Kick Off: Houston no longer strugglers on the road

Kick Off: Houston Dynamo

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The Dynamo are roadkill no longer.

When Houston finally won away on Sept. 24, the team became the last in MLS to win their first away match (the Whitecaps never managed the feat). However, since then the Dynamo have won four away in a row, including two in the playoffs to reach MLS Cup final (Sunday, Nov. 20, 9 pm ET, ESPN/Galavision/TSN2).

One possible reason? The defensive solidity offered by Geoff Cameron shifting into the back line. With Cameron lining up at center back, the Dynamo concede 0.80 goals per 90 minutes, compared with 1.26 when Cameron doesn't.

Not that the Dynamo's opponents in the final, the LA Galaxy, are strangers to defensive solidity. LA won 10 games in 2011 by a scoreline of 1-0, and have yet to lose at home all season.

If anyone makes the breakthrough, it just might be Mike Magee. The Galaxy forward has three goals in three playoff matches. Landon Donovan said, “He's arguably our best player in front of the goal.”

All three of Magee goals came from David Beckham feeds. As the original Designated Player rounds out his five-year contract, several members of the Galaxy glanced back at his half-decade in MLS. AEG president Tim Leiweke is convinced of the move's success: "Show me one measuring post that hasn't increased significantly." Galaxy President Tom Payne agreed. "Has it been worth it, the David experiment? The answer is yes. Absolutely."

Beckham's contract won't expire until a trip to Asia in December. One of those stops is in Jakarta, Indonesia. Tour promoter Mahaka Sports says Beckham must play 45 minutes in that match per the contract bringing the Galaxy to Indonesia.

After the December tour, Robbie Keane just wants some rest. The Irish international nixed suggestions he could take a loan move in Europe during the offseason, pointing out that a break now could bring out his best come Euro 2012. “By the time the tournament starts, I’ll be less than halfway through the MLS season and will hopefully be going to Poland and Ukraine fresh, rather than having had a long season behind me.”

Several other MLS players will head to Europe in his stead. Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Rogers and Perry Kitchen will all train with Bundesliga clubs - Kaiserslautern for the first two, Freiburg for the latter.

Kitchen was already in Germany with the US U-23s US team. The training camp closed with a friendly against Bayer Leverkusen. Terrence Boyd opened the scoring in the 1-1 draw. (VIDEO)

Offseason training sessions with European clubs is one of the changes implemented by US coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Things will change at New England too, with Jay Heaps replacing Steve Nicol after the Scot spent 10 years in charge. In his introductory press conference, Heaps tackled his lack of coaching experience: “I don’t think it’s a risk because I know what I’m going to bring to the table.”

Revolution management didn't see Heaps as a risk either. They harped on the “intangibles” he brings to the role. “There’s no candidate that we spoke to who wanted this organization and this team to win more than Jay does,” Michael Burns said.

No coaching change, but there could be some new players with the Columbus Crew next season. Meet three of the recent trialists.

Could the changes be happening far higher up at Toronto FC? The Toronto Star reports that MLSE, which owns TFC and the Maple Leafs, might be sold to an American private equity firm.

Earlier this year, Toronto let Dwayne De Rosario leave. Despite a season spanning three clubs, DeRo finished with the Golden Boot award. The scuttlebutt is that he may win the MLS MVP gong. DeRo says he didn't let the moves disrupt his form: “No matter where you are, you still have to produce, still have to perform.”

Wednesday's awards included the Goal of the Year and Save of the Year. Portland rookie Darlington Nagbe nabbed the goal honors for his first professional strike, a mouth-watering volley. Goalkeeper of the Year Kasey Keller picked up the save award.

Keller's Seattle Sounders set an MLS average attendance record for the third year running. They just might do so again next season. CenturyLink Field will open the Hawks Nest for 2012, which holds 2,200 seats and increases the total capacity to 38,500.

The San Jose Earthquakes aren't thinking about expanding capacity just yet, though the new stadium in the Bay Area has that capability built in. Right now, the team just wants the new home built. “I think our stadium is going to be this inflection point which will take us to the next level,” Quakes president Dave Kaval said.

Lastly, FIFA president Sepp Blatter stuck his foot in his mouth again. This time he suggested victims of on-field racial abuse should just shake the hand with the abusers and be done with it. Now all Blatter has to do is shake the hand of everyone he's offended by those comments.

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