Kick Off: Now a US citizen, Alonso's int'l future still unknown

Kick Off - Alonso

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Osvaldo Alonso is a United States citizen, but he's still waiting to see if he's eligible to wear red, white and blue.

According to the Seattle Times, Alonso's representatives have reached out to FIFA to see if his appearances for Cuba preclude him from playing for the US, but word hasn't come down from on high just yet.

"My agent is still working," Alonso said. "Maybe soon I'll get a final response. I hope it's going to be good for me. Just waiting. ... My agent is doing everything for that to happen."

Meanwhile, Steve Zakuani is close to releasing a rap album. Find out which of his teammates could make a cameo.

Down the Pacific coast, perhaps just one plus will come out of this season for the Portland Timbers: Cascadia Cup success.

Languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Timbers lead the way for Cascadia glory and can stretch their unbeaten 2012 Cascadia run further when they face fierce rivals Vancouver at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

Under-fire interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson has seen positives of late and will be hoping his side can storm further ahead in the Cascadia standings and move closer to clinching silverware to fuel the burning desire for success from the Timbers Army.

The guys on ExtraTime Radio sat down on Thursday to discuss just why things have gone so wrong in the Rose City this season. They were joined by Timbers play-by-play man John Strong, who remained positive despite recent struggles: “Success will be glorious when it comes.”

Vancouver will be boosted by the return of inspirational captain Jay DeMerit, who is in line to make the trip to Portland after being held out for two weeks through injury. Watch DeMerit speak out in a brand new episode of Taking the Lead.

One player who won’t be making a comeback from injury anytime soon is New York’s rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara. His season ended abruptly yesterday.

Bill Gaudette will continue to deputize for Meara as the Red Bulls face Sporting Kansas City, a matchup that pits the top two teams in the East slugging it out for the conference crown at Livestrong Sporting Park on Sunday. (9 pm ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, live chat on MLSsoccer.com)

Sporting midfielder Graham Zusi has had plenty of individual success this year, but he’s focusing on team goals. First, win the US Open Cup. Check. Now SKC's focus switches to the Supporters’ Shield. 

In other news, forget Robert Baggio’s “divine ponytail” … the “divine mullet” is back. Former FC Dallas playmaker and two-time All-Star Juan Toja has signed a league contract and will return via the allocation process. New England currently have the first allocation pick to take the flamboyant Colombian, whose return will delight many MLS fans.

Galaxy fans across the country have a reason to celebrate, too, as their side swept past Salvadoran outfit Isidro Metapán 5-2 in CCL action on Thursday night. Despite falling behind, LA surged back behind two David Beckham assists and a goal directly from a corner kick, but the Galaxy were left seething after a highly questionable red card shown to star striker Robbie Keane.

LA now move back to league action with a huge nationally televised clash against surging FC Dallas on Sunday (7 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

Dallas are unbeaten in four, winning their last three on the spin, and are breathing down the necks of LA and Vancouver for the final two playoff spots in the West.

That will be the second televised MLS game this weekend on NBC Sports Network, after Philadelphia take on struggling Real Salt Lake underneath the Friday night lights at PPL Park. (7:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com)

RSL triumphed 2-0 in midweek CCL action thanks to a stunning display from forward Paulo Jr. They will be hoping that kick starts their league campaign after stuttering of late. Meanwhile, the Union have to reshuffle the backline after Sheanon Williams’ red card in the fiery tie with D.C. United, while one columnist believes Philly needs more of a veteran presence.

Down in Texas, the dancing bear hasn’t had much to gyrate about lately as Will Bruin’s lightning-quick start to the season has petered off. But according to Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear, that’s down to one thing: “He’s not a secret anymore.”

Kinnear will be hoping Bruin recaptures his early season form this weekend, as third-place Houston take on basement boys Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday. (8:30 pm ET, TSN2 in Canada, watch LIVE online)

Staying in Canada, the in-form Montreal Impact look to close the gap on D.C. United at Stade Saputo on Saturday, (4p m ET, TSN2 in Canada, watch LIVE online) with just four points separating the sides. D.C. occupy the final playoff spot in the East, but they do have three game in hand over Montreal.

Listen to this stat from another playoff chasing team. When Columbus’ Eddie Gaven scores, the Crew are unbeaten in 23 games since Oct. 13, 2007. And they’ve only lost once since Gaven scored his first Crew goal on July 4, 2006. (23-1-7) The bearded midfielder shook off the gaudy stat, claiming it was nothing but “dumb luck.”

Regardless, Crew fans will be urging Gaven to shoot every time he touches the ball when Columbus take on New England (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). The Revs’ have finally had Jerry Bengston for a full week of training after his Olympic duty, and will be counting on him to spearhead their attack.

San Jose will be looking to stay on top of the pack when they face struggling Colorado (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). While at the same time, but a few hundred miles down the Californian coast, Chivas USA play host to Seattle. (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online)

Across the pond, the Clint Dempsey saga continues to rumble on. Fulham have now made a formal complaint to the EPL over Liverpool’s pursuit of the 29-year-old Texan.

Dempsey has been left out of Fulham’s squad to face Manchester United at the weekend (Saturday, 10 am ET, Fox Soccer). And with just a week remaining in the European transfer window, things have to start moving quickly for Deuce to get his move away from the Cottage.

While just up the M1 to the north of London in Stevenage, former Rapids manager Gary Smith has pounced to pick up a player he knows well for his MLS days. Find out who.

There was also a scattering of North Americans strutting their stuff on European soil on Thursday night in the Europa League playoff round. Steve Cherundolo assisted on the first goal in Hannover 96’s 5-3 win.

Click here to see if Jozy Altidore & Co. fared any better. 

Some call her controversial, but USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo certainly knows how to string a few saves together. You can add words to that too. Her book Solo: A Memoir of Hope will debut at No. 3 on The New York Times bestseller list, the highest ever for a soccer book.

Could Canada support three more MLS sides? This report came to that conclusion.

And finally, staying on the literary front, MLS will now appear every week on the critically acclaimed website Grantland. Graham Parker’s new column, "The Designated Player," launched on Thursday.  

MLSsoccer.com Musts

90 Plus: Week 24, goals galore

ExtraTime Radio: What's going on in Portland?

Seattle's defense one of MLS' best


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