Kick Off: Digging down for the cause of LA's CCL capitulation vs. Monterrey

Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.

1. LA THROW AWAY LEAD LATE ON

The LA Galaxy looked as if they’d be taking a 1-0 lead to Monterrey for the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal … then the last 10 minutes arrived. The two-time defending CCL champs proved their mettle with a last-gasp winner to snatch a 2-1 win and put themselves firmly in the driver's seat to make the 2012-13 CCL final. Bruce Arena wasn’t happy with the defending: “Our backline was tired. They didn't play the last 15, 20 minutes of the game in a smart manner. They needed to be much more solid.” Here are three things LA took from the loss. 

2. JUNINHO’S INJURY THE TURNING POINT

When Juninho limped out of the game in the second half, Monterrey’s players saw their opportunity to get back into the tie, and duly seized it. One player doesn’t make a team. But the Galaxy missed the diminutive Brazilian’s steadying influence in the midfield, big time. “I think everything kind of went out of control when Juninho came out of the game,” Omar Gonzalez said. “They started pushing a lot of guys forward and we didn’t deal with the situation.”

3. ARENA: “WE DIDN’T DO THE JOB WE NEEDED TO DO”

Arena certainly didn’t mince his words after the late loss, citing a lack of experience on the backline as one of the contributing factors to the Galaxy’s downfall. “So what if we don’t get the second goal? You win the game 1-0. That’s so obvious, and we didn’t do the job we needed to do,” Arena said. “If we don’t concede, we walk away with a win tonight and position ourselves better to go into Monterrey.”

4. MAGEE NAMED PLAYER OF THE MONTH

Despite the bad result for LA on Wednesday, there was some good news for one of their players, as Mike Magee picked up the MLS Player of the Month award, voted by the North American Soccer Reporters, for March. Magee scored five goals in four games for LA, leading the team in the absence of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Magee edged out Patrice Bernier for the gong, see how the NASR voted here.

5. REPORTS IN ITALY: TOTTI OFFERED MLS CONTRACT

With just a year left on his contract for AS Roma, reports surfacing in Italy this morning have Italian legend Francesco Totti being offered a contract in MLS. According to Tuttosport.com, the longtime Roma captain has been offered a “huge” contract from an unnamed MLS side. The 36-year-old has remained at the Stadio Olimpico his whole career, so will he now switch his attentions to MLS?

6. SEATTLE HECKLING, GOOD OR BAD?

Friendly banter or verbal abuse? Call it what you will, but plenty of it was flying around at CenturyLink Field on Tuesday night as Hercuez Gomez returned to Seattle and scored the winning goal for Santos Laguna in the huge CCL clash. Gomez brushed off chants of “Sounders reject” which engulfed the stadium. But should these types of chants be eradicated from MLS stadia? The guys over at NBC Pro Soccer Talk take a closer look.

7. CHELSEA vs. MAN. CITY IN ST. LOUIS SELLS OUT … IN 20 MINS.

So we know St. Louis has long been touted as a hotbed for soccer in the US, maybe this proves it. Just 20 minutes after releasing tickets for the friendly between Manchester City and Chelsea at Busch Stadium on May 23, the game sold out. A crowd of nearly 47,000 will cram into the home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Manchester City's Tom Glick said: “We believe in US soccer and we know how much passion the fans in North America have for the beautiful game.”

8. DAX: PLAYING FOR NEW YORK HAS IT PERKS

In the first entry of his blog for Goal.com, Dax McCarty revealed many things. His love for shuffleboard, ping pong and bingo with Red Bulls teammates Heath Pearce and Connor Lade all in one day, as they got some down time in Manhattan. McCarty is renowned for his great sense of humor: “If you saw me on the side of the road, you would probably mistake me for a used car salesman, not a high-level athlete.”

9. STREAM OF THE WEEK: NEXT STOP, PORTLAND

Last week's Stream of the Week debuted with Sporting KC’s win over the Montreal Impact. Now you can watch the Portland Timbers host Houston at 10:30 pm ET on Saturday, presented by El Jimador. You can watch the game free via MLSsoccer.com, so make sure to log on to the site on Saturday.

10. PAULSON REVEALS MORE IN FINAL PART OF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you've likely heard about senior editor Nick Firchau’s three-part series on Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson. The final piece of the absorbing series was published yesterday, as Paulson revealed the new outlook for Portland this season: “2013 is the dawn of the less-talk, more-action era of the Portland Timbers …” Paulson said. “I feel really good. I feel optimistic. And the team is going to speak for itself.”

11. VERMES, MOORE EARN HALL OF FAME HONORS

Peter Vermes and Joe-Max Moore were written into US soccer folklore on Wednesday, as both received Hall of Fame berths. The duo both represented the USMNT as forwards with Vermes now managing Sporting KC to success in MLS.

12. HOWARD ON EVERTON’S UCL HOPES

With Tim Howard back from injury and recording a shutout in Everton’s win over Stoke City at the weekend, the USMNT ‘keeper is focusing on pushing for a Champions League spot with the final weeks of the season approaching: “Big players perform well under pressure, they thrive off it, that’s why we’re at this level and that’s why we’re not languishing in the middle or at the bottom. It is all to play for.” Good news for US fans, Howard also said his back injury is coming along nicely.

13. NYC CELEBRATES U.S. SOCCER CENTENARY IN STYLE

The U.S. Soccer Federation is celebrating its Centenary by returning to the city where it was founded. Jurgen Klinsmann appeared on Morning Joe this AM and the USMNT will be alongside Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas and others later in the day in a takeover of Times Square in a special event for soccer fans. At 8 pm on Friday, the group will head to where the U.S. Soccer charter was signed on April 5, 1913, at the Astor House. Other events include the Empire State Building being lit up in red, white and blue. Plenty more on that and more, tomorrow. 

14. XOLOS MAKE LAST 16 AS LIBERTADORES, EUROPA DOMINATES TV ACTION

Club Tijuana just keep reaching new heights. The Xolos have now reached the last 16 in the Copa Libertadores, after a 1-1 tie against San José in Bolivia. Check out how all the exports got on south of the border by clicking here. In the Europa League, Chelsea face Rubin Kazan at 2:30 pm ET on Fox Soccer, while Clint Dempsey and Brad Freidel’s Tottenham Hotspur host FC Basel on Fox Soccer Plus at the same time. For the full list of action on the tube, Soccer America has you covered.

15. SANDAZA FIRED OVER FAKE MLS AGENT HOAX

Perhaps one of the most bizarre stories of late has come to an end. Francisco Sandaza has been sacked by Glasgow Rangers after admitting to a Celtic-supporting taxi driver that he only joined Rangers for the money … as the Celtic fan posed as a fake MLS agent to draw the admission from the French striker, then broadcast it online.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

March to the Match: Did Sigi Schmid make the right call?

Disaster for LA as Monterrey win late

The Word: Paulson on Timbers aim for 2013


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.