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01 March 6:49 pm

It was a festive morning in The City Beautiful as Commissioner Don Garber made a whistle stop in downtown Orlando today. To say the city, Orlando City Soccer Club and its supporters rolled out the red carpet for the commish is an understatement. There were digital billboards like the one pictured above. A banner hung out front of city hall, not far from the statue commemorating the city's 1994 World Cup matches. And then there was the reception the OCSC's supporters gave Garber when he walked into the room.

In a word, it was "raucous".

Though the city's place at the MLS table isn't a forgone conclusion, the sense of excitement in the room for what may lay ahead was palpable, not only from the fans but from OCSC owner Phil Rawlins.

"It was extraordinary to see all the fans out here in the middle of the workday at midweek, a tremendous display of passion. Very heart-warming."

As for next steps, Rawlins plans on staying the current course.

"We're going to keep on doing what we've already done and build on a successful 2011, both on and off the field. Hopefully, as Don said earlier, it's not a matter of "if" but "when."

01 March 6:09 pm

TUCSON, Ariz. – Lionel Messi. Arjen Robben. Sebastian Velasquez?

Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman made that lofty comparison of the Colombian-born, South Carolina-raised rookie attacker who has been impressing in preseason camp.

It’s that left-footed unpredictability that has Beckerman – and all of RSL – excited.

“He’s got that lefty whatever it is,” Beckerman said on Wednesday night. “I can’t pinpoint it but Messi has it, Arjen Robben. These lefties. Fabián [Espíndola] has it. They’re able to skin players.”

Not bad company for a guy who played junior college ball. But then again, not even Messi or Robben scored 55 goals over 33 games, like Velasquez did at tiny Spartanburg Methodist College.

What do you think? Is Velasquez the real deal?

29 February 8:21 pm

Here in the US we're fed a steady diet of "don't get too worked up about friendly wins." And it's sound advice that goes all the way back to the 3-6-1 thrashing of Austria in the lead-up to the 1998 World Cup.

In Italy, though, they are a bit more... passionate. Or uncompromising. Or irrational.

However you want to put it, the Italian press is, in the wake of the US' 1-0 win over the Azzuri on Wednesday, showing the fight and engagement that both the players and fans in Genoa clearly lacked (the crowd, I think we can all agree, was terrible).

La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian soccer bible, called the US win "A fiasco." And it gets more colorful from there.

Happy reading, folks.

29 February 7:50 pm

While most of us where tuned in to the USMNT's (surprise?) win over Italy at a bar, online or on our couches, the MLS players that are here in Orlando for the Disney Pro Soccer Challenge took in the game from their hotel rooms.

While the scene played out at team hotels all over town, Kevin Ellis and Dom Dwyer's room might have been the only one with an MLS camera in it. Check out their predictions and first-half thoughts in the clip above. You'll also find out why Kevin Ellis is, also surprisingly, pro-Italia.

29 February 5:55 pm

Not to be a tease but the 2012 version of MLS Fantasy Soccer manager is very close to being released on the gaming public. If you're looking for next-level features like a 'smart bench' with auto substitutes and great prizes like a trip to the 2012 MLS All Star game, MLS Fantasy Manager is a must-play for the upcoming season.

But it's not just about the free stuff and the advanced features; MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager is also pretty to look at. Check out a few screens from this upcoming release and keep an eye on MLSsoccer.com in the coming days for more information.

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:

29 February 1:31 pm

Former Colorado Rapids striker Caleb Folan left Dick's Sporting Goods Park at the start of February. Let's just say it didn't take him long to find a new club.

English Championship side Birmingham City announced Wednesday that free agent Folan has signed until the end of the season in an effort to make sure their stay in the the second-tier lasts just one season.

The 29-year-old Folan has been training with the Blues since his return to English soil and impressed manager Chris Hughton enough to be offered a short-term deal.

During his injury-hit time with the Rapids, the Republic of Ireland international and former Hull City striker played 26 times, scoring six in the process.

The languid target forward will help Birmingham in their quest to spring straight back to the EPL, as they currently occupy fifth place and a playoff spot, just seven points from the automatic promotion places.

Folan is following closely in the footsteps of former Rapids manager Gary Smith in swapping Colorado for the English lower divisions. Smith took over the reigns at Stevenage FC in January and his enjoyed relative success with the transition from MLS to England already.

His League One side held Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur to a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup Fifth round and they sit in the playoff spots in England’s third tier.

29 February 10:44 am

Last night was my first matchnight of the preseason and it did not disappoint with both Toronto FC and FC Dallas coming out victorious over their non-MLS opponents at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. I took particular pleasure in two things: Ryan Johnson's tough-angle goal against BK Hacken and the sight of David Ferreira back on the pitch.

While the former was pure entertainment Ferriera's return was a reminder of what FC Dallas was missing in 2011 and a warning of what they'll have in 2012. Opposition beware.

Speaking of opposition, FC Dallas' opponents for the night were local USL side Orlando City, who featured a pair of soccer siblings: Dustin (brother of Dax) McCarty Maxwell (brother of Leonard) Griffin and John (brother of Wayne) Rooney. Last night the latter was living in the shadow of his older brother as a large man in a "Rooney" Manchester United jersey sat almost immediately behind his spot on the bench in the first row of the stands. No doubt John Rooney is a big boy and his own man but that type of thing must be maddening after a while.

Back in MLS land, I had the pleasure of witnessing the Houston Dynamo staff, who were in the press box for last night's matches, absolutely dominate a half-time session of trivia game Sporcle. Steve Ralston and Dominic Kinnear not only know their soccer but baseball as well. They also have an encyclopedic memory for 1990's alternative rock that any radio DJ would be jealous of but with one exception: they didn't know the name of Lit's big hit.

But you can't fault them for that because no one remembers what Lit's big hit was.

28 February 8:43 pm

Benny Feilhaber is a talented man capable of many things. Unfortunately using his left foot is not one of them.

Rookie Kelyn Rowe, on the other hand, uses his left foot better than many of us use our right hand. Watch the kid try to teach the veteran something new and grab a laugh along the way.