MLS Spotlight: Squad Depth Tested With Gold Cup Callups

Staff Writer

For the second straight tournament, 32 MLS players were called up for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. It is the greatest amount of players called up which makes for good PR for MLS.

However it creates headaches for its clubs, particularly at opposite ends of the table.

Real Salt Lake, San Jose and Toronto FC are at the top, middle and bottom of the MLS standings, yet will each lose four players. There is a relatively even distribution of players selected throughout the table so coming to a general conclusion on how teams will be affected is tough to come to. It is easier to assess the impact of the Gold Cup on a team by team basis

Here is the breakdown:

Real Salt Lake (Players Called Up: Álvaro Saborío, Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Nick Rimando)

All four of the RSL players called up are regular starters including goalkeeper Nick Rimando who will be the US number 1 for the Gold Cup. Rimando’s international duty, especially in a year that consists of World Cup Qualifying as well as the Gold Cup, created the need for an adequate number two for RSL. With Rimando guaranteed to miss games against Philadelphia and FC Dallas, it’s up to Josh Saunders to hold down the fort against two of the most in-form teams in the league. It will be a key moment in measuring whether his acquisition will be a worthwhile one.

Assuming the USMNT makes it to the Gold Cup Final, Saunders will face Sporting Kansas City and New York as well.

Another RSL newcomer who will have to find his form is Joao Plata. With Saborío called up, Plata will lead the attack for the next month. RSL are going to struggle if Plata continues his current form. It is not even his 1 goal in 15 appearances that is the most concerning thing; it is the fact that he has 12 shots on goal and 28 shots in those 15 appearances. He averages less than two shots a game and less than one shot on goal per game.

There is no other way to twist it, Plata has not been good enough so far for RSL.

San Jose (Players Called Up: Nana Attakora, Marvin Chávez, Clarence Goodson, Chris Wondolowski)

Clarence Goodson’s Earthquakes debut will be delayed as he joins the US National team but the Quakes can be thankful that Victor Bernardez did not get selected for the Honduran national team. The exclusions of Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour are also noteworthy aids to a team that could have realistically lost five of its best defenders. Bernardez will be suspended for San Jose’s next game against Chicago which means the makeshift centerback pairing of Jason Hernandez and Dan Gargan will have to contain the torrid Mike Magee. New England, Seattle and Portland also have potent attacks but Bernardez’s availability for those games will give the Earthquakes a shot in each game this month.

Toronto FC (Players Called Up: Kyle Bekker, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Jonathan Osorio)

They weren’t going to beat Montreal, New York, and Sporting KC with those four players anyways. Chivas USA? Maybe by default.

Montreal, New England and Colorado did not have any players called up. The Impact are beginning to fall off as evidenced by their 4-3 loss at home to the Rapids. If you kept track of previous PDO columns, you wouldn’t be surprised because there was no way they were going to keep up the form they had from earlier this season.

Fortunately for the Impact, three of their five games in the month of July are at home and one of their road games is against Toronto FC. Considering that the Impact are already halfway to a playoff spot with their 29 points, getting wins in those four games would have them in an ideal situation ahead of the All Star Break.

The Revolution host the Earthquakes who will have completed a cross country road trip with a game in Chicago earlier in the week That match up comes on Saturday before hosting the Houston Dynamo a week later. With their own road trip coming up after, not getting a result against Houston could come back and haunt New England as the playoff race heats up.

The Rapids have shown signs of promise throughout the year with Oscar Pareja in charge. Their failure to acquire Carlos Bocanegra will make Pareja kick himself because the defensive help he could have provided would be perfect for a team that is about to go through the MLS gauntlet with games against the Red Bulls, Revolution, Seattle and Los Angeles.

The Gold Cup comes at a bad time for teams looking to position themselves during the midseason and it tests the notoriously shallow rosters of MLS teams. There are teams looking to survive the month of July without their stars and teams fortunate enough to keep theirs who are looking to capitalize.

Just another chapter in the always hectic MLS regular season.

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  • Matt Rasmussen

    Just got my tickets for the game against Costa Rica in Hartford, CT!

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