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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gold Cup roster: The ramifications around MLS

The powers that be over at MLS headquarters put together an article Friday that divulged this impressive fact: The CONCACAF Gold Cup features 32 players from MLS rosters, tied for the most all-time at the biennial tournament. With that many pieces gone, it’s worth exploring the impact on a playoff race that has the makings of a good one. So team-by-team, here’s who is missing.  

Los Angeles' Landon Donovan headlines
the U.S. team for the Gold Cup. (Associated Press)

Eastern Conference
Montreal: None.
Talk about the rich staying richer. That’s what happens when the Eastern Conference leaders have just five players hailing from Canada, only one of whom sees regular time. They dodge a bullet with the somewhat surprising exclusion of Patrice Bernier, the guy who directs their midfield, but that’s really the only close call.

Union: M Keon Daniel (Trinidad and Tobago), F Jack McInerney (USA).
Losing the co-leading scorer in MLS for up to five games is a big blow, as is Daniel’s absence given a rash of injuries in the midfield. But they get it paid forward from their opposition. Of the five games McInerney would miss, four are against Western Conference teams. And as we’ll see shortly, Real Salt Lake, Houston, Portland and Vancouver all face significant losses. (The other game is Chivas, so there’s that.)

New York: D Roy Miller (Costa Rica).
A few months ago, losing Miller wouldn’t have seemed like such a big deal. But Friday’s news that Heath Pearce could be done for the year with hip surgery leaves the Red Bulls shorthanded at the back. All this for a team that has given up seven goals in its last three matches – the latest installment a pretty memorable one for Union fans in which the other healthy fullback, Brandon Barklage, was absolutely torched in the first half – and faces visit from Houston and Montreal book-ending a trip to Colorado. That’s tough.

Kansas City: D Mechack Jerome (Haiti), F Peterson Joseph (Haiti).
Sporting KC loses a pair of guys who’ve played well recently. But Jerome’s exit is mitigated by the return of Matt Besler (even if Jerome is technically a right back). As far as Peterson, Peter Vermes is already searching for ways to re-integrate Kei Kamara (back on loan from Norwich) and Teal Bunbury (back from a knee injury) into the side, plus there are high hopes for Dom Dwyer after he scored 328 goals for Orlando City this year. And there’s the fact that Graham Zusi, Besler and Benny Feilhaber were among the 12 players from the preliminary 35-man squad left off the final roster. With home games against Columbus, Vancouver, Toronto and a trip to Chicago, SKC could be poised for a run.

Houston: D Corey Ashe (USA), F Will Bruin (USA).
On paper, the Dynamo lose two key players. But it’s not that bad because, A) They get Oscar Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis back from World Cup qualifiers; B) Bruin has been struggling up top and may have been headed for more time on the bench anyway (paging Omar Cummings), and C) It could’ve been worse had Tally Hall not ended up as the odd goalkeeper out and been called up just to sit the bench. Plus, after injuries forestalled it, Ashe really deserves his first cap. Oh yeah, and a bye week means the Dynamo only play three matches during the Gold Cup.

New England: None.
This really couldn’t come at a better time for the Revs. Not only are they 3-1-2 in their last six, there really were few choices for possible call-ups. Juan Agudelo has played just once in 20 months for the U.S., and Jerry Bengston is persona non grata in his native Honduras. With games against San Jose, Colorado, Columbus and D.C., all weakened by the Gold Cup, there's a chance at some serious points.

Columbus: F Jairo Arrieta (Costa Rica).
You could say that Arrieta is a big loss for the Crew. But the reality is that the forward has played just four games since the beginning of May. In those games, Columbus is 0-3-1, having scored just two goals. With LA, Portland and New England looming, they’ll need to figure something out quickly.

Chicago: GK Sean Johnson (USA).
The Fire are undefeated in their last five matches and finally starting to make up ground in the East, making this a bad time to lose their goalkeeper. We’ll see what Paolo Tornaghi, he of four MLS matches worth of experience, has to bring to the table.

