Kick Off: An important MLS weekend, Yallop's apology & more expansion news

Here are the top 14 stories we're following today:

1. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS IN TEXAS

Things aren't going very well for the Houston Dynamo, winners of just one in their last 10, and it doesn't get any easier with a Friday night visit from the suddenly dangerous Philadelphia Union (9 pm ET, NBCSN, stream on NBCSports.com). But they could be aided by the return of forward Will Bruin, but they'll be facing Zac MacMath, the Union's lameduck goalkeeper who seems to be on a mission lately.

2. DEFOE BACK FOR THE BIG ONE?

Toronto FC have spent the last month on a four-game road swing that ends on Saturday against East leaders Sporting KC (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS Free Stream of the Week, TSN2 in Canada). Injuries have hindered TFC somewhat, but star forward Jermain Defoe could feature at Sporting Park, according to Nelsen.

3. ARRIETA, TOO?

Speaking of returning forwards, will Columbus Crew coach Gregg Berhalter insert fit-again Jairo Arrieta into the starting lineup when the LA Galaxy come to town (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)? Maybe. But Berhalter might be more interested in deciding how to implement the tactics that were recently shown to stop the Galaxy

4. GOATS AIM TO GET BACK ON TRACK

Chivas USA haven't stopped anyone recently. They're on a four-game losing streak going into their home clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), but they will have a new weapon available: former Ecuador international Felix Borja. The Caps, meanwhile, might also make an adjustment to their lineup.

5. PIATTI IN MONTREAL

Ignacio Piatti made an impact before even arriving at Montreal, after comments claiming he saw the Impact as "a stepping stone." The Argentine finally joined his new teammates, and he insists that adapting to MLS won’t be an issue. One of his teammates, Marco Di Vaio, sure seems happy to have a true No. 10 in the team. Will he see time when the Chicago Fire visit Stade Saputo (Saturday, 6:30 pm ET, TSN2/RDS, MLS LIVE)?

6.  YALLOP'S MEA CULPA

Good thing the Chicago Fire are facing the last-placed Impact this weekend: They're obviously still reeling from the 6-0 thrashing they suffered in Seattle in the US Open Cup semifinal. It was so bad, head coach Frank Yallop has apologized to the fans.

7. BWP HAPPY WITH RBNY

The New York Red Bulls have the weekend off, but Budweiser Golden Boot leader Bradley Wright-Phillips has been busy answering questions about reported overseas suitors. When the striker was asked if he'd like a move back to England, his response was unequivocal: "No, because I think this league is good enough. It's very good. I'm happy here.

8. MLS AND COPA LIBERTADORES ... AGAIN

We've heard whispers of MLS teams competing in the Copa Libertadores before, but rarely so overtly. New CONMEBOL president Juan Angel Napout spoke about expanding the competition, with his sights clearly set on CONCACAF. "After all, America is one," he said.

9.  SAN ANTONIO LOOKS TO "SEIZE THE MOMENT"

San Antonio Scorpions owner Gordon Hartman is confident his city can be a good expansion destination for MLS, but, he urges, "We cannot wait around to do it." At least, he knows he has the community behind him. "I was in a restaurant yesterday and this guy basically yells across, 'Hey Gordon, keep working on that MLS thing,'" Hartman recounts.

10. NO COLOMBIA, YES ECUADOR

The US national team was rumored to face Colombia in San Antonio on September 9, but that plan fell through. So the USMNT will now face Ecuador on October 10 in East Hartford, Conn., in their first home game since the World Cup. Some fans hope it is a farewell match for "a special player calling it quits."

11. USMNT LEAPFROGGED BY COSTA RICA & MEXICO

The US may have enjoyed a successful World Cup, but they dropped three places to No. 18 in the FIFA rankings. To make matters worse, CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica and Mexico overtook them.

12. SCHWEINSTEIGER SAYS AMERICANS "PLAY HARD"

Last week's AT&T MLS All-Star Game was as about feisty as these affairs get. A couple of hard tackles by MLS players had Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola irate at Caleb Porter’s side. But midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger didn't seem all that bothered: “It was a hard game, and in my mind that’s soccer. In America, they play like this. It’s OK.”

13. SACRAMENTO REPUBLIC PREZ ON REDDIT

Sacramento Republic FC are a hot topic in MLS expansion talk, so it's unsurprising that club president Warren Smith's Reddit AMAA drew plenty of interest.

14. LAY OFF CANADA!

The recent criticism of FIFA's decision to allow synthetic turf at next year's Women's World Cup in Canada was generally one-sided. Until now, as one commentator in Toronto fired back at the critics. Meanwhile, the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, taking place across Canada right now, continues to draw raves and big crowds.  

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