CONCACAF gathers every two years to crown its champion. The process takes its toll on MLS.The conflicting schedules – both the Gold Cup and MLS operate during the month of July – inevitably create availability conflicts. It poses a rather difficult tug-of-war between clubs trying to hold onto their players and countries trying to select them for international duty.
As Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen can attest, the countries – at least in this instance – emerge victorious with the backing of FIFA in this particular instance. And 16 of the 19 clubs will feel some impact from the decisions made by the 12 participants and the pact reached between MLS and U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann to restrict some selections in the wake of World Cup qualifying.
In preparation for the start of the tournament on Sunday, the Musings reviewed the issues facing MLS clubs over the next few weeks:
Real Salt Lake (4): Jason Kreis must find a way to replace his captain (Kyle Beckerman), his goalkeeper (Nick Rimando), his top forward (Álvaro Saborío) and one of his two fullbacks (Tony Beltran). RSL is in fantastic form at the moment, but the absence of four key figures will test that form significantly.
Toronto FC (4): Nelsen expressed his strident disapproval about the departures of Kyle Bekker, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan and Jonathan Osorio to the Canadian national team prior to Wednesday's game against Montréal. The current crunch – facilitated by injury and roster considerations – will ease and the burden will lift. Henry and Osorio are the only frequent starters in this quartet and Nelsen possesses enough cover to fill the gaps as the month progresses.
San Jose (4): Interim coach Mark Watson must replace Honduran winger Marvin Chávez – perhaps the team's best performer so far this season – and top scorer Chris Wondolowski (United States). As if those issues were not intrusive enough, he must also hope his central defenders stay healthy and stop making reckless challenges at midfield with Nana Attakora (Canada) and recent signing Clarence Goodson (United States) now unavailable.
Portland (3): Influential captain Will Johnson will spend the next few weeks leading Canada instead of the Timbers. His industry and his performances in midfielder are essentially irreplaceable at the moment, though Caleb Porter will certainly try. Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica) creates another pressing vacancy on the left wing. At least Porter can turn to Ryan Johnson to replace Frédéric Piquionne (Martinique).
Vancouver (3): Russell Teibert's recent form makes him a significant loss for Martin Rennie's in-form side. The tricky Canadian winger has played a significant part in the Whitecaps recent revival. Rennie might struggle to overcome Teibert's absence, but he should manage to cope without reserves Carlyle Mitchell (Trinidad and Tobago) and Simon Thomas (Canada).
Houston (2): This number could change if Corey Ashe (United States) cannot overcome a knock suffered at New York on Sunday. If it does not, then the Dynamo must pull out of its current poor run without its starting left back and one of its starting forwards (though Bruin has struggled as of late).
Philadelphia (2): Keon Daniel (Trinidad and Tobago) receives little fanfare for his earnest work in the Union midfield. The prospect of replacing him for the next week or two should increase the appreciation afforded to his work. Jack McInerney (United States) does not suffer from the same relative anonymity.
Sporting Kansas City (2): Haiti will lean heavily on the duo of Mechack Jerome and Peterson Joseph as it attempts to find a way through to knockout stages. Peter Vermes will try to compensate for their absences.
Chicago (1): Paolo Tornaghi will step between the sticks with Sean Johnson away with the United States.
Chivas USA (1): The Red-and-White will survive without the services of reserve defender Steve Purdy-Ramos (El Salvador) for the next few matches.
Columbus (1): Crew coach Robert Warzycha will likely turn to Dominic Oduro to cover for Jairo Arrieta's spell with Costa Rica.
D.C. United (1): Will the loss of Bill Hamid (United States) really influence United's results? He can certainly steal a game somewhere along the way, but United is more than one player from turning its season around.
FC Dallas (1): Schellas Hyndman stockpiled forwards for Blas Pérez's absences. Pérez plays a critical role in the FCD attack, but Hyndman can turn to Kenny Cooper to plug the gap.
Los Angeles (1): Landon Donovan is irreplaceable. Bruce Arena will lament his lost star and produce results anyways.
New York (1): The temporary exit of Roy Miller (Costa Rica) forces Mike Petke to assess his options at left back. Connor Lade will likely receive first crack after starting in the 2-0 victory against Houston on Sunday.
Seattle (1): Sounders FC is apparently planning for life without Mario Martínez (Honduras) already. His surprising call-up for the Gold Cup will provide a nice test run.
Colorado, Montréal, New England (0): At least three managers can embrace the Gold Cup, right?