Kick Off: Sounders embark on chase of MLS' first CCL title

Real Salt Lake’s heartbreaking loss to Mexican side Monterrey in the final of the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League in April will seem a more distant memory when the newest edition of the continental club tournament kicks off tonight.

The Seattle Sounders will do the honors, traveling to Panama for a preliminary round first leg match against San Francisco FC tonight (8 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer). The Sounders, who will also be celebrating Fredy Montero’s birthday today, will need to put the result of their last match behind them — a 7-0 exhibition loss to Manchester United. That's according to defender Patrick Ianni: “We have some big games coming up. We can't let any of that disappointment linger.”

In other international matches today involving MLS clubs, the Columbus Crew will host an exhibition against English Premier League team Newcastle United (7:30 p.m. ET), who are coming off a 1-0 loss to third-division side Orlando City. Also, the Portland Timbers welcome Argentine club Independiente (11 p.m. ET, live stream at PortlandTimbers.com).

Crew fans will be sure to offer a warm welcome to former Toronto FC coach John Carver, who is a member of the technical staff at Newcastle United: “In our last game there I had a bit of a ding-dong with the fans towards the end. I made the hush gesture to the Columbus supporters.”

Meanwhile, Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins says he is “not looking forward to” the match against Independiente, whose coach says “we come to win.”

The 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge continues with another match today from Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets. Storied Italian side Juventus will face Mexican powers Club América tonight from Flushing, N.Y. (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).

The most high-profile international match being played on US soil this week is the 2011 AT&T ML All-Star Game between the best of MLS and Manchester United. MLS Commissioner Don Garber is looking forward to one specific aspect of the match: “Getting Henry and Beckham on the field for the first time will be fun and exciting.”

Speaking of Henry and Beckham, they appeared together on yesterday’s edition of Good Morning America in a segment shot in Times Square. Watch it here. (VIDEO)

The events surrounding the MLS All-Star Game are many and MLSsoccer.com has you covered: Here’s the video proof of the new Guinness record set for penalty kicks attempted yesterday, then there are highlight clips from the All-Star press conferences and player reactions following the All-Stars’ first practice.

The All-Star Game also attracts celebrities, including Lost and Lord of the Rings star Dominic Monaghan. (VIDEO)

New York Red Bulls general manager Erik Solér has more than the All-Star Game on his mind in recent days. The tragic events that struck his native Oslo, Norway, are still fresh, as he indicates at the end of this New York Times article: “The whole country is at a total standstill. They are shocked.”

On the lighter side, the All-Star Game featured a legends game last night at the Harrison “Soccer Courts” and US icons Tony Meola, John Harkes and Tab Ramos were there to tell stories, including the excuse Harkes used on his parents when he didn’t come home for dinner: “I told them 'I'm winning' and that was a good feeling.” For Ramos, the Courts were the place to go when his parents weren’t home.

Many were assuming that Manchester United star Wayne Rooney would meet up with his brother, Red Bulls midfielder John Rooney, while he was in town for the All-Star Game. But perhaps that won’t be the case.

In what is sure to create some debate, LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan may have backed out of the All-Star Game with a calf injury but he was in Clarksville, Ohio, yesterday at an amputee youth camp. He reportedly ran around with the kids for half an hour.

The Montreal Impact, set to become the latest MLS expansion team next year, have outlined their to-do list ahead of their inaugural season. They already have firm goals in place for the Expansion Draft and their search for players.

Moving to one of the existing MLS Canadian sides, did you know that Vancouver’s New Zealand center back Michael Boxall has a brother playing college soccer here in the USA? His younger brother is also a central defender.

The Whitecaps’ No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 SuperDraft, forward Omar Salgado, featured prominently in the USA Under-18 team’s 2011 Milk Cup opener. He scored in the Americans’ 2-0 victory over Israel which also saw Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil registering an assist and other MLS players making appearances.

The wheeling and dealing is not done in Toronto, where the Aron Winter has reportedly jettisoned fan favorite Dan Gargan, who cleared out his locker yesterday.

Meanwhile, a report claims that the Chicago Fire are about to release Bratislav Ristic to make room for a new signing, which has been rumored to be Pável Pardo.

An article in the Kansas City Star claims that Sporting defender Shavar Thomas will be returning from a trial with English side Portsmouth as he struggles to break into the SKC starting lineup.

Out in Europe, Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers are clamoring for Örebro to release Alejandro Bedoya before his contract expires in January. Here’s what the Rangers manager had to say: “We would like to do a deal with Örebro so that Bedoya can join us now.”

Staying in Europe, Columbus Crew midfielder Kevin Burns wants to import something from the Old Continent: promotion and relegation.

Good thing that Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu left Turkey after the last European season. That country’s league is in turmoil due to a match-fixing scandal that involves that defending champions and now the start of the new season has been pushed back by a full month.

While Sergio Batista has been ousted as Argentine national team head coach, former Chicago Fire and D.C. United player Hristo Stoitchkov has been hired as an advisor for Russian Premier League club Rostov and will head up “sporting projects.”

Another of Stoitchkov’s former clubs, FC Barcelona, yesterday announced their roster to play in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge. Fans can get a glimpse at the team today as Barcelona will feature in a preseason tournament to be televised on Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes today. The European champs face Brazilian side Internacional (12 p.m. ET). That will be followed by Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Lastly, here’s an article that will prove entertaining for most: the what and why of German Bundesliga team nicknames, which include “the pill makers.”

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Juan Agudelo and Brad Davis join the ExtraTime Radio team from the All-Star Game headquarters

Barcelona announce roster for 2011 World Football Challenge matches in USA

Final six MLS All-Stars are named, including a Seattle Sounders midfielder receiving his first nod


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