Kick Off: Seattle expected to bring the noise for USMNT's World Cup qualifier vs. Panama
Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.
1) 2013 AT&T MLS ALL-STAR VOTING OPEN FOR FAN XI
When the time comes, don't complain about All-Star manager Peter Vermes' selections if you aren't willing to cast a vote. Ballots are flooding in after voting opened on Monday to see who the fans think should see the field in Kansas City come July 31. Here's who you have to choose from among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards. Choose wisely.
2) DON'T SWEAT THE RESULT, ALL-STAR GAME IS ALL ABOUT SPECTACLE
That's according to Jeff Bradley, who brings a pragmatic perspective to a debate that often ramps up as the game nears. It's all about entertainment, after all, which is why we've come up with some alternate All-Star teams for you to check out. You can also see who Goal.com's Avi Creditor would trot out against Roma, if you're more into that sort of thing.
3) USMNT WELCOMES PANAMA TO SEATTLE IN CRUCIAL WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
Forget Friday's dramatic victory against Jamaica in Kingston. It's on to the next one for Jurgen Klinsmann & Co. against Panama on Tuesday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (10 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). Need a quick primer on all the relevant talking points as the US look to stay atop the Hexagonal with a victory? SI.com's Grant Wahl has you covered. Meanwhile, remember a few months ago when the mood around the USMNT was decidedly touchy? Not so much anymore.
4) TURF TROUBLES? USMNT DOWNPLAYS TEMPORARY SURFACE
There aren't many topics more divisive than the turf vs. grass debate, and it's certainly a point of contention ahead of tonight's match, which will be played on grass. Well, technically it's grass laid over turf, seams and all. Clint Dempsey said he'd always rather play on a natural surface instead of turf, but he seems OK with the temporary solution: "The ball rolls true ... both teams will be able to play good soccer and it should make for a good game." We'll just have to see how it goes.
5) CAN SEATTLE MATCH MLS ATMOSPHERE WITH USMNT IN TOWN?
Even the local paper is calling the match a "test for Seattle's soccer fandom," and that's with nearly 40,000 tickets sold at last check. Still, USMNT fans expect the Emerald City to pull out all the stops after fans clamored for the USMNT to make their first appearance there since 1976. No, 53,000 won't show up like what happened last weekend against Vancouver — attendance is capped at 42,000 — but the USMNT can already feel the love. And regardless of how many people show, here's a stat to chew on: The US hasn't lost a Hex match on home soil since September 2001. Buena suerte, Canaleros.
6) WITH MIDFIELD STALWARTS OUT, WHERE WILL KLINSMANN TURN?
Graham Zusi delivers the service. Jermaine Jones delivers the bite. Neither will be available against Panama, though, and that means some tough decisions for Klinsmann. In all likelihood, Zusi's spot will be filled by Eddie Johnson, although Fabian Johnson could switch from left to right. Jones' injury absence is a bit more complicated, however, and Klinsmann certainly isn't tipping his hand: “Going through all these pieces we have a pretty good idea how we want to start tomorrow, which I won't tell you right now.”
7) SOUNDERS STALWARTS SET TO MAKE THEIR MARK VS. CANALEROS
We've mentioned Johnson, who'll likely get the chance to impress in front of his own fans, but the one Sounder almost guarenteed of seeing his name on the lineup card wasn't even on the roster three weeks ago. That would be right back Brad Evans, who made the most of his chance and even scored the stoppage-time winner vs. Jamaica. As Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said, “It’s good to know that the US’ road to Brazil has a few Sounder goals littered along the way."
8) PANAMA SHORTHANDED AS WELL WITH PÉREZ SET TO MISS OUT
The USMNT's injuries and suspensions hurt, but almost certainly not more than the loss of FC Dallas striker Blas Pérez for Panama. So who will head coach Julio Dely Valdés turn to tonight? See what the Panamanian press thinks here. Plus, how do the Americans think they match up with the physically imposing Central Americans?
9) USMNT'S TOP DOG STAYS HUNGRY, TAKES THE REINS
Which US player has 11 goals in his past 15 international matches? You get one try, and I'm guessing very few will get it wrong. Of course, it's Clint Dempsey, who is now the squad's unquestioned leading man. But why did Klinsmann double down on the Tottenham striker just months after calling him out? Leander Schaerlaeckens explains.
10) MEXICO UNDER PRESSURE WITH COSTA RICA IN TOWN
The fans expect more. Much more. And Mexico simply aren't delivering the goods so far in the Hex. Get the latest from Kyle McCarthy, then find out why José Manuel de la Torre may not have a job for long if the results (and style of play) don't improve. Costa Rica, meanwhile, believe they can pull off another stunning win at the Azteca. Hey, they've done it before.
11) JAMAICA AND HONDURAS CLASH WITH CRUCIAL POINTS AT STAKE
Honduras looked like they'd taken a big step forward this qualifying campaign, only to have their road form drag them back into the middle of the pack. Here's the latest from Honduras as lineup changes appear to be in order and the players feel the weight of the responsibility that comes with WCQ. Jamaica are in dire straights and must channel their "killer instinct" in a match many are calling a must win for the Reggae Boyz.
12) WAIT, I THOUGHT CARLOS RUIZ RETIRED...
El Pescadito hung up his international boots last year after a loss to the US in Kansas City, saying it was time to pass the torch to the next generation. But it seems he'll pick up the torch again for a friendly vs. Argentina, making that whole retirement thing seem a bit premature.
13) BUNBURY NEARS RETURN FOR SPORTING KC IN USOC
Teal Bunbury is the forgotten man in Kansas City. Almost. The young striker is close to reentering the MLS consciouness, after coach Peter Vermes said there's "a good chance he suits up" against Orlando City FC in the US Open Cup on Wednesday. But Sporting fans shouldn't expect Graham Zusi to be there with him, despite the fact that he's suspended vs. Panama.
14) NEW STADIUM A MUST FOR ORLANDO, SAYS FORMER ASSISTANT TO MLS COMMISSIONER
Speaking of Orlando City, newly hired club president, Brett Lashbrook, who was hired away from MLS last month, has his eyes on the biggest prize of all: an MLS franchise. A crucial component in that campaign will be the presence of a soccer-specific stadium. Check out what he had to say to the Orlando Sentinel about his new gig.
15) CAHILL, AUSTRALIA MOVE ONE STEP CLOSER TO WORLD CUP
One down, one to go. The Socceroos got a massive 4-0 win vs. Jordan on Tuesday morning to move withing a win of a place in Brazil. Red Bulls fans will be happy to know that Cahill scored. The Aussies will book their tickets to Brazil with a win over Iraq next Tuesday in Sydney.
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