The Forecast surveys a full MLS slate for the first time in over a fortnight. Montréal's revamped stadium and a pair of new managers provide a couple of highlights.1. Hello, again. Are you fit enough to feature?: MLS coaches will ask that key question to top players as they return from international duty. Some stars may slot right back into the fold, while others may require extra time to recover their fitness after the international date. Most of the U.S. contingent – except for Landon Donovan and maybe Geoff Cameron after his second-half arrival in Guatemala City – could feature after their minimal match exertions, but other internationals may not make the transition as deftly after more earnest work during World Cup qualifying.
2. Montréal finally moves into its new (old?) home at Stade Saputo: While the matches at Olympic Stadium provided a few notable occasions for the league's newest expansion team, those affairs never felt like they were truly on the Impact's home ground. No such problems should occur now as the Impact open up their revamped digs against Seattle on Saturday night. Workers toiled relentlessly on the 20,341-seat ground to ensure this date would be met. The expanded roof – now over all four stands – should ensure a cauldron of sound for the Impact to mark the first MLS match in the stadium, though such conditions may not intimidate a visiting side accustomed to playing at CenturyLink Field.
3. Paul Mariner takes his MLS managerial bow in Toronto: The veteran assistant will finally take charge of his own side when the Reds visit Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. He could have asked for a far simpler task (it isn't easy to cope with Sporting's high pressure 4-3-3 setup) to mark his debut. Expect Mariner to ask his players to come out in a solid defensive shape (maybe a 4-4-2 rather than a 4-3-3, if it matters) and express the sort of defiance required to pull the club up by its bootstraps. Much of Mariner's important work will occur in the transfer market as he tries to strengthen a fairly weak squad, but this match provides a first glimpse at the type of impact he can exert on the training field.
4. Philadelphia opens the John Hackworth era at home to D.C. United: Peter Nowak's midweek sacking places Hackworth in the hot seat on an interim basis. His first match – like Mariner's opener – isn't a particularly easy test with an I-95 clash against searing hot United on the docket. Hackworth said he won't institute radical changes at the outset during his introductory press conference, but he also noted that some fresh faces (Josué Martinez and Jorge Perlaza, perhaps) could see some time as soon as this weekend. The primary objective for Hackworth at this point: finding some way to restore some of the lost goodwill between the club and its fans with attractive and incisive attacking football.
5. El Capitán finds its home in a one-off tie: FC Dallas will visit Houston on Saturday night in the only meeting between the two sides this season. The offseason schedule revamp unfortunately claimed this derby as collateral damage, but this lonely affair has at least given us cause to watch several FCD players dance to the dulcet tones of Take That. FCD will need to show a bit more rhythm on the field – particularly by using its pace to unsettle the presumably restored Dynamo back four, especially with Blas Pérez's availability in question (injured on international duty with Panama) – in order to reclaim its favorite cannon.
This season: 48/105 (46%)
D.C. United @ Philadelphia (7:00p.m., Galavision) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: United's form – and Dwayne De Rosario's reluctance to sit out matches – may stop the Union from handing John Hackworth the perfect start to his interim reign as boss.
Colorado @ Vancouver (7:00p.m., Sportsnet One) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Oscar Pareja will need better performances out of his inconsistent fullbacks in order for the Rapids to snatch a point at B.C. Place.
Prediction: Vancouver win.
Seattle @ Montréal (7:30p.m., TSN 2/RDS) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: If the Impact can manage the emotions of the day (and the players did so against Chicago earlier this year), then Jesse Marsch's side may just find a way grind out a point against the more talented visitors from Seattle (sans the suspended Osvaldo Alonso, of course).
FC Dallas @ Houston (7:30p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Continued injury concerns surrounding the likes of George John, Blas Pérez and Brek Shea will make FCD's quest to reclaim El Capitán a particularly difficult road to travel.
Prediction: Houston win.
Columbus @ New England (7:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Jay Heaps' side must dictate the terms of this match – decent tempo, few mistakes, plenty of possession – in order to secure the points.
Prediction: New England win.
Toronto FC @ Sporting Kansas City (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: It will take more than a week or two for the Reds to sort out the pervasive problems with their defensive shape.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.
Real Salt Lake @ Chivas USA (10:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: A word or two about the Red-and-White's victory in Sandy early this year should provide ample motivation for RSL ahead of this meeting at the Home Depot Center.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
New York @ Chicago (5:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Red Bulls boss Hans Backe likely won't know what to do when he assesses his squad and finds so many healthy options available for selection. There's a good chance he can sort through the choices and select the right mix to claim all the points against the inconsistent Fire.
Prediction: New York win.
Portland @ Los Angeles (7:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Suspensions to Hector Jimenez, Mike Magee and Michael Stephens will limit Bruce Arena's options in midfield. Landon Donovan would usually get a rest after his hectic slate, but the circumstances may dictate his inclusion. On the balance, a tired Donovan still counts as an asset as the Galaxy search for a much needed victory.
Follow KYLE MCCARTHY on or shoot him an email.