Kick Off: Tim Howard and Tim Leiweke make plans, while FC Dallas look to cement MLS Cup credentials

Here are the top 15 stories everyone's talking about this morning:

1. CHANGE OF FORTUNE

There’s no further proof needed that FC Dallas have been revitalized under Oscar Pareja than the fact that the team is currently on a nine-game unbeaten run, something they’ll look to keep going on Friday evening when they take on Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET, NBCSN in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada). Speaking of rejuvenation, RSL midfielder Luis Gil is enjoying a productive run of his own.

2. LEIWEKE LEAVING

After denying the rumors himself just a couple of days ago, MLSE have now confirmed that Tim Leiweke will indeed be leaving the company and, as such, Toronto FC. Leiweke laid out his plans for the future, which apparently don’t involve Chivas USA, but what might his eventual departure mean for TFC?

3. HOWARD TAKES A BREAK

US national team hero and human brick wall Tim Howard announced on Thursday his intentions to take a sabbatical from the US national team until September 2015. Could this break affect Howard’s future the same way Landon Donovan’s did? Some argue not at all.

4. JONES COMING IN?

While Toronto FC fans try and digest the news about Leiweke, the team needs to focus on their game against the Chicago Fire (Saturday, 7 pm ET, MLS LIVE), not that the visiting team doesn’t face distractions of their own, as the Jermaine Jones saga is hopefully approaching its end. Or is it?

5. VANCOUVER TRADE UP?

With Nigel Reo-Coker falling down the pecking order in Vancouver, the Whitecaps have traded the English midfielder for Chivas USA’s Mauro Rosales. It could prove a boost ahead of their game against the LA Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE in the US, TSN2 & RDS in Canada), who seem to be benefitting more and more from a strong academy.

6. DON’T CALL US CHEAP

New York's game against the Montreal Impact (Saturday, 7 pm ET, MLS LIVE in the US, TSN & RDS in Canada) marks the start of a busy period for the Red Bulls and, with promising youngster Michael Bustamante ruled out for the rest of the season, NYRB want to try and produce more Homegrown talent. However, don't take that to mean that they're trying to do things on the cheap.

7. CALL-UPS

One thing that certainly won’t help the Red Bulls during their busy stretch of games is the news that Tim Cahill has been called up for the upcoming Australia friendlies. On the other side of the country, following his fine form for Chivas USA, Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres has earned his first-call up for the Mexican national team.

8. THE BEST OF BRUIN

Columbus could also lose players to international duty, with three players selected to Costa Rica’s 50-man provisional squad (yes, 50) for the Copa Centroamericana. However, it certainly won’t affect Saturday’s game against the Houston Dynamo (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE), with the visiting team finally working out how to get the best from Will Bruin

9. WARY OF THE THREAT IN NEW ENGLAND

The New England Revolution host Chivas USA this weekend (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE) with neither team in particularly good form. Yet Chivas USA, (who now happen to have a free DP slot, just saying) are wary of the threat posed by the Revs and their resurgent striker Charlie Davies.

10. FIGHTING FOR FIRST

Two of this week’s CONCACAF Champions League competitors face off on Saturday when Sporting Kansas City host D.C. United (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live) in a battle for first place in the Eastern Conference. SKC will be without Christian Duke, after the midfielder re-joined Oklahoma City Energy on loan, while Jon Kempin looks set to once again start in goal.

11. ONE LAST CLASH

It’s time for another huge Cascadia Clash on Sunday as the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders square off for their third and final encounter of the MLS regular season (5 pm ET, ESPN2). While there’s no danger of Clint Dempsey missing this particular game, the Sounders star has admitted to feeling worn down. Timbers fans on the other hand seem to be full of energy and are already begun camping out for tickets.

12. THE REPLACEMENT

The Philadelphia Union’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday (8 pm ET, UDN) will likely feature Zac MacMath in goal. But with Rais M’Bolhi’s arrival imminent, how is the incumbent keeper dealing with his forewarned benching?

13. TIMBERS AWAY

The Portland Timbers have, of course, just returned from their successful first foray into the CCL, but it wasn’t just the team who made the journey, as some select members of the Timbers Army were also on hand to help chronicle the adventure.

14. ROCKY ROAD FOR RAPIDS

It seems the Colorado Rapids can’t catch a break right now, or maybe they can, as according to one English news network they didn’t lose to the LA Galaxy at all. Rather the Colorado Rockies did, something which the MLB side at least saw the humor in.

BONUS: UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

There was a new fan in attendance at the Sounders' Wednesday night game against the San Jose Earthquakes, one who had never attended a game before. The Emerald City Supporters group gave him a very special welcome.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Building the Pyramid: Can soccer in Austin finally make the leap?

ExtraTime Radio: Who steps in for Howard?

The Throw-In: Endings, Beginnings and unforgettable moments

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