Kick Off: Donovan wants quiet Qwest, RSL need win

The day’s finally here. First Kick from sold-out Qwest Field in Seattle will christen a new season (9:30 pm ET on ESPN & ESPN Deportes). Another loud and crazy atmosphere courtesy of Sounders fans for the league’s first game.

Well, maybe not.

LA star Landon Donovan is looking forward to a quiet Qwest Field. He says it’s been “relatively quiet” there in recent visits because the Galaxy have taken the crowd out of the game.

At the end of this Galaxy preview in the Los Angeles Times, veteran Frankie Hejduk sums up the season ahead for his new club: “Anything less than a championship would be a disappointment.”

As Sounders goalkeeper and US soccer legend Kasey Keller gets set to kick off his final season as a pro, there is one mission that is driving him: the quest to win his first-ever league title of his 20-year pro career.

Scoring goals has been the main challenge for the Seattle Sounders in recent years. Manager Sigi Schmid has set the bar for his team at the end of this transcript: He wants to average 1.5 to 2 goals a game.

One MLS match this season has already been played … in virtual reality. An EA Sports simulation of the Vancouver vs. Toronto FC matchup this weekend has one team emerging as winners. Find out who scores the goal.

Real Salt Lake will carry the country’s hopes of international success this year into their first leg CONCACAF Champions League semifinal first leg against Deportivo Saprissa at Rio Tinto Stadium (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel). The players know they need to come away with a win ahead of a tough road trip to Costa Rica and captain Kyle Beckerman is calling this game “monumental.”

Although their minds will be on the present and the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, Real Salt Lake are also operating for the future, signing their first-ever Home Grown player.

As MLS enters its 16th season, The New York Times makes the argument this morning that the league’s center of gravity has shifted to the West. Portland owner Merritt Paulson calls the Northwest the nation's soccer capital.

If you’re still trying to figure out what makes it so special, here’s a feature by ESPN.com’s Jeff Carlisle on Portland’s soccer culture that you won’t want to miss.

And for more of a history lesson as to why Portland is called “Soccer City USA,” read the 1975 article that gave birth to the moniker.

It’s the passion that attracted the Timbers’ new stadium naming rights partner, Jeld-Wen. The fans are what sold the company’s CEO when he attended a match last summer.

There is also optimism coming out of Chicago Fire camp. Owner Andrew Hauptman made the trek to South Carolina for the Carolina Challenge Cup and had this to say about what he saw out there.

No one quite knows what to expect from the New England Revolution this season. In the words of veteran Shalrie Joseph: Some days he’s smiling and "other days are just headaches."

D.C. United will also seek a return to the glory days in 2011 and they will face legendary Dutch club Ajax along the way.

Very little in the way of comments are being made on the bids for MLSE’s stable of sports franchises, which includes Toronto FC. But the sense is that there is more than one interested party.

Brazilian defender Júlio César has some high praise for MLS and Sporting Kansas City. Find out what it was that convinced him to sign with Sporting.

Minor detail that may help MLSsoccer.com fantasy players: The Union’s Sebastien Le Toux is carrying an ankle injury heading into Saturday’s season opener in Houston.

As far as the Houston Dynamo are concerned, their star forward Brian Ching is reportedly likely to miss the match against the Union.

If the day wasn’t jam-packed as it was with MLS teams back in official competitions, there’s the UEFA Champions League matches that will decide two more quarterfinalists: Manchester United vs. Olympique Marseille (2:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel & Fox Deportes) and Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan (2:30 pm ET, Fox Sports Net).

Lastly, FC Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez has been named an ambassador for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. If you’re not familiar with the background for his appointment, his personal story is explained here.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

First-ever League Manager fantasy game debuts on MLSsoccer.com

The ultimate podcast preview of MLS First Kick: ExtraTime Radio with Kasey Keller

LA Galaxy’s Bruce Arena gives scouting report on Seattle’s danger man: Fredy Montero


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