[MLS] The Gold Cup gets underway Sunday, with approximately 30 players missing from their MLS teams to play in the tournament. Some teams will be deeply affected, others very little or not at all. Those players could miss just two league games if their teams don't advance out of group play, or as many as four or five by playing in the knockout rounds. Here’s a grouping of who is on international duty and how deeply their absences affect their teams ...
NEW YORK – Juan Agudelo (USA), Dwayne De Rosario (Canada), Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Tim Ream (USA), Dean Richards (Jamaica). This is way too much talent – most of it cut from the spine of the team – for any team to lose, and Coach Hans Backe – recently named to lead the All-Star team against Manchester United – will get a severe test to justify that honor.
LOS ANGELES – Landon Donovan (USA), Donovan Ricketts (Jamaica). The best player in the league, most of the time, anyway, and one of its best keepers are renowned for coming up with big plays at critical moments, the absence of which can be costly in tight games.
REAL SALT LAKE – Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador), Will Johnson (Canada), Nick Rimando (USA), Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica). Rimando will stay with RSL and only report to the USA if there’s a goalkeeper injury or suspension, and he’ll be sorely needed as an already weakened attack has sputtered even when it had Saborio and Alvarez available. The loss of Johnson’s vision and experience is another major blow.
SAN JOSE – Ryan Johnson (Jamaica), Chris Wondolowski (USA). The Quakes attack should be bolstered by the return to fitness of Simon Dawkins, who has resumed training after missing more than a month, yet the powerful presence of Johnson and predatory prowess of Wondo are irreplaceable.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY – Stephane Auvray (Guadaloupe), Roger Espinoza (Honduras), David Rocastle (Grenada), Shavar Thomas (Jamaica). That’s the way it goes in MLS; open a new stadium (next week) without four of your regulars. Until these players come back and SKC has played a few home games the playoff possibilities can’t be assessed.
CHICAGO – Marco Pappa (Guatemala). Sure, the Fire has more than enough attackers to cover for Pappa, but their inconsistency this season, plus defensive lapses, plus the coaching upheaval earlier this week will exacerbate the loss of a streaky yet dangerous attacker.
D.C. UNITED – Dejan Jakovic (Canada). So far this season, though still inconsistent, he’s looked more like the savvy defensive leader he’s supposed to be. With the attack also hampered by Charlie Davies’ injury, the back line will need to be stronger, and it’s weaker without Jakovic.
HOUSTON – Andre Hainault (Canada), Jermaine Taylor, Je-Vaughn Watson (both Jamaica). Hainault has played every minute for the Dynamo, Taylor and Watson have seen spot duty. Injuries have already drained some of Houston’s depth, so these next few weeks could be rough.
PHILADELPHIA – Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala). He’s slower and less mobile than in his glory days yet is still capable of spectacular goals and pestering defenders. If Danny Mwanga mans up, Ruiz won’t be much missed, yet that is by no means a given.
TORONTO FC – Julian de Guzman (Canada), Dicoy Williams (Jamaica). TFC is such a mess it’s hard to assess these absences, except to point out that not having two choices on a desperately thin squad can’t be good. Losing Adrian Cann for the season to a torn ACL deprives TFC of a vital player at the worst possible time.
VANCOUVER – Terry Dunfield (Canada). He’s just one guy but he’s one of the few capable ones the ‘Caps have put on the field week after week. New coach Tom Soehn has plenty of candidates who can take Dunfield’s role in midfield but replacing his attributes won’t be so easy.
LITTLE OR NO IMPACT
CHIVAS USA – None. Simon Elliott and Andrew Boyens missed some time this week to play for New Zealand, as did Alejandro Moreno with Venezuela.
COLUMBUS – Robbie Rogers (USA). He’s a starter yet hasn’t been especially influential so far this season, and frankly, the Crew should have the horses to get through the next few weeks, assuming that Coach Robert Warzycha does.
FC DALLAS – None. Timing is everything, and with FCD adjusting to the loss of David Ferreira fairly smoothly, keeping his squad intact gives Coach Schellas Hyndman a chance to make a run at Western leader LA.
PORTLAND – Steve Purdy (El Salvador). He’s started six games at right back and played reasonably well yet the Timbers should be able to cover for him unless there’s an injury.
SEATTLE – None. Head coach Sigi Schmid gets a break, as Cuban defector Osvaldo Alonso is persona non grata with his national team.
TO BE DETERMINED
COLORADO – An sprained ankle will keep Omar Cummings off the Jamaican team; as of Thursday, defender Tyrone Marshall had still not decided whether to join the squad.
NEW ENGLAND – Shalrie Joseph declined an invitation from Grenada. An ankle injury has sidelined Benny Feilhaber, whose status will be reviewed on Monday, the deadline to submit Gold Cup rosters.