Kick Off: SJ senses playoffs near, TFC still hopeful

San Jose Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop says his team is “feeling it.”

On the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time since the Quakes were reborn in 2008, they face the Nery Castillo-less Chicago Fire tonight at 11 p.m. ET (ESPN Deportes, ESPN3).

Yallop goes as far as pointing to Khari Stephenson as the key player that makes the Quakes tick.

Meanwhile, as US women’s soccer and Bay Area legend Brandi Chastain prepares for her farewell match on Saturday, she says there have been early talks about her potentially joining the Quakes staff.

The other MLS midweek match features another playoff hopeful, the Colorado Rapids, as they look to also move closer to clinching a postseason berth with a home match against resurgent Philadelphia (9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Direct Kick, MLSsoccer.com Matchday Live).

Watching tonight’s Rapids and Earthquakes matches very closely will be Toronto FC who, despite their CONCACAF Champions League elimination on Tuesday night, say they are still hopeful they can emulate the Real Salt Lake team of 2009.

Meanwhile the Toronto media continues to show it’s the most critical of any soccer market in the country. The criticism is only fueled by the CCL exit.

Including last Saturday’s 3-2 home loss in league play to the San Jose Earthquakes and the Dwayne De Rosario check-writing incident, TFC forward Chad Barrett called it a “deflating week.”

One Toronto Globe and Mail writer is advocating the team move captain De Rosario.

It was RSL that dumped Toronto out of the continental competition on Tuesday at BMO Field. The key to the match was the risk run by RSL manager Jason Kreis and the coaching staff to play Javier Morales after the Argentine missed several matches in recent weeks.

Now Real Salt Lake are just six matches away from the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup.

The Columbus Crew will look to join RSL in the quarterfinal round by securing a result in tonight’s match at Municipal in Guatemala. The match is not only big for the Crew’s chances of advancing, but also for one goalkeeper who is out of contract later this year.

Another goalkeeper will be the focus for the Seattle Sounders in a meaningless Champions League match on Wednesday night. Terry Boss could get the start tonight and then fly out to join the Puerto Rico national team for weekend matches. That means the Sounders need to scramble for a back-up.

The Philadelphia Union will also contribute a player to the Puerto Rican national side: Cristian Arrieta. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, they’re still talking about the Union as a potential playoff team. Left back Jordan Harvey still believes in the postseason dream.

With the Fire playing on the road on Wednesday, it doesn’t mean there won’t be any soccer at Toyota Park tonight. Notre Dame is playing there.

Speaking of Chicago, speculation is already raging about big changes in store for the Fire. One veteran soccer writer places the burden of an underachieving season on new manager Carlos de los Cobos.

Galaxy midfielder David Beckham tells FIFA.com that the key for MLS to be one of the top leagues in the world is to continue to attract the world’s top talents.

Another DP is in the news as the Seattle Times speaks to Sounders DP Álvaro Fernández and recaps the whirlwind summer he experienced.

Lastly, while things may seem rosy for Beckham and Fernández, one DP is feeling the end is near in New York.

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