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23 March 5:03 pm

Rarely in the brief history of MLSsoccer.com has there been a controversy that has riled up the fans like this one.

No, not the “crabs or wolves” debate. Not the Power Rankings. Not even Shaman Simon.

The issue at hand? The recent mysterious disappearance of the beloved logo for the Kick Off.

For more than a year, the Kick Off Mug (above, right) was the calling card of each morning dispatch curating all the best headlines around MLS and beyond. Now, his replacement (right) is doing his job admirably, so we were admittedly stunned that there was such a backlash, which has grown from a steady trickle of complaints at first into a stream of mug-related discontent.

So here’s the word. It was a sad day when the Kick Off Mug strolled into our offices and told us he was done. He’d adorned his last article, greeted his last reader. It was a career full of highs and lows for the Kick Off Mug, which was the brainchild of a graphic designer who was understandably too upset to comment for this blog post.

He was, without a doubt, the most respected mug on the site. He had his own desk in the office, his own direct phone line from the MLS executive committee, his own coffee mug. He was friends with folks around the league and the world of soccer. All other mugs wanted to be him, all the lady mugs wanted to be with him.

But now the Kick Off Mug has set sail on the sea of retirement, and we wish him well. We’ve asked him to stay in touch and to send us photos as he hangs up his handle in style (above), traveling the world and seeing all those places he never saw while he was hard at work on MLSsoccer.com.

So from all of us, thank you Kick Off Mug. Stay in touch.

23 March 3:59 pm

Leave it to the Timbers to create new boundaries for extreme MLS fandom.

I have no doubt there are plenty of MLS fan tattoos out there*, but I can't think of another organization that would be willing to create a contest around the concept and pay for the ink themselves.

But that's the contest Portland dreamed up, and winner Nathan Kensinger recently got his custom designed "Timbers Tattoo" by Igor Mortis at Tigerlily Tattoo in northeast Portland.

Check out footage of Mortis applying his artwork to Kensinger's calf below and watch Eric Brunner and Jake Gleason narrow the field to the winning design.

*I would love to feature MLS fan tattoos here on "The Sideline." If you want to show yours off, tweet me at @AndrewWiebe_MLS with a short explanation of your ink.

23 March 2:49 pm

Oh, that Jay DeMerit. Always thinking up new ways to share his passion.

This time, he shows off his knowledge of the wave-breaking phenomenon and applies it to innovative effect for the Whitecaps fans.

Surf's up!

23 March 12:36 pm

La troisième semaine de compétition nous offre deux sommets entre formations invaincues et place de nombreuses équipes de bas de classement devant un nouvel obstacle difficile.

Ne manquez pas ce vendredi la tête d’affiche entre Seattle et Houston (direct NBC Sports Network) : la troupe de Sigi Schmid compte confirmer sa victoire initiale en faisant le jeu contre des Texans qui ont gagné leurs deux premiers matchs par le plus petit écart (grâce à un défenseur et à un penalty).

Comptant toujours le maximum des points, Salt Lake et Vancouver, qui recevront respectivement Chivas USA et DC United, peuvent légitimement espérer poursuivre leur course en tête. La tâche s’annonce plus coriace pour Kansas City (où Sapong est, avec Espindola de Salt Lake, le seul joueur à avoir marqué lors des deux premiers matchs), qui accueille une équipe de Dallas toujours invaincue (direct Galavision), et pour Colorado, qui se déplace à New York où Rafael Marquez effectue son retour (direct ESPN).

Les caméras de TSN offriront aux téléspectateurs canadiens le premier de championnat à domicile de Toronto, privé des blessés Frings et Frei. San José pourra-t-il en profiter ? Les duels Columbus – Montréal et Chicago – Philadelphie verront quant à eux s’affronter quatre équipes en quête de leur première victoire.