Toronto: D Ashtone Morgan (Canada), D Doneil Henry (Canada), M Kyle Bekker (Canada), M Jonathan Osorio (Canada).
The four youngsters have combined to play 30 matches for two-win Toronto, a team that has had 25 different players start a game this season (by comparison, the Union have had just 16). If you’re in the Toronto area, I’d beware: Just about any able-bodied male is being drafted into the side these days.

D.C. United: GK Bill Hamid (USA).
Hamid is a loss, but he hasn’t exactly had the best of seasons (as the Union demonstrated back in April). The bigger story is that D.C., an anemic offensive team, gets to hang onto Dwayne De Rosario and Kyle Porter. Plus, with Joe Willis filing in, maybe the defense will get it together finally.

Western Conference
Portland: M Will Johnson (Canada), F Frederic Piquionne (Martinique), M Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica).
The West-leading Timbers have no doubt been the story of the season. So what does Caleb Porter’s brand of beautiful soccer lose? Try six goals and an assist from Johnson, four and five from Wallace and one and three from super sub Piquionne. The team that travels to PPL Park July 20 will have plenty of options left, but it won’t exactly be full strength.

Real Salt Lake: F Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake), GK Nick Rimando (USA), D Tony Beltran (USA), M Kyle Beckerman (USA).
Is there a team harder hit than the second-place squad in the West? When the Union come to town July 3, they’ll face a team whose depth will be severely tested. Gone is one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, who started 16 games this season, and Beckerman, a strong candidate for U.S. captain and the fulcrum of the RSL attack (not to mention the only MLS midfielder called up). Beltran, seen as a rising defensive star, has started 15 matches, and despite playing just eight matches, Saborio is the co-leading scorer with four goals. At least they get Luis Gil back from the U-20 World Cup.

Dallas: F Blas Perez (Panama).
The conundrum this year for Dallas – if a team with three losses in 16 matches can be said to have one – has been regularly getting Perez and Kenny Cooper in the same starting XI. Cooper should step right in for the Panamanian.

Los Angeles: F Landon Donovan (USA).
Lando’s return from Jurgen Klinsmann's wilderness is the story of this Gold Cup squad at the outset. For the Galaxy, the news may hasten the search for another designated player. But with Robbie Rogers playing regularly, Pablo Mastroeni providing midfield depth and Jose Villareal back from the U-20 World Cup, there’s ample cover. Plus they get to keep Omar Gonzalez away from international duty.

Vancouver: GK Simon Thomas (Canada), M Russell Teibert (Canada), D Carlyle Mitchell (Trinidad and Tobago).
For the next month, the Union turn into fans of Canada. If Canada can make it to the quarterfinals July 21 – a daunting task given a group with Mexico and Panama, and the fact that they have to finish as one of the top two third-place teams – it would rule out Portland’s Johnson from the trip to Philly. Should they make the semis, Teibert, a sudden revelation for the Whitecaps, would be in doubt for when the Union travel to British Columbia July 27. Mitchell (two starts this season) and Thomas (third stringer) aren’t big losses.

Seattle: M Mario Martinez (Honduras).
The surprising call-up of Martinez has cast doubt upon his loan arrangement with the Sounders. But when you consider that Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson were on the preliminary American roster, it could’ve been a lot worse for Sigi Schmid.

Colorado: None.
Like the Rapids need more guys missing for one reason or another. And they get Shane O’Neill back from the U-20 World Cup.

San Jose: D Nana Attakora (Canada), M Martin Chavez (Honduras), D Clarence Goodson (USA), F Chris Wondolowski (USA).

Nothing’s gone to plan for the Earthquakes this season. So what’s a little extra? Now the challenge of climbing out of the lower reaches of the Western table must proceed without MLS MVP Wondolowski. Even the well-meaning acquisition of Goodson will have to be delayed until at least August. They'll also miss Attakora and Chavez, who played significant time this season. For a team desperately looking for someone to step up, it’ll have to be some unusual suspects rising to the occasion in the next month.

Chivas USA: D Steve Purdy (El Salvador).
Purdy’s most illustrious qualification is that he’s played only three games for a Chivas USA team quickly going down the tubes, having picked up one point from the last 30 available. Hard to dig deeper into the bedrock they’ve hit.

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