MLS Week 4 Preview: International absences

MLS Beat Writer

While clubs elsewhere take a hiatus this weekend for international play, Major League Soccer plows right through with a full slate of games. All 20 teams are in action, which was not the case in either of the last two weeks, and will not be the case next week. MLS’s disregard for the international break is not new, but the result, as usual, is that teams will be without some of their best players. That problem will only grow as the league improves its quality.

New England Revolution vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday at 3 p.m.

Just a month ago, you probably could have predicted that the Revs and Quakes would start the season in opposite ways. Few would have expected, however, that the Revs would be seeking their first goal and the Quakes would enter this match on a two-game winning streak. Fatai Alashe, who scored last week for San Jose, has been called in to the U.S. U-23 squad. The Revs don’t have to worry about any international duty, but Jermaine Jones remains out for the club.

Montreal Impact vs. Orlando City SC, Saturday at 4 p.m.

No team was hit harder by this international break than Orlando. The Lions will lose seven players, including Brek Shea, Kevin Molino, and Canadian Cyle larin, to their respective national teams. When combined with injuries to Lewis Neal, Cristian Higuita, and Carlos Rivas, OCSC likely won’t have a full bench in Montreal.

The Impact won’t be at full strength either. Belgian Laurent Ciman and Canadian Maxim Tissot are on international duty. The bigger blow, however, is the loss of Cameron Porter, who is out for the season

On a brighter note, more than 20,000 Montreal fans, buoyed by CONCACAF success and the presence of Kaka, have already bought tickets for the home opener at Stade Olympique.

New York City FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, Saturday at 7 p.m.

NYCFC plays its second home game at Yankee Stadium, and the last one before baseball season begins, on Saturday night. Their opponents, Sporting Kansas City, have just two points through three matches. Their lone goalscorer, Roger Espinoza, is off with the Honduras national team. Both of these teams played scoreless draws last week; I hope for the sake of fans in the Bronx that the same isn’t true this week.

DC United vs. LA Galaxy, Saturday at 7 p.m.

DC was unimpressive in their game last weekend against New York, but they might be facing the Galaxy at the right time. The defending champs are coming off two straight draws, and will be without the forward pairing of Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Keane. Keeper Jaime Penedo will also miss the match. United, meanwhile, is one of the three teams without any national team call-ups this week, though Fabian Espindola remains suspended.

Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Crew didn’t play last week, so they’ll have rest on their side in addition to home field advantage against the Red Bulls. They won’t have Waylon Francis or Justin Meram, and Wil Trapp, who was supposed to join the U.S. U-23 after this game, might miss it due to injury. The Red Bulls head to Columbus after a convincing home win against DC, and they’ll be hoping that Bradley Wright-Phillips can have another performance as good as last week’s.

Houston Dynamo vs. Colorado Rapids, Saturday at 8 p.m.

If the Rapids score on Saturday night, they’ll be ending a drought that that goes back five games, all the way back to last October. If they win, they’ll snapping a 16-game winless streak that goes back even further, to last July. It is the second longest in MLS history. The Dynamo will be at home and are tasked with preventing these things from happening.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers, Saturday at 8 p.m.

The first Cascadia Cup match of the year will be held at a sold-out BC Place. The Whitecaps and Timbers combined for 13 goals in their three games last year, and Cascadia matches rarely disappoint fans of fast-paced, frenetic soccer. But on the other hand, these two teams have only scored five goals so far this year. One of these trends will have to give.

International casualties are mercifully limited here. Portland’s Alvas Powell and Vancouver’s Sam Adekugbe will be the biggest absences. Vancouver will also be without Kekuta Manneh, who was suspended for his challenge against Aurelien Collin last week in Orlando.

FC Dallas vs. Seattle Sounders, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

FC Dallas is off to their traditional hot start, with three wins from three games. But this week, they face their toughest test yet in the form of the Seattle Sounders. Dallas lost to Seattle over two legs in last year’s playoffs, but only because away goals. This is a great early opportunity for the Hoops to establish themselves as a threat in the Western Conference.

The Sounders will be without Clint Dempsey, whose call-up to the USMNT was cut short by a hamstring problem in training. Marco Pappa will also be absent, as he plays for Guatemala. Blas Perez, Moises Hernandez, and Kyle Becker are out for the hosts.

Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, Sunday at 4:45 p.m. on ESPN2

The fact that this game is relatively unaffected by the international break—only Chicago’s Shaun Maloney is missing—is rather telling. This game was chosen for national television due to the size of the Chicago and Philadelphia markets, but the Fire and Union have been among MLS’s worst so far in 2015. Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer after his elbow and red card last week against Dallas.

Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC, Sunday at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1

In contrast, this game features two teams who aren’t normally featured on national TV in the U.S. Unfortunately, most of the stars RSL and Toronto people want to see won’t be on the field. Americans Nick Rimando, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are all with the USMNT in Europe. RSL will also be without Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio.

Due to the national television coverage, this marks the first time that Salt Lake will play a regular-season home game on a Sunday. The club has avoided Sunday games for a decade because they pose a religious conflict for some fans in largely-Mormon Utah. Expect to see some empty seats at Rio Tinto Stadium as a result.

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