Kick Off: Time for talk is over, USMNT must deliver in crucial World Cup qualifier vs. Costa Rica
Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. THE WAIT IS OVER
Tonight’s the night. All the talking is over, and now it’s down to the 11 players Jurgen Klinsmann selects in Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica (10 pm ET; ESPN/UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) to get the win. Some familiar MLS faces stand in the US’ way though.
“[Jairo] Arrieta never stops. He's always moving up top, he makes very good movements,” Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis said. “[Álvario] Saborío is a good finisher, holds the ball up very well for them. The attack is pretty much all through him.”
So, who will be the hero to emerge for Team USA tonight at Dic'ks Sporting Goods Park? The Guardian takes a look.
2. KLINSMANN REMAINS UPBEAT
Despite recent criticism, Klinsmann’s spirits are high in the Mile High City before arguably his biggest game in charge of the USMNT: “Journalists and people can say whatever they feel, which is important,” he said. ”I think it’s a great sign, all the debate that is going on about soccer in this country.”
Meanwhile, the Denver Post speculated on the tweaks the USMNT head coach will make to his ever-changing lineup.
3. OUTLAWS AMBUSH DENVER
The soccer invasion of Denver began in earnest on Thursday. And what a beautiful sight (and sound) it was. The American Outlaws – the US national team's largest supporters group – have a record following of more than 2,000 in Colorado, while some well-known journalists/Ex-USMNT stars dropped in on the party. Bravo, gents.
4. HUGE WEEKEND OF MLS ACTION
But let’s not get too distracted by the antics going-on up in the Rocky Mountains, because there are plenty of MLS games going on this weekend. Columbus vs. D.C. United (3:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network) reignites an original MLS rivalry on Saturday, with both teams knocking each other out of the playoff picture the past two seasons. RSL will have a new man in goal against FC Dallas (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS Live): Step forward, Josh Saunders.
5. NEW FACES SET TO START FOR RED BULLS?
Speaking of FC Dallas and goalkeepers, their former shot-stopper, Kevin Hartman, announced he’s signed for the New York Red Bulls. Additionally, new French striker Péguy Luyindula should make his first appearance against red-hot Montreal (Saturday, 4:30 pm ET, MLS Live) after sorting out all the required paperwork.
6. LA AND SEATTLE DATES MOVED
CONCACAF Champions League semifinalists, the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, have been handed a boost by the league with the duo given extra time to prepare for their showdowns with Liga MX powers. While the Sounders are missing plenty of internationals this weekend as they head to face San Jose on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live), Sigi Schmid is looking forward to the clash: “They are a hard-working team. However, it effects their game maybe a little bit, without having the two big targets up there.”
7. DONOVAN RETURNS, WHITE HOUSE VISIT NEXT WEEK
LA are heading to the White House next week to be honored by President Obama for winning MLS Cup 2012. And a familiar face will join them: Landon Donovan. “I bet he will be [there],” Mike Magee said. “It's convenient, right? Convenient timing.” But the Galaxy are in action this weekend, hosting the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live) before Tuesday’s trip to the nation’s capital.
8. NÚÑEZ RETURNS TO DALLAS
Ramón Núñez is back where it all started at FC Dallas. The Honduran international returns to MLS after a spell with Leeds United, and Schellas Hyndman is delighted to have one of his former college stars at SMU back on board: “I am very happy to be working with Ramón again,” Hyndman said. “He has the qualities to help FC Dallas win championships.”
9. 'CAPS RELAXED, DYNAMO’S RECORD ON THE LINE
Down the road in Houston, the Dynamo are aiming to extend their unbeaten run at home to 27 games against Vancouver (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS Live). But visiting coach Martin Rennie told The Province his ‘Caps side isn’t bothered by that: "That puts more pressure on Houston than us, I think,” the Scotsman said. “They're a good team but we think we're a good team as well.” Another Scot is making a splash in Houston already.
10. CANADA IN QATAR, HONDURAS HOST MEXICO
The Canadian national team gets all the international action underway early today, with its friendly against Japan (noon ET, streamed on Sportsnet.ca in Canada) in Doha. Tony Fonseca is in temporary charge of the Canucks. Honduras are preparing for their Mexican visitors in tonight’s huge CONCACAF showdown, one that US fans will have one eye on. Marvin Chávez speaks to Tiro Libre about just that. (SPANISH)
11. VENUES ANNOUNCED FOR REMAINING USMNT QUALIFIERS
Speaking of Mexico, the US will give them a nice “warm” welcome in Columbus again come September, as the U.S. Soccer Federation announced which stadiums will host the USA’s remaining World Cup qualifiers. Seattle will host its first USMNT WCQ in 40 years, while Salt Lake City and Kansas City are the other hosts. Crew Stadium has seen the US record several victories over El Tri in recent years. However, our own Simon Borg asks, ‘Will this be the last time Mexico pay a visit to central Ohio?’
12. BC PLACE GETS 2015 WORLD CUP FINAL
FIFA were busy announcing the Canadian venues for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. BC Place, home of the Vancouver Whitecaps, will host the final. ‘Caps president Bob Lenarduzzi was delighted: “The venue is as good as you get anywhere in the world," said Lenarduzzi. “So to be hosting the world in July of 2015 is a very exciting prospect." Find out the other stadiums that will be used in 2015.
13. MLS FANTASY: “WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE’S ON THE NATIONAL TEAM?”
That’s the question many of you will be asking, as your MLS Fantasy: Soccer Manager squad may look pretty depleted if you don’t make changes this weekend. With plenty of MLS stars on national team duty, make sure you don’t slip up and keep them in your lineup. Andrew Wiebe and Jason Saghini tell you how to do that, and more, in this week’s Starting Lineup.
14. RODGERS HEADING BACK TO MLS?
Luke Rodgers was always a bargain in Fantasy teams gone by. But could you have him in your lineup later this season? The former Red Bulls menace has terminated his contract with Shrewsbury Town. A move Stateside back on the cards, perhaps?
15. MARCH MADNESS
Several MLS players have strong collegiate ties and with the NCAA men's basketball tournament in full flow, some players are faring better than others. Most of the Sounders' alma maters have struggled to make it past the first round. While the Chicago Fire’s Austin Berry has converted Hunter Jumper (there’s a solid basketball name if we’ve ever heard one) into a Louisville fan. … No.1 overall seed, glory hunter!? (Jumper) Come on, it’s Friday.
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