Friday MLS Forecast: Week 5: Squaring up to a difficult trip

Montreal places its unbeaten run on the line at Sporting Kansas City, as MLS welcomes its international stars back into the fold this weekend.

1. Can Montreal continue its unbeaten run at Sporting Park?: The question applies to the Impact's bright start to this season (four wins in four) and its stunning road triumph in Kansas City, Kan., last year (a 2-0 win on May 5). Sporting will undoubtedly recall the tactics used in that victory – a modest approach somewhat similar to the deportment used now – and adjust accordingly. The burden falls on Graham Zusi and his comrades to produce the necessary quality in the final third to pick apart Montréal's well-drilled shape without inviting the Impact forward on the counter.

2. Seattle looks to its returning stars to spark its attack: Sigi Schmid's outfit continues to search for accurate service from midfield and instinctive finishing inside the penalty area. Eddie Johnson, Mario Martinez and Obafemi Martins should bolster the efforts upon their return from international duty. All three of those players – plus the influential Mauro Rosales – must rise to the occasion to ensure the Sounder snags a result at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.

3. Knocks could hamper New York's quest for a first victory: Red Bulls coach Mike Petke will assess the fitness of forwards Fabian Espindola (hamstring) and Thierry Henry (MCL sprain) ahead of Philadelphia's visit on Saturday afternoon. Henry told on Thursday that he returned a bit earlier than expected and wanted to play through any pain to help his side. With a four-match winless streak to snap and the undefeated Union in town, the former France international may have to grit his teeth and find some way to lead his teammates to the full complement of points.

4. Do not expect El Chelis to swap Juan Agudelo for Carlos Ruiz right now: The former Puebla boss wanted his old striker to join him in Southern California. For whatever reason, the deal broke down and Ruiz ended up with D.C. United instead. Agudelo's recent performances – including an impressive overall display to garner Player of the Week honors in the 4-1 victory over Chicago on Sunday – have played a critical role in Chivas USA's surprising start to the season. If the former New York striker continues his fine form against Vancouver on Saturday night, then the Red-and-White may find a way to prolong its promising opening period.

5. Injury crisis continues in Colorado: Poor Oscar Pareja. The second-year Rapids coach can't buy a break. Diego Calderón entered the teeming infirmary on Thursday. The Ecuadorian center back will miss the next 4-to-5 months as he recovers from knee surgery, according to a club release. Calderón's absence comes at the worst possible time, with Drew Moor banned for the next two games for lashing out at Marcelo Sarvas in the 1-0 defeat at Los Angeles on Saturday. Throw in the continued omission of the vital Martín Rivero and four other starters for injury-related reasons and the Rapids enter Portland's visit on Saturday painfully shorthanded.

Last week: 3/8 (38%)

This season: 10/34 (27%)


Toronto FC – Los Angeles (2 p.m., TSN/RDS) – preview

Overview: This trek to Ontario represents a tricky fixture for the Galaxy. Expect Bruce Arena to prepare his charges for the challenges ahead against the improved, but still limited, Reds.

Prediction: Los Angeles win.

New York – Philadelphia (3:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) – preview

Overview: Perhaps this affair will provide a bit of karmic retribution for Bill Hamid's point-stealing performance in the home side's last outing at Red Bull Arena.

Prediction: New York win.

New England – FC Dallas (4 p.m.) – preview

Overview: FCD has started the season particularly well, but it must still grapple with questions about its ability to produce road results. A trip to Gillette Stadium (all-time record: 1-8-1) probably isn't the place to solve those concerns.

Prediction: New England win.

Colorado – Portland (6 p.m., Univision Deportes) – preview

Overview: The focus for the Timbers: keeping the back door closed. If the visitors can avoid shipping a goal on the break, then they should find a way through the Rapids' patchwork back four.

Prediction: Portland win.

Houston – San Jose (8:30 p.m.) – preview

Overview: After grinding out a victory over Vancouver last weekend, the Dynamo will welcome back Brad Davis, Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor for the Earthquakes' visit.

Prediction: Houston win.

Sporting Kansas City – Montreal (8:30 p.m., TVA Sports) – preview

Overview: Credit the Impact for its wonderful opening period. This match – particularly in light of Sporting's work over the past two weeks – provides a natural stopping point for the streak, though.

Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.

Real Salt Lake – Seattle (9 p.m.) – preview

Overview: Could Álvaro Saborío steal this one for the home side? Or is this the week Seattle finds its incisiveness in the final third?

Prediction: Draw.

Chivas USA – Vancouver (10:30 p.m.) – preview

Overview: Don't ask too many questions about the Red-and-White right now. Just enjoy the wacky ride while it lasts.

Prediction: Chivas USA win.

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