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30 March 6:03 pm

The US Olympic team may have crashed out of the CONCACAF Qualifying tournament earlier this week, but Kansas City is still going to be a happening place for soccer this weekend. And I'm not even talking about Mexico vs. Canada or Honduras vs. El Salvador.

I'm talking about Budweiser Poolball. If you haven't heard of it, which you probably haven't, check out the video below. As someone who enjoys the occasional game of pool and takes any opportunity to kick the ball around, this is a beautiful marriage of footy and nightlife entertainment. Kansas City had the good fortune of having a couple of these tables set up around the city on Thursday and Friday for the lucky residents to enjoy.

If you gave me a day to mess around on one of these tables, if that's the right term, without limit, I would ask for three. Seriously. It's that awesome. I'm sitting at my desk imagining trick shots, seeing-eye combos off the rails and chips cross table. The possibilities are literally endless.

Even more intriguing, what if MLS organized a Poolball tournament around All-Star Weekend? Who wouldn't want to watch Dwayne De Rosario and Graham Zusi go head to head? Thierry Henry vs. David Beckham?

19 March 6:02 pm

You probably read that headline and thought... I bet he's talking about the record-breaking crowd that packed Olympic Stadium on Saturday. Or maybe what it all meant to Davy Arnaud, the Impact's captain and goalscorer.

You'd be wrong.

The moment that will stick with me the longest came on Friday evening. Not a soul was in the stands. The game itself was still almost 24 hours away. Chicago were winding down their training session, meandering to the benches as a contingent of 20 or so members of the Fire's Section 8 supporters group waited by the sideline to glad hand and shoot the breeze with the guys they were there to see play the next afternoon.

Waiting with them was a seven-year-old boy from Ottawa named Ethan Stroud. Wrapped tightly around his neck was a Fire scarf, but what really stood out was the intricate Chicago crest etched into the back of his head. While Ethan was busy talking to every Fire player who came in his general vicinity, soaking up the words and attention he recieved as he collected autographs on the back of the jersey that bore his last name and the No. 12, I spent a few minutes talking to his mother, Allison Darke.

She told me Ethan, who was born in Chicago, was adopted and that life hadn't always been this easy for the gregarious young man who rarely stopped smiling in the 10 minutes I watched him make what will surely be lifelong memories. He was born blue from lack of oxygen. He is paralyzed down part of his right arm. He hasn't let it slow him down.

He loves soccer, plays every chance he gets, five times a week much of the year. He plays on three teams. According to his mom, Ethan is the "first one in the van and the first one out of the van" when it comes time to head to practice or games.

"He doesn't have an 'I-can't-do-it button,'" she says.

His parents took him back to Chicago last July for his seventh birthday, an opportunity to visit the city where he was born. They didn't have time to catch a Fire game. That would come the next day among the 70 or so Section 8 supporters tucked in the far corner of the Big O's second deck.

At that moment, though, there was nothing more important to Ethan than what was going on around him. After Logan Pause, Dominic Oduro, Dan Gargan, Frank Klopas and the rest of the Chicago players and coaching staff made him feel welcome -- an understatement to say the least -- and signed his new prized possession, he did what any kid in their right mind would do. He ripped off his jacked and pulled the Fire's colors over his shoulders.

I walked away with the feeling that the next day's events would be special, no doubt, but nothing I did or saw that weekend could measure up to the pure, unadulterated joy Ethan got out of that experience.

Those 10 minutes reminded me what life (and soccer) should be all about. Optimism. Hope. Perseverance. Humanity. Too often, it's easy to forget that.

Then a moment like that comes along, and all it takes is a seven-year-old boy having the time of his life to deliver a reminder that what you're doing is just a drop in the bucket.

14 March 6:07 pm

If you were one of the 47,568 fans at the Rogers Centre for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal between LA Galaxy and Toronto FC, you better hope you weren't picking your nose or making an awkward face at the wrong moment. If you were one of those unlucky few, don't be surprised if your technologically savvy friends give you some grief in the next few days.

That's because there was literally nowhere for fans to hide last Wednesday as their side jumped out to an quick 2-0 lead against LA before coming back down to earth and settling for a 2-2 draw. You can thank Toronto FC for that. The club set up a camera that captured a high-resolution, 360-degree photo of the scene inside the Rogers Centre.

Not only can you zoom in on just about any section of the stadium, making out faces and everything else as clear as day, but fans can also tag themselves, commerating what was a historic night for the club and its supporters. Needless to say, this is pretty awesome technology, and it really gives you an idea of what the stadium looked like on gameday.

Spend five minutes playing with it, and I guarentee you won't be disappointed. You may want to be on your best behavior at matches from now on, however. You never know who's watching.

13 March 1:48 am

Palabras no pueden describir lo que se vivió en el JELD-WEN Field de Portland en su noche de debut en la temporada regular de la MLS. Como las palabras no lo pueden hacer, voy a permitir que este mini-video lo haga.

¡Así es como se vive el fútbol de la MLS!

12 March 5:32 pm

My love for all things Keel Cam is well documented. New York's mop-topped defender is simply magnificent at providing behind-the-scene moments with his own brand of humor and some spot-on one-liners mixed in for good measure.

He's done it again with "Keel Cam Part 5," an examination of what tagging along for team bonding at the golf course with the Red Bulls might be like.

My favorite lines:

"That has house written all over it."

"Dax, grab your balls."

"Maybe stand up on your toes, just to get the full flex."

