Kick Off: Seattle Sounders forced to regroup after second straight humbling loss

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

1. WHITECAPS DEMOLISH SOUNDERS

Knowing their playoff hopes were on the line on Wednesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps put in a commanding performance to defeat the Seattle Sounders 4-1 (watch highlights here) at CenturyLink Field. Teenager Kekuta Manneh stole the show for the visiting team, scoring the first hat trick in the Whitecaps' MLS history (and the youngest by any player in league history) before Nigel Reo-Coker rounded off the game with a late fourth goal. The Sounders have now conceded nine goals in two games and, with Sigi Schmid labelling the whole thing “unacceptable,” clearly something isn’t working. Mauro Rosales, meanwhile, says he feels most sorry for the fans.

2. SAN JOSE MAKE THEIR MOVE

The Earthquakes, meanwhile, closed the gap on the fifth-place Colorado Rapids to just one point following a 1-0 win at Buck Shaw Stadium (watch highlights here). The result came thanks to Chris Wondolowski’s perseverance, despite some fine saves from Clint Irwin and even Drew Moor. After falling victim to San Jose’s game plan, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja made it clear: “I feel sad for soccer. … That was a very, very, very ugly game.”

3. HOUSTON, SPORTING KC SETTLE FOR DRAW

Both the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City had their eyes on clinching a postseason berth on Wednesday night, but both were left up in the air following a scoreless draw at BBVA Compass Stadium (watch highlights here). The result leaves the Eastern Conference largely unchanged, but gives the Montreal Impact hope of reclaiming that third spot from the Dynamo. Houston can see the bright side of the draw though, even though Jimmy Nielsen helped SKC preserve the scoreless game. A point is a point for Sporting Kansas City, meanwhile, and they are more than happy with where they are right now.

4. PAIRING UP

Heading into the final matches of the season and the upcoming playoffs, some teams still need to work out what combinations work best. One such team could be Real Salt Lake and, with that in mind, the Deseret News looks at which forward and center back pairings have been most effective for the club.

5. KLINSMANN LOOKING AT UNDERSTUDIES

With a number of injuries already affecting the US squad in Kansas City, the upcoming World Cup qualifiers give head coach Jurgen Klinsmann an interesting opportunity to examine some players on the fringe of the squad. FoxSoccer.com examines the situation around the squad at the moment while ESPNFC.com looks at four options to replace the absent Clint Dempsey.

6. DREADED OPPONENT

Kyle Beckerman does not always get the praise he deserves for his strong, consistent performances in the engine room of his teams. And even though Beckerman could be on the verge of his first World Cup squad, he isn’t letting himself think that far ahead. “I just need to take it one call-up at a time,” the RSL captain says in an interview with FIFA.com.

7. BESLER’S JUST REWARDS

Matt Besler is also on the cusp of his first shot at the World Cup, and it's a result that comes at the end of a long road of hard work and good fortune. Here's a look at Besler's career and how he's become a shoo-in starter for the US team on Friday night against Jamaica and beyond.

8. GULATI WANTS CHANGES

Is the U.S. Soccer Federation thinking about bidding for the 2026 World Cup? According to USSF President and FIFA Executive Committee member Sunil Gulati, the rules for bidding on the tournament need to change dramatically before they even entertain the idea. If they do bid though, could the US co-host the tournament with Mexico?

9. FREI TO PLAY?

Goalkeeper Stefan Frei has not started an MLS game for Toronto FC since Sept. 24, 2011. With a large contract expiring after this season and Toronto still looking to clear some room on their salary cap, chances are Frei’s on his way out. But with Joe Bendik suspended for the next game, could the 28-year-old 'keeper make one last appearance for TFC on Oct. 19?

10. BACK WHERE IT BEGAN FOR CARROLL

If Philadelphia Union captain Brian Carroll plays on Saturday, he’ll make his 300th regular season appearance in MLS, becoming just the 21st player to reach the mark. Appropriately enough, he would also be doing it at RFK Stadium, the place where, 10 seasons ago, his career first began.

11. MLS MVP

With only a few weeks left to go in the season we all have a pretty good idea who the candidates are for MVP. SoccerByIves.net takes a closer look at six leading contenders and what makes them worthy of the title.

12. NEW YORK MOVES

New York City FC have hired an ad agency to help build up a fan base and media buzz ahead of the team's launch in 2015. There's also news on the Queens stadium front, with the leading New York City mayoral candidate telling voters that he wouldn't be surprised if NYCFC open their first season in one of the city's baseball stadiums.

13. KING OF THE PHARAOHS

Chances are you know Bob Bradley’s story by now, but chances are you’ve never read it in this much detail. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated recently visited Egypt and came back with this insightful longform story on the former US head coach's life and work in the African country.

14. GOOCH ON THE MOVE?

Could Oguchi Onyewu be on his way to former Spanish powerhouse Valencia? That’s the latest reports surrounding the US international and, as this story in Marca points out, the fact that Onyewu is available as a free agent makes the deal a winner for cash-strapped Valencia (translated from Spanish).

15. POETRY IN SLOW MOTION

Camilo Sanvezzo’s stunning bicycle kick could be a leading candidate for Goal of the Year in MLS, never mind goal of the week. Not convinced? Watch it in again, this time in slow motion.

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