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Kick Off: Mastroeni's mission, Kinnear to Brazil

Even the toughest and grittiest of MLS players keep diaries.

You probably wouldn’t expect Pablo Mastroeni to be among those. But he gives us a peek inside of his journal ahead of tonight’s opening MLS Cup Playoff match against the Columbus Crew (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes).

The playoff match will be the first ever hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the visiting Columbus Crew believe they are gaining a second wind. Guillermo Barros Schelotto shares the key to victory for the Fighting Canaries.

In addition to goalkeeper William Hesmer, the Crew may have lost another player for the duration of the playoffs. One Venezuelan media outlet is reporting that Emilio Renteria will be forced to undergo meniscus surgery on Friday.

All of Dallas is revved up for FCD’s playoff opener on Saturday with several local sports celebrities – and others – making the mantra loud and clear that they are “Dallas 'Til I Die.”

It probably was not in Real Salt Lake’s plans to prepare for their first-leg playoff match at Pizza Hut Park by using shovels on Wednesday. Star players Will Johnson and Alvaro Saborio did not even bother to train in those conditions.

England’s Daily Mirror wonders whether England manager Fabio Capello should take a look at Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani.

The Sounders were one of the teams that will not have any player or coach in the running for the league’s individual awards. However, it has incensed some members of the media that voters have Thierry Henry in the mix for one honor.

One club’s offseason just got interesting as Chivas USA did an about-face and after confirming Martin Vasquez would be back in 2011, decided to sack him late Wednesday. Local media has already drawn a comprehensive list of candidates.

Looking ahead to next season, Philadelphia Union captain Danny Califf says that everyone at the club would be “shattered” if they didn’t qualify for the postseason in their second season.

Houston Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear is planning a trip to Brazil to look for new players ahead of the 2011 campaign.

In Chicago, they’re drawing the balances of the 2010 season and only give a passing grade to the rookies that were showcased by the Fire.

In case you didn’t catch it, here’s the latest installment of the EA Sports vignettes featuring Steve Nash and Landon Donovan.

Meanwhile, Steve Nash’s brother, Vancouver’s Martin Nash, explains the reasons behind his sudden decision to retire as a player.

The Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC will not only share the distinction of being the only Canadian teams in MLS, but it also looks like they’ll share the same sponsor.

Back in the USA, a college soccer game featuring the Blue-Green rivalry registered one of the highest NCAA attendances of the year. Must-Reads

Fire’s Colombian defender Wilman Conde has suitors in MLS and overseas

Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley star for European clubs in midweek cup action

MLS names all the finalists for end-of-season awards

LA Galaxy still have not determined who will partner with Omar Gonzalez in central defense