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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.

28 February 6:28 pm

Not content with the robust stable of forwards already under their employ, the Vancouver Whitecaps announced today the signing of Maltese striker Etienne Barbara. Having registered a 20-goal season last year under Rennie while with the Carolina Railhawks, his nose for goal will be no shock to his former and current coach.

What exactly does Rennie think of his 7th (yes 7th) striker? Check out the clip above to hear what he has to say about him following today's practice in Orlando.

28 February 4:53 pm

The great thing about being in Orlando this week is, surprisingly, not the weather. That's been spotty. Last night a storm rolled through that, while not quite biblical in proportion, was enough to hold Simon Borg and myself hostage in the Sporting KC hotel for far longer than we intended. In the end it was OK though because it afforded me a chance to talk about team chemistry with coach Peter Vermes, who said of all the team's he ever been around the current KC squad is the tightest off-the-field he's ever seen.

Unfortunately for Kei Kamara though the storm put a damper on the pick-up basketball game he was trying to organize with some of his teammates. So much for team camaraderie.

The sun came out today though and after all that rain it's as humid as anything. Even Houston Dynamo players Corey Ashe and Andre Hainault, who should be used to a bit of sticky weather, thought it was a bit much for February.

The Dynamo had some interesting neighbors at today's practice. On one side were pitchers and catchers for the Atlanta Braves --they conduct spring training at the sprawling ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex-- with the Montreal Impact on the other. Funny how Brian Ching came back to Houston only to spend pre-season in the shadow of the Impact; guess his preseason plans would have been the same either way.
 

28 February 4:30 pm

There are some days when I wish I weren't one of the hosts of ExtraTime Radio. Usually, it's when Simon Borg -- bless his big heart -- starts making absurd declarations like, say, Clint Dempsey should sit on the bench for the USMNT.

But there are other days when, for whatever reason, I miss the show and I really, really wish I could've been there.

Yesterday's episode is one such day. I would've given anything to be there when Sporting KC's Aurelien Collin started giving Simon fashion advice. "Suspenders!" It's the only time I've ever heard Simon ask for advice. Magnifique!

Then, New York Red Bulls manager Hans Backe drops this whopper: He wants to win the US Open Cup. Considering how he shrugged off the USOC last year, that's pretty amazing.

If you haven't heard it, check it out here.  

28 February 3:50 pm

The Whitecaps are one of the six MLS clubs currently holed up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. With Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli, rookie sensation Darren Mattocks and Long Tan among their ranks they posess one of the most blessed attacks in the league.

One of the talking points during today's post-practice media scrum was the 'Caps wealth of attacking options. Does new coach Martin Rennie realize what he has on his hands? Let's just say he's happy with what he's got.

27 February 11:03 pm

One of the hot topics around the soccersphere today was news of sanctions levied against supporters of the Houston Dynamo. Below is the letter sent from MLS to leaders of the Houston Dynamo supporters groups on Monday. According to MLS spokesperson Will Kuhns, this is not the first time that an MLS supporters group’s privileges have been suspended for behavior issues. In the letter, you will see that the incidents at issue occurred during road games, and that the sanctions apply only to road games.
 

Major League Soccer and its Clubs are committed to the growth of a vibrant and healthy environment in our stadiums.  We are focused on fostering a League-wide culture that embraces the passion of our core fans. That passion however, must be displayed in a responsible manner that is in accordance with the MLS Fan Code of Conduct.
 
This letter serves to address several violations of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct committed by Dynamo supporters at the following events:
1.     MLS Cup, Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (November 20, 2011): Violations of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct included
a.     multiple illegal smoke bombs were brought into the stadium, ignited and thrown onto the field
b.    various objects that presented a safety risk thrown onto the field in the direction of players and stadium personnel
c.     obscene language and gestures by multiple supporters
2.     Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (November 6th, 2011): Violation of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct included
a.     a prohibited smoke bomb that was brought into the stadium and ignited
3.     Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park (September 24, 2011): Violations of the MLS Fan Code of Conduct included
a.     a prohibited smoke bomb that was brought into the stadium and ignited
 
As of March 1, Dynamo traveling supporters will not be permitted to utilize items listed as Supporter Group Exemptions in the MLS Prohibited Items policy (e.g. flags, banners, confetti, drums). This sanction shall continue to be in effect until otherwise notified by MLS; provided, however, that at a minimum it shall apply to the following games:
1.     Houston Dynamo vs. Chivas at the Home Depot Center (March 11, 2012)
2.     Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Park (July 7, 2012)
 
The decision to impose this sanction is based on the League-wide position that misconduct at any MLS event can affect a fan’s standing at other MLS facilities. MLS will not tolerate behavior which threatens the safety of any fan, stadium employee or match participant. The actions of just a few individuals can influence the perception of all of our supporters, clubs and League.
 
After the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium on May 12, 2012, the League will evaluate whether to lift the ban on the previously stated privileges. The following factors will be considered in determining the ultimate length of this restriction:
 
1.     Supporter conduct at 2012 MLS away games
2.     Supporter conduct at BBVA Compass Stadium
3.     Implementation of a supporter charter
4.     Formation of an effective leadership system for all Dynamo supporters that is recognized by the club
 
The League is encouraged by the ongoing discussion between the Dynamo supporters and the front office to learn from past events and prevent them in the future. While regrettable that these incidents took place, it is our hope that 2012 marks the year that such misconduct is a thing of the past so that we can return to our focus of supporting the Texian Army, El Battallon, Brickwall Firm, La Bateria and any other legitimate group supporting the Dynamo.