It's been a rough week for Major League Soccer. After all three MLS teams remaining in CONCACAF Champions League turned in good first leg performances against Liga MX teams, fans felt like this would finally be the year that an MLS team won a knockout round tie against a Mexican side. Instead, all three came up short.
San Jose -- who put in the least effort to pull off the feat, essentially starting a B team away to Toluca -- came the closest, losing on penalties. LA Galaxy dug themselves a hole, then failed in their comeback bid, while Sporting Kansas City just got wrecked by Cruz Azul. It's been a bad week and now all of these teams have to play league games.
Instead of using any of our questions on whether or not these three teams will look any bit tired or unfocused this week, we're just pointing it out here. Especially since LA have a tough game away to RSL, while the other two play each other.
Will Real Salt Lake be a different team at home?
In two away games, the RSL defense has not looked good. They allowed three goals last week against San Jose and let the LA Galaxy generate way too many chances in the season opener, even if Nick Rimando was good enough to keep a clean sheet. The Galaxy come to Utah on Saturday, and even if LA are suffering a bit of a CCL hangover, RSL's defense will have to be much improved to secure a repeat result.
Do Columbus still have their finishing boots on?
The Columbus Crew were plagued by poor finishing last season, particularly by Jairo Arrieta, but the Costa Rican scored in the team's season opener. While that was nice to see, a decent season-long scoring rate from Arrieta isn't going to be enough to fire them into the playoffs. Dominic Oduro was better in front of goal last season than he's been at any point in his career. Columbus needs both of them to be decent -- or for at least one of them to be decent at all times.
Will Portland finally wake up?
Portland are probably better than their two home draws against the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire, but fans might start getting a bit worried about the team's prospects for this season if they turn in a third consecutive lackluster performance. And they've got stiff competition in the Colorado Rapids, who play their home opener on Saturday after a good performance in a draw away to New York last week. The Rapids are a good team who had a very good home record last season and a win should seriously get the ball rolling for the Timbers.
What will Seattle look like without Clint Dempsey?
Clint Dempsey is serving a two-game suspension for slapping Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom in the groin, so Seattle is going to have to figure out what to do without him. They don't have an exact like-for-like player to play in his place, though they could move Marco Pappa inside and replace Dempsey with a winger. Or let Kenny Cooper be the playmaking attacking midfielder he's always dreamed of being. Or just put in Chad Barrett and get more direct. Whatever they try will be interesting, since these two games won't be the last Seattle plays without Dempsey this year.
What does the best version of the Red Bulls look like?
Jamison Olave is no longer listed as injured, while Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill should start this weekend as well, with Chicago Fire playing their home games on a grass pitch. The three haven't been together with the rest of New York's top supporting players this season and it'll be interesting to see how much better it makes them -- if at all. Last year's Supporters' Shield winners have been lackluster, but they made no significant offseason changes and should come to life shortly.
Reasons to watch
Sporting KC might play their best XI in a league game
Some players might get rested after a tough CCL match, but after their elimination, Sporting KC can now focus completely on MLS. And with that in mind, we might finally see their best players all play together in a league game. They've done quite a bit of rotating while focusing on Cruz Azul, but this might be the first time we're able to get an idea about whether or not they should be favorites to win the Eastern Conference once again.
Dallas-Chivas is a bit of an overachieving team eliminator
If either FC Dallas or Chivas USA wins their game on Saturday, you will be forced to take them seriously for an indeterminate period of time. No one really wants to do that, so it would probably be best for everyone if they drew.
To see if New England and DC are as bad as they seem
These two get grouped into one section, because they're basically the same team right now. Everyone figured the New England Revolution were a solid playoff team. Most assumed that the acquisition of Eddie Johnson and some veteran defenders would allow DC United to at least compete for a playoff spot. Instead, New England look like the worst team in the league and DC lost their home opener to Columbus. With the Revs playing Vancouver and DC going away to Toronto, things could get ugly if these teams are as bad as they've looked so far.