Kick Off: Soccer family comes together to help Newtown

Tonight, American soccer fans will get yet another reminder of why they love the sport as much as they do.

MLS and the US soccer community will be getting together for “Soccer Night in Newtown” later today with the goal of bringing smiles and providing a little distraction to a community that suffered a tragedy which impacted a nation.

Houston Dynamo president Chris Canetti, a Connecticut native who was the catalyst for the project, tells SI.com that the event, which will be held at an indoor facility, will begin at 4 pm ET and run until about 7:30 pm ET. It’s closed to the general public.

“Registrations went out to the residents of Newtown, and in the matter of a couple of hours registrations were full, and we can't handle any more people,” Canetti said. “But it's somewhere north of a thousand people, probably more like 1,200 will pass through the doors.”

The list of players will include LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan, who was in the news yesterday for his exclusion from the US national team January camp roster that was announced by Jurgen Klinsmann. The USMNT boss provides the reasons as to why.

The roster is MLS-heavy with 21 of 25 players selected from the USA’s top-flight league. The Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City all have three representatives on the squad and LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez makes his long-awaited return to the USMNT. But it didn’t come without a challenge issued to him by Klinsmann.

Here are some of the other surprises and snubs emerging from the roster announcement. Meanwhile, Fox Soccer’s Rob Stone, who announced the list of names on the 25-man roster, also revealed that Stoke City’s Maurice Edu, who hasn’t seen much playing time for the Potters, and Schalke’s Jermaine Jones (suspension) could be invited into camp at a later point.

Meanwhile, there’s arguably more debate around which cities get to host World Cup qualifiers in the United States than there is about the actual rosters that Klinsmann selects. Fox Soccer’s Grant Wahl, also on Fox Soccer’s Goals on Sunday, revealed that the US Soccer Federation has narrowed down its March 22 home field vs. Costa Rica to three cities.

Given their success in MLS, the Pacific Northwest cities of Seattle and Portland feel they should be in the mix despite their artificial surfaces. And The Washington Post’s Steve Goff says that US Soccer is looking to play its June 11 and June 18 home qualifiers in Cascadia.

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has no doubts: “We can offer best home field advantage in USA,” he wrote via Twitter.

When it comes to the Seattle Sounders, they have bigger fish to fry. According to Sounder At Heart, a deal to acquire Honduran international Wilmer Crisanto has hit a snag and there could be some developments as far as the right back position is concerned.

Also in Cascadia, there is news that the Vancouver Whitecaps will be inviting a couple of young African players to preseason camp.

Another interesting development on the Canadian soccer front: It seems that the senior men’s national team has a new interim head coach, and they tapped the NASL to get him.

The NASL’s New York Cosmos are working on building a club, and they’re also getting in on the Honduran craze with defender Johnny Leverón reportedly a target of the team. (SPANISH)

Toronto FC could be closing a deal for Honduran international Arnold Peralta later today if reports from Central America citing his club team CDS Vida are to be believed.

TFC’s rivals, the Montreal Impact, have appointed a new head coach and the name might surprise you. Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls appear close to filling their own vacancy with a name first reported by ESPN’s Alexi Lalas. Find out who it is here.

Also in case you missed it this weekend, FIFA president Sepp Blatter declared that AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng should not have walked off the field when faced with racism in the friendly against Pro Patria last week. The incident has had worldwide repercussions, but one University of Michigan professor claims that racial chanting in a sports stadium is not illegal in the US.

Staying on the international scene, the African Cup of Nations is right around the corner and Portland Timbers forward Bright Dike has survived the first round of cuts on the Nigerian national team. Four more players will be released on Tuesday. We’ll see if Dike survives.

Today, the FIFA Balon d’Or is handed out (12:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes) with a US player having a good shot to take the women’s award: Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach are in the mix. On the men’s side the finalists are Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and one Andrés Iniesta, who plays for Barcelona but once declared himself to be a Real Madrid guy through and through. (VIDEO)

You’ll likely see the glamorous side of Messi later today when he could win a fourth Balon d’Or. But not too long ago he was hawking face cream and having his mug lathered up. (VIDEO)

Also on TV today: Rayo Vallecano vs. Getafe from La Liga (2 pm ET, beIN Sport) and the FA Cup third-round match between Cheltenham Town and Everton (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus).

One of the heated debates of the weekend involved the game-winning hand-ball goal by the always controversial Luis Suárez at Liverpool during an FA Cup match. Watch it here and chime in with your opinion: Was it deliberate or not? (VIDEO)

From one goal scored via hand ball to one that’s pure class. Here’s a rare goal by Benfica’s Nico Gaitán that you’ll need to wait for the replays to really appreciate. (VIDEO)

Lastly, if you’ve yet to watch it, here’s the CBS 60 Minutes piece featuring FC Barcelona that was the talk of the soccer nation last night. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Rumor Central: Sporting’s C.J. Sapong an Arsenal target?

D.C.’s Pontius reveals he pulled himself out of USMNT camp

Herculez Gomez back to scoring goals for Santos Laguna

 


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