The bigger the number, the higher the stakes in MLS Week 11. Who will answer the bell when their feet are put to the fire?
Ironically enough, it hasn’t been Chicago. Not this season.
A full slate of midweek matches turned MLS on its head. The New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo share the top spot in the Eastern Conference. FC Dallas stands alone in the West—salvaging another point at home, thanks to some superb diving from Blas Perez.
But there’s no time to dwell. The turnaround is quick in MLS. Another full slate of matches await 18 teams this weekend.
So, what warrants your attention in Week 11? Read on to find out.
Which match will you—the fan—be watching this weekend?
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 11.
Results from Wednesday night's action are posted as well.
Toronto FC is idle this weekend. The Reds will have a few extra days to recover after failing to hold yet another lead Wednesday night.
DC United 0-4 Houston Dynamo
New York Red Bulls 4-1 Montreal Impact
New England Revolution 1-2 Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City 0-1 Seattle Sounders
FC Dallas 1-1 Portland Timbers
San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Toronto FC
Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, 1:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Montreal Impact vs. Real Salt Lake, 2 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 4 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live
New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
FC Dallas vs. DC United, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Portland Timbers vs. Chivas USA, 5 p.m. ET, UniMas
Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Note: MLSsoccer.com is offering a free trial of MLS Live. If you do not own a subscription, be sure to visit the site and register to enjoy every match this weekend for free.
MLS player salaries were released earlier this week. Fans can officially pinpoint the effective use of their hard-earned money in 2013. They can also lambaste those who are dwindling the dollars away.
Who will share the burden of a financial microscope in Week 11? Who is failing to earn their keep?
The answers to most of those questions have materialized in Chicago.
Eight matches. Seven points. Six goals. That is the “productive” output of the Chicago Fire in 2013—this coming after a successful 2012 run that saw the team clinch its first playoff berth since 2009.
But how exactly is the money being spent in Chicago?
Sherjill MacDonald and all of his zero goals in seven starts is running the club a whopping $527,125. That is more than the combined salaries of Mike Magee ($199,666), Ryan Johnson ($144,704) and Robert Earnshaw ($155,150). The three have combined for 15 goals this season. The three make a combined $499,520.
To make matters worse, nearly $850,000 were spent in the offseason to bolster the Fire’s roster. The investment has failed to return dividends.
The additions of Jeff Larentowicz ($231,000), Joel Lindpere ($205,000), Maicon Santos ($164,433) and Dilly Duka ($273,000) have failed to produce the results that amount of money warrants. The team's current standing in the Eastern Conference reflects that.
The opportunity is there for the majority of Chicago’s roster to earn its keep in Week 11. It starts with a win at home against the Union on Saturday.
Will Sporting KC be the 37th man down for the count?
Thirty-six teams have attempted to defeat Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium. Thirty-six teams have failed.
Valencia was the 37th and the first to succeed. Though, a 2-1 loss in a friendly last year doesn’t count according to the Dynamo faithful. But I digress.
If there was ever a team that would relish the opportunity to end Houston's home unbeaten streak, it’s Kansas City.
Sporting’s MLS Cup dreams were shattered at the hands of the Orange Crush in each of the last two postseasons. Even as the No.1 seed in 2012, Kansas City failed to move past a pesky Dynamo team that barely settled into the playoff picture.
The Sporting faithful have had an entire offseason to brood over last year’s shocking result. Images of Adam Moffat’s inconceivable strike is undoubtedly seared into their brains. But now, the opportunity is there for Sporting to exact its revenge in a historic fashion.
It won’t be easy.
Houston has owned Kansas City in recent years—no matter the location. Sporting is 1-3-2 in their last six matches against the Dynamo.
If recent history is a predictor, Kansas City will be victim number “37” at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Peguy Luyindula says there is “no chance” he plays Saturday after suffering a hamstring injury Wednesday night (per Franco Panizo). Dax McCarty is “hopeful” his quad injury will allow him to play (per Brian Lewis), and Thierry Henry has never played in Gillette Stadium since he arrived in 2010.
That leaves head coach Mike Petke with Tim Cahill and Fabian Espindola as the team's go-to finishers. But Cahill is the one earning $3.6 million this season. The onus is on him to carry the Red Bulls to their fifth consecutive victory.
Cahill has been in scorching form in recent weeks.
The former Everton great followed up his Week 9 MLS Team of the Week selection with another in Week 10. After going scoreless for 17 consecutive starts—17,000-plus minutes of frustration that boiled over into an online spat with Taylor Twellman—Cahill has found the back of the net three times in the last three weeks.
That’s called “earning your keep,” Chicago.
The Red Bulls will need more than that in Week 11.
Bodies are limited. This will be the team’s third match in eight days. But Saturday's showdown will serve as another opportunity for New York to keep soaring in the standings.
Juan Agudelo was not in the 18 for New England Wednesday night.
The 20-year-old striker was acquired from Chivas USA in a trade and will serve as an automatic upgrade for the Revolution. New England scored its fifth goal as a team in Wednesday night's 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. Agudelo has nearly half that total in four starts.
Fortunately for DC United, there is no relegation in MLS.
This isn’t the worst start in MLS history. Toronto earned that dubious distinction after starting the 2012 campaign with nine consecutive loses.
But United are not that far off.
Toronto carried three points through its first 10 games in 2012. With a trip to FC Dallas Stadium Saturday, DC is in danger of carrying four in the same span.
These are desperate times for one of MLS' most prestigious clubs. More than three points are on the line in Frisco, Texas. Head coach Ben Olsen is aware of that (per MLSsoccer.com):
Is my job on the line? It better be. I’m the leader of this team. But I have faith in what I’m doing and I’ll continue to go about my work.
True, there are more attractive teams to pay attention to in Week 11. But the Black and Red are showing the potential each week of being one of the worst teams in MLS history.
That alone is worth your attention.
True, Houston and Kansas City will battle for Eastern Conference supremacy on Sunday night.
But if the Quakes and Sounders have found their 2012 form, Saturday’s showdown will feature two of MLS’ most dynamic teams.
Both teams earned a draw in Week 10. Both teams posted victories on Wednesday night.
San Jose narrowly defeated Toronto 2-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium. It wasn’t “Goonie” time. But netting the game-winner in the 81st minute isn’t exactly “exerting your will,” either. Seattle continued the Northwest dominance at Sporting Park with a 1-0 victory over Kansas City.
Who will capture a seventh point in eight days? The schedule makers might have a say in that.
The Sounders endured a cross-country trip in less than a week—capturing four points in the process. The Quakes have not left the state of California since mid-April.
Player availability might also play in role in Saturday’s result. Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon will return for the Quakes after serving their suspensions. The availability of Obafemi Martins (leg tendon), Shalrie Joseph (hamstring) and Steve Zakuani (abdominal strain) remain in question after the trio did not travel with the team to Kansas City.
But the Sounders have the “12th Man.” Is that enough to return to the Western Conference playoff picture?
It better be.
Seattle can ill-afford to duplicate Week 4’s result. Another loss to the Quakes will only exacerbate an already daunting task.
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