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31 October 2:54 pm
Happy Halloween!  This past week, we held the Second Annual #MLSPumpkin Carving Contest and received over forty eerie entries that varied from unique club logos, favorite players, and even coaches.  Pumpkins were judged on creativity, originality and connection to MLS or a MLS club.
 
Congratulations to Marcelo Nina Valencia from D.C. who created an outstanding rendition of RFK stadium. His tribute was inspired by the "Blackout" that is taking place when D.C. United hosts the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Playoffs.  
For his seven hours of craftsmanship, Marcelo won a D.C. United authentic home jersey from MLSGear.com.  
 
And, because we love our supporters as much as you love us, we're going to add to the prize pack an autographed Chris Pontius MLS All-Star ball we've got here in the office at MLS HQ.  Congrats, Marcelo.
 
We'd like to thank all of the fans that took part in the contest, and we've chosen a few of this year's finalists to share below. 
Take a look at the #MLSPumpkin Facebook album to see more of this year's entries.
 
For fans who missed out on participating, keep your goblin eyes peeled for the Third Annual #MLSPumpkin Contest next year.

 

 

31 October 1:15 pm

On efface (presque) tout et on recommence : ce mercredi s’ouvre la phase finale de la Coupe MLS 2012 avec le match du premier tour entre Chicago et Houston (21h00 HE, direct RDS2, TSN2, ESPN2).

Le match s’annonce serré, puisque quatre de leurs cinq confrontations ces deux dernières saisons se sont soldées par un partage. Seule exception, leur affrontement le plus récent, remporté 3-1 par Chicago début septembre. À en croire Tally Hall, Houston a retenu les leçons de cet échec.

Ayant terminé derrière leur adversaire et jouant donc en déplacement, les Texans ne partent pas favoris. Mais ils ne se sentent jamais aussi bien que quand ils sont dos au mur, prévient Brad Davis. Ce dernier détient peut-être les clefs de la victoire avec son pendant à droite, Boniek Garcia, et Houston prendra une option sur la qualification s’il arrive à faire le jeu à Toyota Park.

Mélange de joueurs jeunes et expérimentés, Chicago dispute son premier match de phase finale depuis 2009. La vivacité sera un de ses atouts principaux. Même les plus anciens, comme Pavel Pardo, affichent une forme physique étincelante ! La défense visiteuse devra être particulièrement vigilante pour éviter que Nyarko, Oduro ou MacDonald ne se présente seul face au gardien.

Si vous êtes trop impatients pour attendre le coup d’envoi de la rencontre, venez en discuter avec Greg Lalas (en anglais) à partir de 15h00.

31 October 12:52 pm

Ahead of the first match of the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs tonight, MLSSoccer.com editor in chief Greg Lalas snagged a special guest to break down the clash between Chicago and Houston tonight on ESPN2

Yep, the other Lalas jumped on a Google+ Hangout to talk tonight's match, and he brought props. Watch the video below to find out what Alexi is wearing for a costume on the broadcast tonight. 

Greg's not done hanging out today, either. You can catch him this afternoon, rapping with fans before #CHIvHOU officially kicks off. A man of the people, that guy. 

31 October 9:50 am

There is still time to join the MLS Network on Movember.com. MLS staff, players, clubs, supporters and partners have already joined to raise funds and awareness for men's health.

MLS W.O.R.K.S. will match funds raised by the highest individual fundraiser in the MLS Network (individual person, not team). The highest fundraiser will also receive the Soccer Kicks Cancer Prize Pack, which includes:

- One (1) $500 VISA Gift Card
- One (1) Panasonic Shave Kit (includes 5-cutting blade system shaver, Body Shaver, Beard & Hair Trimmer and Nose & Ear Trimmer – a $785 value)
- One (1) copy of FIFA Soccer 13

So what are you waiting for?  Join us and help kick cancer! 'Mo growin' officially begins tomorrow.

30 October 9:33 pm

Not a whole lot going on in Manhattan these days. 

Power's out, subways are down, cell service is non-existant in my neighborhood, the offices are closed. As you might imagine, @MLS_Insider has been kinda quiet. Apologies for that. 

Still, we managed to surpass 200,000 followers today. It's been great talking (wait, tweeting) with all of you this season.

Here's to more of the same starting tomorrow night. Coming for you, Bieber

30 October 8:47 pm

The playoffs are upon us, but if that isn't enough to satiate your thirst for soccer, we've got another contest to keep you busy throughout November.

Yes, it's time to select another AT&T Goal of the Year. Just like 2011, 64 of the year's best strikes – including all 31 AT&T Goal of the Week winners – are up for nomination, and a fan vote will whittle the field down all the way down to the year's best strike.

Whose goal are you looking forward to seeing in contention? One of David Beckham's many wonderstrikes? Or perhaps your tastes run more on the Fredy Montero side?

Tune in to MLSsoccer.com tomorrow, Oct. 31 at 1 pm ET, to find out the first 16 goals up for election and cast your vote!

In the meantime, tide yourself over with last year's winner, an absolute stunner from the Portland Timbers' then-rookie, Darlington Nagbe:

30 October 8:11 pm

Yes. Yes they are.

And yes, I picked Seattle to win it because it's a moral imperative to stick with the prediction I made in March. But have been wracking my brain to figure out just the right way of explaining why the Earthquakes are such favorites.

Turns out Redditor moatie2000 did it for me in one handy-dandy little chart.

Here ya go:

Not a lot needs to be said beyond that.

30 October 5:11 pm

Join MLS W.O.R.K.S. as we support the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy disaster relief efforts. A financial donation or blood donation can make the biggest and most immediate impact. Learn what you can do to help.

American Red Cross

Canadian Red Cross

30 October 1:32 pm

Notre émission de la semaine (à écouter ici) est entièrement consacrée à la première année de l’Impact de Montréal en Major League Soccer. Un bilan effectué avec des invités d’horizons très variés qui nous permettent de revenir sur la saison sous de nombreux angles différents :

- La saison vue de l’intérieur par les joueurs, avec Patrice Bernier, lauréat du trophée Giuseppe Saputo, que le club remet à son meilleur joueur. Bien entendu, il dresse le bilan sportif de cette première année (argument qui, selon lui, ne doit pas servir d’excuse), mais nous parle aussi de sa complicité avec Felipe, de la configuration de jeu dans laquelle l’équipe se sent le mieux ou encore de la personnalité de Jesse Marsch.
- L’analyse du jeu de Montréal, avec Christian Schaekels, de Vision du Jeu, qui entre dans les détails des points forts, des points faibles, des choix de l’entraîneur et des paradoxes observés cette saison. En vrac, cela va, entre autres, de la capacité à contrecarrer certaines équipes du top à la déficience du jeu par les flancs et sur les phases arrêtées en passant par la dynamique apportée par Perkins et Nyassi ou encore le recrutement à effectuer pour 2013.
- L’avis des supporters, avec Eric Chenoix, membre des Ultras Montréal, qui aborde également plusieurs sujets extra-sportifs comme les améliorations au stade Saputo ou l’évolution de la culture foot dans les tribunes, et parle de son groupe qui fêtait ses 10 ans cette année.
- Focus sur les jeunes, avec Karl W Ouimette, qui nous parle de l’équipe des -21 ans, des points communs entre les équipes de jeunes, la réserve et l’équipe première, de son intégration dans le noyau A et de ce qu’il apprend concrètement aux côtés d’Alessandro Nesta.
- Le jeu « Un ou l’autre », spécial Impact, où Frédéric Lord met sur le gril ses collaborateurs habituels mais aussi Olivier Brett.

L'émission Coup Franc est aussi disponible sur Stitcher et iTunes. Vous pouvez nous joindre par courriel (coup.franc@MLSsoccer.com) ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS).

30 October 12:16 pm

The San Jose Earthquakes topped the final regular season installment of the MLS Power Rankings on Tuesday, and it was a fitting end to an impressive season for the Quakes. Although they were one the season’s biggest surprises (MLSsoccer.com had them ranked No. 9 at First Kick), the Quakes ascended to the top spot in Week 16 and never really let up.

In fact, the Quakes held the top spot in the Power Rankings for 17 weeks this season (tops among all teams), and led the way for 14 consecutive weeks after reaching the top midway through the season. They relinquished their spot just once - to Sporting Kansas City in Week 30 – but claimed it again the next week and carried the torch each of the final three weeks of the season.

Some other notes on Power Rankings this season:

  • The biggest surprise of the year was easily D.C. United, who came in at No. 16 at the First Kick poll in early March and finished the regular season at No. 3. They also proved to be one of the most volatile teams on the poll this year, rising to No. 2 in Week 15 before plummeting back to No. 12 as late as Week 28 before they surged down the stretch to finish in the top 3.
  • The biggest disappointment was easily the Portland Timbers, who carried the No. 8 ranking into First Kick and effectively slipped into a free fall from there. They bottomed out at No. 19 in Week 19 and ended up holding that spot for a total of seven weeks this season.
  • Toronto FC led the league with most weeks spent at the No. 19 spot – 14.
  • Six teams held the bottom spot at least once this season – Toronto, Portland, Chivas USA, Philadelphia, FC Dallas and Montreal. The Impact held that spot at First Kick but never graced it again after Week 4.
  • Five teams held the No. 1 ranking at some point this season – San Jose, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, Seattle and the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy held it at First Kick and never got it back, slipping all the way down to No. 17 in Weeks 11 and 12. The swing of 16 spots is the largest of any team in the rankings this season.
  • The most stable team this season was Sporting Kansas City, who never fell lower than No. 7 and spent a total of seven weeks at No. 1. The Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake both bottomed at No. 8 and reached No. 1 at various points in the season.
  • The Houston Dynamo also never fell outside of the top 10 at any point this season, falling as low as No. 9 and rising as high as No. 2 in Week 22.
  • The biggest one-week jump of any team this season belonged to San Jose, who leaped from No. 9 to No. 3 in Week 4 after a 1-0 win in Seattle. The Quakes never fell lower than No. 4 the rest of the way.
  • The biggest one-week drop also came in Week 4. FC Dallas plummeted from No. 6 to No. 15 after a 4-1 loss at D.C. United.
  • The Vancouver Whitecaps are the only playoff team not ranked in the top 10 at the end of the season. They fell to No. 12 in Week 25 and have languished outside the top 10 ever since.
  • Chivas USA was only team to go out the way they came in. They were ranked No. 18 at First Kick and finished No. 18 in the final rankings on Tuesday, having never climbed any higher than No. 12.

Note: There were no rankings for Weeks 13-14 due to international dates.