Kick Off: With 90 minutes left to decide MLS Cup, focus shifts to men who'll lead from the sideline
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...
1. TIMBERS TIME
As we gear up for the second leg of the MLS Conference Championships, a lot of the attention in Portland is falling on Caleb Porter. There’s another take on how Porter overcame adversity from SI.com while a walk around JELD-WEN Field reveals a lot about the first-year coach’s mindset. Just as interesting, though, is the story of how Pa Modou Kah ended up in Portland.
2. SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
With a two-goal lead against the Timbers, Real Salt Lake may go into Sunday’s game (9 pm ET, ESPN, ESPN Deportes) as favorites, but the team still plans to be aggressive in its approach. What does the future hold for the Utah club though? With Jason Kreis’ contract still up in the air, the relationship between Kreis and general manager Garth Lagerway could prove to be a decisive factor in convincing the coach to stay.
3. ON THE FIELD
As the Houston Dynamo get ready to take on Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | NBCSN, Univision Deportes, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada), their chances could well come down to how big an impact Ricardo Clark can make. While Sporting Kansas City may have home-field advantage in the second leg, they’ll still need to neutralize the Dynamo’s Boniek Garcia.
4. OFF THE FIELD
Away from the big game, both Eastern Conference finalists have some big decisions to make. The Dynamo have to make a choice as to whether or not they will be fielding a NWSL team, with the latest reports suggesting they could have one in place as early as next year. Then with the emergence of Orlando City SC as an MLS franchise, Sporting Kansas City will need to find a new USL PRO affiliate.
5. HANGING UP THE GLOVES
After 17 years, two MLS Cups, two US Open Cups and three Supporters' Shields, Kevin Hartman is calling time on his career. The 39-year-old has served a number of high-profile clubs but only featured in one game this past season, a brief cameo in the New York Red Bulls friendly against Olympique Lyon.
With both owner and president backing Adrian Heath as the man to lead Orlando City into MLS, what does the 52-year-old have planned for 2015? Is progress being made on the other potential team in Florida? According to LeBron James, “We’re working on it.”
7. MARKETING MOVEMENT
Let’s not forget that Orlando City aren’t the only team joining MLS in 2015. New York City FC will also be making their debut. In order to make sure people get that message, NYCFC are putting together one of the strongest front office teams possible to help get people’s attention, build a fanbase and ensure the club is successful from day one. That commitment can only bode well for the on field product, too.
8. PUTTING THE CREW TOGETHER
The Columbus Crew’s new coaching team has been busy explaining a few key issues close to the team. Gregg Berhalter has been explaining what he saw when he first looked at the Crew’s roster, while new assistant coach Josh Wolff explains how joining his old teammate was an easy decision. The final new face among the Crew staff is technical director Asher Mendelsohn, who is ready for the new challenge and believes he can adapt quickly.
9. CHIVAS CUTS
It appears Chivas USA will be undergoing another major overhaul this offseason as it was revealed on Thursday that the team had parted ways with 10 players from its roster. It then also emerged that Francisco Palencia would no longer be serving Chivas USA as director of soccer, instead taking a similar role with Chivas USA's sister club, CD Guadalajara.
10. UNITED ON TRACK
Despite missing the first deadline on their new stadium, Washington mayor Vincent Gray remains confident the project is still on track. On the field, D.C. United have first choice in Monday's waiver draft, but will there be any options who could help the team or will it be similar to last year's event?
11. PAUSE FOR THOUGHT
After starting just 11 games for the Chicago Fire this past season, Logan Pause is facing the possibility that his time in the Windy City may be coming to an end. The 32-year-old wants to stay, though, and hopes he can feature in Frank Yallop’s plans: “I’ve been here my whole career, and of course I hope to remain here. But part of it is not up to me.”
12. KEANE TO CONTINUE
Robbie Keane may be getting older but, having just been nominated as a finalist for MLS MVP, clearly he still has plenty of years left in him. As Keane himself says, “I dread the day that I finish playing … it feels like that it’s so far away, obviously, it’s not, but it certainly feels like that.” The Republic of Ireland star also talked about his commitment to the Galaxy and his hatred of all-weather pitches.
13. 48 DOWN TO 24
The NCAA Tournament is underway with Akron dumping out defending champions Indiana in the first round. With plenty of MLS Homegrown talent on display in the tournament, which players will be guaranteed selections in the SuperDraft if clubs don’t sign them first?
14. PREPARING FOR THE DRAW
Now that the US national team's calendar is finished for the year, it’s time for a brief look ahead to 2014. What comes next? The first and most important thing will be the World Cup draw on December 6, although it could make for unpleasant viewing.
15. DOING THE MATH
Forbes' piece on the value of each MLS team made for an interesting read, but now you can cast your eyes upon this hilarious assessment of the math that went into each team's valuation.
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