1. Many, many key figures will spend the weekend elsewhere...: A host of familiar faces will spend their weekends away on international duty instead of tending to club considerations. As one might expect, the departure of nearly 40 players will place a heavy burden on coaches around the league and take a significant toll on the quality of play this weekend. The points, however, still count all of the same. In this particular situation, the circumstances favor clubs capable of juggling their lineups appropriately and snatching points despite fielding weakened sides.
2. ...as Landon Donovan plots his return: Donovan is expected to travel to Washington with his teammates next week to commemorate the Galaxy's MLS Cup triumph, according to MLSsoccer.com. His decision to link up with his teammates meets the established timeline (back by the end of March) and sets the stage for his return to the field. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said he plans to integrate Donovan into the team slowly as the U.S. international midfielder obtains the necessary match fitness.
3. Luyindula primed to replace Cahill and Henry in Montréal: New York coach Mike Petke has the good fortune to trust Péguy Luyindula to fill the voids created by international duty (Tim Cahill joined his Australian teammates in Sydney ahead of Tuesday's vital World Cup qualifier against Oman) and injury (Thierry Henry will miss this match with a left MCL sprain). The former Lyon, Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain could make his debut and partner Fabián Espíndola up top after receiving his work visa during the week. Luyindula's pace and movement could prove helpful as the Red Bulls attempt to end the Impact's unblemished run to start the season.
4. Taking the sheen off a potential Western Conference final: San Jose and Seattle looks like a inviting match at first glance. It isn't right now, though. Not this weekend. Not with the Earthquakes ravaged by injuries and Sounders FC slated to field a side without Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins. In lieu of a genuine preview of things to come, the home side must find a way to erase the bitter taste of Rodney Wallace's late equalizer for Portland last weekend and slide its domestic campaign back on track.
5. No chance of a goalkeeper shortage in Frisco: FC Dallas signed its fifth goalkeeper on Thursday when it agreed to a Homegrown deal with Jesse Gonzalez. FCD made this move to prevent Gonzalez's potential departure to a Mexican club, but the rationale does not reduce the rather peculiar glut between the sticks. FCD coach Schellas Hyndman can now choose between five goalkeepers – including number one Raúl Fernández, backup Chris Seitz and Mexico under-20 starter Richard Sanchez – when he names his lineup every weekend.
In other FCD-related transactions, Hyndman signed recovering midfielder Ramón Núñez for a second stint with the club earlier in the day and then watched former goalkeeper Kevin Hartman sign with New York on Thursday night, according to the goalkeeper's Twitter feed.
Last week: 1/9 (11%)
This season: 7/26 (27%)
D.C. United – Columbus (3:30p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com preview
Overview: United must attempt to replicate its recent defensive performances without Dejan Jakovic against a Crew side likely to deploy Dominic Oduro in Jairo Arrieta's usual spot up top.
Prediction: D.C. United win.
New England – Sporting Kansas City (4:00p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: New England must retain the ball better than it did in its first two matches – both away from Gillette Stadium – in order to avoid the one mistake that could decide this tight affair.
Montréal – New York (4:30p.m., TVA Sports) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Thierry Henry likely would have skipped this game on turf anyways, but the Red Bulls will miss his inspiration as they try to break down an Impact side that must compensate for the absence of Alessandro Nesta (adductor).
Prediction: Montréal win.
FC Dallas – Real Salt Lake (8:30p.m., Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Who will score for RSL with Álvaro Saborío away with Costa Rica?
Houston – Vancouver (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Look for Andrew Driver to pick up some of the slack created by the departures of Brad Davis and Boniek García. Expect the Dynamo to find some way to extend the unbeaten run at BBVA Compass Stadium, too.
Los Angeles – Colorado (10:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Galaxy manager Bruce Arena will rely on Jack McBean, Mike Magee and Jose Villarreal to provide the necessary thrust in front of goal with Robbie Keane across the Atlantic. Colorado will lean on third-string goalkeeper Clint Irwin with Steward Ceus out of favor and Matt Pickens (broken forearm) injured.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.
San Jose – Seattle (10:30p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Forget about weighing this meeting as a matchup of two potential Western Conference contenders. This contest looks more like a battle of survival given the omissions on both sides.
Chicago – Chivas USA (5:00p.m., UniMas) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Chivas USA will have Joaquin Velázquez available after an independent review panel rescinded his ridiculous red card earlier this week, but the Fire must still find a way to spark their moribund attack nonetheless.
Prediction: Chicago win.
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