Kick Off: Now that MLS preseason is officially kaput, who heads into 2014 season with momentum?
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today. Don’t forget this week is also Jersey week and you can get a sneak peek at the upcoming kits right here.
1. SPORTING KC LOSE BIG
The Columbus Crew emerged as champions of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic on Saturday following a 4-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City. Following the game, the Crew made the necessary cuts in order to become roster compliant. For SKC, who lost another player to injury and now have to prepare for both the season opener and a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, the defeat will be troubling, but head coach Peter Vermes believes his side will still be ready.
2. RODRIGUEZ IN IT TO WIN IT
Chivas USA made some more roster moves over the weekend. First the club announced it has acquired Eriq Zavaleta on loan from the Seattle Sounders, then it waived forward Bryan de la Fuente. The Goats later drew their final Desert Diamond Cup preseason friendly with Real Salt Lake 1-1 (watch highlight here), a result which new club president Nelson Rodriguez may not look too kindly on: “I come to win and I want to be associated with winners.” Meanwhile, as the search for new Chivas USA ownership begins, one supporters group has thrown its hat in the ring.
3. UNITED BAG A TROPHY
D.C. United won the Carolina Challenge Cup following a 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders (watch highlights here), a game in which United had to see out the game with 10 men following a red card for Cristian Fernández. It marked a busy weekend for D.C. following several front-office moves and a home game against the Columbus Crew transferred to FedEx Field to form part of a doubleheader with Spain vs. El Salvador. Oh, and it seems the public support for their stadium project may be more widespread than expected.
4. FIRE IN THE DESERT
The Chicago Fire were crowned champions of the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday after beating Chivas Rayadas, 2-0, to secure the trophy (watch highlights here). Benji Joya only saw 10 minutes of action on Sunday yet the new signing has certainly made an impact in preseason. So what does the future hold now for the Fire? Head coach Frank Yallop discussed several key issues prior to the weekend’s opening game.
5. CALLING FOR A COACH
The other Desert Diamond Cup game finished in a 2-2 draw between the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution (watch highlights here). The most promising sign for the Revs is Teal Bunbury's quick adaption (check out this golazo). For the Rapids, however, it seems there are growing calls to see Pablo Mastroeni installed as the club's head coach. The other Carolina Challenge Cup game finished with a 2-0 victory for the Houston Dynamo over the Charleston Battery.
6. NESTA’S WISDOM
The San Antonio Scorpions gave a good account of themselves this weekend, earning a home draw against FC Dallas with a sellout crowd showing up to prove that they are indeed #MLSready. Meanwhile, the Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union slugged it out in a 3-2 shootout victory for the impact, which followed a 1-1 draw in which both Jack McInerney and Marco Di Vaio found the net. While the Impact may not be able to call on veteran defender Alessandro Nesta on the field anymore, it seems his presence was something the team decided they couldn’t afford to lose.
7. IRISH MAN OF THE YEAR
The LA Galaxy may not have played a friendly over the weekend, at least not one that was open to the public or the press, but it was revealed that that the club waived defender Bryan Gaul. It was also a big weekend for Robbie Keane as he was voted the Republic of Ireland’s Senior International Player of the Year. Keane couldn’t attend the ceremony in person, but he did record this message.
8. GOALS GALORE IN ORLANDO
There were two more high-scoring games in Orlando, as the New York Red Bulls and Orlando City SC went toe to toe in a 4-4 battle (watch highlights here). If next year’s MLS encounters are anything like the ones we’ve seen from Orlando City this preseason, then we’re all in for a treat. Unsurprisingly, Mike Petke believes all of Orlando's goals were preventable. In other news, Toronto FC slumped to a 4-2 defeat against Fluminense's U-23s (watch highlights here). Michael Bradley did score his first goal for the club, and what a goal it was.
9. US SQUAD PROBLEMS
Bradley dropped out of the upcoming US friendly in order to ensure he's fully fit for Toronto FC’s season opener in just under two weeks. He joins Mix Diskerud and Tim Ream on the list of withdrawals, while Jonathan Spector has been called up as a replacement. On the domestic scene, all of those players find themselves in different situations, but according to US U-20 coach Tab Ramos, when it comes to his own player selections, he doesn’t care where they go, so long as they play.
10. US FIXTURE PROBLEMS
After moving their friendly against Ukraine away from the Eastern European country, everything appeared to be fine for the US national team, but now it seems trouble in new host country Cyprus has once again placed the fixture in jeopardy. Hopefully there will be no such problems when the US take on Ghana in Brazil this summer, a match that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann equates to a final all by itself.
11. 'CAPS SHOW NO PITY
The Vancouver Whitecaps reportedly welcomed a new Designated Player to the team on Friday following the news that Málaga midfielder Pedro Morales was set to join having terminated his contract with the La Liga club. Morales didn’t arrive in time to play in Saturday's final preseason game, but another new signing, Sebastián Fernández, was on hand to score his first goal for the 'Caps as they drew 1-1 with the Portland Timbers (watch highlights here) to finish as winners of the Rose City Invitational. The other RCI game finished with the San Jose Earthquakes defeating Portmore United 1-0.
12. CASH FOR CAMILO
There was some unfortunate news in Mexico for former Whitecap Camilo Sanvezzo, as it seems he isn’t actually getting paid at new club Querétaro. While it’s never good to linger on someone’s misfortune, it does perhaps highlight how MLS’ financial stability can be a selling point for the league. Could this lead to Camilo’s return to Vancouver? His rights may be heading back if nothing else.
13. FOUR MORE YEARS
Congratulations are in order to Sunil Gulati, who was unanimously re-elected US Soccer president for another four years. The news hardly came as a surprise since Gulati was running unopposed, but it allows the president to continue the work he has presided over since he took office in 2006. Perhaps more importantly, in other news from the event, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson was been elected to the US Soccer board of directors in place of Kevin Payne.
14. IF YOU BUILD IT…
With Sacramento Republic FC’s stated goal of one day becoming an MLS team, the new USL PRO franchise took a big step towards that goal on Friday when the local council approved their new stadium on the site of the Cal Expo. The new venue will seat 8,000 fans, but the affiliate for both the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes insist this is only a temporary structure until such a time as “a MLS stadium can be built in the downtown core.”
15. READY TO PLAY
Over in England, Stuart Holden’s remarkable recovery is set to take another step forward today as Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman revealed that the US international will play in a U-21 game. Congratulations are also in order for New York City FC’s parent club Manchester City after they captured the English League Cup, but perhaps the less said about Jozy Altidore’s inability to make the Sunderland squad for that game the better.
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