Kick Off: Klinsmann makes competitive debut vs. Antigua

This time it’s for real.

Jurgen Klinsmann is set to manage his first competitive match since taking over the reins of the US national team nearly a year ago. But he knows how tricky CONCACAF qualifying is and tonight’s opponent, Antigua and Barbuda (7 pm ET, ESPN and Galavision with live chat on MLSsoccer.com): “We’d love them to come out and play an open game,” Klinsmann said about Antigua yesterday. “[But] I doubt that will be the case.”

Here’s a preview of the Antigua and Barbuda side by The New York Times. They’ll have a player in the English Premier League next season and then there is Peter Byers, a former Montreal Impact player: “It doesn’t matter how big the United States is. Antigua is 107 square miles, but it’s 11 players vs. 11. So whoever puts the hard work out will be victorious.”

In his preview, The Washington Post’s Steven Goff writes about a visit that the Antigua and Barbuda squad received from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan: “You may be small but so is the atom, and when you crack the atom, it releases power.”

Klinsmann has a major lineup headache with left backs Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo both struggling with injuries. The solution at the position? “Anyone can play left back. We'll figure it out. We'll find solutions," says the manager.

Preparations were not helped by the fact that the USMNT was forced to cancel its open training session yesterday on the Raymond James Stadium game field due to heavy rains. They worked out at the University of South Florida, instead. However, the weather could very well be an issue tonight, according to forecasts.

Many expect Herculez Gomez to get another start at forward for the US and the gang at ExtraTime Radio spoke to him about what sets him apart.

While the US will have a tough nut to crack in Antigua and Barbuda, Canada have their hands full with their trip to Cuba (2 pm ET, Sportsnet in Canada, check out a preview here), CONCACAF giants Mexico also play a minnow later tonight when they host Guyana (8 pm ET, Univision).

While you’re checking out all the World Cup qualifying action in these parts, you may want to hop on MLSsoccer.com and get your votes in early for the MLS All-Stars when balloting opens later today. Give some thought to who deserves your backing by checking the lists of nominees at each position that were revealed yesterday.

One name that was not on the list was Philadelphia Union forward Jorge Perlaza, who was recently acquired from Portland. That trade didn’t go down so well in the household of Timbers owner Merritt Paulson.

Philadelphia manager Peter Nowak commented on the Perlaza-Mwanga trade for the first time yesterday and noted a key difference between the two strikers: “Danny Mwanga was good with the ball at his feet and was good to draw defenders but it was difficult for him to stretch the field,” Nowak said. “And I think with Jorge right now, we have someone who can stretch the field and can make bigger and better runs off of Pajoy.”

Another big move was made in Toronto, where manager Aron Winter was replaced by former New England assistant Paul Mariner. Check out the full press conference featuring Mariner’s unveiling and the reaction of veteran Terry Dunfield, who says: “It comes as a surprise but it’s important we move on. … He’ll motivate the players, and from what he said he’ll simplify the game a little bit.” (VIDEO)

It hasn’t been simple for the LA Galaxy, who are still working on addressing the center back hole left by the injured Omar Gonzalez. Bruce Arena has invited a familiar name for a trial: ex-Crew and Toronto FC defender Andy Iro.

The Montreal Impact also have a defender on trial. He’s Swiss and he’s only 21: Dennis Iapichino.

But enough with the hot stove talk. How about some MLS league action? You’re going to get some on Sunday evening when the Vancouver Whitecaps host the Houston Dynamo (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Whitecaps manager Martin Rennie, who has lost Omar Salgado to a broken foot, may have a case on his hands after this tweet last night from forward Long Tan. He’s only tweeted out nine times in his account history, but this is now one of them: “You don't give me time to playing. You don't want let me go . What do you want?? I do not understand! Keep me of win PDL Champion.” In a follow-up tweet, he concluded: “Please let me go …”

Someone with close ties to Rennie is Houston central midfielder Adam Moffat, who got his first big break in the USA from the Scottish manager.

Will that Whitecaps vs. Dynamo match be enough for this Salt Lake columnist, who says this about the break in MLS due to the FIFA dates: “It does not compute. It seems … un-American. And, to a large extent, it is.”

If you’re eager for more MLS action and you live near The Home Depot Center, Chivas USA face the San Jose Earthquakes in a Reserve League match later today at 11 am PT in Carson, Calif.

Chicago Fire speedster Dominic Oduro is using this downtime to get ready and fast for this team’s next match against New York. He has a swollen right hamstring: “Thank God it's not a tear in the hamstring or anything like that,” he says.

Surprise, surprise! Apparently LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham has been included in the 35-man shortlist that Great Britain Olympic manager Stuart Pearce has submitted to FIFA. He has until July 6 to pare it down to an 18-man roster.

We imagine that Beckham might choose to celebrate with a little “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven. He’s done it before: watch this clip. (VIDEO)

A fellow Englishman is celebrating a breakthrough with the Seattle Sounders. Rookie midfielder Andy Rose has made an impact for manager Sigi Schmid, who says: "He's done very, very well and he's got ‘it.’ He’s an important piece to us.” This is his story.

Euro 2012 kicks off today but the concerns over racism at the event have been heightened after Holland’s black players were the target of monkey chants at an open practice yesterday. Dutch veteran Mark van Bommel has issued this warning: “If it happens at a match, we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field."

To help get you in the spirit of the event, here’s a gallery of all the kits – home and away – of the competing teams. What are they thinking with that Poland shirt?

Hosts Poland play Greece in the opener today and one of their star players, Jakub Blaszczykowski of Borussia Dortmund, will be playing with extra motivation after revealing how he witnessed a chilling murder as a 10-year-old.

And for you budding economists out there, here’s a different kind of preview of the Euro 2012 opener: Poland’s central bank chief says “let’s root for Greece.”

The ESPN networks carry Poland vs. Greece (11:30 am ET, ESPN and ESPN Deportes) followed by Russia vs. Czech Republc (2:30 pm ET, ESPN and ESPN Deportes).

Poland vs. Greece is nice, but it’s nothing like Brazil vs. Argentina, even when it’s a “friendly” between the South American giants. Watch how Lionel Messi and Neymar are captivating soccer fans in the Tri-State NY area with practice sessions at Red Bull Arena and Rutgers University. (VIDEO / SPANISH)

Here’s a story from out of the blue. The Associated Press has a random article about former Manchester United goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw visiting Yankee Stadium. Huh?

Finally, it’s Metta World Peace vs. Sébastien Le Toux. Yep. Who does the weather better? Check out the LA Lakers star here and then the Vancouver Whitecaps striker has a go at it here. Cast your vote! (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

The Throw-In: Soccer may be agent for change in Cuba

De Rosario: Losing in Cuba not an option for Canadians

Gringo Report: Torres adapts to new role under Klinsmann



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