Kick Off: Sounders falter late against Tigres, while LA target elusive CCL road result

Robbie Keane: Kick Off

Photo Credit: 
USA Today sports

Here are the Top 15 stories we’re following on the soccer scene today:

1. GSPURNING STANDS ON HIS HEAD

Mission accomplished? Not quite. But losing 1-0 away from home in a hostile environment to Mexcio’s hottest team is no easy feat. Take a bow Seattle, especially you, Michael Gspurning. The big Austrian shot-stopper pulled off a string of fine saves (HIGHLIGHTS) to nearly shut out Tigres UANL. The Sounders now have a fighting chance of making the CCL quarterfinals with a home tie at CenturyLink coming up next Tuesday. Head coach Sigi Schmid was full of praise for new signing Djimi Traoré, who helped the Sounders put in a dogged display.

2. A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY … AGAIN

Tonight, it is the LA Galaxy’s turn to travel to a hostile atmosphere, as they face Herediano in the first leg of the CONCACAF CCL quarterfinals (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer). But it's nothing new for LA: “You know what to expect,” said Galaxy captain Robbie Keane. “It's quite hostile and you can hear everything the fans are saying – luckily, I don't understand Spanish, so it's quite easy for me.” The Galaxy are expecting an electric atmosphere. Check out these behind the scenes videos LA put together on their CCL journey so far. Pretty neat.

3. UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

This is the kind of stuff US soccer fans devour. The league’s reigning MVP Chris Wondolowski spoke to USA Today about his strong Native American heritage and the foundation he’s helped set up to get young Native American’s playing sport. Wondo also revealed the tattoo across his chest reading “Bau Daigh” is his Kiowa tribe name that translates to “Warrior coming over the hill.” Just awesome.  If that wasn’t personal enough for you, Seattle Sounders ‘keeper and former EPL veteran Marcus Hahnemann talks about curry, cider, flying planes, fly fishing … and just about everything else, apart from soccer, with The Guardian.

4. THE POWERS THAT BE:

Yesterday, CONCACAF announced that Sunil Gulati will be running for Chuck Blazer’s seat on the FIFA executive committee. However, the president of the US Soccer Federation will have intense competition from his Mexican counterpart, Justino Compeán. Mexico vs. USA never gets old. CONCACAF’s 40 member associations will vote on April 19 in Panama City, with the winner in power from May this year until 2017. Talking about power, SI.com released a list of the 50 most powerful people in sport. In the soccer world, Sepp Blatter topped the charts, according to Grant Wahl, but you may be surprised with some of the others. Take a look.

5. KROENKE IMPRESSES, COLORADO GET NEW PLAY-BY-PLAY GUY

Colorado Rapids owner Stan Kroenke is the sixth most powerful man in world sports according to SI’s list. In this interview with the Denver Post, MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke about Kroenke’s values and how he’s delighted to see the owner of Kroenke Sports Enterprises investing heavily into the Rapids franchise this season. In other Rapids news, Kroenke’s team has a new play-by-play announcer. And for all you Anglophobes out there, I’m sorry. It’s another Brit and former BBC guy. Welcome to MLS, Richard Fleming.

6. MARTINS, ADU, BENAYOUN, SAVIOLA … THE LIST GOES ON

Despite their battling display down in Mexico last night, Seattle are still hoping for some new guys. The ongoing Obafemi Martins transfer saga rattles on, with the Nigerian striker set to play for Levante in Europa League action today. But if the Sounders don’t snare Martins, who else will arrive? GM Adrian Hanauer spoke about ”Plan B,” so just who is on that list of potential signings for Seattle? Javier Saviola, Yossi Benayoun, Freddy Adu? Sounder at Heart breaks it down. Although there is one Sounders player involved, as the guys over at Bleacher Report take a look at the top 10 strikers to watch in MLS.

7. REFS AND RESERVES SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED

On Wednesday, MLS announced the Reserve League schedule for the 2013 season. Obviously this has been disrupted and delayed due to the USL Pro merger with certain franchises opting to have USL affiliates. Anyhow, check out who your teams second string will face. There’s another schedule to look at, too, as the Professional Referees Organization released the MLS officiating assignments for Week 2 in a new initiative. See which refs your team got. The head of PRO, Peter Walton, was delighted with the officiating in Week 1. “After a busy preseason, it was so important that we, the officials, got off to a good start; and from what I saw and what others have said, we did just that."

