By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Jul 17, 2015) US Soccer Players – The group stage of the Gold Cup is over, much to the relief of a number of MLS teams. With four teams eliminated from the competition and head coaches for those advancing making chances to their rosters, a number of key contributors will now return to their clubs to resume the regular season.
The highest profile among the returning players is Jozy Altidore, the American striker replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann after three games. Altidore himself has said his fitness is still coming around from a hamstring injury he suffered in the weeks ahead of the Gold Cup. That certainly calls into question how much of an immediate impact he can make for TFC. The Reds host Philadelphia on Saturday at BMO Field. Though Sebastian Giovinco has been carrying Toronto pretty well on his own, the Italian could no doubt use a little help to keep the Canadian team on track for their first-ever playoff berth.
Toronto also gets Jonathan Osorio. The midfielder was a member of Canada’s ultimately disappointing Gold Cup squad. Toronto coach Greg Vanney started the 23-year old consistently before Osorio left for international duty. Inserting another creative-minded midfielder into the lineup can only help with the load shouldered by Giovinco, as well as speeding up Osorio’s development as a player.
The disappointing end to Canada’s Gold Cup also frees up FC Dallas striker Tesho Akindele, the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year. While it’s fair to say that Toronto missed Altidore and Osorio in its starting eleven, Akindele will find a different situation with Oscar Pareja’s side.
Since the Gold Cup began and Akindele left the club, FC Dallas has turned around a flagging season through the play of Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo. FC Dallas is also still without striker Blas Perez, meaning that the Western Conference side has gotten the job done without two of its lead options at the front of the formation. Pareja may decide not to mess with a winning formula with Akindele back in the fold. However, the hot Texas summer and typical MLS schedule congestion means he’ll not likely to sit on the bench for long.
FC Dallas and their international reinforcements face DC United in Frisco on Saturday in a clash of two of the league’s best points-per-game teams.
One of the hardest hit teams during the initial Gold Cup period was Orlando City. A combination of injury and international call-ups ravaged the Lions, forcing head coach Adrian Heath to stretch every resource available just to put a competitive team on the field.
Again, Canada’s disappointing showing is to the benefit of an MLS team. Rookie striker Cyle Larin returns to central Florida to not just make up the numbers Orlando, but drastically improve the team’s quality in front of net. In the midfield, OCSC gains back the services of El Salvadoran Darwin Ceren, a lynchpin at the defensive midfield spot. For all of the focus on Orlando City’s attack – losing Kaka to a red card suspension last weekend will do that – Ceren’s return is just as important, especially in light of the injury suffered by Harrison Heath.
The defensive stability Ceren can bring will certainly help against Orlando’s weekend opponent, the New York Red Bulls. A host of New York players are capable of making the crucial pass to set up a teammate, making Ceren’s role breaking up attacks in front of the back four all the more important.
Still without Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, Seattle hosts Colorado on Saturday at CenturyLink Field. On paper, it looks like an opportunity for the Sounders to grab back some momentum lost when too many important players became unavailable for a variety of reasons.
Assuming he’s not suffering from tired legs based on his Gold Cup play for El Salvador, winger Marco Pappa can provide a boost. Seattle still won’t have their two big name DPs at striker, but Pappa’s clever skill on the ball and ability to hit an accurate cross will raise the club’s game even without Dempsey and Martins in the lineup. Per reports, Pappa will be available. Sigi Schmid won’t find it easy to leave him out of the game.
Jamaica’s squad changes means Portland will have right back Alvas Powell back in the fold for a home match against Vancouver on Saturday. Reports of Powell “walking out” of the Reggae Boyz camp ahead of the quarterfinals isn’t a problem for Caleb Porter, who now has a dynamic player to call on who can push up field as well as bolster the Timbers defense.
The changeover ahead of the knockout rounds isn’t a positive for everyone, however. One team will lose a player thanks to the roster adjustment rules, the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Caps avoided the complication of Kendall Waston leaving for Costa Rica national team duty at the start of the tournament, but had no such luck once the group stage ended. The silver lining to losing Waston for this weekend’s match against Portland is that he could possibly return as early as next week. Costa Rica faces Mexico in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup, a game that could very well see the Ticos bow out of the tournament.
The Gold Cup is still wreaking havoc on MLS rosters as the league plays alongside the regional competition. Most American internationals aren’t likely to be back for some time. The same goes for MLS players on the rosters of Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Panama. A few teams got some welcome relief this weekend, however, beginning the process of getting MLS back on the right side of full and legitimate competition.
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