Kick Off: Are MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City set up to be the newest MLS dynasty?
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. SKC LOOKING TO REPEAT
Sporting Kansas City come into the new season as MLS Cup champions and the team is focused on repeating that success. Considering the low turnover on the squad, SKC defender Matt Besler believes, “We have a great chance with the core group we have to do it for the next three or four years.” Meanwhile, Erik Palmer-Brown could become a big part of the team’s future success and manager Peter Vermes insists that offers from Juventus are “just not something we’re willing to entertain.”
2. DISNEY CUP HIGHLIGHTS
Sporting Kansas City are already looking in championship form based on Saturday's showing in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, with midfielder Jimmy Medranda proving the revelation (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE). The New York Red Bulls were also big winners over the weekend, blanking the Montreal Impact (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE). Michael Bradley came on in the second half for Toronto FC, but a late goal for Orlando City gave the future MLS side a draw (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE).
3. MORE MONEY FOR MAGIC MIKE?
Mike Magee’s move to the Chicago Fire helped turn their season around last year but, with his 21 goals leading to an MVP award, is the local boy angling for a new contract? Fire brass say it's not the case and he's been absent from recent preseason training sessions to tend to personal matters. One Fire player making the most of his preseason is Benji Joya. The 20-year old midfielder has left a good impression so far and has one clear goal for the coming year: “I want to be a champion in my first year in MLS.”
4. NEW SIGNING FOR CHIVAS USA?
Is Englishman Luke Moore set to become the first signing since the league acquisition of Chivas USA? According to some reports, the deal is already done. Meanwhile, this is likely to be the final season we see Chivas’ red-and-white striped shirts in MLS and it seems we’ll see them without a sponsor after it was confirmed that Corona won’t be renewing its sponsorship. And with MLS Commissioner Don Garber stating that the team will remain in LA, what does that mean for other investors pursuing expansion opportunities?
5. COLUMBUS CREW SIGN COSTA RICAN INTERNATIONAL
The Columbus Crew added a new face to their roster on Friday with the signing of Costa Rican international Giancarlo Gonzalez. The 26-year old defender most recently played in Norway for first-division side Valerenga and Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter hailed not only his domestic performances but also highlighted his international form with the ticos, suggesting “He’s been a solid starter … we feel he’s going to be a good addition to our team.” Gonzalez was thrown into the fire over the weekend in the Crew's victory in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
6. A FAMILIAR FACE FOR THE REVOLUTION
Not wanted in Seattle, could Shalrie Joseph be on his way back to a former club? The 35-year-old is currently on trial with the New England Revolution, a club at which he spent 10 seasons. Could Joseph earn another contract with the team? According to the Revolution's head coach Jay Heaps, “Shalrie is just someone we’ve had a lot of respect for … at this time, we’re really just in a reconnect phase.” He’s not alone on trial either as he’s joined by former Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Daigo Kobayashi, otherwise known as "Player X."
7. DESERT DIAMOND CUP
The Revolution were in action this weekend in Tucson, where they matched wits with Chivas USA (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS). The Goats prevailed, thanks in part to a golazo by newly acquired Mauro Rosales, who showed he still has plenty left to give (WATCH GOAL HERE). The other matches from Tucson saw the Rocky Mountain rivalry between the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE) and the Chicago Fire continue to roll in preseason (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE).
8. WHITECAPS' O’BRIEN FEELING BETTER THAN EVER
Andy O’Brien may well be 34 years old, but the Vancouver Whitecaps defender dismisses any talk of 2014 being his last season. Instead, having missed a large part of 2013 through a hamstring injury, O’Brien is focused on playing a large part in the new campaign and he has returned to camp in better shape than ever. The ‘Caps have trimmed their roster as the new season approaches, but they enjoyed another strong performance Sunday night against Jamaican side Portmore United. You can watch the 5-1 demolition here.
9. NEW-LOOK QUAKES COMING TOGETHER
With five goals to his name in the CONCACAF Champions League, Mike Fucito is someone the San Jose Earthquakes will be looking to as they prepare for their quarterfinal matchup against Toluca. Could they also be able to call upon Khari Stephenson? The player is currently on trial with his former club, but will he impress enough to earn a contract? Stephenson came on as a sub on Sunday in a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in the Rose City Invitational in front of more than 13,000 fans (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE).
10. DeLEON READY TO SHINE
The 2013 MLS season was hardly a good year for any D.C. United player, but an early hamstring injury for Nick DeLeon meant the player never showed the same form he did in his breakout rookie season. However, heading into the new campaign, DeLeon feels 100 percent and is once again ready to show what he can do, with the midfielder certainly playing his part in United’s 2-0 preseason win over the Houston Dynamo in the Carolina Challenge Cup (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE).
11. ANOTHER DRAMATIC EVANS GOAL
The Brad Evans stoppage-time goal in Jamaica was one of the highlights of the USMNT's qualifying run to the World Cup. Well, Evans hasn't lost his touch. The US right back and Sounders midfielder scored an 89th-minute winner to help Seattle best third-division side Charleston Battery. You can watch the complete match here.
12. MIDFIELD MAURICE
With central midfield being a deep position on the US national team, some have speculated whether it might make sense for Maurice Edu to line up on the backline for his new MLS club Philadelphia Union. That's not on Edu's mind: “They brought me in to play in the midfield and that’s where I want to operate.” Here's what Edu had to say after Philly's 1-0 preseason loss to Columbus, which saw forward Aaron Wheeler stand out on at center back, a position where the Union are looking for options.
13. COMPETITIVE BALANCE
One of Major League Soccer’s greatest qualities is its competitive balance with the salary budget playing a major factor. Yet, with certain teams capable of spending more money than the rest when it comes to designated players, are we starting to see an MLS equivalent of the EPL's "big four” appear? In the meantime, for those who believe that competitive balance means MLS is an easy league, Thierry Henry has some strong words for you.
14. USA vs. UKRAINE
Long-time US broadcaster Phil Schoen believes Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT have met a streak of bad luck lately and the volatile political state of Ukraine, where the USA is scheduled to play on March 5, does not make things any easier. The state department has suggested all US citizens defer any non-essential trips to Ukraine, but national team stars Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez are hoping the friendly still takes place.
15. CLASSIC KEANE
This is the way to launch a new tradition. The LA Galaxy played their Whites vs. Blues preseason matchup – the senior side going up against USL PRO side LA Galaxy II. The first team won 3-0, but the highlight was Robbie Keane's chip shot goal, which is making the rounds on the web (WATCH IT HERE).
Get the Kick-Off delivered to you!
Enter your email address and favorite team below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.