Keep an eye on key reserve players this weekend as clubs and coaches adjust to CONCACAF Gold Cup-enforced absences.
1. Expect a few peculiar results as clubs adjust to Gold Cup absences: The usual governing principles dissipate with so many teams trying to compensate for missing stars. Some players step up to fill the void – think Conor Casey's showing at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday with strike partner Jack McInerney unavailable – and others buckle under the pressure. Relatively unaffected teams possess a rather inviting opportunity to pick up points, if they can take advantage of the situation.
2. Is Chivas USA starting to steady the ship?: Red-and-White boss José Luis Real offered a peculiar, kit-based rationale for his side's success against FC Dallas this season after the 0-0 draw on Thursday night, but that peculiar digression should not mask the recent uptick in form. Real adjusted the defensive shape and preached the need for structure upon his appointment. The winless streak continues (now at 12 matches and counting), but a pair of draws has stopped the rot. Whether Real and his players can continue the revival at Montréal on Saturday remains an open question.
3. Colorado prepares for a potential run: The stunning 4-3 victory at Montréal on Saturday provided the perfect platform for the Rapids to make a July push. By claiming the necessary home victory against New York on Thursday, the Rapids placed themselves in a position to string together four straight wins with subsequent victories over D.C. United and New England. The concentration must remain high, but that shocker at Stade Saputo may have laid the groundwork for a critical stretch of games as the Rapids mount a playoff charge.
4. Is New York poised to make a move?: Juninho Pernambucano parted ways with the Red Bulls on Wednesday. New York coach Mike Petke will not lose much in central midfield with the Brazilian's departure with Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty available. The former Lyon star failed to adapt to the tempo of this league and adjust his work rate accordingly. His departure frees up some room for a potential summer acquisition – midseason Designated Player acquisitions hit the salary budget at half-price, remember – and provides Petke with more flexibility as he weighs his summer options.
5. If there's one match to catch this weekend, it's in British Columbia: It is always compelling when Seattle and Vancouver take the field. Sometimes, that intrigue manifests in grit. Most recently, it has yielded goals. With both teams finding their footing in front of goal recently, this match – unless both sides overcompensate – possesses all of the tools required to offer a suitable second act after the topsy-turvy, five-goal thriller between the two sides on June 8.
Last Forecast: 3/8 (38%)
This season: 60/140 (43%)
New England – San Jose (7:30p.m.) – Goal preview
Overview: Revolution coach Jay Heaps faces a decision up front with Juan Agudelo (knee) sidelined for the short-term and Jerry Bengtson out of form. Will he turn to Chad Barrett or Dimitry Imbongo to provide a boost in the final third?
Prediction: New England win.
Houston – Philadelphia (9:00p.m.) – Goal preview
Overview: The combination of a desperate Dynamo outfit (winless in seven matches) and a fatigued Union group (after a 2-2 draw at Real Salt Lake on Wednesday) should yield a home result.
Prediction: Houston win.
Vancouver – Seattle (11:00p.m., NBC Sports Network/TSN/RDS) – Goal preview
Overview: Are fireworks in the offing at B.C. Place? Seattle (even with Mario Martínez unlikely to return) fired two goals past D.C. United on Wednesday. Vancouver received a peach of a free kick from Camilo to keep its recent offensive exploits (nine in the past four games). And the recent five-goal thriller between the sides only provides more encouragement for the neutrals.
Prediction: Vancouver win.
Chicago – Sporting Kansas City (3:00p.m., ESPN) – Goal preview
Overview: Sporting must focus on its shape even more than usual with Mike Magee floating around and posing problems in peculiar spots. Chicago's attacking outburst on Wednesday night should provide plenty of impetus to keep things tight.
Columbus – Portland (5:00p.m.) – Goal preview
Overview: Can the Crew push aside the disappointment of the two late penalty calls at Los Angeles on Thursday night to focus on the task at hand against Portland?
Montréal – Chivas USA (7:00p.m., TVA Sports) – Goal preview
Overview: The odds of the Impact throwing away points in two consecutive home games are quite long, indeed.
Prediction: Montréal win.
Colorado – D.C. United (9:30p.m.) – Goal preview
Overview: This affair looks like a trip game for the Rapids, but the aspiring playoff contenders possess the necessary confidence (two straight wins, including the 2-0 victory over New York on Thursday) to sustain their recent run.
Prediction: Colorado win.
Los Angeles – FC Dallas (10:30p.m.) – Goal preview
Overview: The home side cannot rely on a pair of late penalties to emerge victorious in this encounter. If FCD keeps the tempo high and limits Robbie Keane's openings inside the penalty area, then it could snatch all three points.
Prediction: FC Dallas win.