Kick Off: Despite link with another big name, are the New York Red Bulls changing tactics?

Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Kick Off

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USA Today Sports

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

1. NEW YORK'S NEW PLAN

According to a source, the New York Red Bulls plan to move away from big-name Designated Players, instead focusing on bringing in top level talent that fits into the teams current set up, rather than the other way around. With that in mind, how much weight do you give to reports that Ashley Cole could be looking to join the Red Bulls when his Chelsea contract ends next summer? Is it a negotiating tactic for Cole or could the England international have been won over by his ex-Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry?

2. WHICH PLAYERS WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE?

MLS Cup is less than a week away and Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis has reasons to be cheerful ahead of the big game. Alvaro Saborio will “very likely” be ready for the match, while Chris Wingert is optimistic about his chances of being ready despite breaking a rib just three weeks ago. Peter Vermes, meanwhile, is more than happy with how Benny Feilhaber is settling into the Sporting Kansas City system, and Dom Dwyer is benefiting from finding a steady soccer home.

3. SKC VS. RSL: A RIVALRY

Given that Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake play in separate conferences, for now, they don’t tend to meet much. Yet at some point the two became rivals and, according to Kreis, that date was March 8, 2011. Given the attacking threats both teams possess, MLS Cup could come down to which team has the best defense. In that case, do Real Salt Lake have a slight edge?

4. ADDRESSING THE FANS

On Tuesday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber will hold his annual State of the League address. The address will be followed by a Q&A session involving both media and fans before Jimmy Conrad takes over to announce the 2013 MLS Best XI. If you want to watch the event, you can do so here on MLSsoccer.com or via the MLS YouTube and Google+ pages.

5. TORONTO MAKE CHANGES

On Friday, Toronto FC declined the options on seven of their players and, in doing so, have perhaps signaled their intentions for 2014 more clearly than ever before. With the club linked to some high-profile strikers, they chose not to bring back Robert Earnshaw, who scored eight goals in his only season with the club. They also chose not to bring back Bobby Convey, while retaining a young core of talent. Is there reason to hope for TFC fans?

6. ORLANDO HOPES

Orlando City are just one season away from their entry into MLS and it seems the club has lofty ambitions for what we can expect. Can they really emulate the Portland Timbers? Meanwhile, David Beckham says he hopes to make an announcement about his franchise before the end of the year. Is now the time for Miami fans to embrace MLS?

7.  PUTTING THE SOUNDERS TOGETHER

What will the 2014 season contain for the Seattle Sounders? In the second part of an interview with the club's website, sporting director Chris Henderson talks about the challenges ahead, defining the Sounders style of soccer and what a full preseason with their stars and no Champions League could mean for the side.

8.  LA PLAYERS STAYING PUT

Landon Donovan has been linked with another offseason loan to Everton. If he were to go, it would be Donovan’s third spell with the English club, but the report seems to go against word from LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who revealed that neither Donovan or Omar Gonzalez would be going anywhere this winter.

9. AFFILIATION RENOVATION

According to Arena, the LA Galaxy are “going ahead full steam” with the plans to field their very own USL PRO side. Arena is confident this will not only give vital playing time to some of the Galaxy’s up and coming players but perhaps enable the club to discover some new talent as well. Staying in California, while Sacramento Republic FC may not have begun life in the USL PRO yet, it seems they could be lining up an affiliation with the Portland Timbers. Would this be good or bad for the San Jose Earthquakes, though?

10. 'CAPS CLOSING IN ON BRADLEY?

Could the Vancouver Whitecaps search for a new head coach be at an end? According to a report from Soccerly.com, the Whitecaps have offered the job to Bob Bradley, but the experienced coach has yet to make any decision. The report also suggests that Jesse Marsch could join Bradley’s new coaching set-up at the club. Sticking with Bob Bradley related news, PBS is set to air the documentary American Pharaoh in 2014 and you can check out a preview right here.

11. OPENING UP VANCOUVER

The current configuration of BC Place for Vancouver Whitecaps games allows for 21,000 fans in attendance, and their average crowd during the 2013 season was 20,038, which included several sell-outs. With that in mind, is there an argument to be made that, for certain games, the Whitecaps could think about opening the upper deck of seating?

12. DC TO MISS ANOTHER DEADLINE

It what seems to be another setback for D.C. United’s new home, the club has missed another deadline in its plans to build a new stadium by 2016, failing to deliver a land deal for the DC Council to vote on before the end of the year. However, city administrator Allen Y. Lew is still hoping to complete the complicated land swap before Christmas.

13. TOP DRAFT PROSPECTS

The field at the NCAA Tournament continues to shrink and with the MLS SuperDraft getting closer, a number of college players will surely be getting ready to take their chance. Find out which underclassmen could be in line for Generation adidas deals?

14. TT TV

As a color commentator for ESPN, Taylor Twellman has become an enigmatic presence on TV since his retirement from MLS because of concussion symptoms. As such, who better to talk about both worlds, which is exactly what Twellman does in this in-depth interview.

15. MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE

Robbie Keane may be spending some down time back home as he recovers from his Achilles surgery, but the LA Galaxy DP still found the time to make one little boy's dream come true.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

The recent histories of RSL and SKC

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