Kick Off: Champions Sporting KC back on top in crowded East; Seattle Sounders lead Western pack
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. SPORTING KC "THE BETTER TEAM"
Ahead of Sunday’s game against the Columbus Crew, Sporting Kansas City players were presented with their 2013 MLS Cup rings (at right). However, if anyone was concerned that such a ceremony may have distracted the players, they needn’t have worried, as SKC stormed to a 2-0 win (watch highlights here). That put them back on top of the Eastern Conference standings. Following the match, Crew coach Gregg Berhalter had a simple explanation for why his side lost: “In all honesty, Kansas City is the better team right now.”
2. MARSHALL MATTERS IN SEATTLE
Philadelphia Union boss John Hackworth spoke about how luck would eventually go his side’s way. But not on Saturday, as Hackworth was left to bemoan key defensive errors in a 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders (watch highlights here). No goal for Clint Dempsey this time, but Chad Marshall played the hero for Seattle, notching the late winner and backstopping the defense: "No one wants to play against him." Marshall's late header was necessary in part because the Sounders missed yet another regular-season penalty kick, and you won't believe how Seattle selected its shooter.
3. HENRY DOES HIS THING FOR NY
The New York Red Bulls seemed to struggle with the heat in Dallas, but Thierry Henry stayed cool enough to provide the assist on the Bradley Wright-Phillips game-winner in a 1-0 victory (watch highlights here). FC Dallas weren’t helped by the absence of Mauro Díaz nor the fact that Je-Vaughn Watson was shown a straight red card for karate-kicking Tim Cahill, all of which made Homegrown midfielder Danny Garcia’s performance even more impressive.
4. REVOLUTION CLIMBING THE TABLE
The New England Revolution top of the Eastern Conference? That may have sounded like a joke after the team's 1-3-1 start, but following a 2-1 win over Toronto FC (watch highlights here), the Revs found themselves in first on Saturday night, and they remain tied for first with Sunday winners Sporting Kansas City and New York. Rookie Patrick Mullins earned plenty of praise for his long-range strike to tie the game, and another rookie, Steve Neumann, earned a late penalty kick when his shot was blocked by a handball. That left it to Lee Nyugen, possibly the best player you aren’t watching right now, to step up and secure the win. As boos rang out around BMO Field following the final whistle, neither TFC’s coach nor their players had ever experienced the circumstances that led to the decisive penalty.
5. WORLD CUP COVERAGE, UNPLUGGED
Are American soccer fans ready for 90 minutes a night of organic soccer conversation between ESPN announcers, analysts, producers and more? That's part of the plan for World Cup Tonight, which will air as part of ESPN's wall-to-wall coverage of its final tournament before FOX takes over World Cup and Women's World Cup rights next year. Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald got all the details from president John Skipper, executive producer Jed Drake and senior coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld, including their takes on potential protests in Brazil, the return of British announcers and much more.
6. HAPPY BIRTHDAY
The Vancouver Whitecaps made it a 40th anniversary to remember with a 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (watch highlights here). For 'Caps head coach Carl Robinson, he let the occasion speak for itself and found himself delighted with the team’s quick start to the match. San Jose's efforts to get back in the game centered around two goals from World Cup hopeful Chris Wondolowski, who made it clear he values much more than his scoring tally: “I do know that Klinsmann likes winners, and so I would rather have won the game and not scored.”
7. MILLER TIME COMES TO AN END
While the Whitecaps celebrated both the win and their 40th anniversary on Saturday, come Sunday they club was all business again, announcing that they had agreed to mutually terminate the contract of Designated Player Kenny Miller. With the Scottish striker reportedly heading back to former club Glasgow Rangers, are Vancouver set to bring in a new target man or will the fine form of the team's young players mean they don’t need to?
