MLS Weekend Preview: International Call-Ups Thin the Ranks

There is probably no team with more of a desire to see MLS conform to FIFA’s International Fixture dates than the Red Bulls.

When New York kicks off in Columbus tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 (MSG +/Direct Kick/MatchDay Live) they will be without five starters and a backup keeper due to international call-ups.

Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo will be with the U.S. as it faces Argentina, Rafa Marquez will play for Mexico, Dane Richards will suit up for Jamaica, Roy Miller got called in by Costa Rica, and second-string netminder Bouna Coundoul was tapped by Senegal.

Add the fact that Thierry Henry will miss the game with a hamstring strain (here we go again with that guy), and you are going to see a very … interesting lineup take the field for New York tomorrow afternoon.

We have no idea how they’re going construct a backline in the absence of three defensive regulars (Miller, Ream and Marquez), and with substitute Chris Albright rehabbing from surgery. Teemu Tainio will probably move from midfield to outside back, but coach Hans Backe will have to make multiple other adjustments as well, all over the field.

The other teams hit hardest by call-ups are Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, both of which had three players tapped for international duty.

Kansas City visits Chicago on Saturday (4:00, TeleFutura) without Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone), Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe), and Shavar Thomas (Jamaica).

Real Salt Lake hosts Los Angeles on Saturday night (9:00, DK/MDL) while missing Will Johnson (Canada), Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador*), and Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica).

The Week 2 schedule kicks off tonight when Seattle welcomes Houston to Qwest Field (Fox Soccer Channel, 10:00 p.m. EST). Both clubs will be looking for their first win of the season after Seattle started with consecutive 1-0 losses to Los Angeles and New York, and Houston was surprised at home by the same scoreline when Danny Califf poked home a rebound for Philadelphia last Saturday.

Following tonight’s tussle in Seattle, there are eight games on Saturday. In addition to the matchups mentioned above we have (home teams listed first):

Toronto FC vs Portland, 2:00 p.m., TSN (Canada), MDL

The Reds face an expansion team for the second straight week to start the season, and, as their 4-2 loss to Vancouver showed last week, that’s probably for the better. Toronto is still working out the kinks as they try to implement new coach Aron Winter‘s system. Portland began its MLS existence with a 3-1 defeat to defending champion Colorado last week, and should welcome the chance to measure themselves against the struggling Reds.

Philadelphia vs Vancouver, 4:00 p.m., MDL/DK

Both teams started the season with a bang last week, the Union upsetting Houston on the road and Whitecaps FC overwhelming Toronto at home. The Sons of Ben will be out in force for the home opener at PPL Park. Philly will want to keep tabs on Vancouver playmaker Davide Chiumiento, whose midfield brilliance was somewhat overshadowed by new DP Eric Hassli‘s two goals last week.

New England vs DC United, 4:30 p.m., MDL/DK

Charlie Davies brings his magic to the Big Razor to face a New England team that narrowly escaped rainy Los Angeles with a 1-1 draw last week—and will play without Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi, both of whom were called to the Gambian national team, this week. CD9 scored two to lead the Black-and-Red to a 3-1 win over Columbus last Saturday.

FC Dallas vs San Jose, 9:00 p.m., MDL/DK

The Hoops will be without centerback Brek Shea, who was red-carded in last week’s 1-1 tie with Chicago. San Jose hopes to make up for last week’s tough home loss to Real Salt Lake, a game in which they created but failed to convert several good chances.

Chivas USA vs Colorado, 10:30 p.m., MDL/DK

It doesn’t get any easier for Robin Fraser‘s rebuilt squad: they welcome the defending champs one week after a 3-2 home loss to high-flying Sporting Kansas City. The Rapids will be without international call-ups Sanna Nyassi (Gambia) and Omar Cummings (Jamaica), but they’ll still present a stiff challenge for the Goats.

*Alvarez was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and represented the U.S. at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels, but chose to play for his parents’ native El Salvador at the senior level.

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