Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
The start of September comes at a difficult time for Major League Soccer coaches as all but one team loses at least one player to international callups.
At the StubHub Center, a match that was filled with stars will now be one bereft of designated players on the field when the Los Angeles Galaxy host the Colorado Rapids. However, it’s still a match between two clubs in a playoff race, and the outcome could certainly go a long way in determining seeding or if the team’s reach the playoffs. As of Friday, seven Western Conference teams are all in the thick of the playoff race, fighting for five places.
Elsewhere across MLS, FC Dallas host the Vancouver Whitecaps, with a budding rivalry building between the two clubs, the New England Revolution host the first-place Montreal Impact, and D.C. United host Chivas USA in the bizarro MLS Cup.
Here is a rundown of the Week 28 slate:
FC DALLAS vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 8:30pm, MLS Live)
After meeting twice in the space of a week in late April, FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps close out their season series at FC Dallas Stadium on Saturday, with a nearly healthy Jay DeMerit among the Whitecaps squad on the road trip.
Both teams have a number of injured players though, with Whitecaps centerback Brad Rusin out and FC Dallas midfielder Andrew Jacobson still working his way back to full fitness. The hosts lose Blas Perez and Raul Fernandez to international selection while five players including Darren Mattocks are away for the visitors. Kenny Cooper is also suspended due to a red card.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30pm, MLS Live)
Brian Bliss began his reign as Crew head coach on the right note with a 2-0 victory mid-week against the Houston Dynamo, but a visit to Sporting Park is a whole new challenge.
Even without Kei Kamara (transfer) and international call-ups to Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, Sporting KC have one of the deepest teams in the league and the ability to cover in the lineup for the coming match. The Crew meanwhile return Federico Higuain and Danny O’Rourke from suspension.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 10pm, NBC Sports Network)
The Sounders look for their fourth consecutive win on Saturday evening when the Chicago Fire visit CenturyLink Stadium in front of a national audience.
Eddie Johnson has been a key player for the Sounders all season but the club will have to survive without him and Clint Dempsey, who have joined the U.S. Men’s National Team squad in Costa Rica. The Sounders will also be without Brad Evans (calf injury) and Obafemi Martins is questionable with an ankle strain. The Fire won’t have the services of new signing Arevalo Rios and veteran Joel Lindpere.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 10:30pm, MLS Live)
Two teams chock full of youngsters will be able to test them out in what could be an eventual playoff match as the Colorado Rapids travel to Carson City, California to face the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, and Jaime Penedo missing from the hosts as well as Gabriel Torres missing from the visitors due to the international matches this weekend, the likes of Jose Villarreal, Jack McBean, and Deshorn Brown should all get plenty of minutes.
PORTLAND TIMBERS VS. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 11pm, MLS Live/TSN)
The Portland Timbers will be hoping to return to the winning column when they welcome in Toronto FC to Jeld-Wen Field on Saturday evening.
The Timbers will be without their Jamaican trio of Ryan Johnson, Donovan Ricketts, and Alvas Powell, but Rodney Wallace was not called up by Costa Rica, allowing head coach Caleb Porter to use one of his stars this weekend. TFC will be without four of their Canadian players, Kyle Bekker, Jonathan Osorio, Ashtone Morgan, and Doneil Henry.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 5pm, UniMas)
Two teams with volatile league form meet for the first of two meetings in the next seven weeks as the Houston Dynamo host the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
The last time the team’s met ended with a Red Bulls 2-0 victory, but Mike Petke’s club will be without leader Tim Cahill for at least three weeks due to an ankle injury, while left back Roy Miller is injured and on international leave. The Dynamo are missing Oscar Boniek Garcia and Jermaine Taylor but they’ll surely hold the advantage at home in their backyard, as they look to return into the top five places in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Bulls are also without Ibrahim Sekagya due to a red card suspension.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Sunday, 7:30pm, MLS Live)
Both the New England Revolution and Montreal Impact enter Sunday’s tilt on three-match unbeaten runs, and the clubs are relatively unscathed by international call-ups.
The Revolution lose new signing O’Brien Woodbine and forward Jerry Bengtson, but neither were expected to play as Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe, and Diego Fagundez have formed a talented young group of players in attacking positions on the field. However, the Montreal Impact’s two summer signings, Hernan Bernardello and Adrian Lopez, are both set to miss out after suffering injuries in the past week.
CHIVAS USA vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 9pm, MLS Live)
The two worst teams in MLS meet up on Sunday evening, with more than just pride on the line.
D.C. United slumped to their 18th defeat this season last Saturday and lost Jared Jeffrey in the first half to a sprained ankle, an injury that will likely keep him out when they visit Chivas USA. Ben Olsen also won’t be able to select Dwayne De Rosario, Dejan Jakovic, and Kyle Porter in this week’s lineup due to joining the Canadian National Team. Chivas meanwhile ended their two-match point streak with a defeat to the Seattle Sounders, but don’t lose anyone to international call-ups, the only team in the league to be left off that list.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Sunday, 11pm, ESPN2)
The Philadelphia Union’s usual starting XI will be forced to chance on Sunday when they visit the San Jose Earthquakes.
Amobi Okugo misses out due to a red card while Ray Gaddis continues to be bothered by an ankle sprain. Reserve midfield/defender Michael Lahoud is also away on international duty. The Earthquakes meanwhile are without Honduras duo Victor Bernardez and Marvin Chavez, but USMNT pool players Alan Gordon and Clarence Goodson were left of the qualifying roster.