MLS weekend preview: Contenders missing key pieces during international break

Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Major League Soccer weekend actually begins Thursday, with DC United and New York City FC squaring off in the first of six match-ups set to play into the wee hours of Sunday.

That means that DC will have to stare down Andrea Pirlo, Stiven Mendoza, Frank Lampard, and David Villa without center back Steven Birnbaum on Thursday. Who’s missing stars this weekend?

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— The Red Bulls won’t have talisman Sacha Kljestan when they traverse the continent for a match with desperate Vancouver.

— Philly won’t have Alejandro Bedoya when it visits Chicago.

— Portland is without Darlington Nagbe for its trip to Dallas, who will be missing Kellyn Acosta.

Speaking of the Timbers, Saturday presents a huge chance for the inconsistent side to stake its claim to a playoff spot. Portland is three points ahead of San Jose for the final spot in the West and has played one more game than the Quakes. With KC idle, Portland could catch them on points.

The bottom three teams in the East — Chicago, Columbus, and New England — simply have to start “stacking wins”. Not one has an easy task this weekend.

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DC United at NYCFC — 7 p.m. EDT Thursday
New York Red Bulls at Vancouver — 7 p.m. EDT Saturday
Colorado at New England — 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday
Philadelphia at Chicago — 8:30 p.m. EDT Saturday
Portland at FC Dallas — 9 p.m. EDT Saturday
Columbus at LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. EDT Saturday