MLS teams continue to turn to CONCACAF standouts to bolster their squads. Will the gambit reap more dividends in the wake of this Gold Cup?
1. The inevitable Gold Cup rush commences: MLS teams often do a bit of shopping in conjunction with the biennial regional tournament. Colorado captured most of the headlines this week when it hinted at its plans to sign Panama striker Gabriel Torres as a Designated Player. San Jose stole a march on its rivals when it signed El Salvador standout Jaime Alas on loan from Rosenborg. And several teams continue to contemplate a swoop for Rodolfo Zelaya with the Salvadoran schemer out of contract at the end of the year.
The sometimes suspect track record for these sorts of purchases – often made at the height of a player's value – does not dissuade clubs from pursuing them. Most of the talent on show falls within the necessary price range. A couple of decent performances can inspire managers to swoop. Whether those impulse buys (or, in many cases now, extended pursuits) pay off remains a matter to determine over a longer period of time.
2. Chicago, Montréal move for Designated Players...: Other teams are looking further afield for high-profile reinforcements. Chicago finally addressed its lingering concerns up front with the arrival of Juan Luis Anangonó. If the aspiring Ecuadorian international can provide the necessary touchstone for the attack, then Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe could thrive in the space he creates. Montréal opted for a more conservative approach by signing Hernán Bernardello. The once-capped Argentine international midfielder could supply a necessary dose of energy and industry to the creaking Impact at exactly the right juncture of the campaign.
3. ...while the Impact's main man returns to the fold: Although Impact boss Marco Schällibaum will welcome the impending arrival of Bernardello and ex-Wigan man Adrián López Rodriguez, he will naturally train most of his focus on Marco Di Vaio's immediate return. Di Vaio missed the 0-0 draw with FC Dallas on Saturday to tend to family matters in Italy. His restored presence up front should bolster the sputtering Impact attack ahead of the visit from Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.
4. Old friends reunite in Harrison: Real Salt Lake travels across the country to renew acquaintances with former stars Fabián Espíndola and Jámison Olave and ex-midfielder Jonny Steele. A preseason meeting between the sides removed some of the peculiarities surrounding this affair, but the prospect of seeing a trio of former RSL contributors on the other side of the ball will still look a bit odd. RSL will hope to overcome any lingering discomfort with the situation to issue a response in the wake of the late defeat to Sporting Kansas City last weekend.
5. Pablo Mastroeni returns to Colorado: The former Rapids stalwart left Commerce City last month after 11 and a half seasons to join the Galaxy. His return in such short order offers him the chance to close the loop on his time in Colorado and show that he can still contribute to another title push. The ex-U.S. international took his first substantive steps in that direction when he made his first Galaxy start in the 2-1 victory over Vancouver last weekend. A similar deployment and outcome at Dick's Sporting Goods Park would ensure a happy return to his new Southern California home.
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Toronto FC – Columbus (2 p.m., TSN) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Is this the weekend when TFC finally wins a league match at BMO Field? Ryan Nelsen's side has not garnered a victory at Exhibition Place in nine attempts this season. The streak could extend to 10 with the Crew – a side that has won four consecutive games against the Reds – headed for Ontario.
D.C. United – New England (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Will United receive the inevitable bump in morale from the prospect of moving into a new ground? Or will the Revs somehow manage to break their duck against D.C. (one draw, three defeats in the past four attempts) to push forward from that late show at Crew Stadium last weekend?
New York – Real Salt Lake (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: RSL has not lost in its past six matches against New York. If the Claret-and-Cobalt keeps possession adroitly and stops Espindola from repeating his previous heroics in this fixture (he scored twice in RSL's last visit to New Jersey but now plays for the Red Bulls), then it could extend that streak by another game.
Vancouver – Philadelphia (7 p.m., Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: The neutrals will expect and hope for more goals (two combined in the three previous meetings) from this encounter. The visitors' recent away form (winless in four) could spur the Whitecaps to the perfect response to the defeat at Los Angeles last weekend.
Prediction: Vancouver win.
Colorado – Los Angeles (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Consider this particular match an awkward engagement for the MLS Cup holders. The home side will keep the ball readily and rely on its pace – particularly through Deshorn Brown – to unsettle the makeshift Galaxy rearguard. Omar Gonzalez's absence could prove telling.
Prediction: Colorado win.
Montreal – Sporting Kansas City (7 p.m., TSN2/RDS) – Goal.com preview
Overview: The home side grabbed a split on its two trips to Sporting Park earlier this year. It must improve its attacking thrust (one goal in three games, 13 shots combined in its two previous matches against Sporting) in order to snatch a much-needed victory at Stade Saputo.
Prediction: Montréal win.
Houston – Chicago (9 p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com preview
Overview: This particular excursion presents a stiff test for the resurgent Fire: Frank Klopas' side has not won at Houston since April 2007.
Prediction: Houston win.
San Jose – Portland (10:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Expect a difficult night for the Timbers as they attempt to cope with the robust Earthquakes and try to break the home side's nine-match home unbeaten run.
Seattle – Chivas USA (11 p.m., Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: The Red-and-White's recent resurgence makes this match a somewhat awkward task for Sounders FC. It is exactly the sort of conundrum Sigi Schmid's side must overcome in order to keep its occasionally halting playoff push on track.
Prediction: Seattle win.