Kick Off: Toronto say pressure is all on LA Galaxy in CCL

Kick Off - Bruce Arena

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The pressure is on the LA Galaxy.

That’s how Toronto FC players feel ahead of tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League first leg quarterfinal against the reigning MLS Cup champs (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer and TeleFutura).

“We come into this a little pressure free,” TFC midfielder Terry Dunfield tells Sportsnet. “The pressure is on LA because they’re the reigning MLS champions, so hopefully we can go out there and play with a freedom.”

TFC forward Danny Koevermans added: “We have everything to win and they have everything to lose.”

The Dutchman’s strike partner, Ryan Johnson, feels the moment is right because the Galaxy are “not in their full stride”: “This is a good time to catch them, first game of the season, we can definitely make a name for ourselves here and hopefully get the win.”

The big question for the LA Galaxy is who will step in for Omar Gonzalez. ESPNLosAngeles.com asked rookie Tommy Meyer and he had a slip of the tongue: “No, it will probably be Boy--,” Meyer said before stopping. “I'm not really sure who it is. But I don't think I'm starting tomorrow.”

Here’s the story on the turf, which Arena called better than New England’s and last year’s turf in Seattle: It’s three years old and it has a granulated rubber surface underneath to cushion it from the concrete below it.

LA’s Robbie Keane is outspoken about the turf: “Me personally, I don’t think we should be playing on a plastic pitch. These days, it should be grass pitches. Injury-wise, I think it can be dangerous. But ... we have to do it. That’s the way it goes.”

The LA Galaxy will also be in action this weekend, playing their first MLS match against Real Salt Lake in a rematch of the 2011 Western Conference Championship. Fans can watch this match, arguably the best of the weekend, by subscribing to MLS LIVE for access to live MLS matches on any device.

You can sense the confidence emanating from the Seattle Sounders, who face Mexican side Santos Laguna in the other CCL quarterfinal first leg tonight (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer and TeleFutura). Mauro Rosales says, “We feel like we can beat them,” and midfielder Brad Evans also senses the moment: “There was a learning curve the past three years [facing Mexican sides], and now it's time.”

Here’s an interesting debate. If you had a healthy Eddie Johnson, would you start him in the first or second leg of the series against Santos Laguna? Seems like Seattle manager Sigi Schmid has already made up his mind in this article.

Santos Laguna’s American forward Herculez Gomez tells FIFA.com that he’s still hoping he can impress US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann. A good performance tonight would certainly catch his eye.

In a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal played Tuesday night, defending champs Monterrey got another two goals from Humberto Suazo and won on the road against Morelia 3-1. (VIDEO)

Back in MLS, will New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo see more of the field this season? "It's frustrating to see my teammates playing a lot," Agudelo told USA Today. “But the national team drives me, so I just try to be as professional as I can and make the most of my opportunities.”

Although NYRB manager Hans Backe claims Agudelo is “just not around enough,” the youngster’s playing time could increase this year by virtue of what happens with Luke Rodgers, who has an important make-or-break visa meeting at the US embassy in London later this week. “The way I understand it is that we’ll either get him quick or we won’t get him,” said Sporting Director Erik Solér. “This is something we’re very unhappy about.”

Sporting Kansas City also have issues with its most influential player. Graham Zusi is still suffering from a tight quad and reportedly did not practice fully with his team yesterday.

The Vancouver Whitecaps, a club that finished in last place in the West last year, will have a 13,000 season-ticket base heading into 2012 but club president Bob Lenarduzzi says he doesn’t want to tempt fate with another poor campaign: “Given what went on last year, people are giving us the benefit of the doubt. Now it's up to us to get the job done on the field and create an environment people want to be in.”

Vancouver’s first opponent in 2012 is the Montreal Impact, who named Davy Arnaud as their captain yesterday. "When you're on the field and compete against guys who bring it as much as or more than you do, you have a high level of respect for them,” said manager Jesse Marsch of his days of battling Arnaud as a player in MLS.

If Arnaud is known for “bringing it,” someone in Portland is not. "There's a few guys who are not training at the level we expect," Spencer told The Orengonian. "If we feel a certain player hasn't reached his potential come game time, then he'll probably be sitting on the bench or sitting up there [in the stadium suites] with the rest of the guys.”

If you’re planning your fantasy team for First Kick weekend, you may want to take this report into consideration: The San Jose Earthquakes are likely to start the campaign without their two first-choice center backs.

The Columbus Crew’s Milovan Mirosevic is a fiery type. This feature on the Chilean highlights a “heated conversation” between Mirosevic and a Crew assistant coach after he and nearly all the starters were removed after the first half of a March 1 exhibition.

Staying in the Eastern Conference, there’s renewed hope that D.C. United could have a long-term future in the District of Columbia after the DC city council passed a resolution to “create strategies and solutions” that keep the club in the District.

For $7,500, you can buy a season-long membership in the Chicago Fire’s new luxury club, which includes valet parking, box seats and a private dining room and bar.

The Richmond Kickers hope to one day become an MLS club, according to this report. For now, they’re celebrating the launch of a new logo. (PHOTO)

The USA are up four positions in the latest FIFA World Rankings. The Americans are just five spots away from Mexico.

Making international headlines this morning is Arsenal’s fightback against AC Milan from 0-4 down, falling one goal short of their comeback bid. Watch the highlights here.

Today, Barcelona will look to close out their series against Bayer Leverkusen (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes), while Cyrpiot side APOEL look to upset Olympique Lyon (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus).

Lastly, more details continue to emerge about Brooklyn Beckham’s 13th birthday party last Sunday: apparently Usher sang happy birthday to him over the phone as he unwrapped an Arsenal kit.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

The latest MLSsoccer.com Power Rankings set the stage for the new 2012 season

Watch 2012 MLS season preview built by The Home Depot: Roster Makeovers

New organization is formed to manage refereeing in North America


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