Kick Off: Familiar ending for New York Red Bulls, joy for Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City

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

1. HEARTBREAK FOR NEW YORK

A familiar story unfolded at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday night as the Houston Dynamo beat the New York Red Bulls 2-1 (4-3 on aggregate) to, once again, reach the Eastern Conference Championship (watch highlights here). Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall overcame an early error to put in an incredible performance, but the New York players took the loss upon themselves. “There’s no one else to blame,” said Tim Cahill, adding “…if you want to win MLS Cup, you have to be a lot better than that.” Head coach Mike Petke said: “I guess you can’t exorcise every demon.”  No demons on Houston's side, who are reaping the benefits of trading for Omar Cummings in the offseason.

2. SPORTING CHANCE

Entering the second leg on Wednesday night trailing by a goal, Sporting Kansas City did what they need to do against the New England Revolution. Substitute Claudio Bieler scored a late winner to make it 3-1 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate (watch highlights here). Peter Vermes was happy to give the deserving home fans something to celebrate while Seth Sinovic appreciates having a playoff goal he can actually celebrate. But according to SKC defender Aurelien Collin, the club "still has a lot of work to do." New England, meanwhile, rued their inabilty to stop the Sporting onslaught. And a bad night turned worst when Matt Reis was helped off the field late, leaving Andrew Farrell to finish his rookie season with a stint in goal.

3. WESTERN FOES READY TO GO

The LA Galaxy were the only team not to concede a goal in the semifinal first legs, and they point to their tough defense as a reason for their late season surge. That backline will no doubt be called upon again in Thursday evening's second leg against Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET, ESPN2). Meanwhile, RSL – whose rebuilding year has proven anything but – are busy answering questions about their inability thus far to win big games at home. Will Thursday night be a repeat of the 2011 CCL final or this year's US Open Cup final?

4. SOUNDERS SEE OPPORTUNITY

The Seattle Sounders take on the Portland Timbers in the Thursday nightcap (11 pm ET, NBCSN), and despite being on the road and down 2-1 on aggregate, the Sounders like their chances. “This is the best opportunity we’ve been given in the last few years,” Brad Evans said. Their cause is helped by the possible return of Obafemi Martins and DeAndre Yedlin. Of course, beating the Timbers at JELD-WEN Field has proven difficult this season. One of the big reasons is head coach Caleb Porter's influence on the whole club. But some Timbers observers are preparing for penalties, just in case.

5. CREW'S NEW BOSS

The Columbus Crew announced their new head coach on Wednesday and, while it may not have been a name we were expecting, it certainly appears to be a good choice. Former US international defender Gregg Berhalter takes over in Ohio, not only as coach but also sporting director, as part of a resturcturing of the club's operations. Berhalter's vision seems to be exactly what the Crew’s ownership was looking for.

6. ME THINK NOT DARREN

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Darren Mattocks has had a frustrating season, no doubt, interrupted by injury and international call ups. But going on a Jamaican TV station to air his grievances, including a "feud" with former manager Martin Rennie, didn't sit well with his coaches back in Vancouver.

7. ORLANDO CITY RUMOR MILL

MLS will reportedly make an announcement on Orlando City’s expansion bid later this month, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. Nothing confirmed yet from the league or the club, though, and Orlando City president Phil Rawlins didn’t discuss the report when talking about the club's future. But he did discuss a number of other interesting topics, including why the short term move to Disney’s Wide World of Sport Complex could be beneficial.

8. RAPIDS REBOUND

The Colorado Rapids have begun preparations for next season with the news that the club has re-signed Nathan Sturgis. Head coach Oscar Pareja also addressed the rumors of his departure to FC Dallas, denying them, to an extent at least.

9. FCD LEFT IN LIMBO

While Pareja continues to evade a definitive answer of the FC Dallas job, the players on that team are left with an uncertain future. Fullback Zack Loyd is realistic, though: “When you fall short in this business, the reality is, there will be changes." For now though, all team decisions and questions seem to fall to technical director Fernando Clavijo.

10. THE SUNSET YEARS

With the news that Alessandro Nesta is not set to become the next Montreal Impact manager it means that, for now, the Italian's time with the club is finished. Don’t be too sad, though — it seems Nesta is looking forward to his retirement.

11. TORONTO DP DEAL NEARLY DONE?

It looks increasingly likely that Alberto Gilardino will be Toronto FC’s next Designated Player, with several sources seemingly confirming that the 31-year-old Italian International will join the club following the conclusion of the Italian season next summer.

12. DC SURGERY

D.C. United know that if they want to have a better season next year, they must stay healthy. The offseason has gotten underway with news that Chris Pontius and Daniel Woolard have undergone surgery, allowing plenty of time for recovery before 2014. Both will probably miss out on United's upcoming tour to Southeast Asia, but will the operation keep Pontius out of Klinsmann’s January US national team camp?

13. TORRES OUT?

Is Roger Torres on the verge of leaving the Philadelphia Union? His contract expires on December 1 and, after playing just 68 minutes for the Union in 2013, it can’t exactly be called a happy spell at the club. Yet are there reasons the Colombian fan favorite would want to stay?

14. GIVE ME 1,000%

Jurgen Klinsmann has spoken to USsoccer.com about the upcoming friendlies against Scotland and Austria, what he expects from his players and how he hopes to help shape MLS players' offseasons. One player possibly available again for the November internationals is Fabian Johnson.

15. SWEATER WEATHER

Despite playoff exits, neither New England coach Jay Heaps nor New York coach Mike Petke has to worry about their job security. Heaps is described by Revolution owner Jonathan Kraft as an asset who could add value in any business situation.  Red Bull’s head of global soccer, Gérard Hollier, says that Mike Petke is tied to a three-year contract with the Red Bulls

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