Kick Off: World Cup countdown is on for USMNT and MLS squads this weekend
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. GOING GREEN AGAINST NIGERIA?
This Saturday marks the last warm-up game for the US national team before they head off to the World Cup, and their opponents in Jacksonville are Nigeria (6 pm ET, ESPN2). Having secured a place in the World Cup squad, should Julian Green be given a chance to show what he can do from the start in this match? Would Nigeria do well to heed Ghana's warning as to the danger the US pose?
2. ZUSI’S ROAD TO BRAZIL
For a breakout World Cup performance by an American player, much of the groundwork has already been laid by Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi, who has quietly been making himself a star on Jurgen Klinsmann’s team. The midfielder is all but assured of a starting role in Brazil, and with the final warm-up game taking place in Florida, Zusi is returning to where it all began.
3. RISE OF THE SNOBS
With the World Cup less than one week away, sports fans everywhere will be coming out of the woodwork to watch. With that in mind, there were multiple columns this week targetting the American soccer snob. NBC analyst and former MLS star Kyle Martino breaks down just what he means by that term, while in The Wall Street Journal, an Englishman chimed in with (tongue-in-cheek) reasons he hates American soccer fans.
4. LEANING ON LAWRENCE
Before the US take center stage on Saturday, MLS action kicks off Friday night with a matchup of perennial playoff rivals Houston and Sporting Kansas City (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The Dynamo may be on a three-game losing streak, but with the MLS season about to break for the World Cup, the club are hoping to go into that hiatus on a high note. On the Kansas City side, with Uri Rosell now departed, the defending MLS Cup champions will be leaning heavily on the returning Lawrence Olum to make sure that doesn't happen.
5. DEFOE STILL A POSSIBILITY FOR ENGLAND?
Toronto FC will be looking to bounce back from their Canadian Championship disappointment on Saturday when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes (4 pm ET, TSN/RDS2 in Canada, MLS LIVE in US), and while the Canadian club appear likely to send Ryan Richter on loan to the Ottawa Fury, is there still a chance Jermain Defoe could join England’s World Cup squad as well?
6. FITTING A NEW KITCHEN
With D.C. United’s Perry Kitchen suspended for the upcoming game against the Columbus Crew (Saturday, 6:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), who will take his place in the starting lineup? Whoever he is, he will not be stepping in at RFK Stadium but instead at FedEx Field as part of a doubleheader with a Spain vs. El Salvador match (4 pm ET, beIN Sports, Univision). Unsurprisingly, the two games have sold plenty of tickets so far.
7. WHEELER MOVING FORWARD AGAIN
One thing you will not see when the Philadelphia Union take on the Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 7 pm ET, MLS LIVE in US, TSN in Canada) is Aaron Wheeler playing center back, with John Hackworth himself admitting the experiment didn’t quite work. Hopefully you won’t see Sebastian Fernandez take a dive either, with Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson insisting, “It’s not what the club is about” following a fine from the Disciplinary Committee.
8. SOUNDERS LOOK TO MAINTAIN LEAD IN WEST
Having beaten Real Salt Lake to extend their lead at the top of the Western Conference, the Seattle Sounders will be looking to maintain that gap when they take on the Chicago Fire on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), and while Osvaldo Alonso is expected to play, he is not at full health, and the Sounders are looking forward to the World Cup break to give him some rest. There will, of course, be US Open Cup action during the World Cup break, and the Sounders have already sold out Starfire Sports Complex for their June 18 home game against Californian amateurs PSA Elite.
9. “FRIENDS” REUNITED IN DALLAS
Oscar Pareja’s current side hosts his old one on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes) and, for the Colorado Rapids, it’s a chance to show how much they’ve moved on, all with no ill will toward their former coach. Pareja himself isn’t buying into the importance of this meeting and is more concerned with stopping an eight-game Dallas winless streak.
10. JEWSBURY REMAINS A CONSTANT
Despite Real Salt Lake letting another lead slip away, Jeff Attinella is once again proving a more than capable stand-in for Nick Rimando, and he will be put to the test on Saturday when his side host the Portland Timbers (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The Timbers, on the other hand, already knew the same thing about Jack Jewsbury, who remains an ever reliable presence in the lineup.
11. AS FAGUNDEZ GRADUATES, RED BULL VETERANS RESTED
The New England Revolution take on the New York Red Bulls this Sunday (5 pm ET, MLS LIVE) and, having just graduated high school, Diego Fagundez will no doubt be looking to round out the celebrations with a goal. New York will likely be without Jameson Olave and Thierry Henry for the game, preferring not to use their stars on the artificial surface at Gillette Stadium.
12. BATTLE FOR LA, PART II
The LA Galaxy host Chivas USA this Sunday (8 pm ET, Univision Deportes), and while Bruce Arena toys with different formations, Erick Torres is hoping he can find his scoring boots again and help Chivas USA go into the league’s World Cup break on a high.
13. MEXICO TO FACE DEPLETED PORTUGAL
Mexico play their final World Cup warm-up game when they take on Portugal tonight (8:30 pm ET, UniMas) and, as usual, Miguel Herrera has already named his starting lineup. While no one is quite sure what the tournament has in store for El Tri, with no Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe or Raul Meireles, the Mexicans certainly found a good time to play the Portuguese.
14. READY FOR THE WORLD CUP?
With the World Cup just one week away, FIFA has released its final rankings before the tournament begins. The USA are back up to 13th again, while Mexico have dropped back to 20th. To help get you ready for the tournament, here's an excellent preview but, while we’ll all be watching the contest in our own way, what must it be like for the professionals?
15. MORE TARGETS FOR NYCFC?
With New York City FC having signed their first player, you can expect the rumors about their next targets to start picking up speed. The latest involve Italian forward Alberto Gilardino, as well as Shola Ameobi, the Nigerian striker likely to face the US on Saturday. Meanwhile fellow newcomers Orlando City have addressed their own plans for the immediate future.
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