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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
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11/30 9:00pm
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LA
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11/23 FINAL
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11/29 3:00pm
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Eastern Conference Championship

Kick Off: Haven't seen five-star New England Revolution? You're missing MLS' most exciting team

New England Revolution celebrate, Kick Off

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports

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

1. FIVE FOR FIGHTING

Are you paying attention to the New England Revolution? Because if not, seriously, it’s time to start. Long gone are the first three games of the season, in which they couldn’t score a goal. In fact, following another five-goal performance – this time beating the Philadelphia Union 5-3 (HIGHLIGHTS) – the Revolution sit first in the Eastern Conference and third in the overall Supporters' Shield standings. While the Union should perhaps take solace in the fact that even the Seattle Sounders were taken apart by this New England side, Union coach John Hackworth admits that errors from his own side made it “hard to even watch what was being done out there.”

2. CHICAGO GETTING STARTED

Are the Chicago Fire clicking at last? It appears so, as they’ve now recorded back-to-back wins, beating defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City 2-1 on Sunday (watch highlights here). Reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee scored both goals from the penalty spot, but head coach Frank Yallop still feels his team can get better. The Fire were aided by the fact that SKC had debutant defender Erik Palmer-Brown sent off for a second yellow card in the 64 minute, only adding to their defensive crisis. One man missing was utility man Lawrence Olum, who joined up with the Kenyan national team and played his part in their 1-0 African Nations Cup qualifying win over Comoros on Sunday. Despite the defeat, Peter Vermes was full of praise for his battling Sporting team.

3. DEFOE SENDS A MESSAGE IN TFC WIN

Are you watching, Roy Hodgson? That seemed to be the message most people took away from Toronto FC’s 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls (watch highlights here) after Jermain Defoe opened the scoring with a fine goal. For the Red Bulls, though, it was a familiar story: A sluggish start costing them once again. Head coach Mike Petke isn’t happy about it but, for now, acknowledges, “First half is flat, second half is strong. That’s the way it is.”

4. 10-MAN TIMBERS BATTLE BACK

Playing with 10 men from the 34th minute on, the Portland Timbers dug deep on Saturday, twice coming from a goal down in order to secure a point against the Columbus Crew in a thoroughly entertaining 3-3 draw (watch highlights here). Still, while Crew boss Gregg Berhalter lamented his side’s inability to control the game, his Portland counterpart, Caleb Porter, was keen to highlight his own team's fighting spirit, stating, “I guarantee you that no team in the league wants to face us.”

5. RSL ROLL DESPITE ABSENTEES

Real Salt Lake took control of their Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry game against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday early on and never gave it up on their way to a 2-1 win (watch highlights here). Yet Rapids head head coach Pablo Mastroeni remained positive, suggesting, “I think the guys battled like warriors out there.” Still, RSL hung on to achieve the longest unbeaten streak to start an MLS season in the post-shootout era, and their own head coach, Jeff Cassar, admits his team needs to work on preventing set plays.

6. SOUNDERS BOUNCE BACK

How do the Seattle Sounders rebound from a 5-0 defeat at New England? By beating the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 (watch highlights here) in front of almost 50,000 home fans. Obafemi Martins scored the only goal for the home team, but it was one that left almost the entire crowd, as well as Quakes 'keeper Jon Busch, speechless and had his teammates singing his praises. For the Quakes, who dressed only 16 players for the game, while they were obviously unhappy to lose, for a side already depleted by absences, they were just glad not to lose anyone else.

7. GALAXY UNDONE BY DYNAMO

Things went from bad to worse for the LA Galaxy on Saturday, as not only did they lose 1-0 to the Houston Dynamo (watch highlights here), but other results also dropped them to the bottom of the Western Conference. The Galaxy still have games in hand on the other teams, though, and even Saturday’s result could have been different if not for David Horst being in the right place at the right time. If the Galaxy want to capitalize on those or any other matches, they’ll need to cut down on their continued defensive mistakes.

The most noteworthy moment of the game might have been an injury scare for pivotal Dynamo and Honduras national team midfielder Boniek Garcia, who had to leave the game in the first half with an injury. Fear not, though, Honduras fans, as Garcia himself insists that his hamstring strain is nothing to worry about.

