The Kick Off: Is the deal to bring Maurice Edu back to MLS getting closer?

Kick Off Maurice Edu

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

1. EDU INCOMING?

Is the Maurice Edu transfer almost complete? According to ESPN anaylst and former Philadelphia Union color commentator Taylor Twellman, it certainly could be. It appears Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz has apparently flown to England in order to finalize the deal with English side Stoke City. And In other transfer news, could the Portland Timbers be looking to bring in another new Argentine after Agustín Pelletieri canceled his contract with Racing Club?

2. AFFILIATE AFFECTION

Sacramento Republic FC were revealed as the official USL PRO affiliates of not one but two different MLS clubs on Thursday, partnering with both the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes. Republic president Warren Smith hopes the deal will allow his team to “emulate each club’s business success and entertain fans with the high quality talent from each club.” That wasn’t the only MLS-USL PRO affiliation announced on Thursday, though, as the Vancouver Whitecaps revealed they will be partnering with the Charleston Battery, while there’s also news on the LA Galaxy’s very own USL PRO side.

3. $1M REASONS NOT TO GO

Erik Palmer-Brown is one of Sporting Kansas City’s hottest prospects for the future but, at only 16 years old, the Homegrown player still has plenty to learn. It seems the defender has caught the attention of Italian giants Juventus though, reportedly leading SKC to reject a $1 million bid for their player.

4. SUITING UP FOR SEATTLE?

Could the Cascadia rivalry between Portland and Seattle be about to gain a little added Caribbean fire? According to a report from Martinique, the Sounders are on the verge of signing striker Kevin Parsemain, which could in turn see him playing against compatriot Frederic Piquionne. Jalil Anibaba, meanwhile, is one new player who will definitely be turning out for the Sounders this year, and as the 25-year-old defender says, “It’s a special thing to play for a franchise like that."

5. DALLAS DILEMMAS  

Things are shaping up nicely for FC Dallas for Oscar Pareja. The head coach looks to have a streamlined system off the pitch and knows what style he wants to play on it as well. But he hasn’t decided who will be his captain. And it's a choice made a little harder now that the club has successfully re-signed Peter Luccin.

6. LORENZO’S OIL

The New York Red Bulls have added a little more depth to their squad with the official signing of Armando Lorenzo. The 29-year-old defender was once captain of Barcelona’s B team but most recently played for Córdoba in Spain, and will likely see plenty of game time in a busy season for the Red Bulls.

7. BENDIK IS BACK

Following his move from Portland, Joe Bendik was a revelation in goal for Toronto FC last year and one of the few bright spots on the team.“This year [my goal] is to start every single game and …  to have a little more recognition,” he says.

8. STARTING BLOCK

Having established himself as a regular in his rookie season, what does Wil Trapp hope to achieve in his sophomore year with the Columbus Crew? “I want to start every game this season," he says. "I want to hopefully contribute more on the offensive end, get some assists and maybe score some goals.” The young midfielder also speaks highly of new coach Gregg Berhalter and his own dream of a US national team call-up.

9. NINE-10THS OF THE LAW

How important is possession to winning soccer games? As this interesting analysis from the Brotherly Game blog reveals, there's a clear connection between the two but, as D.C United showed last year, possession is only really any use if your team can actually score.

10. HEALTHY HERC

After missing a large portion of last season with a knee injury, Herculez Gomez is fit, healthy and trying to chase down a spot in Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad. The Club Tijuana striker will also be facing off against the LA Galaxy, one of his former clubs, in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, and Gomez is already making plans for a dream semifinal.

11. A DIFFERENT PLAN

Sebastian Ibeagha, a Duke University standout, was offered a Homegrown player contract by the Houston Dynamo but chose to turn it down. The reason: Ibeagha believes his future lies in Europe and, in this pretty revealing interview, the young player discusses why he made that choice, his concerns over the extent of the Homegrown rule and how his own brother served as a cautionary tale.

12. JOZY’S JOY

Jozy Altidore’s Sunderland side achieved the improbable on Wednesday by beating Manchester United to advance to the Capital One Cup final. Altidore had been set for another fleeting cameo before Javier Hernández took the game to extra time and, while the US international played no part in the subsequent penalty shootout, here are his thoughts on the team’s achievements.

13. CANADA’S CUP DREAM

On Thursday, the Canadian Soccer Association unveiled its strategic plan for the next four years and during the presentation, CSA president Victor Montagliani officially announced that the country intends to bid for the 2026 World Cup. It also threw up other interesting issues such as Canada’s attempts to get its MLS players classed as domestic in the US.

14. HERRERA’S SQUAD

Mexico have named their squad for the friendly against Korea Republic in San Antonio on Jan. 29. Seeing as the European season is in full swing and this friendly doesn’t fall on an official FIFA calendar date, the team is made up mostly of domestic players, with the biggest surprise the exclusion of Raúl Jiménez. Aside from games like these, how will Mexico’s coach Miguel Herrera be preparing for the World Cup? If you said anything other than skydiving, you would be wrong.

15. WE ARE GOING TO BRAZIL

The US national team has been spending its time in Brazil at São Paulo FC’s Barra Funda training ground, a venue that will also double as the team's camp during the World Cup. One quick look at the place and you’ll see that the team certainly isn’t roughing it. Want to check out the facilities for yourself? Then watch as U.S. Soccer takes you on a guided tour. On a technical note, is the US turning to an inside man to help them prepare for their game against Ghana?

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