Kick Off: Report says head coach Ben Olsen safe and sound with DC United

Kick Off: Ben Olsen

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USA TODAY Sports

Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.

1. HOUSTON, SPORTING KC CLASH

In the first of three games with huge playoff implications on Wednesday night, the Houston Dynamo take on Sporting Kansas City at BBVA Compass Stadium (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live). Either team can qualify for the MLS postseason with a win, but there are a number of key players missing on both sides for international duty. While Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall wonders if this is a game too important to miss, the Dynamo could lean on midfielder Andrew Driver to give the hosts a push into the playoffs

2. CASCADIA CUP NEARS CONCLUSION

The Seattle Sounders host the Vancouver Whitecaps (10 pm ET, MLS Live) with a draw enough for the Sounders to reclaim the Cascadia Cup and a loss likely dooming the Whitecaps' playoff hopes. Despite not being fit for US national team duty, Clint Dempsey is set to feature for Seattle at some point on Wednesday while Vancouver’s injury concerns leave them few choices up top. In preview of the game, The Vancouver Sun has an interesting interview with Sounders GM and part-owner Adrian Hanauer which covers a number of topics as well as adding a little fire to the “Soccer City USA” debate.

3. CAN SAN JOSE STAY ALIVE?

There’s also a huge game taking place at Buck Shaw Stadium, as the San Jose Earthquakes take on the Colorado Rapids (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live). A win for San Jose will close the gap with fifth-place Colorado to one point, but a win for Colorado could mean a return to the playoffs for Oscar Pareja's men in Denver. It’s do-or-die time for San Jose, but the players are 100 percent behind interim boss Mark Watson.

4. NEW CREW BOSS?

Could the Columbus Crew be closing in on a new boss? According to reports, former US international and Ohio native Brad Friedel is not only interested in the job but has already been interviewed. Meanwhile, Columbus Crew legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto has played down reports that he could be the new man in charge of the team.

5. OLSEN STAYING PUT IN DC

According to reports coming from D.C. United camp, both head coach Ben Olsen and GM Dave Kasper will be returning for the 2014 season. An otherwise miserable MLS season was highlighted with a US Open Cup win last week, and it will be interesting to see what the two can do to return the team to form in 2014.

6. INJURIES IN USMNT CAMP

The fourth regular starter for the US national team to be affected by injury is LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, who was officially dropped from the USMNT roster on Tuesday in place of Puebla defender Michael Orozco. Does this mean we’ll see a Cameron-Besler pairing at the back? And what about the uncapped players? Ives Galarcep at Goal.com looks at some players for Klinsmann to consider in January.

7. PLAYING THE ODDS

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the first US victory under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But while those results have helped the US climb the FIFA rankings, it looks like they’ll still miss out on a top seed at the World Cup draw in December, as Grant Wahl at SI.com does the math. Meanwhile, it seems New Zealand are expecting Mexico to finish fourth in the Hex.

8. MLS INTERNATIONALS

There are an increasing number of MLS players representing their countries during international windows. Beyond Friday's US-Jamaica match, Honduras vs. Costa Rica could also feature a number of MLSers. Some players even travel further afield than CONCACAF, such as the recent news that Steven Beitashour will represent Iran. Brian Straus has an interesting piece on Beitashour and his choice over at SI.com.

9. ARSENAL INTERESTED IN GUZAN

Brad Guzan's emergence as the leading man in net for Aston Villa has not gone unnoticed. Building on a tip that first emerged last week, MLSsoccer.com's European correspondent Greg Seltzer confirmed on Tuesday that the US goalkeeper is currently on the radar for EPL powerhouse club Arsenal.

10. CANADIAN KIDS COMING TOGETHER

While the senior national team will travel to London for their friendly against Australia next week, Canada continue to look towards to their potentially bright international future, announcing the roster for the U-18 camp in Guatemala, which begins today. Staying with Canada, here’s a feature on Eric Davies, the FC Dallas Academy player who has been called into the U-17 World Cup squad.

11.  EGYPT ON THE MOVE?

It’s been just less than two weeks since the Egyptian FA agreed that the national side could play in Cairo in front of an expected 30,000 fans, but now Bob Bradley’s Egyptian dream may once again be in jeopardy. The Ghanaian FA has requested that their match in Egypt be moved to a neutral venue following further tragedy in the country after 51 people were killed last weekend in riots in Cairo.

12. ELITE COACHES

You might remember that MLS launched an elite coaching development program in partnership with the French Football Federation earlier this year, to help develop academy coaching in the US. As part of the course, the MLS coaches have to study the Academies of two other clubs. So, given their style of play, can you think of anywhere better for the Portland Timbers Academy co-director Mike Smith to embed than La Masia, Barcelona’s famed Academy and a non-stop production line of talent?

13. RISE OF THE TIMBERS

The Timbers' first team is all but assured of a playoff place now and it has been quite the turn-around for the team from the Rose City. So, just how did the team go from being one of the worst to one of the best in such a short time?

14. THIRD KIT FOR CHICAGO

The votes are in for the best design of the Chicago Fire's new third kit, and it certainly pays homage the City of Chicago. Check out the specs on the new kits, which are expected to be officially unveiled in 2014.

15. BE A PRO

Ever wondered what a player like Omar Gonzalez does between games? Now you can find out thanks to the LA Galaxy’s new docu-series "Be a Pro."

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