MLS week 27 preview: international absences plague shortened schedule

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

Major League Soccer hasn’t exactly honored the international break, but they have halved their schedule to reduce some of the pain. The ten teams in action in week 27 will have to deal with the loss of key players, but in theory these things level out within individual matches.

New England Revolution vs. Orlando City SC, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Revs and Lions enter Saturday’s match heading in different directions. New England is unbeaten in their last five games, and most recently won over Philadelphia. Orlando, on the other hand, is winless in their last five. OCSC needs to change that to keep track in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. New England will have to do without Jermaine Jones, while Orlando will lack Kaka and Cyle Larin

Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire, Saturday at 8 p.m.

Mauro Biello’s first match in charge of the Impact might serve as a gentle start: they play the Fire at home. But Montreal will have to do so without its best players, and in the midst of a slump that led to Frank Klopas’ firing.¬†Ignacio Piatti and Didier Drogba are injured, while Laurent Ciman is away with the Belgian national team.

Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 10 p.m.

Seattle hosts Toronto with the hopes that they can build off of last week’s win over Portland. They’ll be without Marco Pappa and summer signing Roman Torres due to international duty, while Clint Dempsey remains out of action with injury. TFC was able to keep hold of Michael Bradley, but its other two DPs will be missing. Jozy Altidore is with the USMNT, and Sebastian Giovinco was supposed to be with Italy before suffering an injury last week.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Philadelphia Union, Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

San Jose has won their last four games, all by shutout. Their 374-minute streak of keeping opponents scoreless is the longest in MLS this year. They’ll be hoping to continue both streaks at home against the Union, and by doing so to stay ahead of Seattle for the final playoff spot out west. Of the weekend’s matches, this one is the least affected by international absences. Cristian Maidana is suspended, however.

Columbus Crew SC vs. FC Dallas, Sunday at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

Despite a plethora of players missing because of international duty, Columbus vs. Dallas is an intriguing east-west matchup between two teams on course for the playoffs. Both teams enter the weekend third in their respective conferences, with higher places within reach. Some of the brightest players who will not show up include Fabian Castillo, Tesho Akindele, Blas Perez, Kei Kamara, and Wil Trapp.