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Kick Off: Sporting KC, LA Galaxy secure slender leads in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals

Kick Off, Sporting KC celebrate vs. Cruz Azul

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

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

1. ADVANTAGE MLS

The CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals went according to plan on Wednesday evening. Sporting Kansas City came away with a 1-0 win against Cruz Azul (watch highlights here) via to a goal from Homegrown player Kevin Ellis. Cruz Azul manager Luis Fernando Tena left impressed by what he saw, saying, “The MLS has obviously progressed. Technically, the players are very gifted.” The LA Galaxy also secured a 1-0 win vs. Club Tijuana (watch highlights here) thanks to Samuel's first goal for the club and a number of fine saves from Jaime Penedo. Despite the defeat, Xolos boss César Farías hasn't lost faith: “I think we can overturn this result in Tijuana.

2. TALKIN’ TORONTO

Now that this week’s CCL encounters are out of the way, most eyes will turn to Seattle and the debut of new-look Toronto FC. Michael Bradley is ready to go and held a conference call with the Seattle press on Wednesday in which he talked about his excitement ahead of the game, whether Clint Dempsey’s return influenced his own and Toronto FC's road to success. Jermain Defoe should also be fit for Saturday, and the striker still hopes a series of good performances can land him a spot in England's World Cup squad. Sadly, injury has definitely ended Bright Dike's World Cup dream, but the Nigerian striker is optimistic about his recovery.

3. PETKE’S BIG DEAL

The New York Red Bulls finally won a trophy last season, and head coach Mike Petke was offered a new contract as a result. While Petke acknowledges how much the Supporters' Shield meant to the fans, his "overall goal of building a team with a long-term identity that the fans can be proud of remains unchanged.” To that end, while there will be a Shield celebration at this weekend’s home opener, Petke doesn’t want his players getting involved.

4. ALPHA BRAVO

The Colorado Rapids rewarded technical director Paul Bravo’s hard work by giving him a promotion. Bravo’s new title is now vice president of soccer operations and technical director and it reflects his efforts on behalf of the club, which Rapids president Tim Hinchey believes have “seen us establish a style of play, identity and strategy for growth that will sustain the club for years to come.” Part of that strategy involved the hiring of Pablo Mastroeni as the club's new head coach, and the players have been praising their new boss’ outlook on the game.

5. PLANTING HEDGES

Now entering his third year in MLS, Matt Hedges has become one of FC Dallas’ best defenders. The 23-year old earned himself a contract extension with the club on Wednesday, with technical director Fernando Clavijo declaring, “We felt it was in the best interests of the club to extend his contract.” With FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja  known for playing people in different positions, could Hedges see a new face joining him on the backline?

6. WEAVER COMING HOME

Dylan Remick made a strong debut last weekend for the Seattle Sounders as Leo González, the team's regular left back, sat out the game while recovering from injury. With González revealing that he may be out for another week, we can most likely expect to see Remick again against Toronto on Saturday, but Sigi Schmid insists the starting spot is still González’s when he returns. No matter who plays, it seems they’ll have a new striker to play crosses into. The Sounders signed local lad Cam Weaver, formerly of the Houston Dynamo and a Seattle Sounder from back in the USL days.

7. PORTLAND ON POINT

The Portland Timbers' new message this year seems to be success built around a core group of players. One member of that core group is certainly Jack Jewsbury and the Timbers defender has been talking about the team’s upcoming match against the Chicago Fire, as well as defending set pieces.

8.  UNION WANT FRED

Could Fred be on his way back to MLS? The Philadelphia Union are hoping to bring back the old favorite after his contract expired with Australian side Melbourne Heart. But while the Brazilian continues to train with the Union, he has also been linked with a number of lower-division clubs, including Minnesota United. The Union would likely have to go through a waiver draft to acquire him, but head coach John Hackworth insists, “We’re still hopeful that we’ll be able to get something worked out there.”

9. SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING CREW

On Wednesday, the Columbus Crew officially announced which players they’ll be sending on loan to USL PRO affiliate, the Dayton Dutch Lions, with ‘keeper Brad Stuver joining the four players mentioned earlier in the week. The loanees will look to establish themselves at their new club the way Dom Dwyer did at Orlando City, and Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter has been explaining the different expectations they have of each player. One Crew player who has had to change his own expectations since arriving is Michael Parkhurst, who believes MLS has changed a lot in the six years since he left.

10. TALKING TO TONI

While he didn’t arrive in time to feature in Sporting KC's CCL match, Antonio Rodríguez Dovale did take part in his first training session on Wednesday and also took the time to do an interview/work on his English, explaining what brought him to Kansas City and where fans can expect him to play this year.

11. SOUND BUSINESS MODEL KEY FOR MLS

As MLS continues to grow and grow, both on and off the field, this latest article from The Guardian examines how the league's business model stacks up against the other major American sports and offers its opinion on what that might mean for the future of the game here in North America. MLS is also leading the way in another arena: protection for gay players against harassment and discrimination.

12. LAST CHANCE TO CHOOSE

Today is the final day of voting to decide which of New York City FC’s two options becomes their official badge. Want to know a little bit more about how they were created? Empire of Soccer has a great feature with Rafael Esquer, the man who created the two badges. It's well worth a read and if you haven’t voted yet, you can do so here.

13. ANOTHER STEP CLOSER

While New York City edge closer to announcing their badge, fellow 2015 entrants Orlando City announced yet another new signing for their debut MLS season on Wednesday. This was another one for the history books as well, with US Under-18 national defender Tommy Redding becoming the club's first Homegrown player. And while Redding may be the first, he certainly won't be the last. "This is just the beginning," Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said.

14. BREK IN PLAY

Following a bright start but a disastrous end to his time at Barnsley, Brek Shea has revealed that he is open to another loan move away from Stoke City in a bid for playing time. Should Shea think about coming back to MLS?

15. ANTHEM

If you were watching the San Jose Earthquakes' CCL match the other night, you made have heard the club's new anthem. Composed by Lars Frederiksen, the lead singer of Rancid and his new band, The Old Firm Casuals, you can expect to hear it a lot more over the course of the year. But how did the song come to be in the first place?

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