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Kick Off: Meara pledges international future to Ireland?

Ryan Meara - Kick Off

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Ryan Meara is returning to his roots to further his dreams of playing international soccer.

Reports in Ireland on Tuesday morning indicated that the New York goalkeeper’s international fate is all sewn up just eight games into his professional career, with the young netminder choosing to represent the green, white and orange of the Irish. The 21-year-old, who has earned the Red Bulls No. 1 job this season as a rookie, is eligible to play for Ireland through his grandparents and will be called up for the island nation’s U-21 squad for a European Championship qualifier against Italy next month.

Meara earned his first shutout of the season on Saturday in a 1-0 victory against the New England Revolution. (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS)

"We've been following him for a couple of months and then when he started their season as No. 1, that was a big statement," said Noel King, Ireland’s U-21 manager. "He's a big lad with good hands and he's a strong kicker. He's coming over for the games at the end of the month – we play Denmark in a friendly before the Italy match – and we'll have a good look at him then."

While Meara locked in his international future, one young MLS star is weighing his options, especially with US citizenship a distinct possibility in the coming years.

The Timbers' Darlington Nagbe is eligible to play for Liberia and told Goal.com that he had been contacted by the Lone Stars in the past but decided to focus on his duties with Portland for the time being. However, Nagbe is getting married at the end of the year, which could significantly cut down the time needed to acquire American citizenship, although he said no decision had been made about his future just yet.

“I'm engaged right now and getting married in December,” Nagbe said. “Once I get married, that should make me eligible for my green card and speed up the process on my citizenship.”

Up the road in Seattle, the Sounders are still dealing with the fallout from Saturday’s match in Chicago, which ended in chippy fashion and resulted in a red card after the fact for Jalil Anibaba and suspensions for both the Fire defender and his manager, Frank Klopas.

The Seattle Times has the best roundup of the melee, with quotes from both sides, which broke out after Anibaba’s late tackle on Seattle’s Leo González was met with disdain by the Sounders and prompted a response from Chicago.

"I went in to make a play on the ball and it turned into a scuffle," Anibaba said. "It was a hard-fought match and emotions run high, but there was nothing malicious on either end. In the heat of the moment things are said, but again, it was not malicious – it was just two teams competing hard."

Chicago won't be in action again until Friday night at Chivas USA (11 pm ET, ESPN Deportes), while Seattle have a midweek date with the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Asked whether his team might be too fired up to face a Galaxy side that has had their number during the past three seasons, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he was actually glad his side put so much stock in playing LA: "I'm happy with us being fired up," he said. "We'll take all the fire we can get."

LA, on the other hand, are likely to have a changed lineup from the one that tied Dallas last Saturday, with Landon Donovan saying he expected Bruce Arena to make some changes, especially after David Beckham and Robbie Keane didn't train on Monday.

Further up the coast in Vancouver, the Whitecaps are hoping they can mount a challenge to LA and Seattle’s recent Western Conference dominance when it matters most – the second half of the regular season and into the MLS Cup Playoffs.

One player they will be counting on to accomplish that is Barry Robson, who is scheduled to join the team in June from Championship side Middlesbrough. Robson will arrive without accomplishing his goal of promotion with the club, a prospect that left the midfielder frustrated.

“I obviously came down here to play in the Premier League and it’s never quite happened,” said Robson. “It’s frustrating for me when I think about it. To come from a great club like Celtic playing at the highest level up there in Scotland the idea was to come down here with Gordon and win promotion and play at the highest level in England, too, but it never really worked out like that.”

He'll join a Vancouver side that's started the season well, especially defensively, but is still looking for consistent production from their strikers, especially Eric Hassli, who says he is focusing on wins over goals and isn't happy with the amount of contact that comes his way during matches. The 'Caps are in action on Wednesday in the Amway Canadian Championship, traveling to Alberta to face FC Edmonton as they chase a CONCACAF Champions League spot. Carlyle Mitchell is expected to play his first minutes of the season for Martin Rennie in that match.

Meanwhile in Toronto, Aron Winter is being urged to place his own focus on the Reds' ACC tie in Montreal as a way to distract a frustrated fanbase from the team's early season struggles. The Impact could be without defender Zarek Valentin, who is currently listed as day-to-day, and Nelson Rivas looks more likely to make his debut at a later date, although the former Serie A defender is steadily nearing a return to action.

While Toronto search for their first point, people in Kansas City are already thinking about MLS Cup. The Kansas City Star took a look back at the 2000 championship team to compare the progress and personalities of both sides.

Sporting's early rival for the most dominant team in MLS is San Jose, who rode two goals from Steven Lenhart to their sixth victory on Saturday against Philadelphia. Lenhart, who has drawn the ire of opposing fans this season and won MLS Player of the Week for Week 8, is shedding his bad boy image, according to Ives Galarcep.

After an appearance on ExtraTime Radio last Thursday in which he said he was still looking to put together a full season as a professional, the Union's Freddy Adu has resolved to shoot more. Philly could certainly use the goals from their talented attacker.

Check out all the TV listings for this week's MLS and Amway Canadian Championship games.

With the Premier League season winding down, Fulham and Clint Dempsey are coming closer and closer to a crucial summer that will likely decide the midfielder’s future.

With Dempsey having previously expressed interest in testing himself in the Champions League and suitors rumored to be circling, one man who didn’t hesitate to make his opinion on the matter know was Fulham assistant coach Billy McKinlay, who filled in for Martin Jol during a 4-0 defeat against Everton at the weekend.

"I think it is vital to keep Clint," said McKinlay. "He has been outstanding this season and I am sure the club will be doing everything in its power to keep him. He has been a vital player for us and, hopefully, we shall get that one tidied up."

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

ExtraTime Radio: Announcer Gus Johnson joins the guys to talk his new gig with San Jose

Mauro Rosales and Álvaro Fernández are closing in on full fitness for Seattle

No. 2 pick Mattocks makes return to Whitecaps training after cooking accident


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