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Final

Kick Off: Toronto FC's Aron Winter guarantees playoffs

Kick Off - Aron Winter

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They’re the last team you’d be expecting a playoff proclamation from at this point in the season.

After watching his club lose its first six matches of the 2012 MLS season, Toronto FC manager Aron Winter has no doubt: “I’ve got the support from [MLSE] and I always believe in my vision. ... We’re going to make the playoffs.”

That would be a first. Not just the first time in the playoffs for TFC, but the first time a team has lost its first six matches and made the postseason. And how do they plan to do it? With the 4-3-3, of course. "My vision with three strikers -- 4-3-3 -- is going to stay always," he says.

Real Salt Lake have a vision of stemming a two-game losing streak tonight and getting a “result” at FC Dallas (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), where they have gone 0-8-1 in club history: "A result, always on the road,” says manager Jason Kreis. “That’s the starting point." His sentiment is echoed by defender Nat Borchers, who says “a scoreless draw would be very favorable to us.”

Real Salt Lake will be without the suspended Jámison Olave and Fabián Espíndola and there are questions whether Javier Morales will start. Meanwhile, FC Dallas have lost forward Blas Pérez, who was suspended for one game on Tuesday by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Watch the play that led to the sanction here.

This Dallas Morning News report indicates that FCD backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz will be given the nod again in goal as Kevin Hartman looks to recover from the back spasms that sidelined him against Vancouver. Manager Schellas Hyndman liked what he saw out of Seitz on Saturday: “I thought he was solid. The goal that Camilo scored on him, I don’t think it would have made a difference if Kevin was on the field or [Tim] Howard was on the field.”

Meanwhile, there’s an update on the David Ferreira front. Following his latest foot surgery, FC Dallas have decided to send him to The Home Depot Center for rehab at Athletes’ Performance. Hyndman gives a prognosis for a return date in this article: “We felt like a change of environment was very important for David. We didn’t want to send him to Brazil, to Colombia or anything like that.”

Looking ahead to this weekend, Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Michael Nanchoff looks to make his homecoming in Columbus after missing out due to injury last year: “He's got 500 fans coming to the game,” said Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie. “If he sells 500 tickets, he probably deserves to be there so that will be partly why [he goes]. He's also right there on the verge of playing anyway.”

If selling tickets gets you a spot in the 18-man roster, buying the naming rights of Crew Stadium will get you a spot on what will be an “iconic” cylinder-shaped sign that the Columbus Crew are in advanced talks about erecting.

Important news for Galaxy fans after the reserve match played yesterday against the LA Blues: Leonardo, who’s recovering from a devastating knee injury, saw 10 minutes of play: “I think it was a very important 10 minutes,” Leonardo told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I need more playing time. I need more time on the field to get back.”

Peter Nowak and the Philadelphia Union have run out of time, according to Philly columnist John Smallwood, who compares Nowak with Eagles NFL head coach Andy Reid: “At some point, if things don’t change quickly, ‘it’s still early’ will look as if it is too late,” says Smallwood.

It's never too late to quash cultural stereotypes. That's what Chicago Fire defender Arne Friedrich dealt with in this German-language interview when he was asked: “Most Americans are fat and eat fast food, right?” His answer: “I don’t see more fat people in Chicago than I did in Germany.” (GERMAN)

Honduran Under-23 right back Wilmer Crisanto won’t be able to verify that for himself. According to reports, a move to MLS, with FC Dallas and D.C. United cited as possible destinations, has fallen through: "Management [at local club Victoria] is making a mistake when it comes to finances, they have to be aware at what they’re demanding because I’m not a forward … I can’t talk about the amounts [of money] but they seem to me to be very high.” (SPANISH)

It's no longer about expectations when it comes to MLS. Commissioner Don Garber spoke with media in Denver after a board meeting held in Colorado and he addressed where MLS found itself today in the hierarchy of sports in America: “MLS is no longer the fifth US sport. It's something different," he said. "Average attendance is larger than the arena sports and it's because fans believe in the [MLS] teams in a way that's not like fans of other sports.”

How about as far as the international game is concerned? There’s still a plan in place for MLS to be among the world’s best leagues: "That doesn't mean we're going to be as good as the [English] Premier League. … It means there are four or five leagues around the world that are respected on the quality side of being the best, and we believe in 10 years we should be able to create that."

Is the EPL the best league in the world? What does the EPL’s head Richard Scudamore say?: “It's difficult to judge. Is it about the technical playing standards? The excitement? The capacity crowds? The fact the bottom team can beat the top team? The competitiveness? Once you set specific criteria it's easier to answer but if you had 20 categories, I'd fancy our chances of winning most of them."

But that’s not even the most interesting nugget from that Scudamore interview on Soccernet.com. In addressing foreign tours by EPL clubs around the world, he offered these words: “We've never done a three-club Premier League tournament anywhere in the Americas either. All these things are possible.”

Visits by European clubs are a fixture on the summer calendar with Liverpool and Chelsea being two of the clubs participating in the 2012 World Football Challenge, which was revealed yesterday. The first two matches of the summer series pit MLS clubs against EPL counterparts.

Liverpool will also be participating in what the folks at Fenway Park themselves are calling the “premier special event of the summer of Fenway’s 100th anniversary.”

There’s talk of a major soccer event that will be heading to Philadelphia this summer. Few details are known except for the stadium that will host it.

No EPL action on the tube today but there's plenty of Serie A as they make up for the postponed matches following the Pierpaolo Morosini tragedy: Milan vs. Genoa (noon ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes), Roma vs. Fiorentina (9 a.m. ET, Fox Soccer Plus) and Cesena vs. Juventus (noon. ET, Fox Soccer Plus) are on the docket. That’s in addition to the UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich (2:30 pm ET, FX and Fox Deportes) and the final match of the CONCACAF Champions League as Santos host Monterrey with the title on the line (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer and TeleFutura).

In other international news, former Vancouver Whitecaps boss Paul Barber has turned up again. Find out what that opportunity was that led him to leave the Whitecaps.

We also find out what former Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller is doing on his time away from the broadcast booth. The Seattle Times discovers that he was in California on “Monday to ride with Justin Brayton of Team Honda Muscle Milk.” We’re talking Supercross here.

From Supercross to Breaking Bad? Darren Bent talks to Kick TV about whether he will be fit for Euro 2012 and he’s grilled on the TV series: “I never heard anyone say they’re watching Breaking Bad … I’ve never heard of Breaking Bad.” (VIDEO)

Lastly, two clips that stood out after the epic Chelsea vs. Barcelona UEFA Champions League semifinal yesterday: The Sky reporter breaking the news to Branislav Ivanovic that he would miss the Champions League final due to suspension and then there was the goal call by Gary Neville when Fernando Torres scored the late equalizer for Chelsea. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Instant Replay: The most controversial plays from Week 7

The latest edition of the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week

Rookie Rankings: A new entry among the Top 5 players just out of college


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