Kick Off: Vancouver sends message to Toronto FC's Plata

Kick Off - Jonathan Leathers

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While one of America’s top players is making international headlines, the best of Canada will be on display tonight with the first leg final of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, which comes with some controversy leading up to the match (Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC, 10 p.m. ET streamed live on Sportsnet.ca and Teamradio.ca).

In light of the injuries to attacking players in MLS this season, how will this statement from Vancouver’s Jonathan Leathers go down when he speaks of how he plans to stop Toronto FC teen sensation Joao Plata? "The key is to close him down early and tackle hard, to be honest … Make it so he doesn't want to play."

Is the MLS season already weighing on Vancouver? The Whitecaps’ Terry Dunfield says that his team will play with a bit more freedom in the NCC "without that monkey on our back from the league.”

The winner of the Vancouver vs. Toronto FC series will only be known after next week’s second leg but both teams will already know what awaits them in the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League. The draw for the preliminary and group stages of the 2011-12 edition comes down today.

Future CONCACAF Champions League winners may be heading to Iran for future FIFA Club World Cup competitions. They are one of the countries bidding for the tournament.

The LA Galaxy are one of the teams involved in the CONCACAF Champions League which kicks off this summer. Making for an even busier summer for LA is the insistence by Italian club AS Roma to acquire the club's American star Landon Donovan. After unattributed articles surfaced about AS Roma’s interest, the Boston Globe reports that a source close to new AS Roma owner Tom DiBenedetto has revealed a $14 million bid that is set to be made for Donovan’s services.

Another MLS team awaiting to learn its CONCACAF Champions League fate is 2010 MLS Cup runners-up FC Dallas. Meanwhile, two of the club’s international players are grappling with distractions of late, with Jackson worrying about church arrangements and Marvin Chávez battling cavities.

The Seattle Sounders, another Champions League participant, complained about having to battle the rain and how it favored a more direct approach by Portland in last Saturday’s Cascadia rivalry. Timbers manager John Spencer took exception and provided a memorable response including a suggestion that the Sounders should move from Seattle to avoid the rain.

If New York star Thierry Henry has his way, the Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls rivalry could take on a whole new meaning. That’s because the Frenchman is personally recruiting countryman Robert Pires, who spurned an offer from Philadelphia last year because it was not a nice enough city for him.

You’d figure someone who spent most of their career with FC Barcelona in Spain would have an easy response when asked about what result he wants to see in the UEFA Champions League final between the La Liga club and Manchester United. Turns out the Red Bulls’ Rafa Márquez is torn.

Gary Neville is still hoping that LA Galaxy Designated Player David Beckham will appear at his testimonial match against Juventus on Tuesday. He claims “it is looking positive.”

Chivas USA may be losing their captain for a couple of weeks as Alejandro Moreno has been called up to the Venezuelan national team for two matches. Camp opens May 27. (SPANISH)

You hear more and more stories like this next one. A fan of an MLS club winds up signing a pro contract to play for that same team when he’s older. It’s the case of new Columbus Crew Home Grown signing Aaron Horton, who was at the Crew’s first-ever match and as a fourth-grader brought Jeff Cunningham to school for show-and-tell.

The dream of an MLS team in Las Vegas belongs to developer Chris Milam, who is hoping for a key legislative decision on tax zoning in the next month to further boost the project, which calls for a soccer stadium that he says would be ready for the start of the 2014 MLS season.

The 2014 season will be a World Cup year and Sporting Kansas City’s Teal Bunbury will hope to be in Brazil for it. In this interview conducted in French, Bunbury reveals that a number of teams from Europe have already inquired about his services from England, Turkey, Holland, France and Spain. (FRENCH)

Staying with international soccer, there will be plenty of drama in midweek cup action around the world today. First there’s the final of the Europa League this afternoon from Dublin, Ireland, between two Portuguese sides: Sporting Braga vs. Porto (8 p.m. ET, GolTV).

Later tonight, the first two Copa Libertadores semifinalists will be known with Vélez Sarsfield taking a 3-0 lead into the second leg against Libertad (6:30 p.m. ET, Fox Deportes), while Santos carry a narrow 1-0 lead as they host Once Caldas and ex-MLS coach Juan Carlos Osorio (9 p.m. ET, Fox Deportes).

The US women’s national team has another test match on the road to the 2011 World Cup in Germany. Tonight they face Japan (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

Could another big international match be awaiting the Philadelphia Union at Lincoln Financial Field one year after they gave Manchester United all they could handle?

What do you do if you’re the head coach of a club in England with just a few days before a decisive weekend relegation showdown? You take a 22-hour flight to India to meet with your club’s owners.

If you’re in Argentina, all you need to do to avoid the drop is to pay off the referees. One former official makes the shocking claim that it’s how titles and relegation are determined in the South American country.

What’s this? Australia ranked higher than the USA in the FIFA world rankings? The latest edition is out today.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

MLSsoccer.com speaks exclusively to AS Roma’s new American owner, who confirms Donovan interest

Week 9 Team of the Week: Tip of the cap to hat trick hero, FC Dallas and Cascadia scorers

Chicago Fire decline option on former Designated Player Nery Castillo


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