"Does Bruno Mars have any golf game? The club looks as big as he does."

"Can I introduce my caddy, Mehdi Ballouchy?"

As Ryan Meara says, anything for Keel Cam. Let the ridiculousness begin...

08 March 10:33 am

Herculez Gomez handles Twitter about as well as any American soccer player, so it was no surprise when the Santos Laguna striker took to the interwebs early Thursday morning following his side's 2-1 loss against Seattle in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.

Gomez, who is enjoying a nice run of form after struggling for playing time early in his Santos tenure, scored his side's only goal -- slipping the ball past Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and inside the back post after taking a deft touch with his back to goal -- and was a threat for most of the night, leading his team with five shots (three on goal) and five fouls suffered.

All in all, it was a decent night for both sides. Seattle took control of the tie, earning a one-goal aggregate advantage heading into the second leg, and got a jolt of confidence ahead of their trip to Mexico. Santos, despite being outplayed for most of the match, got their precious away goal, giving them plenty of reason to believe they can shake off the loss in Seattle when they return to Torreón next week.

Beyond the requisite thank yous, Herc dropped a few interesting nuggets that you can find below. #90left was the theme of many of his tweets following the match, a fitting refrain considering MLS sides have had so much trouble earning results in Mexico.

With a little prodding from Ives Galarcep, Herc also addressed his burgeoning hair helmet, which was hot topic on Twitter during the match, as well as the attention he received from Leo Gonzalez during his 84 minutes of action.

03 March 5:38 pm

UPDATE: Saturday's games between D.C. United and the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire and Charleston Battery have been canceled due to inclement weather. D.C. win their third straight Carolina Challenge Cup with six points from two games. Chicago finished second with three points.

The original version of the following stories claimed that D.C. United had won the Carolina Challenge Cup based on a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Fire. This was incorrect, and each story has been corrected to reflect that. Tiebreakers, in order of importance, are total points, goal differential and goals scored.

D.C. United will clinch their third stright tournament title on Saturday night if they draw or win against the Columbus Crew. In the case of a D.C. loss, the Fire will win the tournament if they defeat the Charleston Battery and are also able to make up their current defiicit in goal differential — D.C. are plus-three while Chicago are even after two matches. If the teams finish tied on goal differential and points, the title will be awarded to the side which scored the most goals over the tournament's three matches.

Recap: DC close on Carolina Challenge Cup title with 3-1 win

DC focused on form, not third straight CCC title

29 February 2:53 pm

Algunos de ustedes ya saben que por unos días dejé a un lado la pretemporada de la MLS en Orlando para “pegarme la rodadita” a Miami y ver el partido amistoso entre la selecciones de México y de Colombia.

Entre las muchas caras conocidas que vi en el entrenamiento de la selección de México estaba Fernando Fiore, el flamante presidente de la Republica Deportiva de Univisión, y de una vez me dije “imagino que debe tener una opinión muy particular del partido”. Aunque sé que la tiene, no me la dio, pero si tuvimos una pequeña – y ventosa – charla sobre este juego y Rafa Márquez… aquí les va:

21 February 6:21 pm

Dato curioso: cada uno de los cuatro clubes de la MLS que disputará el torneo de pretemporada Desert Diamond Cup en Tucson, Arizona tiene en sus líneas a al menos un jugador latino que no jugó en la MLS en 2011.

New England Revolution contará con John Lozano y Fernando Cárdenas, dos colombianos provenientes del América del Cali.

A su vez, los New York Red Bulls tienen a su propio colombiano en el experimentado Wilman Conde, quien ya había jugado en la MLS con Chicago Fire y regresa para alinearse con los toros de la Gran Manzana.

Por su parte, el Galaxy tiene al brasileño proveniente del Alajuelense de Costa Rica Marcelo Sarvas y al debutante mexicoamericano Rafael García.

Por último, Real Salt Lake cuenta con cuatro jóvenes latinos que participaron en el SuperDraft este año: el uruguayo Enzo Martínez, el brasilero Diogo de Almeida, el argentino Emiliano Bonfigli y el colombiano Sebastián Velásquez.  

Los clubes emeleseros tendrán la oportunidad de mirar  a sus jugadores en acción para tomar decisiones finales sobre quien será titular, quien será reserva y quien se ira del equipo. La pregunta es simple: ¿Quién de estos latinos tendrá el mayor brillo en Tucson?

17 February 6:00 pm

Brrr...

The images of freezing players in Wednesday's Zenit St. Petersburg-Benfica Champions League match would make anyone shiver.

It should also give even the biggest "European-calendar" zealot some pause. For one thing, the temperature was 14 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off.  For another, the field at Petrovsky Stadium was a disaster.

Maybe it all gave the Russians a home-field advantage. After all, they pulled off a 3-2 win, thanks to two goals from Roman Shirakov.

But even the Zenit hero himself came out and complained. “Should we play in such freezing cold? I don’t think so,” Shirakov said after the match. “The ball feels like a rock. You could easily break a leg.”

Break a leg? Not good.

The reality is, a game like this is not fun for anyone -- not for the coaches, not for the players, and certainly not for the fans. The conditions aren't that far off from those in, say, Toronto or New England on any given Saturday night in February. Though there would probably be more snow.

So, the question is: Would you really want to go watch games in 17-degree weather? And you, MLS player, would you want to play on that field and kick a "rock"?

Yeah, didn't think so. Neither would I.

RELATED: February in Russia: So What Did You Expect? (NYTimes.com)