MLS Week 5: Three Games to Watch

The home opener for Toronto FC and perhaps the MLS debut of Bastian Schweinsteiger are among the main storylines for the fifth weekend of play.

A coaching change at Real Salt Lake was announced Wednesday, though Mike Petke will be in the stands and not on the sideline at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Interim head coach Daryl Shore, who will be retained along with the rest of the RSL staff named by predecessor Jeff Cassar, handled the team last week in a 0-0 tie at Red Bull Arena.

The Colorado-FC Dallas game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed until Oct. 7 to accommodate FCD’s two-game series against Pachuca in the Concacaf Champions’ League semifinals. FCD is training in Mexico for the second leg to be played Tuesday and holds a narrow 2-1 lead.

Here are three games to watch this weekend, starting with a Fox Sports 1 doubleheader on Friday.
 
BIG NIGHT AT BMO FIELD. For the first time since losing the MLS Cup final on penalty kicks to Seattle Dec. 10, Toronto FC plays at BMO Field against Sporting Kansas City (7:30 pm. ET, FS1, Fox Deportes, MLS Live) after posting a 1-0-2 record in three road games.

Head coach Greg Vanney welcomed back several players from international duty, including three who faced each other Tuesday night in the 1-1 tie between the USA and Panama. That’s not much recovery time for Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Armando Cooper. Altidore has scored two of TFC’s four goals.

On the other side of the ledger, SKC boss Peter Vermes must make the call on Graham Zusi. All four players went the full 90 except for Altidore, and he didn’t come off until the 83rd minute. Zusi also played 30 minutes in relief of Geoff Cameron a week ago against Honduras.

TFC attacker Sebastian Giovinco has recovered fully from a leg contusion suffered when tackled by Oguchi Onyewu of the Union March 11. He did not play in a 2-0 TFC win at Vancouver March 18; Altidore and Victor Vazquez scored after Brek Shea was sent off with two quick cautions in the 70th minute.

After playing 0-0 ties in its first two games SKC got its first goals and first win of the season by beating San Jose, 2-1, March 18. It is also riding a four-game win streak against TFC and has won at BMO Field in its last three visits.

WEEK 5, SCHEDULE
Friday, March 31
Toronto FC vs. Sporting KC 7:30 pm FS1
Seattle vs. Atlanta United 10 pm FS1
Saturday, April 1
Columbus vs. Orlando City 4 pm UniMas
Chicago vs. Montreal 3 pm
D.C. United vs. Philadelphia 7 pm
New York City vs. San Jose 2 pm
Minn. United vs. Real Salt Lake 8 pm
Houston vs. NY Red Bulls 8:30 pm
Vancouver vs. LA Galaxy 10 pm
Sunday, April 2
Portland vs. New England 9 pm ESPN2
All times ET.

 
CHAMPS FACE NEWBIES. A bit of luster has been taken off the first meeting between Seattle and Atlanta (10 p.m. ET, FS1, Fox Deportes, MLS Live) with striker Josef Martinez, tops in MLS with five goals, sidelined for at least a month by a strained quad suffered playing for Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier.

But seeing as how this is the only shot the expansion team will get this season at the defending champion from which it borrowed many aspects of its own launch, and former Sounders right back Tyrone Mears is returning to CenturyLink Field with Atlanta United, and both teams will be dealing with aftereffects of the FIFA international break, it is sure to be among the weekend’s most compelling matches as playmakers extraordinaire Nicolas Lodeiro and Miguel Almiron go head-to-head.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said this week all of his international players will be available. Clint Dempsey (USA), Roman Torres (Panama), and Joevin Jones (Trinidad & Tobago) all played 180 minutes; Nicolas Lodeiro did not play in either of Uruguay’s two matches.

“He’s chomping at the bit to play,” said Schmetzer of Lodeiro. “He traveled all that way and didn’t play. He’s ready to play.” Also cleared to play after recovering from injuries are Jordan Morris (ankle) and Oniel Fisher (hamstring).

Aside from Martinez, the Atlanta United international contingent of Carlos Carmona (Chile), Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad & Tobago) and Almiron (Paraguay) have traveled to Seattle. Jones might get the start in place of Martinez, though he’s not the only option available for head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
 
GALAXY STARS RETURN. A week after Sebastian Lletget -- while on U.S. duty -- suffered a serious foot injury that will sideline him for several months, the Galaxy roster has been strengthened by the returns of several players.

Defender Ashley Cole (calf), attacker Giovani dos Santos (hamstring) and forward Gyasi Zardes (broken foot) will travel with the team to Vancouver, and so will midfielder Jermaine Jones, who played for the U.S. Tuesday in its 1-1 tie with Panama. The Whitecaps and Galaxy tangle Saturday (10 p.m. ET, TS1, MLS Live).

Cole hasn’t played this season since being injured in a scrimmage Feb. 23. Dos Santos sat out Mexico’s World Cup qualifiers as well as the Galaxy’s last league match at Real Salt Lake. He suffered the injury March 12 against Portland and has been in full training for the past week and a half. Zardes hasn’t seen any competitive action since suffering a broken foot in a league match against Vancouver last August.

The Whitecaps return to B.C. Place two weeks after losing at home to Toronto FC, 2-0. They were also blanked at home March 5 in their season opener (0-0 Philadelphia). A midweek trade sent winger Kekuta Manneh to Columbus in exchange for Tony Tchani as head coach Carl Robinson tries to generate some momentum for a team mired in a funk.

Brek Shea is suspended for the second caution he received in the 2-0 loss to TFC. All five goals conceded by Vancouver this season have followed red cards that left them down to 10 men. It lost in San Jose, 3-2, on March 11 after leading, 2-0, prior to the ejection of keeper David Ousted for a foul that denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity

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