Donovan's farewell begins with a familiar foe
It's fitting that, a day after LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan announced his retirement, he'll square off against the club that gave him his start in MLS, the San Jose Earthquakes.
It's a little shocking to think that nine years have elapsed since Donovan cut short his second stint with Bayer Leverkusen, and signed on with the Galaxy, just months after leaving San Jose. Had such a move -- across what, at the time, constituted the biggest rivalry in MLS -- come in the Twitter age, the Internet would have melted down. As it turned out, the surprise and venom were largely confined to MLS diehards.
Since then, Donovan has become synonymous with the Galaxy and his time in San Jose now seems a mere footnote, despite winning two MLS Cups in Northern California. Quakes fans have done what they can to keep the enmity alive, but that's what winning three more MLS Cups with the Galaxy will do.
Yet the present will be on the minds of both teams Friday night, as well as Donovan. LA will be keen to keep its recent surge up the Western Conference table going and keep the heat on conference leaders, Seattle.
San Jose's situation is desperate, despite a recent run that has seen then grab seven points out of nine. They'll have to do it without oft-injured forward Yannick Djalo too, though new designated player signing Matias Perez Garcia will attempt to pick up the slack.
That said, all eyes will be on Donovan. Enjoy him while you still can.
-- Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle)
Crew looks for on-field boost
There's no time for tears in Columbus. Left at the transfer altar by U.S. international Mix Diskerud, Gregg Berhalter's Crew are back on the field Saturday to face off against fellow Eastern Conference playoff aspirant Toronto FC. The game is also a nominal rivalry, although TFC's wins in April and May means the destination of the Trillium Cup, awarded to the winner of the season series, is already assured.
Just how close Columbus came to signing Diskerud is difficult to say, though all reports indicated a last-minute collapse. For Columbus fans, missing out will hurt more than it should; Diskerud's potential arrival represented more than a chance to get better on the field and was going to be a symbol of a new, aggressive Crew approach under neophyte owner Anthony Precourt. However, it's arguable whether Diskerud is even the type of player Columbus needs, with the significant issues at striker a bigger problem.
If Berhalter is disappointed by the end of the saga for this season, he'll need to quickly put it behind him. The team at his disposal is clinging to a playoff spot, just one point ahead of the New England Revolution. The East is tight enough, however, that a Crew win on Saturday could vault Columbus into third place. Whether it is a poor team playing over its heads or a good team that is underachieving could resolve itself very soon.
It's never easy to call the result of these games playoff six-pointers, especially considering the level of parity from third down to seventh in the Eastern Conference
-- Jason Davis (@davisjsn)
Win wanted for different reasons
Success is relative in MLS. For a club like Sporting Kansas City, the league's defending champ, anything less than its first Supporters Shield since 2000 or an MLS Cup repeat this season will be seen as a disappointment. For the Vancouver Whitecaps, simply making the postseason two years after its last appearance is probably enough.
Both teams will be hoping to get closer to their respective aims when they square off north of the border on Sunday night, even if they find themselves heading in different directions.
Sporting arrives on a 6-0-2 run. They haven't lost since May, which has helped them close the gap on league points leader, Seattle.
Meantime, Vancouver is on the playoff bubble out west. After opening with two losses in their first 14 games, the Caps have won just one of their last seven contests and have tied four in a row. With their next two matches on the road, they really need three points this weekend; a win would help Carl Robinson's squad keep pace with Colorado, which sits just a point above them in the standings despite playing one extra game.
Beating a talented and motivated visitor won't be easy. Then again, good teams have to be able to beat other good teams at home, especially if they want to be successful.
-- Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN)