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19 March 6:02 de la tarde

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.

19 March 5:25 de la tarde

There's been a lot of talk about anthems already this season. Just minutes ago, I plugged the Revs' new victory song. And, of course, Believe RSL has already made the rounds.

Thanks to a heads up from MLSsoccer.com's Chivas USA beat writer Adam Serrano, I stumbled on this D.C. United fan anthem that was submitted to the "Support Your Team" Contest at The MLS Reserves.

Granted, I don't have a complete grasp on everything that's floating around on the internet these days, but something tells me this joint is going to be hard, if not impossible, to beat. In fact, go ahead and crown "Welcome to the District" by Rene Guzman the cream of the unofficial MLS anthem crop for 2012.

Eye-pleasing production? Check. Legitimate flow from Guzman? Check. Lyrics that reflect the D.C. United story? Double check.

Check out the full lyrics and full music video below.

Think there is something better out there or just want to share something cool that should be on The Sideline? Tweet me at the handle below.

Hook:

Vamos DC, United and Free
Black and Red be the colors we bleed
Since nine-six, here with pride and tradition
United till we die baby, Welcome to the District

Verse:

My heart is two stripes, three stars above
Black and Red and the colors I was born to love
Home of the brave, where champions are made
Bubbles in the air, let the three stars wave
Original 12th man, we pioneered the way
My DMV brothers feel exactly the same
What more can I say, United till I die
96 and forever, your my heart and my pride
Let them all know, we're legends in the making
Whether home or the road, it's our for the taking
Scream Eagles Scream, carry the team forth
Let them hear our song, from Barra to the North
Vamos United, take your place on the throne
Black and Red forever time to bring the cup home
United to the end, through blood, sweat and tears
Forever your my friend, you'll always have me here

19 March 4:35 de la tarde

After Real Salt Lake got things started with the "Believe RSL" anthem that got considerable internet love, the New England Revolution have added their own offering to the genre.

The team announced on Monday that “New England Revolution Anthem,” written and performed by Josephin Shlomit Madden, a local from Abington, Mass., has been selected as the New England Revolution’s official 2012 victory song.

I dig the punk rock vibe, and Josephin did a great job putting together something authentic and catchy at the same time. She's got a big voice and presence that fit the anthem well.

The only thing left is for the Revs to win, something that hasn't come easy through two games in 2012. Fortunately, they'll have another chance to pipe this bad boy through the Gillette Stadium sound system on Saturday when Portland come to town.

Check out the video below and let us know what you think. How does it measure up to Believe RSL?

14 March 6:07 de la tarde

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.

14 March 4:33 de la tarde

Aimer le soccer ne se limite pas à aller au stade une fois toutes les deux semaines et à suivre passivement les nouvelles de son équipe préférée. La Major League Soccer est particulièrement active, ou plutôt interactive avec les supporters. Alors voilà quelques manières simples d’en être, vous aussi, des acteurs :

De quoi vous occuper entre deux rencontres, n’est-ce pas ? Et même au match, soyez actifs. Comme le disent les UM02, supporters de Montréal, l’ambiance est faite par tous les supporters présents au stade. Et ce qui vaut à Montréal vaut évidemment partout ailleurs. On en a d'ailleurs eu un magnifique exemple à Portland ce lundi.

09 March 5:10 de la tarde

Are you a fan of Major League Soccer? Do you have two X chromosomes? If you answered yes to both of those questions -- or you're just curious -- head over to the new Women United Football Club website, which has been getting some buzz on Twitter today after launching and appears to be a legitimately awesome gathering place for MLS fans of the fairer sex.

I would attempt to put the concept into words but surely the site's founders can do a better job, so I'll leave that to them:

"In America and abroad, MLS has scores of female soccer fans, but there is little in the way of communities or reporting to serve them. We're changing that in 2012. This is a place where women of all ages who are MLS fans can meet, mingle and blog about their thoughts. Join us as we get to experience the thrills and spills of pro soccer in a whole new way!"

Love the concept. Love the design of the website. Love that some of the founders hail from Kansas City (Midwest represent!).

And even though myself and all the rest of the XY chromosomers out there aren't the target audience, I'm glad female MLS fans have a sweet place to come together online. It's the least they deserve.

08 March 12:50 de la tarde

Frankie Hejduk is a legend in Columbus. His eight years playing for the Crew, including captaining them to the 2008 MLS Cup title, made him a fan favorite. (Drinking beers in the parking lot with the diehard supporters when he was suspended for a game didn't hurt his Q rating at Crew Stadium either.)

Now, after he finished his career with the LA Galaxy last year, it looks like the Crew might abide the dude again.

“There’s some Crew players that just resonate,” Crew President and GM Mark McCullers told The Columbus Dispatch recently. “Brian McBride still resonates. Frankie resonates and that certainly has value for us. I would love to have Frankie in the organization." 

07 March 1:42 de la tarde

Introducing MLS Timeline on FacebookWe're telling the Major League Soccer story with Facebook's new profile.  

Facebook has grown over the years to capture the growth of the League and engage with our fans in a timely, authentic, media-rich way. Now, with Facebook Timeline, we now have a home for all the great MLS stories we’ve shared with our fans over the years. We’ve also posted many of our most memorable videos, photos, updates, awards and events since our founding in 1995.

Along with the history section on MLSsoccer.com, this is where we’re telling the story of MLS, from beginning, to middle, to now.

 

 

 
06 March 5:21 de la tarde

A confession: I'm not a fantasy freak.

I don't spend days analyzing the various formations and figuring out the optimum financially efficient roster. I don't partake in a great deal of trash talk with the other people in my league.

About the only thing I obsess about is which music idol I should name my club after.

But despite all of that, I play. I play against my colleagues and friends. I tend to lose, but I appreciate the competition and the comradery.

This year's new salary-cap game, MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, is not easy. But it is a very good approximation of what it's like to be a real MLS manager.

The salary cap ($100 million) is tight, and building a well-balanced squad, with a mix of high-scoring stars and cost-efficient role players, can be a struggle. At times, I cursed the person who set the prices.

The upshot is that as I set my roster, I started making some intriguing decisions on where I was willing to sacrifice quality for quantity. If I went for a cheap 4th defender so I could add a more expensive striker, what happens if there's an injury on the backline? If I ditched the big-money third striker, does that let me have a better attacking midfielder?

Ultimately, you've got to decide. Just like a real MLS manager does. And then you play. 

So without further ado, here's the roster of my beloved Otis Redding United. I promise you, we will not try any tenderness in the 2nd Annual ExtraTime Radio Experts League.  

02 March 2:00 de la tarde

Being a referee is not just a thankless job; sometimes it can be downright dangerous.  One AR found out the hard way when he became collateral damage on this rough tackle.