Kick Off: Will Brazil 2014 bring to an end Landon Donovan's career with the US national team?
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. LAST CHANCE FOR DONOVAN
According to Landon Donovan, this summer’s World Cup will be his last, if he makes the squad that is. The LA Galaxy star revealed that he is in no way guaranteed a place on the team for Brazil and that the chances of him being involved come 2018 are extremely remote: “It’s hard for me to imagine, sitting here, that I’ll be able to walk in four years, much less play soccer.” Donovan also views the spending going on in the league right now as a good thing but warns “People are excited about MLS. Now the product on the field has to match the excitement.”
2. NO BRIGHT SIDE FOR DIKE
We start with the terrible news that Toronto FC striker Bright Dike has been ruled out for 2014 after once again tearing his Achilles. Dike missed the majority of the 2013 season following a similar injury, but the latest problem means that the Nigerian international will not only miss out with TFC but also likely ends any shot of playing at the World Cup this summer.
3. WHAT'S YOUR FANTASY?
If you haven't already jumped on board, sign up for MLS Fantasy Manager. Even if you know nothing about the game, MLSsoccer.com is here to guide you through the basics. In today's lesson, check out how your team will earn you points throughout the season. If you build it, the prizes could come.
4. SPENDING LOW, AIMING HIGH
Toronto FC have spent an absolute fortune this winter, as did the Seattle Sounders when they brought Clint Dempsey back last fall, but not every team in the league has the means to buy a Michael Bradley or a Jermain Defoe, never mind both of them. With that in mind, how do teams such as Real Salt Lake plan to stay competitive? As Alexi Lalas explains, “Anybody can spend money… The more difficult part is what you surround your DP players with.”
5. NEW SPONSOR FOR UNITED?
That big empty space on those brand new D.C. United jerseys might not be there for long after The Washington Post revealed that the club is in the final stages of arranging a sponsorship deal with government contractor Leidos. The contract is reportedly set to run for five years at roughly the same value as the team's previous Volkswagen deal.
6. IMPACT CHALLENGES
As the Montreal Impact get ready to defend their Disney Pro Soccer Classic title, the team finds itself with plenty of questions to answer following a preseason with another big change off the field but few on it.
7. ZUSI TARGETS TOP PRIZE
Sporting Kansas City won the US Open Cup in 2012 and MLS Cup in 2013. How can they top that? By winning the CONCACAF Champions League, of course, and Graham Zusi has the competition squarely in his sites: “We’re taking CCL very seriously, and we want to be the first MLS side to win it.”
8. STATING A CASE IN ORLANDO
There's no doubt 2014 will be an interesting year for Orlando City. As the club enters its final season in USL PRO, it has already signed a few players to contracts for its debut MLS season. For the rest of the squad, this year offers one last chance to impress and state their case. That doesn't mean they're not realistic: “More than half the guys aren’t going to be there.”
9. PRESEASON PREP IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
After arriving midway through last season, could Obafemi Martins benefit from the preseason experience with his Seattle Sounders teammates? All the players benefit from the training itself, but according to Dave Tenney, the Sounders sports science and performance manager, the season is too long to be able to do everything he would like with the squad.
10. AN UNRECOGNIZABLE LEAGUE
Michael Bradley may have returned to North America this winter, but he echoed US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann when it comes to Americans' fight for respect in Europe. “The reality is at the moment there is still a little bit of feeling that if you can have an American or an Argentine, you’re taking the Argentine,” he said, also noting that while he may be returning to MLS, all the improvements since he left mean it’s a league he barely recognizes.
11. ASK MO ANYTHING
Maurice Edu took some time out on Monday to take part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session with fans during which he explained why he came back to MLS, how the league continues to grow, what he’s looking forward to and what color his toothbrush is.
12. GOOD MORNING GONZALEZ
Omar Gonzalez has been content with his choice to stay in America, but the LA center back revealed that, under the right circumstances, he would still consider a move: “If I get a better option, I would want to go to Europe. But I wouldn’t do it for a mid-table team. I’d rather stay here and get better.” Gonzalez also made an appearance on Good Morning America, where he and Michael Bradley discussed MLS along with their World Cup hopes.
13. RONALDO TO MIAMI?
File this one under "I’ll believe it when I see it," but could Cristiano Ronaldo become Miami’s first Designated Player? That was the rumor doing the rounds on Monday. It may sound like nonsense, and it is, but if Miami enter the league in 2017, Ronaldo will be 32 years old. Who’s to say it isn’t possible?
14. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAID FOR
Tim Cahill still places more importance on winning the Supporters' Shield than playoff success, which only makes sense considering his roots in English soccer: “We won this trophy for the fans over a season. That’s what they paid for.” Meanwhile, Cahill can also plan ahead to the World Cup this summer, something he says he couldn’t have done if he hadn’t joined New York. Thierry Henry is looking forward to simply being a spectator at the tournament, and the Red Bulls captain is also still undecided when it comes to retirement.
15. BOTCHED BACK FLIP
When Obafemi Martins scores a goal and races away to perform his flips, it’s a moment that the crowd savors and every coach must surely cringe at. Ever wondered what it would look like if it went wrong? Enter Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Andre Lewis.
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