LE PROGRAMME COMPLET
Vendredi 23 mars
22h00 : Seattle - Houston
Samedi 24 mars
13h00 : Toronto - San José
16h00 : Columbus - Montréal
16h00 : New England - Portland
20h30 : Chicago - Philadelphie
21h00 : Salt Lake - Chivas USA
22h00 : Vancouver - DC United
Dimanche 25 mars
16h00 : New York - Colorado
19h00 : Kansas City - Dallas

Toutes les heures HE (heure de New York et Montréal)
Rendez-vous ici pour la disponibilité des matchs sur MLS Live et les diffuseurs locaux
Hors États-Unis et Canada, vous pouvez voir des matchs de MLS via ces diffuseurs ou LiveSport.tv

23 March 11:30 am

More bad news for TFC. They lost their midfield general Torsten Frings last week, and now, according to TSN reporter Luke Wileman, they might lose goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

No word yet from the club, but the image Wileman paints in this tweet doesn't bode well. Stay tuned. 

22 March 11:59 pm

Esta semana tuvimos el placer de hablar con dos expertos volantes de la MLS, el hondureño Roger Espinoza de Sporting Kansas City y el colombiano Jaime Castrillón de Colorado Rapids. Es por ellos que decidimos titular el show de esta semana “Guerreros del mediocampo” porque la verdad, lo son.

ESCUCHA EL PODCAST TIRO LIBRE

Sin embargo, la charla con estos dos jugadores me dejó pensando; si tuviera la oportunidad, ¿A quien de los dos erigiría en mi equipo?

Ambos han sido seleccionados por sus países a su selección nacional, pero mientras que uno tiene más visión, el otro es más defensivo. Eso si, creo que ambos en el mismo equipo sería de ensueño. Es una pregunta valida si se toma en cuenta que ambos están triunfando de manera similar en este inicio de temporada.

Entonces, ¿Qué piensan? ¿el catracho o el cafetero?

22 March 7:09 pm

Two weeks into the season in MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, and it looks like the newbie, Andrew Wiebe, is the man to beat right now in the ExtraTime Radio Experts League.*

"It's a combination of research and luck," Wiebe told MLSsoccer.com this week. "Sometimes your research pays off. Sometimes your luck gives you the extra push you need. Without both, well, you're Allen Hopkins."

Obviously showing no sympathy for the low man on the totem pole, Wiebe has turned success in the ETREL into some new publicity: He appears on the latest editon of the ExtraTime Radio podcast

But he is being chased by that crafty Canadian, Luke Wileman, whose team, Great White North, is just three points behind. Can Wiebe hold off the competition  in Week 3, when his Bed-Stuy Brawlers face off against the Elusive Playmakers, a.k.a. Kyle McCarthy of Goal.com?

"I definitely can," Wiebe said. "He's got some weak spots on his roster. I think I've got a 15-point win in me."

Bad Idea Jeans = Marc Connolly, ESPN
BadRowePun = Dan Haiek, MLSsoccer.com
Bed-Stuy Brawlers = Andrew Wiebe, MLSsoccer.com
FC Curse of Caricola = Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated
Elusive Playmakers = Kyle McCarthy, Goal.com
FC Empty Bucket = Jonah Freedman, MLSsoccer.com
Etienne Barbara FC = Simon Borg, MLSsoccer.com
The False DM = Jen Chang, SportsIllustrated.com
Fort Nonsense SC = Jonathan Yardley, FC Dallas TV
Great White North = Luke Wileman, TSN
Ill Eagles = Matt Gaschk, SoundersFC.com
kingDOMEtt = Taylor Twellman, ESPN
Land of Confusion = Jason Saghini, MLSsoccer.com
Leanderthal Albion = Leander Shaerlaeckens, ESPN.com
MLS Reggae Boyz = Mark Rogondino, Fox Soccer
Otis Redding United = Greg Lalas, MLSsoccer.com
Rainbow in the Dark = Max Bretos, ESPN
SBI United = Ives Galarcep, FoxSoccer.com
Slurpee Ratt = Alexi Lalas, ESPN
Witham's Whippers = Katie Witham, freelancer
Ya Mo Be There = Allen Hopkins, Fox Sports

* "Experts" is used loosely here. Kind of like Kim Kardashian's use of the word "marriage." 

22 March 6:38 pm

It was with a huge helping of sadness that I read the news about Seattle Sounders striker O’Brian White on Thursday, as I have seen up close what a superbly talented soccer player he is.

