Kick Off: Questions abound for US, Canada in WC qualifiers

T-minus one day. CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup kicks off on Friday, and there are still plenty of questions for the USA and Canada.

The US squad are in Tampa, where they host minnows Antigua and Barbuda (Friday, 7 pm ET, ESPN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com)

Ahead of the kick off, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl lays the groundwork for what is coming over the next year or so. Is manager Jurgen Klinsmann ready for CONCACAF, where “riot gear and armed guards” are a given?

One main question for the US manager is: Who will start up top? Herculez Gomez hopes he is the answer, issuing a friendly warning to his main rivals for the spot, Terrence Boyd and Jozy Altidore: "We're all friends and we're all nice guys, but in the end of the day only one of us is probably going to play."

Another question is: Who will start alongside Carlos Bocanegra at center back, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron or Oguchi Onyewu?

After the Antigua game, the USMNT next heads to Central America — riot gear, armed guards, etc. — to face Chicago Fire star Marco Pappa and Guatemala. It will be a tough test, no doubt. “We’re getting used to the positioning and things are starting to work a little better,” Pappa said after Guatemala’s recent friendly win over Costa Rica.

Speaking of tough tests, the long-rumored match between the USA and Mexico at Estadio Azteca on August 15 appears to be a go, according to reports in Mexico. (SPANISH)

For Canada, this round of World Cup qualifying begins with a tricky match in Cuba (Friday, 2 pm ET, Sportsnet). Will the visitors from the Great White North wilt in the afternoon Caribbean sun? That’s the Cubans’ hope.

But les Rouges are more concerned about the fact that they have no idea who is on the Cuban team.

In Portland, Danny Mwanga is no mystery. On Wednesday, the former Portland-area prep standout and Oregon State star joined the Timbers in a trade that sent Jorge Perlaza to Philadelphia.

The fallout and op-ed wordsmithing in the wake of the Mwanga-Perlaza trade has been swift and mixed. On one hand, Timbers fans seem very pleased. “We got the best of the deal by far.”

But for one commentator, the deal is a win-win for both sides, and is actually be what the Union needed to do. “Philadelphia’s getting a ‘maybe’ in exchange for a ‘no.’”

NBC’s Steve Davis breaks down the trade and wonders what it all means for a Union side that was once exalted for its abundance of young talent.

Statistically, Mwanga and Perlaza are very comparable, but Mwanga’s head-scratching crossing stats might have Union fans feeling a little better about losing the former No. 1 SuperDraft pick.

D.C. United fans should definitely be feeling better today. On Wednesday, club president Kevin Payne discussed the very real possibility that new owners could come on board this month, which “will put us in a better position” in negotiations for a new stadium.

The negotiations for Houston’s rumored acquisition of versatile Honduran star Oscar Boniek García have been going on for quite a while, it seems.

US international Edgar Castillo won’t be doing any more negotiating after his loan deal with Club Tijuana became permanent.

Every day brings new talk of a potential deal for Fulham ace Clint Dempsey. Despite Dempsey’s vehement hopes of playing in the Champions League, one writer explains why the best club for him might not be in Europe’s marquee tournament just yet.

No matter where he ends up, the Sporting News’s Brian Straus reports, Dempsey is a man on a mission. “I want to do something really special in my life,” he said. “Not that we haven’t done special things already, but something really special, you know?”

Did you know that US boss Jurgen Klinsmann was going to be doing something special for the BBC during the Euro 2012 tournament?

The European Championship, of course, kicks off tomorrow, when co-hosts Poland face Greece in Warsaw. KickTV’s Jimmy Conrad will be there, officially credentialed and everything.

Lastly, concerns of racism from the fans at this year’s Euros have prompted UEFA head honcho Michel Platini to give referees unprecedented powers.

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