8. PUTTING OUT THE FIRE
With two goals in the first 30 minutes, the Chicago Fire must have thought they were on for the win against Real Salt Lake on Saturday. However, Joao Plata pulled one back and, after RSL had given up two late goals the week before, they saw no reason why they couldn’t score two themselves this time. That spirit, coupled with what Fire head coach Frank Yallop labelled “piss-poor defending,” led to a 3-2 victory for RSL (watch highights here).
9. INTENTIONAL OR ACCIDENTAL? WHO CARES
Cross or shot? The inevitable question was asked of Colorado Rapids hero Vicente Sánchez after his far-post chip wound up as the only goal in a 1-0 Saturday win over the LA Galaxy (watch highlights here). Naturally, the veteran Uruguayan confirmed that his strike was completely intentional and came despite his recurring knee problems. On the other side, the Galaxy and head coach Bruce Arena were left frustrated with their own mistakes, including Robbie Keane's missed penalty kick, and Arena summed it up concisely: “That’s a game we should never lose. Never lose.”
10. TIMBERS GET IN WIN COLUMN -- BARELY
The Portland Timbers have finally won their first MLS game of 2014, ending D.C United’s four-game unbeaten streak in the process, but it wasn't easy. Portland's 3-2 victory (watch highlights here) came thanks to a late Max Urruti goal and, while United coach Ben Olsen claimed his side gave the game away thanks to some “amateur” defending, his opposite number, Caleb Porter, suggested that the city’s NBA side may have inspired the Timbers' heroics: “Maybe a little Blazers magic rubbed off on us last night.”
11. LOOKING FOR CHARACTER AT CHIVAS USA
Chivas USA's winless run hit eight games on Saturday, but in previous weeks head coach Wilmer Cabrera had at least insisted that his team's performances have been good. That certainly was not the case on Saturday night, though, and, following his side's 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Houston Dynamo (watch highlights here), Cabrera stated, “They showed character and personality, and we didn’t.” Indeed, the Dynamo conceded the first goal in just seven minutes, but the manner in which they bounced back to score four left head coach Dominic Kinnear extremely pleased.
12. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN MLS JOURNEYMAN?
Players that spend long enough in Major League Soccer often end up plying their trade for more than one team, via trade, Expansion Draft, Re-Entry Draft, or after being picked up by a new club. Many of the more prolific movers (can you name all the MLS players to appear for six different clubs?) may earn the title of “journeyman,” some with great success. So what exactly does it mean for a player to be an MLS journeyman?
13. SACRAMENTO LAY DOWN ATTENDANCE MARKER IN EXPANSION RACE
It may not have been a sellout this time, but the Sacramento Republic's second home game at Hughes Stadium drew a crowd of 17,414 and produced a 2-1 win over state rivals Orange County Blues. Those numbers (here is a photo gallery from the evening) make quite a statement in the MLS expansion race, but Sacramento is already contributing to current MLS teams on the field. On-loan San Jose Earthquakes forward Adam Jahn provided the winning goal, and Portland Timbers loanee Jake Gleeson regained his starting spot in goal and is just happy to be playing games again.
14. ORLANDO CITY GET FUNDING BOOST
The forerunners of the USL PRO-to-MLS expansion route, Orlando City, remain atop the standings following a 3-1 win over Jimmy Nielsen’s Oklahoma City Energy Sunday night at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex behind two goals from Dennis Chin and one from Yordany Alvarez. While the results on their temporary home field continue to go Orlando's way, so too do decisions away from the pitch, as the Stadium Subsidy bill cleared Florida legislature on Friday, paving the way for Orlando City to receive financial support for their stadium construction.
15. BUDDLE ON THE BUBBLE
Edson Buddle was the surprise call-up of the 2010 US World Cup squad as, at the start of that year no one, not even Buddle himself, suspected he would be on the flight to South Africa. As Jurgen Klinsmann’s 2014 squad announcement draws closer, the Colorado Rapids striker offers his view on how he got selected and reflects on not only what it meant, but also everything that came afterward. While we wait for the US preliminary squad though, we’re also still waiting for the other countries in the US’ group to release theirs, as reports of Ghana’s squad being leaked turned out to be false.
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