Kick Off: USMNT, US U-23s in rare form on Leap Day

Well, that was not your typical Leap Day. And US fans will make sure the day counts.

First, Jurgen Klinsmann's US national team beat Italy for the first time ever, winning 1-0 thanks to a Clint Dempsey second-half strike in a friendly in Genoa.

Dempsey admitted "it wasn't pretty," but the US did get the result, one that had the Italian media up in arms about their side's performance. One influential writer deemed the loss "a fiasco."

There was no fiasco in Frisco on Wednesday night as the US Olympic team continued its preparations for the CONCACAF qualifiers later this month. Juan Agudelo and Freddy Adu struck in the first half to earn a 2-0 win over Mexico. Agudelo, sporting a wild blond mohawk, took motivation from a particular tweet he received before the match. 

Staying with the USMNT, two former stalwarts who never had Twitter to use for motivation received some good news on Wednesday. Claudio Reyna and Tony Meola were elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

While American fans have a smile on their faces today, other CONCACAF supporters aren't so cheery. On top of the loss to the US U-23s, Mexico's senior side were outplayed in a 2-0 defeat to Colombia in Miami. And Canada blew an early lead to fall 3-1 to Armenia in Cyprus. Plus, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador and Cuba all lost friendlies.

However, Costa Rica, with several MLSers in the roster, beat Wales 1-0 in Cardiff, and Guatemala got a 2-0 win over lowly Guyana. Trinidad and Tobago trounced Antigua and Barbuda, 4-0, and improving Jamaica hung on for 3-2 win away to New Zealand. 

Speaking of internationals, the transfer window is closed, but that doesn't mean rumors have to stop.

In this case, the whispers are about an entire team: Chelsea. A tweet from a CFC supporters group suggests that the Blues will play in Seattle, D.C. and New York this summer. Of course, nothing's official yet.

What is official is that the Sounders beat Jaguares de Chiapas 2-0 in preseason action. You're going to want to catch highlights of Fredy Montero's delicate chip. (VIDEO)

The bad news for MLS defenses? That stunning goal wasn't a one-off. And he's improved during the offseason, according to his coach. “His work rate, his instincts are I think better than they have been,” Sigi Schmid said.

Another offense to watch out for is the one Martin Rennie is concocting in Vancouver. The Whitecaps whitewashed Sporting KC to the tune of a 3-0 beating. MLSsoccer.com has the highlights. (VIDEO)

Martin Rennie's secret to a potent offense? Apparently, it's nothing too complex. “He tells me that with my qualities, I should just have fun,” midfielder Davide Chiumiento said.

Chiumiento is still tussling for a starting spot with fellow central player Matt Watson. Rennie brought Watson in from the Carolina RailHawks and the 27-year-old is enjoying the MLS preseason. “I actually haven’t done a proper preseason for a while because I’ve always played indoors, and the seasons overlap.”

As Vancouver take part in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, a handful of other teams are competing in the Desert Diamond Cup. New England made it to the final with a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake. Seventeen-year-old Diego Fagundez scored and set up the winner. (VIDEO)

The Galaxy await. Despite a 2-1 loss to New York, LA finished second. The team also might have found an alternate free -ick tacker to David Beckham. Read on to find out who's packing a decent set piece in his portfolio.

Despite signing a new two-year deal with MLS, Beckham still has to shoot down transfer rumors. By now he's not paying them much attention. "I'll be around," he said simply.

With the 2012 season looming, one of the major questions driving debate is if the Galaxy can repeat as champs. Well, three ESPN analysts have some opinions on the matter. Watch what they have to say. (VIDEO)

Incidentally, Galaxy striker Robbie Keane hasn't linked up with his team in Arizona yet. It's a long trip, apparently. "I just thought it would be more beneficial to me to stay in one place rather than be traveling all over the place,” Keane said in explanation for his Aston Villa loan.

Keane decided to shun Villa's advances and return to Southern California. Another former SoCal resident is weighing up his time in Birmingham as well. Brad Guzan hasn't decided yet if he would sign the offered contract extension or seek playing time elsewhere. “We will give him time – it depends on how long though,” admitted Alex McLeish.

If Guzan stays in the Midlands, he may as well show Caleb Folan around. The former Colorado Rapids striker signed with Villa's cross-town rivals Brimingham City.

While the Yanks were busy in Italy, one Italian is busy on this side of the pond. Matteo Ferrari is on trial with Montreal. But he said he had offers in Europe, too. Three Serie A teams, a German side, one English team and two French clubs wanted him. Problem was, Ferrari didn't want them back. “With all those teams I’ve always said, ‘No, I want to go to MLS,’” Ferrari said

And Ferrari's compatriot, Chicago Fire trainee Paolo Tornaghi, is also trying to make his way in the New World. The former Inter Milan goalkeeper grew up “training with guys like Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder and all those guys,” Fire goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde said. “Anyone you throw at him out here, he’s not really too worried about.”

Meanwhile, Ben Olsen wasn't happy with what the Charleston Battery threw at Danny Cruz. The winger injured both ankles in a preseason win, with the right a suspected fracture. “It drives me up a wall. It was a stupid tackle,” Olsen fumed.

In a more uplifting moment from that match, former United defender John Wilson lined up for Charleston. “I think anytime you play against your former team, you give it a little extra,” he said.

Also facing his old club was Tom Heinemann. On Saturday, he played for Columbus against the Battery. "This is where it all began for me," Heinemann said. "This is where I got my start in professional soccer”

The NASL has been losing players to MLS for a while now. The NASL would like to aggressively expand to help mitigate those losses. The league says it is in “active discussions with prospective owners in over 20 markets.”

The NASL has also lost some teams to MLS. The Portland Timbers, for instance. This offseason, they signed a new Designated Player, Kris Boyd, who came in and, before playing a game, got the No. 9 jersey from Bright Dike. So what'd Dike trade for in return? “There was nothing in it,” Dike says.

Boyd's move suits all the parties involved. Sometimes, however, a player doesn't want to move. Heath Pearce recalled how he felt after FC Dallas traded him to Chivas USA: “I've got cars, animals, a mortgage and a life somewhere that's no longer relevant."

Both FCD and Chivas are in action today. Check out the guide for where to stream all three preseason matches happening today, plus kickoff details.

Lastly, England's Fraizer Campbell made his international debut yesterday. He also became a father; his first daughter was born while he was playing.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Countdown to First Kick: 10 Revs and red cards

Climbing the Ladder: Consistency & consecutive streaks

Dempsey proud of US' toe-to-toe effort in Italy upset

 


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