By THOMAS FLOYD
While the American soccer community zeroes in on Commerce City, Colo., for the U.S. national team’s crucial qualifier against Costa Rica, the MLS show goes on — even without some big names at its disposal.
So what’s the matchup most hindered by international call-ups? That would seem to be FC Dallas — minus Raul Fernandez, Je-Vaughn Watson and Blas Perez — hosting a Real Salt Lake side that will be without Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Abdoulie Mansally, Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio.
But despite such absences, some contests still intrigue, such as the New York Red Bulls’ trip to face the undefeated Montreal Impact, as well as a Western Conference clash between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders.
Here is a rundown of the full Week 4 slate:
D.C. UNITED vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., NBCSN)
Returning to the comforts of RFK Stadium, United will hope Dwayne De Rosario can shake the rust so they can get that attack clicking against the Crew after a lackluster showing at New York last weekend.
With Columbus missing forward Jairo Arrieta and United down centerback Dejan Jakovic (as well as reserve midfielder Marcos Sanchez), it looks like the international call-ups should even out in this one.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 4 p.m., MLS Live)
In Week 4, the Revolution will finally play their home opener, even though the New England faithful will miss seeing Honduran striker Jerry Bengtson in action.
Kansas City, on the other hand, will be missing Matt Besler in the back along with Graham Zusi on the flank, which means more of the creative responsibility will fall on ex-Rev Benny Feilhaber.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Impact have been the biggest surprise in MLS, jumping to a 3-0-0 start behind the classy play of their veteran core. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, are 0-1-2 but feel they should have claimed victory in all three contests.
There will be plenty of star power missing Saturday, with Montreal defender Alessandro Nesta and New York forward Thierry Henry nursing injuries, in addition to Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill’s international absence.
HOUSTON DYNAMO vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
Wide play will be a concern for the Dynamo, who will be missing wingers Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia (as well as centerback Jermaine Taylor). On the other side, Vancouver is just missing forward Kenny Miller.
Under such circumstances, might the undefeated Whitecaps become the first visiting team to win at BBVA Compass Stadium? It does seem like a golden opportunity for coach Martin Rennie and Co.
FC DALLAS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live/Univision Dep.)
On top of the crippling call-ups, Salt Lake still likely will be without the injured trio of Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert and Javier Morales, making any result it manages to grab at Dallas a positive.
For the home side, Perez’s absence means coach Schellas Hyndman will have to again shuffle his attacking unit, with Fabian Castillo a candidate to get back in the starting 11.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
A combination of injuries and national team obligations have taken a lot of the punch out of this marquee matchup. San Jose will be without call-ups Victor Bernardez and Justin Morrow, as well as the injured Steven Beitashour, Marvin Chavez, Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Mike Fucito.
Seattle, meanwhile, is missing Mario Martinez, Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins to international duty while injuries have taken Patrick Ianni and Shalrie Joseph out of the picture as well.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The Rapids must feel lucky indeed to face a Galaxy team that is without Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane, as well as Landon Donovan, who returns from his sabbatical next week.
Not much has gone right for the Rapids, after all, who now must go forward without goalkeeper Matt Pickens (broken arm) and still don’t have the injured duo of Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon. On the plus side, getting Edson Buddle and Pablo Mastroeni back from injury could be a boost.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 5 p.m., UniMas)
Down Sean Johnson and Joel Lindpere, the Fire will look for their first win of 2013 when they host a Chivas squad that showed surprising resilience in a 1-1 draw with the Galaxy last weekend.
The central midfield battle will be key, with Chivas’ Oswaldo Minda and Edgar Mejia trying to get the upper hand against Chicago’s Jeff Larentowicz and Daniel Paladini.