, the teams will face off again, this time at the Rio Tinto (10 pm ET, MLSsoccer.com & MLS LIVE). These teams are a point apart in the standings, jockeying to see which has to play the dreaded play-in game. The only question is whether Real Salt Lake, sitting in third place…believe. – ALICIA RODRIGUEZ
Editor's Note: YEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
10. THREAT LEVEL MIDNIGHT: Maurice Edu produced one of my favorite moments of the season on Wednesday night. Here it is:
Yup. That's a central defender - last man back - nutmegging a pressing forward in his own half. The fact that said pressing forward is Dom Oduro, probably the fastest man in the league (who else is up there? Marvel Wynne and maybe Castillo?), only increases the insanity quotient of this maneuver. TFC and Philly will do it all over again on Saturday (2 pm ET; Univision Deportes) – MATT DOYLE
11. #DARETOBENDTNER: If Nicklas Bendtner didn't exist the world of soccer would have to invent him. – MATT DOYLE