8. JOHNSON FINALLY OFF THE MARK

D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen had said he hoped that Eddie Johnson’s US national team snub would be just what his player needed to rediscover his goalscoring touch, and it seems his wish was granted on Saturday when Johnson finally opened his United account, heading home a Fabian Espindola cross to salvage a 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact (watch highlights here). Following the game, his teammates were quick to praise their Designated Player. For the Impact, though, despite letting two road points slip away, head coach Frank Klopas continued to focus on the positives.

9. IMPROVING LITTLE BY LITTLE

They may not have won, but with a 1-1 draw against Chivas USA (watch highlights here), FC Dallas didn’t lose either, ending a four-game losing streak. There were plenty of reasons for Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja to look on the bright side, and with Fabian Castillo scoring the winner despite seemingly carrying an injury, both the coach and other FCD players singled out the striker for praise. There was plenty for Chivas USA’s Wilmer Cabrera to be pleased with as well, and the head coach believes that, “The results you can see on the field and, little by little, we’re getting there.”

10. INSPIRED BY CAPTAIN, US PLAYERS FIGHTING FOR PLACES

Clint Dempsey arrived in US national team camp in red-hot form for the Seattle Sounders, and by all accounts, that has translated into a confident captain. Dempsey is, of course, all but assured of his place on the team, but other players are still battling it out for positions such as right back. Meanwhile, has Fabian Johnson made himself an indispensable part of not just the US squad, but the starting 11? Real Salt Lake's Kyle Beckerman certainly appears an indispensible part of the squad, just as he told his parents when he was a kid.

11. SQUAD ANNOUNCED FOR CANADA CAMP

The Canadian national team has assembled for a training camp in Austria, and with the MLS season still in action, head coach Benito Floro named a squad that drew heavily on European-based players. Julian de Guzman and Atiba Hutchinson are the most familiar names in the side as Canada prepare for games against Bulgaria and Moldova, but the group also includes Montreal Impact U-23 prospect Jeremy Gagnon-Laparé, Bryce Alderson and Caleb Clarke from the Vancouver Whitecaps and forward Cyle Larin, a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut.

12. TRADING PLACES

Back in Canada, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC are due to meet on May 28 in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final, but prior to that, the two teams exchanged players who will now be prohibited from playing in either match of the final. With TFC in need of a temporary replacement for Michael Bradley, the Impact traded them Collen Warner in exchange for Issey Nakajima-Farran and allocation money. It was a move that caught many by surprise, including Nakajima-Farran. The Whitecaps, meanwhile, have once again been linked with former player Camilo Sanvezzo, last season’s Golden Boot winner. Is this a real possibility? According to the player’s agent: no, it is not.

13. TEENAGE DREAMS

The annual Sueño MLS competition concluded this weekend, with one field player and one goalkeeper honored live on Univision on Sunday morning. 16-year-old Johnny Chavarria of Las Vegas was invited into the LA Galaxy Academy and received praise from Carlos Valderrama, while 14-year-old goalkeeper Steven Manuel Ortiz was invited to join the New York Red Bulls Academy. Staying in California, perhaps an even longer shot is continuing the tradition of Ghana's Right to Dream Academy, as Abu Danladi was named National Boys Soccer Player of the Year last week and will play at UCLA next year.

14. BEASLEY FOR SALE

With rumors already suggesting that DaMarcus Beasley wanted to leave Liga MX side Puebla and return to MLS, that scenario became a little more likely on Friday after the Mexican side listed 16 players, including Beasley, on the transfer market.

15. EVEN MORE SIGNIFICANT

SI.com continues its countdown of the 10 most significant goals in US soccer hsistory with Nos. 7 and 6: a goal from Brandi Chastain at the 1999 Women’s World Cup (it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of) and Brian McBride’s goal against Mexico in 2002 which helped earn a place in the World Cup quarterfinals. Down the line, who will be calling big US matches at the World Cup and Women's World Cup? It looks like the tandem of Gus Johnson and Eric Wynalda.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Armchair Analyst: The Unchosen light it up in week 11

World Cup Memories: Who was Timbers captain Will Johnson supporting in 1998?

How do you stop Cristiano Ronaldo?

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