From the Gold Cup's effect on MLS rosters to Philadelphia's six-spot at BMO Field, here are five thoughts from Saturday's MLS action ...
1. Gold Cup absences already felt. The CONCACAF Gold Cup won't start for another week, but a couple of MLS teams are already feeling the effects of roster depletion.
Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls each had two players already depart for international duty, and both teams suffered disjointed results.
Real Salt Lake struggled to create chances in its 2-1 loss to Seattle -- it's first home loss in league play since May 16, 2009 (29 matches). Without Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) and Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador) available up top, RSL had to rely on Fabian Espindola as a sole option, although substitute Nelson Gonzalez gave Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis something to think about by scoring late in the match on a strong individual effort.
Making matters worse for RSL, stout center back Jamison Olave was sent off for a straight red, so Kreis will have to game plan for his absence as the club desperately looks to recapture its CONCACAF Champions League form.
New York, meanwhile, finished May winless (0-1-4) with a 1-1 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The absences of Dane Richards (Jamaica) and Rafael Marquez (Mexico) -- not to mention an injury to Thierry Henry -- forced Red Bulls coach Hans Backe to reshuffle his lineup and play some of his players at new positions. Backe moved right back Jan Gunnar Solli up to right midfield to account for Richards' spot and left the right side of the defense to Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes. It was on that side of the field that Vancouver attacked and earned its penalty kick, with Mendes being the guilty party after tripping Camilo in the box.
The absences also moved some youngsters up the depth chart. Matt Kassel and Austin da Luz each made their MLS debuts, and Corey Hertzog came on as a late substitute to show Backe what he'll have to work with once he loses Tim Ream, Dwayne De Rosario and Juan Agudelo in addition to Richards and Marquez.
Oddly enough, Sporting Kansas City, which has struggled mightily all season and had lost five in a row, was without starters Roger Espinoza (Honduras) and Stephane Auvray (Guadeloupe) and reserve center back Shavar Thomas (Jamaica) but managed to muster a 1-1 draw at Colorado. The draw was the Rapids' fifth straight and sixth in their last seven games.
By next week, 32 MLS players will be out for the Gold Cup while a handful more will be out on other international duty. As Saturday night showed, managers will be forced to look all the way down their newly expanded 30-man rosters in order to find results for the next month.
2. Benny Feilhaber hurt in Revolution loss. Seven of those 32 MLS players will represent the United States, and they all had one last club hurrah before joining the national team. U.S. coach Bob Bradley must have been holding his breath that they would all escape unscathed, and they all did except for one, Benny Feilhaber.
With just two minutes remaining in the New England Revolution's 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Feilhaber came down awkwardly on his right ankle and couldn't apply any pressure while being helped off the field.
Depending on if Bradley plans on using Clint Dempsey as a midfielder or a forward, Feilhaber could have been in the mix for a sizable role in the Gold Cup. He's no stranger to playing big minutes in the tournament, as his game-winning volley against Mexico in 2007 clinched the championship for the United States.
Should the injury be serious enough to prevent Feilhaber from participating in the Gold Cup, Bradley would have to look at inform players such as Orebro's Alejandro Bedoya or Houston's Brad Davis as alternatives.
As for the other MLS players headed for the U.S. national team, Chris Wondolowski scored off a fine header in San Jose's 2-2 draw with Chicago; Juan Agudelo started out wide left and had some success running at defenders but didn't create much in the way of goal-scoring chances; Tim Ream was solid in handling the physical Eric Hassli in the run of play; Landon Donovan turned in a strong overall performance for the Galaxy (more on that below); Columbus' Robbie Rogers probably should have had an assist after squaring a header to Tommy Heinemann, who mishit his attempt from short range; and Nick Rimando had a so-so game under pressure while RSL battled with 10 men for most of the second half.
3. Good night for DPs. Club owners who shelled out the big bucks for designated players had to like what they saw for the most part on Saturday night. Take a look at the performances from the league's big-money stars:
• Columbus Crew forward Andres Mendoza scored on a wonderful effort from a tight left angle and found the net again in the second half of Columbus' riveting 3-3 draw with Chivas USA.
• Hassli scored his fourth goal of the season (and managed to keep his shirt on afterward too!), finishing from the penalty spot to open the scoring in Vancouver's draw with New York.
• FC Dallas' Fabian Castillo continued to show his attacking prowess, rattling the post with a shot from distance that Andrew Jacobson headed into a vacated net in Dallas' 2-2 draw with the Houston Dynamo.
• Donovan missed a couple of chances that he probably should have converted, but he was dangerous in the attack and committed on defense. His semi-controversial goal-line clearance at the end of the Galaxy's victory sealed the result against the Revolution.
• Donovan's teammate, David Beckham, showed no ill-effects from playing in Gary Neville's testimonial match on Wednesday in England. He returned to the Galaxy lineup and assisted on Miguel Lopez' game-winning header with a trademark cross from the right.
• Omar Bravo continued his comeback from sports hernia surgery with an active 85-minute shift against Colorado, firing five shots in helping Kansas City to a much-needed point.
• Fredy Montero responded to coming off the bench with an assist on Seattle's first goal. He had been heavily criticized during the week by Seattle coach Sigi Schmid for not scoring enough, and while he didn't find the back of the net, his passing in the waning moments was excellent and he was involved on the goal-scoring sequence.
• The only real exception involved Seattle's other DP, Alvaro Fernandez. The Uruguayan left with a hamstring injury in the 16th minute against RSL after reportedly trying to give it a go after suffering the injury in pregame warmups. During an in-game interview, Schmid appeared to be pretty peeved that Fernandez had to come off after knowingly playing with the knock. The fact that his replacement, Lamar Neagle, scored the eventual game-winning goal will probably ease the tension.
4. Texas derby lives up to its billing. The pre-match trash talking between rivals FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo in the build up to their big match was pretty even. The outcome of the highly anticipated match turned out to be, too.
Davis found Colin Clark for a late equalizer, and Houston, despite being reduced to 10 men for the final 18 minutes, salvaged a 2-2 home draw against FC Dallas.
The Dynamo started the smack talk a few weeks ago by planting a billboard in Dallas that read, "Houston: Two times better than Dallas" along with an accompanying photo of Houston's two MLS Cup trophies.
FCD responded with a plane flying over Robertson Stadium with a banner that read, "Dallas Til I Die." Just days before the match, Dallas released a "We All Hate Houston" video featuring the club's fans and their reasons for hating Houston.
Dallas scored two nice goals through Jacobson and Ugo Ihemelu, but twice blew its one-goal leads, seeing its shutout streak get snapped at 530 minutes in the process. Both teams played at a high level and exhibited controlled chippiness -- that is, they played physically without letting things get out of control. Sure, captains Davis and Daniel Hernandez got up in each other's faces early on and teams exchanged hard challenges, but in the end viewers were treated to as solid a rivalry match as there's been in the league this season.
5. Toronto FC hits rock bottom. If Toronto FC is a work in progress, there's a ton of work to be done.
The Reds conceded a franchise-worst six goals to the Philadelphia Union -- a team that hadn't scored more than one goal in a single game all season until last week.
Even after Toronto let Philadelphia jump out to a 3-0 halftime lead, Maicon Santos brought the club back within 3-2 with a brace before the wheels really fell off.
The team's attempt at defending with the game still in the balance was almost comical, as Justin Mapp and Danny Mwanga each broke out with two goals in the 6-2 romp at BMO Field, a place that used to be one of the toughest venues for opposing teams.
The only saving grace for Aron Winter's side is that former TFC malcontent Carlos Ruiz didn't take part in the rout, as he watched as an unused substitute from the bench.