Kick Off: Timbers rate Cascadia Cup right behind MLS Cup

Kick Off - Cascadia Cup

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The Portland Timbers may be virtually out of a playoff spot, but they're playing for the second-most important trophy of the season this weekend.

That's according to their GM and interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson, who made this statement to media yesterday in the lead-up to Saturday's clash with the rival Seattle Sounders which could give Portland the Cascadia Cup (Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, NBC, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

"The Cascadia Cup is second on the list behind MLS Cup," Wilkinson said.

Timbers ‘keeper Donovan Ricketts will feature in his first Portland-Seattle derby and doesn’t hide the fact that picking up a trophy would be a much-needed boost. “If we can get some silverware, it will be very special. It's very important to the city, very important to the club, and we need a win.”

There will also be a game within the game in the stands. As is now customary, with each Cascadia clash, these two clubs look to one-up each other when it comes to tifo. No doubt the Timbers Army will have something special in store this weekend after Seattle pulled out this beauty at CenturyLink back in May.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal takes an in-depth look at tifo in North America and how it fares on a global scale.

Tifo is the last thing on the minds of fans at D.C. United after the knee injury to reigning league MVP and captain Dwayne De Rosario that will rule him out for the rest of the season.

United’s head coach Ben Olsen tried to rally the troops on Thursday, admitting he couldn’t replace DeRo, but calling on others to step up to the plate and salvage D.C.’s season. “I’m looking for some other guys to raise their game. We are under it a little bit. We have a pressure situation here.

D.C. host New England on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) with a win vital to their playoff hopes. They’ve slipped out of the East’s top five with seven games remaining and trail Columbus, who occupy the final postseason berth, by just one point. Meanwhile the Crew’s opponent on Saturday, the New York Red Bulls, (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online) have followed their lead by bringing in a Real Madrid superstar's brother.

According to a report from Big Apple Soccer, Kaká’s 27-year-old brother, Rodrigo Leite (better known as Digão), has penned a contract until the end of the season with the Red Bulls. The Brazilian center back has impressed Hans Backe with his composed style of play and has apparently earned a short-term deal after a successful trial. First Gonzalo Higuain’s brother Federico heads to MLS, (who was the subject of this great feature piece by The New York Times) and now Kaká’s. Which Real Madrid star sibling will head to MLS next?

These two aren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last set of brothers to make waves in the soccer world. This week Jonah Freedman's Throw-In takes a closer look at soccer siblings in North America.

Another player heading to the US from Europe is Marcus Tracy. His destination: the San Jose Earthquakes. Despite only having a 4.6 percent chance of picking Tracy up in the weighted lottery, the Quakes got lucky. In Tracy they get a talented forward to add to their collection of Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart.

Frank Yallop believes his club got a bargain. “It’s always good to add quality, and I think that we’re adding quality to the team.”

However Tracy won’t feature for the Quakes this weekend against Chivas USA, (Sunday, 10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) as San Jose look to take another step closer to clinching the Supporters’ Shield.

Meanwhile, Chivas USA could be without influential defender Danny Califf, as the Goats try and cling on to their faint playoff hopes. 

LA’s other team are hoping to keep their impressive run going on Friday night against Colorado (11 pm ET, Univision Deportes) and they may have some help from recently acquired Swedish winger Christian Wilhelmsson. The Swede gained his P-1 visa on Thursday and pending league approval could make his debut against the Rapids.

Galaxy star Landon Donovan, who makes his return to the lineup tonight, is rolling out the welcome mat for the former Swedish international: “We want to get him going, get him playing, get him a goal, get him an assist so that he really feels like he's contributing.”

Two teams aiming to take the mantle of champions from LA this year, Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo, meet in a huge nationally televised clash in the East (Friday, 8:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) with SKC’s Graham Zusi looking to build from his success with the USMNT in midweek.

Meanwhile, Houston’s Bobby Boswell believes his side matchup well against SKC and they’ll be aiming to cut the five-point gap that exists between Sporting at the top of the East and Houston in fourth.

For a real playoff appetizer, just tune into the match between FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). The speedy Fabian Castillo returns from a hamstring injury and summed up just how important this game is for Dallas’ season as they chase the fifth and final playoff spot. “We know that this game is do or die … we’re all focused on that.”

‘Caps boss Martin Rennie is hoping attacking trio Darren Mattocks, Dane Richards and Kenny Miller can all feature after returning from international duty last over the past week. Vancouver sit four points ahead of Dallas with one game in hand, occupying the fifth spot. Check out the latest standings here.

The tension will be high when Chicago and Montreal meet at Toyota Park with three valuable points on the line, especially for the Impact who will have just four matches remaining after this weekend. The Fire cemented their playoff aspirations midweek by defeating Toronto 2-1 and manager Frank Klopas caught up with the guys at ExtraTime Radio yesterday to issue this warning: “You can never relax in this league.”

The Impact aren’t relaxing. With the news of D.C. losing DeRo and Columbus stuttering slightly, Jesse Marsch’s men are hoping they’ve timed their run to the playoffs perfectly. Both teams have changed dramatically since they met in the home opener at the Olympic Stadium way back on March 17. Hard to believe either team would settle for a 1-1 tie this time around.

It's not about the playoffs in Toronto. Paul Mariner wants a response from his Toronto FC troops against Philadelphia at BMO Field on Saturday (1 pm ET, TSN and watch LIVE online) after his brutally honest rant in the wake of the defeat to Chicago this week.

The college soccer season is also bubbling up nicely, with plenty of upsets over the past week in non-conference action. Fox Soccer broadcasts its Game of the Week on Friday, with Akron hosting St. John’s at 7 pm ET in a great chance for Portland fans to see incoming head coach Caleb Porter at work.

And finally, check out this breathtaking video of Manchester City’s new $160 million training and academy facilities, including a 7,000 seat stadium for their youth sides. Work officially begins on the stunning new venue -- which sits adjacent to the Etihad Stadium – on Friday and its scheduled to be completed in 2014.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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Ricketts, Timbers hungry for Cascadia Cup glory


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