A spate of suspensions around the league leaves several teams scrambling for alternatives heading into the weekend.
1. Need a key player? He's probably banned: Nine players – barring any Disciplinary Committee verdicts on Friday – will serve suspensions over the weekend. The list includes three San Jose starters (Rafael Baca, Victor Bernárdez and Justin Morrow) and integral figures for Columbus (Federico Higuain), Philadelphia (Amobi Okugo), Portland (Pa Modou Kah) and Vancouver (Nigel Reo-Coker). Even Montreal boss Marco Schällibaum will miss out on the fun. Those teams missing players must adjust on the fly and find some way to cope without vital cogs at a particularly important juncture of the campaign.
2. California Clasico tattered by those bans … : The playoff-chasing Earthquakes faced a difficult-enough task to cope with a Galaxy side bolstered by Landon Donovan's decision to extend his contract in midweek. The prospect of trying to deal with Donovan and Robbie Keane without two members of the starting back four could make this trip to the StubHub Center particularly arduous.
3. … but the important clash in Sandy received a boost this week: Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis hopes to name Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Álvaro Saborío in his squad to face Portland on Friday night. The two teams know each other well after playing twice already in the past three weeks. The onus now falls on RSL – particularly with Saborío back in the fold and Kah ruled out through suspension – to use that knowledge to claim a second victory on the trot.
4. Diving into the meaning of a training ground spat: It isn't out of the norm to see coaches and players disagree during a practice session. The prospect of Thierry Henry – a competitive, fastidious sort – engaging with the equally committed Mike Petke over a particular point remains firmly within the realm of possibility. It occurred on Thursday, according to a report by Big Apple Soccer. The question is whether the two parties – and the Red Bulls on the whole – can channel the frustrations released toward the greater good of claiming three points against D.C. United on Saturday night.
5. Maintaining a careful balance in Colorado: Rapids boss Oscar Pareja has Martin Rivero waiting in the wings to return to the starting XI. Rivero remains an integral part of the Rapids with his work on the ball, but the club has adjusted in his lingering absence and has strung together nine consecutive matches without defeat. Pareja continues to wait patiently for the right time to introduce him into the lineup once more. It may not arrive in time for Saturday's visit to Sporting Kansas City, though.
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This season: 92/209 (44%)
Toronto FC – New England (7 p.m., Sportsnet ONE) – Goal.com preview
Overview: How will TFC cope with the constant movement within its defensive third?
Prediction: New England win.
Real Salt Lake – Portland (10 p.m., NBCSN) – Goal.com preview
Overview: RSL enters the third meeting in 20 days in a stronger position with Beckerman, Rimando and Saborio all poised to return. The Claret-and-Cobalt must take advantage of their returns in order to procure the points after snatching a draw in Portland without them.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Philadelphia – Montréal (7:30 p.m., TVA Sports) – Goal.com preview
Overview: The vibrant Impact display last weekend should strike fear into the hearts of a Union outfit trying to cope without Okugo and recover from a five-goal nightmare on Sunday.
Prediction: Montréal win.
Columbus – Seattle (7:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: This edition of the Sigi Schmid Bowl has trap game stamped all over it, though Higuain's mandatory omission makes the task a whole lot easier. Seattle must tend to its duties carefully in the wake of the emotional victory over Portland in order to sidestep a potential setback at Crew Stadium.
Prediction: Seattle win.
New York – D.C. United (8 p.m., NBCSN) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Forget about the training ground drama. New York needs to set it aside and focus on the task at hand. And a motivated Henry may just prompt the end of this three-match winless streak all by himself.
Prediction: New York win.
Sporting Kansas City – Colorado (8:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: This trip to Sporting Park represents a dire threat to the Rapids' club-record nine-match unbeaten run. Colorado must keep its shape and lean on its ability to push out and retain possession in order to snatch a result.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.
Los Angeles – San Jose (10:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: It is the California Clasico and odd things occur all the time in this fixture. But the weakened Earthquakes – particularly in light of the insipid midweek display in Guatemala – likely do not possess the wherewithal to sidetrack the Galaxy here.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.
Chicago – Houston (3 p.m., UniMas) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Expect a rugged, tight affair with both teams willing to bear down if it leads to a full complement of points. The visitors, in particular, must guard carefully against the counter after the frailties exposed in their rearguard over the past week or so.
Vancouver – Chivas USA (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Chivas USA has proven rather effective as a spoiler in recent weeks. Martin Rennie's side must heed the lessons learned by Colorado and New York and take the appropriate remedial actions in order to claim the points without the services of the influential Reo-Coker.
Prediction: Vancouver win.