Kick Off: Sounders fire first in Cascadia war of words
Get the pushpins out, because the bulletin board is ready for some material.
Two of the biggest rivalries in MLS take center stage this weekend, including the massive Cascadia Cup derby between Portland and Seattle (Sunday, 5 pm ET, ESPN). And the trash talk has already started.
“Our organization is just a cut above,” said Seattle midfielder Brad Evans.
And Sounders goalkeeper Andrew Weber is all jacked up — even if he doesn’t play. "I'm excited, if my name is called, to represent Seattle and go there and show them who owns the Northwest."
Odds are Portland-Seattle will be a physical affair, so Steve Zakuani probably won’t make his return to action after more than a year out with a broken leg. But his presence in the squad provides inspiration for the Sounders.
On the Portland side, former Sounder Mike Fucito won’t hold any punches if he gets a chance against his ex-teammates. “You’re supposed to hate the other team,” he said.
The Timbers are languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference with only one win in their last five matches – but also only one loss in their last five. Captain Jack Jewsbury sees a win over Seattle as potentially “a big momentum-builder for us going into the second half of the season.”
His coach, John Spencer, has his pregame talk nearly ready to go. “It’ll probably go something like ‘Let’s go [bleep], let’s go [bleep],’” he said on the latest edition of MLSsoccer.com’s ExtraTime Radio podcast.
Portland and Seattle have only been rivals in MLS for one year, but the other big grudge match this weekend goes back to the beginning of the league. The New York Red Bulls host D.C. United (Sunday, 7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network), with first place in the Eastern Conference in play.
Former players Tony Meola and Alecko Eskandarian recall the passion of the clash. “While in D.C., anytime a foreign player would sign with us they were made aware that New York was our biggest rival through one of the other players, staff or the front office,” Eskandarian said.
The retired Eskandarian never played for New York, but two who have done double duty are New York’s Dax McCarty and United’s Dwayne De Rosario, who were exchanged last season. This commentary breaks down the deal a year later.
For New York, the big stars are expected back, including Thierry Henry, Rafa Márquez, and Wilman Conde. Not that they need them to earn a result.
The news in D.C., however, went beyond the New York game, as it was announced that manager Ben Olsen will coach the MLSers against Chelsea at the AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 25.
Speaking of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game, the Twitter vote is under way. It goes until midnight ET today.
United midfielder Andy Najar got word of his call up to the Honduras Olympic team. He’ll be joined by Sporting KC’s Roger Espinoza as one of los Catrachos’ overage players.
Lastly, United announced that they will not play Juventus, as previously scheduled, because the Italian champions pulled out of the match. They are “in discussions with another, major European team.”
Those aren’t the only matches this weekend, of course. It’s 1 vs. 2 in the West on Saturday when Real Salt Lake host the San Jose Earthquakes (9 pm ET, stream on MLS LIVE). RSL could deploy their latest signing, former Revolution winger Kenny Mansally.
The Quakes, who got a last-gasp win in Colorado on Wednesday, are suddenly at full strength and ready to make a statement, especially now that Chris Wondolowski is back. But the Golden Boot leader is risking life and limb at the hands of ‘80s film buffs if he doesn’t get the Quakes’ Goonies-inspired mantra correct.
The Galaxy, now one of the hottest teams in the league after a couple of wins, host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, stream on MLS LIVE). The Galaxy are looking to hit one out of the park with their new partners.
The Caps are looking forward to having speedy rookie Darren Mattocks back from suspension, and testing themselves against he defending champs in “another important game.”
Chicago are hosting their Midwest rivals Columbus on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, stream on MLS LIVE), but the chatter around the Fire is whether the club will — or should — keep playmaker Sebastián Grazzini. It seems like a distraction, but Logan Pause says simply, “It’s part of the business.”
The Crew, meanwhile, are looking for more production from the two attackers they brought in this year, neither of whom has lived up to expectations yet.
Toronto FC’s new coach, Paul Mariner, has no expectations at this point, but he’d surely love to get a win in his home debut as manager on Saturday against New England (5:30 pm ET, stream on MLS LIVE), where he was once an assistant. First things first: Stop conceding on set pieces.
The Revolution are fretting about the fitness of midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who was listed as “OUT” in the injury report earlier this week. But coach Jay Heaps warns not to rule him out.
The other matches this weekend include Philadelphia-Sporting KC (Saturday, 7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), Montreal-Houston (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), and Dallas-Chivas USA (Saturday, 9 pm ET, Galavision).
In the EURO 2012 quarterfinals, favorites Germany take on a plucky Greece side (2:45 pm ET, ESPN), hoping to join Portugal in the next round. The Portuguese got a second-half goal from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat the Czech Republic, 1-0, on Thursday.
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