8. US OPEN CUP

Details were announced for the US Open Cup, with the largest-ever field in place for 2013. And the USL PDL teams who will take part this season were also announced, with the Seattle Sounders U-23s and Portland Timbers U-23 sides getting the invite. Last season's champs, Sporting Kansas City, will be hoping to defend their title. And a key man who could be crucial to that is Barcelona academy product Oriol Rosell. He has a “great soccer brain” according to manager Peter Vermes, who also spoke to Brian Straus from the Sporting News about his side's newfound versatility.

9. INJURIES MOUNT UP

Defending MLS Supporters’ Shield champs San Jose were a bit thin on the ground up front in their season opener against RSL. Strikers Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon were both missing and now the Quakes just got thinner up top. Mike Fucito is out, so will Frank Yallop bring someone else in? Maybe he’ll try to get attacker Simon Dawkins back in on loan after he shone last season … but if this is anything to go by, that’s a long shot. Elsewhere, Chicago put their horrid defensive display against LA down to missing injured German stalwart Arne Friedrich. While New York could add trialists Péguy Luyindula and Marius Obekop in the next day or so. Brazilian attacker Rafinha is on the cards too according to Big Apple Soccer.

10. NEW ROOFS, NEW LAND AND NEW DREAMS

Perhaps one of the smartest ideas we’ve heard about in a long-time, a roof on part of FC Dallas Stadium, would benefit just about everyone … well, apart from those trying to work on their tan while watching Schellas Hyndman’s boys in action. New stadium plans were revealed by FC Dallas executive Dan Hunt in this Q&A with Big D soccer: “I would like to add a roof structure to some part of the stadium and I’ve made the pitch for our fans to my family and they’ve said we will consider it.” Staying with stadiums, Orlando is pushing harder to grab an MLS franchise. The Sentinel is reporting that the city of Orlando has purchased real estate downtown worth $8 million. That’s thought to be the preferred location of a new soccer-specific stadium.

11. "TELEVISION IS THE FUTURE"

As more teams clamber to join the league, more MLS games will be shown on one channel as Univision Deportes added 23 MLS games to its broadcast schedule. Find out who you can now catch in action on the tube here. Elsewhere Fox Sports Network has put together a bold new plan to rival ESPN, as it will be launching an all-sports network called FOX Sports 1 on Aug. 17. Soccer is set to feature prominently. And with Don Garber speaking about the league’s ambitions to raise viewing figures from here until 2022, the role model should be the NHL according to Soccer America.

12. CORONA DELIGHTS, US SUCCESS

The Xolos dream just gets better and better. Last night, Club Tijuana defeated Club World Cup champions Corinthians, 1-0, as they sit top their Copa Libertadores group with three wins out of three. USMNT youngster Joe Corona dazzled on the left flank, telling Goal.com that he hopes to stay in Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans for the upcoming World Cup in 2014. "Xolos has opened the door for international games like this cup," Corona said. "I know that having good performances here, that's a way that the US national team is going to keep looking at me." Elsewhere the USWNT defeated Iceland 3-0 in the opening game of the Algarve Cup in Portugal. And the Columbus Dispatch had this great piece on US U-20 star Will Trapp, who was named in the team of the tournament as the US qualified for the U-20 World Cup after their CONCACAF qualifying success. Trapp has a bright future. Talking of World Cups, our good friend The Shin Guardian linked out to this shocking documentary on what’s really going on in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas ahead of the 2014 tournament.

13. "BUY LOW, SELL HIGH"

For you MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager fans out there, here is some expert advice you can’t afford to miss out on: Buy low, sell high. OK … maybe you knew that already. But here is an inside scoop on how to do it in MLS Fantasy from our guru Ben Jata.

14. UCL, EUROPA AND BRADLEY ON USMNT

On Wednesday, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain made it through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. Former LA Galaxy star David Beckham was an unused sub in PSG’s 1-1 home tie with Valencia. Today, Europa League action takes center stage, with Tottenham clashing against Inter Milan. Brad Friedel could play a part, while Clint Dempsey is still recovering from injury. Elsewhere in Europe, AS Roma midfielder Michael Bradley continues to answer Jurgen Klinsmann’s calls and puts his individual needs on the backburner to help the USMNT. Bradley is focused and sure the US will make it Brazil. "I said it after the Honduras game: The Hexagonal is never easy, there's twists and turns. We're not going to let this throw us off. We're going to do everything we need to make sure that after 10 games we're going to the World Cup."

15. AND FINALLY...

Despite Celtic being trounced 5-0 on aggregate by Juventus in the last 16 of the UCL, there was no ill feeling between the fans in Turin last night. Watch as Celtic and Juve fans exchange scarfs over a glass divide between the two sets of fans. Lovely stuff. Who says we all can't get along?

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