Kick Off: Mexico call on Rafa Marquez to help save World Cup berth
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...
1. WEEKEND ACTION BEGINS TONIGHT
In a short turnaround for D.C. United, they are back in action Friday night against the Chicago Fire (8 pm ET NBCSN). United head coach Ben Olsen noted that after a win in the US Open Cup final on Tuesday, “It’s a better year than last year. Somehow, ironically.” Chicago, meanwhile, are still chasing a playoff space and Chris Rolfe is enjoying his opportunity in a new position. If the Fire want to win though, they’ll need to find a way past Ethan White, one of D.C.’s few bright stars this season.
2. LIFTOFF FROM HOUSTON?
The Houston Dynamo will also suit up on Friday as hosts to the Montreal Impact (8:30 pm ET MLS Live). If the Dynamo can win, they’ll move above Montreal into the third playoff spot in the East, while an Impact victory will see them move above Sporting Kansas City into second for at least a day. After taking part in a FIFA 14 competition to win VIP tickets for tonight’s game, Dynamo fans can only hope their team produces a result similar to any of these.
3. COACH OF THE YEAR IN COLORADO? NEW CONTRACT IN SEATTLE?
Is Oscar Pareja the leading candidate for Coach of the Year? Fans in Colorado certainly seem to think so, and it’s a statement echoed by the club's management as well, with technical director Paul Bravo stating: “We’d love Oscar to be around this club forever.” There is still work for the Rapids to do though to secure a playoff spot, and that starts on Saturday with a game against the Seattle Sounders (10 pm ET, NBCSN). Seattle's Mauro Rosales, meanwhile, is hoping for another couple of years with the club.
4. RED BULLS TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED
The New York Red Bulls take on New England on Saturday (7 pm ET, MLSsoccer.com's Stream of the Week) knowing a point will guarantee them a playoff spot. Even so, Thierry Henry is taking nothing for granted. Also, who is the real heartbeat of the Red Bulls team, Henry or Tim Cahill? (Or maybe the correct answer is Dax McCarty?)
5. SUPER CLASICO
The LA Galaxy take on Chivas USA on Sunday in the SuperClasico, and while current Galaxy player Laurent Courtois is keen to play his former club, he is more interested in securing a spot in the playoffs: “Playing Chivas is nice, but it’s not a big deal.” Can the Goats dent their neighbors' playoff hopes? Here’s a look at some of the highs and lows of the SuperClasico.
6. NO PKS FOR PHILLY?
While the Philadelphia Union may have ended an unwanted scoreless streak during their last match, the club has now reached another unusual and unwanted landmark. It’s been a whole year since the club scored a goal from a penalty kick. Will they get a chance against Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)? TFC manager Ryan Nelsen, meanwhile, is enjoying the privacy afforded him in North America, especially compared to England.
7. CLUB VS. COUNTRY
“We are not looking at the MLS schedule. We have to get our own job done.” Those are the words of USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann who, even though the US have already qualified, wants the team to push on for the highest seeding possible in December's World Cup draw. But it’s not as simple as that, just ask Sigi Schmid. In other World Cup news, Costa Rica have been punished for their fans' behavior before the US match last month, but forward Joel Campbell has escaped discipline for his on-field theatrics.
8. RAFA RETURNS FOR MEXICO
Mexico announced their roster for two huge World Cup qualifiers on Thursday and two familiar faces made the cut. Rafa Márquez is set to make his return to El Tri alongside Guillermo Ochoa for their crucial matches against Panama and Costa Rica. Elswhere, the door on a USMNT call-up could be about to close forever for Soony Saad. The Sporting Kansas City striker has been called up by Lebanon to play in a friendly against Iraq and a qualifier against Kuwait. Playing in the second match would officially tie him to Lebanon, but the forward is still waiting on his paperwork to go through.
9. CANADIAN KIDS TO “WIN EVERY GAME”
With no senior international tournaments to look forward to until the 2015 Gold Cup, Canada can turn their eyes to the U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Head coach Sean Fleming has unveiled his 24-man roster (complete with 11 players from MLS academies), and Fleming has a lot of faith in his young group: “We want to go and win every single game we ever play.”
10. OPTA AND MLS
It’s time to look at part two of NBC ProSoccer Talk’s look at how Opta stats have affected soccer. Today there's a specific focus on how MLS and Opta have worked together to their mutual benefit.
11. NYCFC ON THE RADIO
New York City FC have officially announced a multi-year radio deal with New York City's WFAN for their 2015 MLS debut season. The talent has yet to be announced, but club CEO Ferrán Soriano said Thursday that the deal marks a "huge opportunity for the team to bring football to all New Yorkers, right from the onset of our playing debut.”
12. MIAMI 2.0
Earlier in the week, we mentioned that there was another suitor for an MLS franchise in Miami. SI.com's Brian Straus spoke to Alessandro Butini, the Italian business man who wants to make it happen, to find out more about what his plans involve.
13. NAGBE AND THE TIMBERS
It’s been quite a year for Darlington Nagbe, winner of MLSsoccer.com's 24 Under 24. His Portland Timbers stand on the verge of their first ever playoff appearance, and he's the subject of a fantastic profile courtesy of The Oregonian.
14. THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED FOR DALLAS HOMEGROWN STAR
For Richard Sanchez, FC Dallas’ 19-year-old Homegrown goalkeeper, it has been an unusual journey so far. A move from LA to Texas, time with the Mexican U-17 and U-20 teams, currently playing on loan with the Ft Lauderdale Strikers in Florida and Mexican club Tigres UANL owning a percentage of his player rights. It’s an interesting story worth following in this compelling article from Goal.com.
15. MERRITT MIC'D UP
Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson can be quite outspoken at times, but that's why a number of fans love him. Can you imagine if you could hear his thoughts throughout an entire soccer match? That’s exactly what happened during a recent charity game.