Kick Off: Nelsen promises defensive solidity in Toronto

Ryan Nelsen, Kick Off

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

He’s hung up the cleats, now he’s dusting off the clipboard. Life as a head coach began in earnest over the weekend for Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.

With the New Zealander's first preseason game done and dusted with Toronto FC, a 1-0 loss to Columbus Crew, the rookie head coach learned more about the adventure that lies ahead.

“I’m really happy with the guys for their first game,” Nelsen said. “With a new coach, new system, they have to find their way. I thought defensively we were very solid, and that’s the foundation Toronto has to work from.”

And that new defensive mindset may be carried out by plenty of TFC’s youngsters, with the ex-QPR defender impressed with the clubs academy prospects. Three players won't be around to compete for minutes, though, as the team made its first cuts.

And with the first game out of the way, Nelsen and his charges have a busy week ahead of them at Disney. Orlando City are up next on Wednesday, check the full schedule of preseason games streamed live on MLSsoccer.com here.

Plenty of other MLS sides were in action down in Florida, with Montreal and D.C. United grabbing wins and Philadelphia drawing 1-1 with local USL Pro side Orlando City. Recap all the action here.

At the end of last week, a familiar face popped up in Seattle. Veteran midfielder Shalerie Joseph has been training with the Sounders but despite Joseph hoping a deal in Seattle could be on the cards, Sigi Schmid poured cold water on the possibilty he could join Seattle.

"It's very evident that he hasn't trained in a while,” Schmid said of Joseph. “It's evident that he's very much behind physically."

Joseph won’t travel with the squad to Arizona and it’s believed the former Revs skipper will now be traveling to other preseason camps in search of a new deal. 

Watch this space. But whatever shirt we see Joseph suiting up in 2013, it will probably be a new one. The New York Times takes a look at which sides will be sporting new jerseys this season.

But one player who will be staying put is Colorado Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith. The skillful Scot has re-signed with the Rapids, after proving his fitness in the offseason.

The legend of Kei Kamara is beginning to grow at Norwich City already, after Canaries fans got their first glimpse of the winger off the bench in Saturday's 0-0 tie with Fulham.

Kamara spoke to the London Evening Standard about his move to the EPL and his aims for the future.

“I belong to Kansas City,” Kamara said. “But I am not here to just mess around and just hang about. I am coming here to make a statement about myself and show I can play amongst people I have watched on television.”

There is no messing around this week for Kamara and his new teammates, with the squad flying out to Abu Dhabi for a short training camp as Norwich’s next EPL fixture isn't for two weeks. This photo via Twitter suggests Kamara is having a bit of fun in the sun, though.

From Abu Dhabi to South Africa, Nigeria were crowned the champions on Sunday, after defeating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations final.

One man who almost made that triumphant Nigerian squad was Portland Timbers striker Bright Dike. But as his nation celebrated winning the cup, Dike’s burgeoning career has again been disrupted by injury. The Timbers confirmed Dike tore his ACL in last week’s friendly against Seattle, and the bustling forward will be out until August. Get well soon, Bright.

Down the West Coast in LA, plenty of rumors are flying around. SI.com’s Grant Wahl caught up with the Fox Soccer guys yesterday, and if you want the latest on Landon Donovan, Frank Lampard and Kaká, Wahl has you covered.

Speaking of LA, their stadium naming rights with Home Depot will soon to expire. That gets a mention in this piece from the Sun Herald, as they examine just how lucrative stadium naming rights have become.

Moving around the league now and Chicago Fire fans will be intrigued to hear the backstory of Supplemental Draft pick, goalkeeper James Belshaw. The four-year starter at Duke started for a men’s side in Derbyshire at the age of 16 and hasn’t looked back since. 

“Things are going well. I've settled in well at the camp,” Belshaw said. “The guys have been great and I feel like I'm giving a good account of myself. So I'm just trying to do the best I can to prove that I deserve a spot on the roster and try to earn a contract here.”

And another Brit in MLS has been in the news back home, as Houston Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat recalls his early days in the US and speaks out about his ambition to represent the Scottish national side under Gordon Strachan: “My time in Scotland has really helped me make this jump and one day I would love to return and be playing for Scotland under the new-manager.”

Speaking of Scotland, the US women’s national team defeated their Scottish counterparts 4-1 in Tom Sermanni’s first game in charge. Recap all the action here.

Down in the NASL, the New York Cosmos continue to unveil new signings. See which midfielder they’ve plucked from La Liga.

While in France, David Beckham is still a few weeks away from making his debut for Paris Saint-Germain. Boss Carlo Ancelotti believes the league match with archrivals Marseille on Feb. 24 could see Becks’ first appearance for Les Parisiens.

Staying over in Europe, American Exports had a fruitful weekend. Aston Villa ‘keeper Brad Guzan pulled off a string of fine saves late on to help Villa win for the first time in nine attempts to boost their bid for EPL survival. And Clint Dempsey’s Tottenham continue to march on after another win.

And an American Export shone in Mexico this weekend, as DaMarcus Beasley scored twice from the subs bench for Puebla in a 3-1 win over San Luis.

Two players previously rumored to be heading to MLS seem to be staying put in England. Frank Lampard may well be offered a new deal at Chelsea, or elsewhere in Europe, and interim boss Rafa Benítez is full of praise for the England man. Meanwhile Richard Dunne, who was rumored to be on RBNY’s wanted list, looks set to be offered a new deal at Aston Villa.

There is live action from Europe on the tube today, with Liverpool hosting West Brom at 2:55 pm ET on ESPN2 and Real Betis vs. Real Valladolid at 3:25 pm ET on BeIN Sport.

One Canadian columnist posed the question: “What do you think MLS would gain from joining the Copa Libertadores?” Apparently, quite a lot.

This has to be one of the most bizarre stories I have come across. Check out Grantland's piece on a website called Thuzio, which has athletes offering services such as "Phone calls for $99" and "lunch or dinner for $1,000" with your sporting heroes. US soccer fans are you listening? Tony Meola, Brian McBride and Curt Onalfo are all on the list.

And finally, maybe one day you could have lunch with Fernando Torres. But for now you'll have to settle for watching him make a cupcake instead.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Inside the SuperDraft, Episode 6: New England and Colorado get their men (VIDEO)

20 Days 'til MLS: Who will match the '98 Galaxy side for most wins?

Report: US-Mexico qualifier set for Columbus


Get the Kick-Off delivered to you!

Enter your email address and favorite team below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.