Kick Off: Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy enter the CONCACAF Champions League fray

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

1. CCL PREVIEW: SPORTING KC VS. CRUZ AZUL

The CONCACAF Champions League action continues on Wednesday night as Sporting Kansas City look to put a league loss to Seattle over the weekend behind them when they take on Liga MX leaders Cruz Azul (8 pm ET, Fox Sports 2). If any MLS team can halt the progress of Mexico’s strongest side then SKC are well placed to do it, considering the depth they have available and that squad just got a little bigger too, as the team confirmed the signing of Antonio Rodriguez Dovale on Tuesday.

2. CCL PREVIEW : LA VS. TIJUANA

The LA Galaxy are also in action tonight as they take on regional rivals Club Tijuana (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus). Despite their loss over the weekend, the Galaxy head into the game full of confidence, with Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan offering their thoughts on what to expect from the first leg of the series. It’s a battle that could come down to each team's contingent of young players, but it seems that Tijuana's players are just as focused on a spot in the Club World Cup as anyone.

3. GORDON SAVES THE DAY

The San Jose Earthquakes once again showed their "Goonies never say die" attitude on Tuesday, pulling out a 1-1 draw against Mexican side Toluca in the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals at Buck Shaw Stadium. (watch highlights here). Alan Gordon rescued the result for the Quakes, rising to head home the equalizer in stoppage time. However, it seems Toluca manager José Cardoza isn’t a fan of the Earthquakes' playing style. The series resumes next week in Mexico.

4. FORMER MLS PLAYER PASSES AWAY

The D.C. United and MLS communities took a hit on Wednesday morning when news broke that former player Shawn Kuykendall has passed away after a lengthy battle with thymic cancer. Kuykendall, 32, played for both D.C. United and New York during his career. The details of his fight with the disease and the legacy he leaves behind are best summed up in this piece by USA Today's Mike Foss, who was Kuykendall's best friend.

5. PORTLAND PERFORMANCES

If we’re gonna, be a possession team we can’t give the ball away cheaply like we did.” Those are the words of Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, reflecting on his team’s performance in a 1-1 draw againt Philadelphia on Saturday.  In other Timbers news, did you see the Timbers Army’s impressive opening day tifo? If not, it’s a sight to behold and you can check it out right here and find out a little bit more about the thought and effort behind it.

6. HERE TO WIN

D.C. United’s new season didn’t start the way they wanted it to and, while the team suggest it may take some time to gel, defender Bobby Boswell is under no illusions as to the expectations on his club: “We’re paid to win games. We’re not here to do anything else, we’ve got to figure out a way to do that and do it early.” In other news, former D.C. United striker Casey Townsend has caught on with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

7. A RED BULL REFLECTS

Few players have had as storied a careers as Thierry Henry, and the French superstar talked about some of the lesser-known things he has done at a recent gala in New York. While Henry’s playing career will eventually come to an end, the future still looks bright for the New York Red Bulls. Head coach Mike Petke said recently he is impressed by Lloyd Sam and he's predicting a long battle with Eric Alexander for a starting role.

8. A TOUCHING TRIBUTE

Tough news for one Chivas USA player as it seems, as José Correa is set to miss an extended period of time with an injury. The forward is currently on loan with Argentine side Gimnasia La Plata and is believed to have damaged his left knee ligaments whileplaying in a game against Belgrano in which he also scored a goal. Meanwhile, the hero of last Saturday's win over Chicago dedicated his finish to a friend who recently passed away.

9. GETTING THE BEST

We may only be one game into the new season but, with an assist and a lively performance on Saturday, Darren Mattocks looks like a rejuvenated player and, according to the Jamaican forward, he’s bought into new head coach Carl Robinson's way of doing things. On Robinson’s part, he vowed to help get the best from Mattocks when he took over and so, during the preseason, turned to one of the striker’s former coaches for advice: Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter.

10. TALKING SOCCER

What must the experience be like for a young player arriving from a foreign country, with a different language and different customs? Kekuta Manneh knows better than most, but when the young Ghanaian arrived in Texas, he already spoke three languages, making his transition slightly easier. While there were other adjustments still to be made, Manneh notes that life was easy on the field as, he says, “Soccer only has one language.”

11. THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT FOR USL

The newly formed LA Galaxy II’s game against the Dayton Dutch Lions later this year is set to feature a special guest in the form of former Galaxy head coach Ruud Gullit. But the Dutchman won’t be there on behalf of the Galaxy. Instead the two-time World Player of the year will be opening the game on behalf of the Dutch Lions. Regardless, the Galaxy II and Dutch Lions (affiliates of the Columbus Crew) both show different paths towards the MLS-USL affiliation, yet both suggest a bright future for the lower division.

12. ACCOUNTABILITY KEY FOR KLINSMANN

US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann is also now the technical director for US Soccer and, while explaining his vision for the future of the game in America, Klinsmann suggested that he wants the game to reach a point where fans can hold the players more accountable. The US head coach is also hopeful that Julian Green will eventually select the US as his national team.

13. HOLDEN OUT AGAIN

More bad news for Stuart Holden on Tuesday as it was revealed that he will be out of action for another six to nine months after an operation on the ligaments in his right knee. There was also some good news for the US international, however, as he revealed this nice piece of news via twitter.

14. BECKERMAN FOR LIFE

While Kyle Beckerman is one of the most respected players in MLS, he’s also one of the few top-level US national team players never to have tried his luck overseas. Yet, to Beckerman, that’s something he’s proud of: “I think it’s great for the guys who go overseas, but I think there’s also something to be said for being a big part of building this league.”

15. DID HE MEAN IT?

Let’s go back to the weekend for a moment and revisit Joao Plata’s goal in Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy. On the one hand, it was a great finish with a superb pass from Kyle Beckerman. On the other hand, did Beckerman actually mean to make that pass? Omar Gonzalez say’s he didn’t.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Central Winger: Why defenses should fear Will Bruin

Real Salt Lake’s Nat Borchers on what it takes to succeed in Champions League

Starting Lineup: Studs and Duds for the three MLS teams yet to play

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