Kick Off: Atlanta MLS deal "in final stages," according to Falcons owner Arthur Blank
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. ATLANTA ON THE VERGE
Following recent reports about MLS expansion in Atlanta, Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, discussed the news on a local radio station on Tuesday. “We’re in the final stages of doing our agreement. We hope to have an announcement this coming week,” he said. He also discuss the league’s unique demographic and the type of atmosphere he expects at matches. Nothing is confirmed yet, but many people are already wondering what to call the team.
2. MLS'S EMERGENCE FROM THE DARK DAYS
As MLS potentially prepares to add another club, Grantland writer Graham Parker goes in depth with MLS Commissioner Don Garber about the league's darker days in the early 2000s and how things started to turn the corner around 2007. Things "really all came to fruition in ’07," says Garber. "Beckham came on; we sold out Toronto, with 15,000 people on the waiting list; we started evolving the way we were thinking about player development. We started thinking, ‘Maybe we’ve got something here.’”
3. DEMPSEY'S BACK
Clint Dempsey's hat trick over the weekend had most US national team fans collectively sleeping a little easier knowing that the US captain had rediscovered his form. The man himself reveals what has changed between this season and last: “Right now is the best I’ve played because of the confidence level that I’m at, but also the fitness level that I’m at.”
4. MLS STINTS A BOON FOR USMNT STARS
Despite some hand-wringing from certain quarters about Clint Dempsey's and Michael Bradley's returns from Europe, at least one observer counters all that with an argument for why the fact that they are playing in MLS should help them in the World Cup this summer.
5. CHARA NO LONGER UNDER THE RADAR
In 2011, Diego Chara became the Portland Timbers' first Designated Player and now, almost three years later, the Colombian midfielder is getting the plaudits many believe he deserves. Yet, while Caleb Porter still describes his star as one of “the most underrated guys in MLS,” the DP has been talking about what he tries to bring to the team and also what it was that convinced him to move more than 4,000 miles from home in order to ply his trade.
The changes continue at the Philadelphia Union. A week after trading away Union original Jack McInerney, on Tuesday the club officially released midfielder Keon Daniel. Head coach John Hackworth stated: “We think this is the best move for both Keon’s career and our club.”
7. RIVALRY WEEK, PT. 2?
While the official #RivalryWeek came and went, the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United are set to renew their East Coast rivalry this weekend. The Red Bulls, however, are once again looking at a depleted squad ahead of their trip to RFK, although Thierry Henry and Jámison Olave should be back. Whoever plays for New York, it’ll be part of Perry Kitchen’s job to stop them. The United midfielder is earning rave reviews from both his teammates and coach.
8. ATTINELLA ENJOYING THE MOMENT
There’s no doubt that when goalkeeper Nick Rimando returns to fitness he’ll slot back into the Real Salt Lake starting lineup. But following Jeff Attinella’s star performance against Sporting Kansas City, the club at least know they have a strong reserve ‘keeper. Attinella himself has been making the most of his time in the spotlight, talking about the importance of some early minutes this season and learning from Rimando.
9. SPORTING KC TAKE A BREAK
Sporting Kansas City have a bye week this weekend and, considering their hectic start to the season, the break couldn’t come soon enough. The team will return to action on April 19 against the Montreal Impact and, with Chance Myers returning to the squad, the team should continue to benefit from having a full backline available.
10. KOEVERMANS STILL LOVES TFC
Injuries kept Danny Koevermans from ever really shining with Toronto FC, but the now-retired Dutchman remains a fan of the club. And he certainly likes the club's current form. “Maybe this will be the season for the playoffs," he says. "I hope so."
11. ANOTHER NEW REVS 'KEEPER?
Have the New England Revolution signed another goalkeeper? That’s the report out of Palo Alto, Calif., which suggests that former Chivas USA trialist Larry Jackson has joined the club. In other Revs news, the team will be without head coach Jay Heaps for this weekend’s home game against the Houston Dynamo, after the coach got “a little bit too emotional” toward the end of his side's loss to D.C. United.
12. FCD LOAN PLAYERS TO USL PRO
Arizona United SC have added another MLS player to their ranks, with FC Dallas sending Jonathan Top on loan to the new USL PRO side. Top has seen limited minutes and head coach Oscar Pareja said: “He has too many hours of training, now we want him to be on the field.” Fellow FCD loanee Brian Span, meanwhile, is looking forward to the challenge of proving himself with Orlando City SC.
13. CHERUNDOLO SETS SIGHTS ON THE US
Having retired as a player just last month, Steve Cherundolo has already transitioned into a coaching role with Hannover 96's U-23s. But Dolo is not necessarily set to stay in German soccer forever. “Coaching at some level in the United States… interests me very much. It’s something that I’d love to do,” he says.
14. TOLUCA ENSURE ALL-MEXICAN CCL FINAL
This year’s CONCACAF Champions League title will once again be heading to a Mexican team, after Toluca beat LD Alajuelense 2-0 to advance to the final (watch highlights here) against the winner of Wednesday night’s second-leg clash between Cruz Azul and Club Tijuana. Despite holding a 1-0 lead heading to Mexico City, the Xolos' US international Joe Corona says the club isn't going to sit back against los Azulinos.
15. USA-MEXICO RIVALRY GETS LEGEND TREATMENT
As if the USA-Mexico rivalry needed more opportunities for bragging rights. This summer, StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., will host the inaugural Legends Cup, a game between retired players from the US and Mexican national teams, including Eric Wynalda, Brian Ching, Luis Hernández and Jorge Campos. Of course, there was a Legends Classic held at StubHub Center just two years ago, one that featured a familiar score line. It certainly seems there will be plenty of soccer on offer in LA this summer, as the Rose Bowl is set to play host to a game between Manchester United and the LA Galaxy as well.
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