Kick Off: Nasty weather in NY, gut check in KC, and questions of character in the California Clasico
Rough weather is once again blowing up the East Coast this morning, and it’s headed right toward Red Bull Arena.
With the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United scheduled to wrap up their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Wednesday night (8 pm ET; NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), the latest Weather.com report indicates that the wet weather will be in full effect at kick off, with temperatures in the mid-30s and a mix of rain, snow and wind.
That doesn’t bother D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. “It’s going to be nasty, which I am okay with,” Olsen told The Washington Post. “I like our group with that stuff.”
Still, there’s no way D.C. United could have prepared for this series’ shifting scenarios when they drew New York in the conference semis. After all, this series was already turned on its head by Hurricane Sandy last week, and so many storylines will play out in the finale.
Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, meanwhile, wonders if the weather will make the game too much of a slog at RBA. "What I've heard is that it [the nor'easter] will peak around 8:00, 8:21," he said. "Rain, windy, perhaps snow and then the game probably has to be cancelled and played on Thursday."
Other thoughts on this finale, on the field: forward Thierry Henry insists that D.C. United were the better team in the series opener last week, defender Heath Pearce says talk is cheap out of the D.C. camp this week, and defender Rafa Márquez will likely be back despite a calf injury.
And one last note, this one on the topic of that new soccer stadium in the nation’s capital. D.C. councilman Jack Evans on Tuesday likened the pursuit of a soccer-specific stadium to Washington's pursuit of a Major League Baseball team which, any Washington Nationals fan will tell you, worked out just fine.
“We have a great soccer team. We have a team that people want to go to see,” Evans insists. “Do we economically analyze every museum we build? If we did we wouldn’t have any museums. It’s a part of our culture, and people have to get their hands around that and stop trying to defeat these things on an economic base. But soccer will be economically beneficial.”
Moving on to the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket, where Sporting Kansas City look to avenge both last year’s Conference Championship and, more importantly, a 2-0 loss in the series opener against the Houston Dynamo (9 pm; MLS Live and live stream on MLSsoccer.com).
While the odds might seem a bit long against the hosts tonight, it was tough to tell during a relaxed final full workout on Tuesday. Here’s defender Matt Besler: “Every guy in the locker room, we all believe that we’re going to make history. There’s not one guy who thinks our season is going to end (today).”
On the field it appears that SKC won’t change what’s worked for them most of the season, despite the 2-0 hole. Head coach Peter Vermes: “Just because we lost one game doesn't mean we're going to change who we are, hit a panic button and change things.
And one last note on the SKC side: The Kansas City Star has a commentary that takes on the sensitive issue of whether or not club owners should keep the Livestrong name on the stadium. Check it out.
On to the Dynamo, who could face a lineup issue at game time on Wednesday depending on the health of center back Jermaine Taylor. Head coach Dominic Kinnear insisted on Tuesday that it’s unclear if the Jamaican international can go, with Andre Hainault the likely choice to suit up if Taylor can’t answer the bell.
One player who will be ready to roll after making his mark in the series opener is midfielder Adam Moffat, who gets the star profile treatment from the Houston Chronicle after he scored the game-winner last Sunday in Houston.
Finally out to the Western Conference, where the LA Galaxy travel north to Buck Shaw Stadium to face the host San Jose Earthquakes in the second leg of their semifinal series (11 pm ET; ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). The San Jose Mercury News is talking trash ahead of this one by looking back at all the rhetoric that surrounds the series finale, while Quakes head coach Frank Yallop offers an explanation for the bluster from LA’s camp.
"What it comes down to is they sort of mean it, but really they're just trying to get their house in order," Yallop says. "Sometimes when you're frustrated you say things you don't really want to say but do."
One of the bigger storylines in this series is the health of Quakes striker Alan Gordon, who has been hobbled by an ankle injury recently and might not make an impact in the finale at all. Yallop told the media this week that Gordon might not actually be truly healthy for another three weeks.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, aren’t putting much weight on the Quakes’ 1-0 win in the series opener. And they’re not panicking either.
“You don't throw everything at them early,” midfielder Landon Donovan insists. “You be smart about how you try to score a goal, and the reality is a goal takes a couple of seconds to score, so if it comes in the first minute or 30th or 60th or 93rd, it doesn't really matter.”
Midfielder David Beckham, meanwhile, tells the Los Angeles Times that the Galaxy have the character to overcome the league’s best team: “These are obstacles you have to overcome as champions. And we want to keep hold of this trophy."
How about the other side of the Western Conference bracket, where Real Salt Lake host the Seattle Sounders on Thursday (10 pm ET; NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) after a scoreless draw in the opener last Friday.
Perhaps the biggest storyline is the health of Sounders playmaker Mauro Rosales, but the latest report is a murky one.
“There was definite progress from yesterday,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters Tuesday. “We’re able to localize the injury so we just have to see how he feels tomorrow and keep going, progressing day-by-day.”
And is it possible that the Sounders could look to their opponents for the ideal MLS model? Here’s an article from the Seattle Times looking back at RSL’s title win in 2009 in Seattle, and what it’s taken to keep the band together ever since.
Let’s bounce around the league beginning in Dallas, where the club has let go of four players after a disappointing season. Find out which players won’t be coming back in 2013.
How about a new striker in Philadelphia? Here’s one with an international pedigree who would apparently be interested in suiting up for the Union if they came calling, and it looks like goalkeeper Zac MacMath is headed to Everton for another training stint.
If change is coming to Chivas USA, maybe we’ll learn more about how it will shake out next week. That’s when club owner Jorge Vergara is scheduled to appear in Los Angeles and discuss the team’s future (SPANISH).
And here’s an interview with Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, who sheds some insight into a long season and his expectations for new head coach Caleb Porter and 2013.
The Canadian Soccer Association has a new technical director. Read all about the CSA’s new man and his plans for the future.
And one last note: in honor of election day, MLSsoccer.com polled fans on which MLS player would make the best US president. The polls are closed, and we have a winner.
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