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Kick Off: Mullan, Leathers defend tackles, Guti's MLS options

They are at the center of the storm of criticism following two separate tackles that generated significant emotion and debate in MLS and American soccer circles this weekend.

The challenges by Colorado’s Brian Mullan and Vancouver’s Jonathan Leathers have come under the microscope after Seattle’s Steve Zakuani and FC Dallas playmaker David Ferreira suffered long-term injuries in the process. But the two players are standing up for themselves.

Mullan says that his challenge on Zakuani Friday night in Colorado is “a tackle that I've done hundreds of times and would probably do again.”

Vancouver's right back defended his play on Ferreira, saying he “didn’t think it was that bad” and that it was “not a vicious tackle.” His manager, Teitur Thordarson, also came out in support of the fullback.

Staying in Vancouver, Whitecaps designated player Eric Hassli kept his streak alive … of caution cards. He has yet to play an MLS match without receiving a yellow. However, last weekend’s card has the Whitecaps up in arms.

The other 2011 expansion team, the Portland Timbers, also feel that the referee in their match against the LA Galaxy had a major impact in the match. They contend that different referee decisions could have prevented the Galaxy’s first two goals in the opening 10 minutes.

During the match at The Home Depot Center, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay of Kitchen Nightmares was spotted cheering on his friend, David Beckham, who one day later was photographed in an Easter bunny costume by his wife. (PHOTOS)

In case you missed it, Fox Soccer aired a lengthy interview with Beckham over the weekend in which he talks about preferring to be an owner rather than a manager after his career’s done. (VIDEO)

Could Beckham be joined by a former Real Madrid teammate this summer? According to Guti's official twitter feed, he says that it’ll be Galaxy, Red Bulls or Besiktas for him next year. A decision to come in one month. (SPANISH)

Real Salt Lake had Easter Sunday off as they prepare for Wednesday's Champions League second leg finale against defending Mexican champs Monterrey. One writer explains why the match-up is equivalent to the Kansas City Royals facing the New York Yankees in the World Series.

With captain Kyle Beckerman missing for the CCL decider, many are left guessing who will replace him in the lineup. But a look at history makes Beckerman’s fill-in an obvious choice.

Obvious. Just like the decisions by the New York Cosmos to have Frenchman Eric Cantona lead their club. The self-proclaimed “greatest” says that the New York Red Bulls will have more to learn from the Cosmos than the other way around and he sees the USA winning the World Cup on the strength of Cosmos players.

In Toronto, despite a red card and a 1-1 tie at home, they’re feeling good about what they’re calling the best performance of the season by TFC.

In an article that seeks to find out if Houston Dynamo rookie forward Will Bruin is a "bear of love," we find out he has a celebrity crush on Jennifer Aniston.

It was also a good weekend for Americans playing overseas. In Mexico, Herculez Gomez is on one of his goal-scoring binges with his fourth in four games for Pachuca. Meanwhile, two Americans featured on the score sheets in Denmark. Defender Clarence Goodson hit the back of the net for Brondby. But it was Chris Rolfe who netted the goal of the week for Americans abroad. (VIDEO)

The Monday afternoon EPL match today features Manchester City traveling to face Blackburn Rovers in a bid to solidify their fourth position in the EPL and guarantee Champions League qualification for next season. (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPNDeportes)

Blackburn’s US national team midfielder Jermaine Jones says he is still hoping to earn a UEFA Champions League medal himself this year.

Champions League medals seem very distant for Arsenal lately. After a 2-1 loss at Bolton is this the beginning of the end for Arsene Wenger? He is publicly taking the fall for the club’s recent string of collapses and one US writer says it’s time for Wenger to leave.

In one of the bizarre stories from international soccer, French giants Olympique Marseille wins the league club and one of the first instincts by a veteran on the team is to grab the microphone and sing a tune aimed at rivals Paris St. Germain. Now he’s in deep trouble.

Last week we saw the lists of the highest paid soccer players and richest clubs. Today it’s time for the highest-spending sports teams in the world, including American sports. That list, compiled by ESPN, is topped by two soccer clubs ahead of the New York Yankees.

Lastly, pitch invasions by supporters are usually countered by charging, overweight security personnel seeking to nab the offenders. Here’s one celebratory invasion from England that was not accompanied by those same scenes but did cause a lengthier delay than usual for the restart. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Good news for Real Salt Lake: Monterrey is still slumping

SJ Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop is furious with his side; player-only meeting set for Monday

Toronto FC manager Aron Winter laments “stupid” red card in home tie vs. Columbus


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