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Kick Off: As expected, Jason Kreis leaves Real Salt Lake to become NYCFC head coach

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

1. NYCFC HIRE KREIS

New York City FC have officially hired Jason Kreis as the team’s first head coach, bringing to an end to the club's long courtship and an end to Kreis’s long association with Real Salt Lake. Claudio Reyna, NYCFC’s sporting director, describes Kreis as “one of the true pioneers of Major League Soccer.” Kreis will spend part of 2014 in Manchester observing the way sister club Manchester City operates. It’s the end of an era for Real Salt Lake, but Kreis said “the opportunity to develop the first professional club in New York City was impossible to pass up.” RSL president Bill Manning seems to understand.

2. HANGING 'EM UP

Pablo Mastroeni, the former Colorado Rapids and US national team stalwart, brought his 16-year playing career to a close on Tuesday by officially announcing his retirement. Richard Fleming, broadcaster for Mastroeni’s former club the Rapids, caught up with the player to discuss his decision. And on Wednesday morning, longtime New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis put an end to his own 16-year career. “I have been truly blessed for the past 16 years,” Reis said. “I’ve been able to do something that I love – play soccer for a living.”

3. YOU WANT FREI WITH THAT?

Just one day after revealing that Michael Gspurning would not be returning, the Seattle Sounders found his replacement: Toronto FC's Stefan Frei, who was acquired in exchange for a conditional first round draft pick. Having lost his place in Toronto to Joe Bendik, who TFC have signed to a new contract, Frei is looking to reestablish himself in front of “crazy fans.” In other news for both clubs, the Sounders officially announced a new TV deal on Tuesday while TFC might just have landed their first Designated Player.

4. IN THE DAVY

D.C. United completed their first signing this offseason, picking up Davy Arnaud from the Montreal Impact in exchange for an international roster spot in both 2014 and 2015. With United in search of a leader on the field, the 34-year-old Arnaud made good sense.

5. HENRY STILL HAS VA-VA-VOOM

Thierry Henry may be entering the final year of his contract with the New York Red Bulls but that doesn’t mean his time with the club is coming to an end. Andy Roxburgh, RBNY's sporting director, believes it’s possible that Henry could in fact sign an extension with the club, as the French star apparently likes the direction the team is heading. Speaking of direction, it seems that Roxburgh and head coach Mike Petke will visit England to meet and observe some top EPL managers this offseason.

6. RAPID RETURN

With just nine members of the squad secured under contract, the Colorado Rapids exercised options on eight more players on Tuesday, ensuring that the likes of Chris Klute, Dillon Powers, Clint Irwin and Gabriel Torres will all be back in Colorado colors next season. There were 11 Rapids players whose options were declined, although the club has not ruled out some of them making a return.

7. MOVERS AND SHAKERS

If you’re new to the league, maybe even if you’re not, Thursday's Re-Entry Stage 1 draft can be a little tricky to follow. As such, here’s everything you need to know. Plus, here’s a useful guide to help you keep track of all the players in and out at each club this winter.

8. PITBULL TO MLS?

Speaking of signings and roster moves, could an MLS club be on the verge of signing Honduran international Jorge "Pitbull" Claros? The Motagua defensive midfielder, who has spent time on loan with Scottish club Hibernian, has been given a free pass to explore options abroad again (SPANISH). "We are working in Europe and in MLS," said Motagua sporting director Nelson Abdalah. "For the good of the player, we will try to place him abroad."

9. BEST OF THE BEST

If you were picking an all-time US Best XI who would make the list? Well, U.S. Soccer is doing just that and, while the voting will be done by invitation only, you can have a peak at the eligible players right here in both the Men’s and Women’s categories.

10. OPEN IT UP

Last week, the Canadian Soccer Association released the schedule for the 2014 edition of the Amway Canadian Championship. With the arrival of the Ottawa Fury, the tournament will feature five teams for the first time. Can the competition continue to expand until it becomes a true Canadian open tournament? Yes, says CSA president Victor Montagliani: "I think we must. I think we need to strive for that.”

11. MEXICAN MANEUVERS

It seems DaMarcus Beasley is also on the move this winter but the US international isn’t on his way back to MLS, rather, Beasley is instead moving from one Mexican side to another, joining Querétaro from Puebla. Staying south of the border, is another Mexican side making a play for LA Galaxy's Landon Donovan?

12. NOT FOR THE LAST TIME

The Philadelphia Union's PPL Park is set to host the NCAA Men's College Cup semifinals and final this weekend. It’s the first time in the stadium's short history that it will host the event but Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz hopes it won’t be the last. On Tuesday, a snowstorm covered the field, but the grounds crew got that squared away in a few hours.

13. BACK ON TRACK

Way back at the start of the year, young US defender Will Packwood had his promising future derailed by a potentially career ending injury. However, the 20-year-old is now almost back to the point he was before his unfortunate accident.

14. ATLANTA SILVER(BLOW)BACK

Some outlets are suggesting that Eric Wynalda is in line for a return to the Atlanta Silverbacks head coaching role, replacing the recently jettisoned Brian Haynes, who led the club to the NASL Spring title and was named coach of the year. Haynes, who has been linked with the vacant FC Dallas head coach job, is not going quietly into that good night.

15. KA-CHING

The Brian Ching testimonial match is only a few days away now, and we have a schedule of events for the run up to, and including, the big game. The match itself will be a star-studded affair and the Dynamo have released the official rosters for each side which include ... wait for it ... Landon Donovan in goal. Although Stuart Holden may be injured, the former Dynamo man still wanted to get involved: He'll be a coach. Planning for the future?

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Brad Davis to “do everything in my power” to make World Cup squad

Peter Vermes: Turnpike to Trophy

Portland Timbers looking for a finisher

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