MLS Week 14: What to Watch For

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By RYAN BRISTER

MLS logoWeek 14 is a busy one in Major League Soccer — players are away on international duty, there are five midweek matches and Canadian Championship semifinals (Montreal advanced to the final over Vancouver on Tuesday). Here’s what to watch for:

American Absences

The U.S. national team is tuning up for its World Cup qualifiers with a friendly against Venezuela on Saturday, and several American players will be unavailable for their clubs. In all, 14 MLS players were called up by Coach Bruce Arena, including two players each from Dallas, Kansas City, Toronto, and Seattle. Dax McCarty and Dallas’ Matt Hedges are making rare appearances with the national team, while Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are among those taking up their usual roles within the squad. This is in addition to the continued absence of U-20 players such as Tyler Adams and Brooks Lennon who already have sizable roles on their MLS teams.

Can Orlando Bounce Back?

After a hot start to the season, Orlando City (6-5-2, 20 points) has cooled off. The Lions are 0-4-2 in their last six matches, having scored four goals in that span. Orlando City has two games this week, both at home, that serve as an opportunity to set things straight. Three points have to be the expectation against visiting D.C. (4-6-2, 14) on Wednesday night; Orlando’s game against Chicago (7-3-3, 24) on Sunday should be a much tougher task. The Fire boast the league’s leading goalscorer, Nemanja Nikolic (11).

The Timbers Try to Regroup

Portland (5-5-3, 18) is going through a rough patch. The Timbers are winless in their last five games (0-3-2), including a bitter loss over the weekend to rival Seattle. Portland hosts San Jose (5-5-4, 19), which put together a 3-0 win against the Timbers a month ago.

Diaz Returns

Mauro Diaz is back at the right time for Dallas (5-2-5, 20). The playmaker made his first appearance of the season Sunday night against Houston in a losing effort. Dallas is now winless (0-2-2) in its last four games; while scoring only 1.25 goals per game in his absence. The sturdy defense took a hit with the injury to Walker Zimmerman, who will be out for more than a month. Dallas be without both regular center backs for Saturday’s game against Salt Lake (4-8-2, 14), a club they beat, 3-0, earlier this month.

Martínez Is Healthy

Josef Martínez should be available for Atlanta United (5-4-3, 18) as they head across the continent to play at Vancouver (5-6-1, 16) this weekend. Martínez was leading the league with his five goals before sustaining an injury on international duty in March. Atlanta hasn’t struggled for goals without him; its 27 are the most in MLS. Miguel Almirón has been their biggest threat of late, with five goals in his last two games.