1. Start the clock on David Beckham, MLS investor/operator: Beckham's decision to conclude his playing career at the end of the Ligue 1 season opens up the possibility of a renewed and expanded relationship with MLS. His contractual rights from his first MLS contract allow him to invest and operate an expansion side for $25 million. Expect him to exercise those rights – why would he leave the $15 million or more in equity on the table? – at a point that makes sense for both him and the league (almost certainly after the lucrative New York City deal is concluded).
By calling time on his tenure with Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham took one small step toward that inevitable juncture. How quickly the timeline now proceeds depends on his own priorities and the continually evolving landscape within the league.
2. Is there a solution on the horizon for Chivas USA?: Rumors continue to swirl in Mexico about a possible sale of C.D. Guadalajara and Chivas USA. It isn't necessarily easy to pin down the particulars (the most recent reports conflict, for example), but the amount of smoke indicates the fire isn't far behind. MLS desperately needs to address the Red-and-White's situation, but it must do so carefully. A brokered sale – an agreement designed to allow investor/operator Jorge Vergara to cash out while also protecting franchise values elsewhere and ushering a new city into the league – makes sense for all parties. It is just a matter of striking the proper deal to satisfy all involved parties.
3. This is not the best time to face Landon Donovan: U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann dipped into his bag of motivational tricks and omitted Donovan from his squad in the buildup to friendlies in May and World Cup qualifiers in June. It is a managerial masterstroke (created by design, happenstance or some other social or morale-based factors, depending on your interpretation of Klinsmann's capabilities) designed to elicit further improvement from the post-sabbatical Donovan. His initial response – one goal, two assists in the 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday – suggests MLS defenses may bear the brunt of Donovan's continued exile until his currently mooted callup for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.
4. Low-cost move for Bobby Convey underscores Toronto FC's desperation: TFC president and general manager Kevin Payne imported his former boarder to fill the void created by Hogan Ephraim's imminent departure (loans only last so long when players eventually warrant Premier League wages) and supply an extra bit of quality on the left side. Convey's arrival represents a pure nostalgia play based on his form over the past couple of seasons. If he can muster up some of the influence he displayed during his years with D.C. United, then TFC can justify his wages (depending on the salary relief situation here) and this low-risk (natural third-round selection in 2014 SuperDraft) swap.
5. Will the Disciplinary Committee's activism influence the on-field actions?: The five-man board meted out four suspensions this week in a bid to clamp down on some of the tomfoolery unfolding on the field in recent weeks. The increasingly harsh line of discipline sends a message to players (clean it up) and referees (enforce the rules more stridently). Now we have the chance to see if they plan to heed the rebukes or proceed as usual.
Last week: 5/9 (56%)
This season: 35/92 (38%)
Toronto FC – Columbus (5 p.m., TSN/Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: TFC coach Ryan Nelsen must integrate several new faces into his squad over the next couple of weeks. It isn't an easy process in the best of times. This particular situation hardly falls into that category.
Vancouver – Portland (7 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Cascadia derbies always offer up their own particular brand of intrigue. Martin Rennie used an unorthodox lineup to procure a 0-0 draw at Montreal in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final in midweek. Expect him to return to his regulars – minus the suspended Johnny Leverón – for this tricky affair against the surging Timbers, who are unbeaten in nine.
Philadelphia – Chicago (7:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Can the Union shake off the effects of the midweek drubbing and snatch all three points from the Fire for the second time in a week?
Prediction: Philadelphia win.
Houston – New England (8:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: This weekend isn't the best weekend to visit BBVA Compass Stadium, not with the Dynamo hungry after having their 36-game home unbeaten streak snapped by Sporting Kansas City.
Prediction: Houston win.
San Jose – Colorado (10:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Two discipline-related decisions – Edson Buddle's one-match ban and Marvin Chávez's reprieve from MLS commissioner Don Garber – could influence the outcome of this affair. Another potential factor: the Earthquakes' embarrassing defeat at Seattle last weekend.
Prediction: San Jose win.
Seattle – FC Dallas (10:30 p.m., MLSsoccer.com) – Goal.com preview
Overview: This match constitutes a significant test for resurgent Sounders FC. FCD will not give away the points. If Seattle can find a way to assume control of the proceedings and stop FCD from breaking quickly through midfield, then the home side could extend its unbeaten run to six matches and take the current Supporters' Shield leader down a peg.
Prediction: Seattle win.
New York – Los Angeles (1 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Will the Galaxy possess the necessary energy to cope with the Red Bulls after playing in Philadelphia on Wednesday?
Prediction: New York win.
D.C. United – Sporting Kansas City (5 p.m., Univision Deportes) – Goal.com preview
Overview: If United is going to pull a shocker and slide back on track, then this match – particularly with Aurelien Collin and Oriol Rosell banned – offers a surprisingly opportune chance to take advantage of a side still on an emotional high from Sunday's win at Houston.
Prediction: D.C. United win.
Chivas USA – Real Salt Lake (10:30 p.m.) – Goal.com preview
Overview: Chivas USA – even with Walter Vílchez poised to return – remains in a state of disarray too great to dispatch a cohesive and organized unit like RSL.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
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