Kick Off: Vancouver-San Jose 40th-anniversary celebration highlights weekend MLS matchups

Vancouver's Kekutah Manneh and Erik Hurtado

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

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

1. WHITECAPS-EARTHQUAKES CELEBRATE 40

On May 5, 1974, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the San Jose Earthquakes squared off for the very first time. This weekend, 40 years later, the two will mark the day by facing off again (Saturday, 7 pm ET, TSN2 in Canada, MLS LIVE in US). The Caps are going all out to celebrate their 40th anniversary, including talking to former coach Jim Easton, revisiting the original supporters group, and encouraging fans to go 1974 retro.

2. NO STOPPING WONDO

All the fun aside, the Whitecaps probably need a result against the Quakes. To do that, they need to stop Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who former San Jose defender Steven Beitashour, now with the 'Caps, says is impossible to stop: "I don't think there's a formula to stopping Wondo. He's just that good."

3. TORONTO FEELING HEALTHY

After a week off, Toronto FC take on the New England Revolution on Saturday (1 pm ET, TSN in Canada, UDN/MLS LIVE in US). Jermain Defoe is expected back, of course, but so is defender Doneil Henry, who missed the last three games with a knee injury. On the other side, the Revs' Kelyn Rowe probably won't be ready to go, even though he's "flying right now" in training

4. RAPIDS GET "MASSIVE BOOST" FROM JERSEY SPONSOR

When the Colorado Rapids hit the field against the LA Galaxy on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE), fans will see something different: The Rapids announced on Thursday a deal with Ciao Telecom as the club’s first-ever jersey sponsor. With a reported four-year deal worth $2 million per season, the move is "a massive boost to our credibility," says club president Tim Hinchey. Meanwhile, the Galaxy's Landon Donovan is full of praise for the Rapids' first-year coach, Pablo Mastroeni.

5. DEMPSEY VS. PHILADELPHIA

To the shock of absolutely no one, Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey was voted April’s Etihad Airways Player of the Month. One would think he'll keep rolling against the struggling Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Free Stream of the Week), especially given the form of unsung hero Gonzalo Pineda in the midfield. But while the Union are winless in seven games, they are confident that “the ball is going to start to bounce our way.”

6. THE MORE THINGS CHANGE,...

Many wondered what effect the coaching turnover at Real Salt Lake would have. Answer: not much. Eight games in and RSL are the only team still unbeaten this season, thanks in part to the play of defender Chris Schuler, who is already contemplating the USMNT and the next World Cup cycle. For Saturday's trip to the face the Chicago Fire (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), Schuler won't have to stop the high-flying, but suspended, Quincy Amarikwa. So who will the FIre start up top?

7. D.C. OUT TO PROVE SOMETHING

In one of the weekend's most intriguing matchups, the still-winless Portland Timbers host streaking D.C. United (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). United are on a four-game unbeaten run, and, according to head coach Ben Olsen, “have something to prove for one reason or another.” For the Timbers, just getting a win will prove something, and according to coach Caleb Porter, they'll be boosted by the expected availability of Diego Valeri.

8. DÍAZ DONE FOR THE SEASON?

An unconfirmed report on Friday morning claims that FC Dallas star Mauro Díaz could miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Dallas will host the New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 3 pm ET, UniMas) amid a rash of suspensions and injuries. New York, on the other hand, are starting to approach full strength again, including possibly Bobby Convey.

9. LINEUP QUESTIONS FOR SPORTING KC

Injuries and suspensions are also forcing some changes for Sporting Kansas City as they host the Columbus Crew (Sunday, 4 pm ET, NBCSN). Might we see young starlet Erik Palmer-Brown? An already-established star, the Crew's US international center back Michael Parkhurst, is so far thrilled with his move back to MLS, but a little confused about which position he's competing for in Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad.

10. CHIVAS USA LOSE ANOTHER TO INJURY

Both Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo are struggling for a win (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The big news for the Dynamo  is the loss of Tony Cascio’s injury, which left the team “really disappointed.” But they do have Panamanian midfielder Yairo Yau on trial. Meanwhile the Goats revealed that Andrew Jean-Baptiste has undergone surgery and will be out for a while.

11. McINERNEY HAPPY TO BE WANTED

The Montreal Impact don’t have a game this weekend, allowing newcomer Jack McInerney some extra time to acclimate to his new team before their next key match. Yet, having been with the club for a few weeks now, one of the biggest differences so far, as far as McInerney is concerned, is that he’s starting to feel appreciated again.

12. COPA CONFIRMED

The news on Thursday of a special edition of the Copa América taking place in 2016 created a massive buzz across the North American soccer scene and had some wondering if it could become a more regular event. Of course, there was some griping about the qualification process. The US and Mexico will be automatic qualifiers, while other CONCACAF nations will have two ways to qualify. Except for Canada, who can only qualify through the Gold Cup. But CSA president Victor Montagliani says, "The days of excuses are over. For us, we have the ability to qualify for a spot, and we have to play for it."

12. FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT

Jurgen Klinsmann has revealed that all 30 players named to his provisional World Cup Squad will be invited to the team’s training camp to fight it out for places on the final 23-man roster. Klinsmann has also confirmed that the squad will be revealed no later than May 12, with players notified well in advance.

13. NYCFC DPs

On Thursday evening, several key members of the New York City FC setup took part in a Q&A session with fans at a Manhattan pub. Claudio Reyna talked about how the club will build its squad and confirmed once again that they plan to use all three Designated Player spots. But there was also information on the possibility of try-outs and when fans can expect to see the first kits.

14. SOCCER BACK IN ST. LOUIS

Its official: professional soccer is returning to St. Louis. At a press conference on Thursday, USL PRO officials confirmed that there will be a new franchise coming to the city in 2015, owned and operated by the St. Louis Scott Gallagher youth soccer club.

15. REAM DOUBLES UP ON THE AWARDS

Former Red Bulls defender Tim Ream continues to rack up the accolades with Bolton Wanderers, much to the pleasure of his friend and former teammate Mike Petke.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

MLS Insider: Graham Zusi’s rise from basement to Brazil

Roster Battle: Who will make up the US national team’s midfield

ExtraTime Radio: Peter Vermes on closing out matches

Get the Kick-Off delivered to you!

Enter your email address and favorite team below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.