With a reoccurring blood clot in his left leg forcing the Seattle Sounders to buy out his contract — the Sounders will still have first refusal if he should make a recovery — White will be forced to sit on the 2012 season just when he could have shone most.

The towering forward is full of brute force and I have seen him in full flight, and running at me with the ball, during his college days at the University of Connecticut.

During the 2007 season, my freshman year as a soccer player at the University of Pittsburgh, White terrorized defenses at will, scoring 27 goals and adding 7 assists in 24 games. He was awarded the Hermann trophy for the Nation’s top college soccer player. It was well deserved.

He was quite simply one of the most powerful and dominating strikers I have played against. As a defensive unit on a cold night in Storrs, Conn., we tried to shut him down. White scored a hat trick and we lost 4-0 to the No.1 ranked Huskies. He was untouchable and to potentially lose his talent from the league for good would be a huge shame not just for White, but for MLS as a whole.

I can remember lining up at center back as a 19-year-old straight out of England in front of more than 5,000 screaming UConn fans and wondering what weaknesses he had. It was apparent very quickly that he didn’t have any. White had it all. He bullied our defense all night long with his brute strength, he made clever runs wide and in the channels, his first touch was impeccable and when he got half a chance, he buried it.

A year later, he tore ligaments in his knee. It took him three years to get back to where he was, and had just come into his own with the Sounders when the blood clots hit.

I’m certainly hoping he makes a full recovery and gets to show what he can do on the big stage, because I know exactly what he is capable of. It'll be a shame if fans in the US and Canada don't get that chance, too. 

22 March 5:49 pm

Cet été, les regards des amateurs de sport du monde entier seront tournés vers Londres, pour les Jeux de la XXXe Olympiade. Les qualifications de la zone Concacaf pour le tournoi masculin de soccer débutent ce jeudi. Règlement oblige, dans cette catégorie, ce sont les équipes nationales espoirs (-23 ans) qui s’y collent. Huit pays se disputent deux places qualificatives. Les États-Unis et le Mexique partent favoris, mais il faudra aussi se méfier du Honduras et du Canada.

Des joueurs de MLS ont été convoqués par cinq équipes, en plus grand nombre dans les rangs américains et canadiens. Dans l’équipe à la feuille d’érable, seuls Russel Teibert, Doneil Henry et Matt Stinson peuvent revendiquer une place de titulaire à Vancouver ou Toronto.

Du côté des États-Unis, il y a davantage de joueurs établis, notamment Freddy Adu, Juan Agudelo et Brek Shea, régulièrement appelés chez les « A ». On retrouve aussi plusieurs titulaires potentiels qui auraient été utiles à leur club respectif en ce début de saison : Sheanon Williams (dont la sélection a créé une nouvelle polémique à Philadelphie) mais aussi Bill Hamid, Perry Kitchen, Zarek Valentin, Teal Bunbury, Sean Johnson et Michael Stephens.

Voyez le programme complet du tournoi, et suivez-le sur vos écrans.

22 March 5:04 pm

The link between Fulham Football Club and the US soccer world over the years has become so strong that they are often colloquially referred to as “Team America” in the UK. 

It’s hard to argue with that playful nickname and their long history of enticing players from the US to try their luck in the EPL is one Fulham are very proud of, according to the Cottagers website.

Several US national team stars such as Brian McBride, Carlos Bocanegra and now Clint Dempsey have turned out for the West London side at Craven Cottage, all earning high praise for their performances from fans and pundits alike.  

On Fulham’s official club website on Thursday they highlighted an article coming up in the clubs Fulltime magazine. The EPL side, who are led this season by US superstar Dempsey with 18 goals, are quick to point out their strong links with MLS soccer in particular.  

“While our Premier League rivals are only now just discovering the delights of America’s top league, it’s fair to say that we’ve been unearthing its hidden treasures for 13 years.”

So just like any good relationship, the benefits are reciprocal. Former Fulham and US national team captain Brian McBride explains.

“Fulham have been major players in increasing awareness of what American soccer players have to offer,” said McBride.  

Well said Brian, long may the loving relationship continue.