1. D.C. United sure isn't happy with its forward options right now...: The decision to acquire Lionard Pajoy places the spotlight on United's apparent displeasure with its recently spotty goalscoring production (three goals scored in the past four games). Pajoy likely won't help matters much as he tends to waste more than his fair share of opportunities in front of goal, but his arrival may send a rather pointed message to the likes of Maicon Santos (on the sidelines with a toe injury) and Hamdi Salihi (as if his ample measure of bench time this season and Long Tan's insertion into the starting XI didn't do the trick already) to get their acts sorted out in short order.
2. ...and it might not be so happy to see Danny Cruz at RFK Stadium this weekend either: Few players in this league work harder on and off the ball than Cruz does. Give him a little extra motivation – say, for instance, a dose of intermittent action and a second trade in less than a year – and he can make life particularly difficult for the opposition with his industry and his persistence. No wonder then why Philadelphia coach John Hackworth hinted to MLSsoccer.com that he may find a way to use Cruz against his former team on Sunday.
3. Are you ready to go?: Coaches around the league will ask their internationals that hopeful question ahead of the fixtures this weekend. The lack of depth in most squads means the answer isn't particularly relevant to the final decision. Most players will just grit their way through the game unless they picked up an injury in midweek. That determination will likely take some toll on the overall performance submitted, however. Throw in the trio of overlooked league matches on Wednesday night and this particular weekend may include more ragged spells of play than usual for fatigue-related reasons.
4. It's never friendly when Seattle and Vancouver meet: The angst of a Cascadia match doesn't bode particularly well for two sides that have struggled to maintain their composure in the face of iffy refereeing displays over the past couple of weeks. Fortunately for everyone involved, the talent on the field should provide a welcome distraction. Vancouver's central midfield trio (Jun Marques Davidson, Gershon Koffie and Barry Robson) must hold its own against Seattle's engine-room pair (Osvaldo Alonso plus one of several options at Sigi Schmid's disposal) in order to maintain a foothold in the game. If the Whitecaps can find the ball, then they might just be able to ask a few questions of Seattle's defense with their clever runs in the attacking third.
5. Keep an eye on the leaders at Stade Saputo: San Jose just keeps churning out results, but Saturday's visit to Montréal poses a potential problem for the Earthquakes. Jesse Marsch's side knows how to win at home and refuses to shy away from the physical battles so often claimed by the visitors. If the Impact can maintain its composure (never a given) and restrict the service into Steven Lenhart (likely to start in place of the suspended Alan Gordon) and Chris Wondolowski, then a ninth home win in 14 attempts appears quite possible indeed.
Last week: 4/8 (50%)
This season: 76/182 (42%)
Vancouver @ Seattle (4:00p.m., TSN 2/RDS) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Both sides will crave a decent outing from the referee in this Cascadia tilt. A little focus elsewhere – perhaps on the intriguing midfield battle between the two teams – might benefit all involved parties.
Prediction: Seattle win.
Sporting Kansas City @ Toronto FC (4:30p.m., GOL TV Canada) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: TFC's uncertainty in possession hampers its chances in this game. Sporting will just ratchet up the pressure, sweep up the inevitable turnovers and transform this game into the type of affair that the Reds aren't likely to win.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.
San Jose @ Montréal (7:30p.m., TVA Sports) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: This particular situation – especially with several key players scattered across North America in midweek – could prove even too much for the Earthquakes to overcome. But don't count them out.
New England @ Chicago (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: New England hasn't won in six regular season trips to Toyota Park (0-5-1). This particular match – with the Fire cruising along and the Revs in poor form – doesn't appear destined to alter that statistic.
Prediction: Chicago win.
FC Dallas @ Real Salt Lake (9:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: FCD will try to claim its second road victory in four days in this trip to Rio Tinto Stadium. Schellas Hyndman's side won't mind catching the tattered home outfit at this juncture, but the altitude may take its toll as this match progresses. At least Hyndman can inject Brek Shea into the mix after his heroics at the Azteca in midweek.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Chivas USA @ Colorado (9:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Jaime Castrillón's one-match ban shouldn't disrupt the Rapids' efforts too much. One goal should do the trick for the home side, but the proper course of action probably involves a second tally just to secure the points.
Prediction: Colorado win.
Philadelphia @ D.C. United (5:00p.m., NBC Sports Network/TSN 2/RDS 2) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Thursday's trade inserted all sorts of intrigue into this particular affair. Could one of the two traded players make a difference in the match? Perhaps, but the smart money in that particular department lays with another player expected to step into the lineup: United captain and schemer Dwayne De Rosario. The reigning MLS MVP missed his first game of the season last weekend, but he told the Washington Post earlier this week that he should be fit enough to feature after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Prediction: D.C. United win.
Portland @ New York (7:00p.m., Galavision) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: This particular fixture looks like a straightforward three points for the home side given the Timbers' dreadful away record, but the men in green have a tendency to rise to the occasion against prominent foes. Granted, those improved efforts usually come at home, but the Red Bulls will want to take care of business early (perhaps by using their significant advantage in possession) to ensure they do not prompt any heroics from the visitors.
Prediction: New York win.
Columbus @ Houston (9:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: The emotional midweek draw with Los Angeles at Crew Stadium could take its toll on the visitors during the second half.
Prediction: Houston win.
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