Kick Off: Could Obafemi Martins be Seattle Sounders' knight in shining armor vs. Portland Timbers?

Kick Off - Obafemi Martins

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

1. CASCADIA SHOWDOWN

Ahead of the return leg of their Western Conference Semifinal on Thursday (11 pm ET, NBCSN), the Portland Timbers are feeling confident, “Obviously we have to have a good performance … but they have to come to our home field and get a piece of us,” says Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. The Timbers did what they needed to do to win on Saturday, but could we have witnessed the death of “Porterball”? The Seattle Sounders will be hoping to have DeAndre Yedlin and Obafemi Martins back for the second game to help boost their chances and Clint Dempsey talked up the importance of Osvaldo Alonso. But, if the Sounders can’t turn it around, could that be it for manager Sigi Schmid?

2.  DON’T GET COCKY, KID

Make no mistake, the LA Galaxy know they’re in for a tough time of their own on Thursday (9 pm ET, ESPN2) at Real Salt Lake in the other Western Semi. However, they’re also confident they can come out on top, providing they work hard. All the Galaxy need to do is prevent RSL from scoring, a task that could be easier said than done in Salt Lake City. The Claret-and-Cobalt have been in this situation before though, playing at home in a hugely important game. But will previous shortcomings play on their minds?

3. TURNING IT AROUND

Sporting Kansas City head into their second leg against the New England Revolution trailing by a single goal. It’s a deficit that manager Peter Vermes has no doubt his team, playing in front of their home fans, will be able to overturn: “I think we’ll have some great chances and, when the time comes, I think we’ll put them away." One person SKC will need to be wary of is Diego Fagundez.

4. TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED

While Sunday's 2-2 draw against Houston may feel more like a loss for the New York Red Bulls, they still have a great chance of progressing in the second leg at Red Bull Arena. However, after last year, Dax McCarty isn’t taking their home advantage for granted. While the absence of Jámison Olave will be a huge blow for the Red Bulls, Roy Miller says he is ready to step in.

5. MANAGERIAL CAROUSEL

The rumor mill continues to churn when it comes to coaches. Those rumors about Colorad's Oscar Pareja won’t go away, but why is that? Are Real Salt Lake now accepting that Jason Kreis will be heading to NYCFC? Could the Columbus Crew’s search for a manager almost be at an end?

6. WHITECAPS FUTURE

When Vancouver Whitecaps president Bobby Lenarduzzi says “we need to get to the playoffs … but we’d also love to see more Sam Adekugbes and Russell Teiberts,” It should be pretty obvious that whomever ends up taking over in Vancouver will be tasked with helping bring through more of the club's residency players.

7. DC SOUTHEAST TOUR

D.C. United's long-proposed Southeast Asia tour is now a reality. The club will travel to Indonesia from December 3-9, playing two games and taking part in soccer clinics all with the stated aim of raising their international profile.

8. CALLING THE KIDS

While Julian Green won’t be with the US camp this November, he has accepted a call up from the German U-19 team. There’s a certain irony to that considering the fact that the U.S. Soccer technical directors course recently visited Germany. While we still wait for the US squad for the upcoming friendlies, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has released his squad. If you’re going to that game and have ever fancied living the dream and playing for the US, then the American Outlaws have got you covered.

9. EXPRESS LANE ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY

It appears Stuart Holden’s rehab is progressing quicker than any of us thought possible. According to his Bolton Wanderers boss Dougie Freedman, Holden could be back in training early next year.

10. CAMPUS CALLINGS

With the MLS season winding down and the SuperDraft getting ever closer, it’s time to pay closer attention to MLS on Campus, our weekly check-in with the college soccer scene. The college game is still one of the main ways for young players to work their way into MLS and fills a gap in the development landscape for US soccer. With that in mind, does college soccer need a new approach to help produce better players?

11. PROS AROUND THE WORLD

While an MLS club may have to wait a little bit longer before making an appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup, the USA will at least have some representation at the tournament this year, with the Professional Referee Organization's Mark Geiger being selected as a referee along with Sean Hund and Joe Fletcher as his assistant referees.

12. SOCCER CENTRAL

It’s a question that many have asked beofre: Why doesn’t St. Louis have a soccer team?  The obvious answer is that the city lacks a wealthy owner looking to bring them a major league team, but has St. Louis done enough to suggest it could support soccer? Meanwhile, say hello to another new soccer team.

13. TOTALLY TROPICAL

Could the quality of opposition that MLS teams play in the CONCACAF Champions League be on the verge of improving? Could the same be said for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying? If Jeffrey Webb gets his way, then the answers could well be yes, as Webb has launched a task force to assess the potential for his proposed Caribbean pro league.

14. POLICE CALLED AT YOUTH SOCCER GAME

It's the unfortunate side of youth soccer and it happened in Seattle. Someone believed to be a parent threatened two referees and before long the police were involved. Read about how it all transpired here.

15. THE TRUE COST OF SOCCER

Not all soccer players earn a fortune and that’s especially true for the majority of players in the NWSL. However, none of that compares to the story of Australian international goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri, who is having to sell her personal possessions in order to support herself during the upcoming season.

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