Game ball to the trainer!
The fact that FC Dallas were able to come away with a 1-0 home win in last night’s league match against the New England Revolution is due in large part to the trainer’s work on captain Ugo Ihemelu’s cramping leg. It allowed the FCD defender to stay in the game just as his manager was about to sub him out. It was Ihemelu who scored the dramatic stoppage-time winner (watch the highlights here).
“I knew we had one more sub left and I didn’t want us to have to use it on another injury, so I just tried to stay out there for as long as I could," he said. "Fortunately, after Josh [FCD athletic trainer Josh Watts] worked on it, it calmed down a little bit, I stayed in and it worked out for us.”
"What a great example for a captain, to stay in there and want to play until the end," said Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman, who has two new injury concerns following the match with George John and Ricardo Villar picking up knocks.
Revolution manager Jay Heaps was visibly gutted by the loss and doesn’t hide it in this postgame video interview. (VIDEO)
Looking ahead to the weekend action, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC revive arguably the fiercest Canadian rivalry on Saturday at high noon from Olympic Stadium (noon ET, TSN and MLS LIVE). The pressure for the expansion Impact to win their first match is increasing: “The only frustrating part is not getting results,” Montreal manager Jesse Marsch said. “This is a results-oriented business and more than anything we all know that in order to give ourselves more confidence and validate everything we believe in.”
For more on Marsch, check out this ESPN.com feature: “On the sidelines, I try to be a pillar of strength for our team,” he says. “That if they look over at me there's no sense of panic or concern.”
Even a non-Canadian like Toronto FC winger João Plata knows what Montreal vs. Toronto is all about: “We have to play for our lives and start from zero against Montreal. It’s a key game, a classic in Canada, and we hope to get the three points.”
Another of the heated rivalries in MLS takes place on Saturday night: the Rocky Mountain Cup clash between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE). With two of the three clashes taking place at Rio Tinto this year, there has been talk from fans about possibly changing the way the winner of the cup is decided.
It will represent a battle of two former MLS teammates. RSL manager Jason Kreis played alongside his Colorado counterpart Oscar Pareja in Dallas: "When people ask me for my top three players that I ever played with, he's always in that list," Kreis said.
Arguably the most anticipated match is the trip by defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy to Livestrong Sporting Park to face Sporting Kansas City, who are riding a perfect record of 4-0-0 (4 pm ET, ESPN).
While Galaxy manager Bruce Arena sounds hopeful about Landon Donovan’s chances of playing, he tells ESPNLosAngeles.com that he is yet to decide whether star midfielder David Beckham will even travel later today. He didn’t practice yesterday and other players were practicing free kicks.
Another special TV event is the Univision Deportes debut of MLS coverage with the telecast of Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls and the league’s leading scorer Thierry Henry (3 pm ET, Saturday). For the Crew, ex-Red Bulls Academy player Dilly Duka looks set to make a return although whether he starts is still a doubt.
One of the most intriguing matches of the season pits the San Jose Earthquakes hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The match represents a special occasion for former Whitecaps winger Shea Salinas, who was traded away during the offseason: “It was difficult at first because I really enjoyed Vancouver and I was excited to play for Martin Rennie and learn from him.”
One team that knows what the Earthquakes are all about is Seattle, who lost at home to San Jose 1-0 last weekend. The Sounders will hope to bounce back in their first road trip against the high-octane attack of D.C. United (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). To do that, Seattle manager Sigi Schmid hopes to see better things from newcomer Christian Sivebaek: "I need him to stay in the game on a more consistent basis.
That’s a criticism that can’t be leveled at D.C. United wingers Nick DeLeon and Danny Cruz, who know each other from their days in Arizona. When they connected for a goal last Friday, Cruz said that it felt better than his first-ever MLS goal: "Not to get all mushy," Cruz said. "The feeling that I had after scoring that goal and to be able to celebrate it with [DeLeon], it didn't compare."
There’s a difference in opinion in Portland, where the Timbers will hope to get off the schneid Saturday night against Chivas USA (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Manager John Spencer says winger Franck Songo’o is a “25- to 30-minute player” but the Cameroonian begs to differ: “I think I'm ready for 90 minutes."
Meanwhile, Spencer has to deal with another injury to a contributor, who won’t be available vs. the Goats. Find out who that player is here.
The latest pearl of wisdom from the Scotsman: “As a player, you have your own career in your hands. As a coach, players have your career in their hands. That's why it's always better to be a player.”
The Chicago Fire are off this weekend but they are not taking any time off, penning influential forward Patrick Nyarko to a new deal: “There wasn’t any doubt that we would come to an agreement. It was a question of when,” Nyarko says.
The Philadelphia Union are also idle, but it’s an equally important weekend for them says goalkeeper Zac MacMath: “We plan to take this [bye] week to assess where we are and use the Columbus game as a fresh start to the season. It starts with me and my defense."
Expect that backline to feature Gabriel Farfan very prominently moving forward, says this article by beat writer Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Former New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream hopes to figure prominently in Bolton Wanderers’ relegation battle over the club’s final eight games in the English Premier League. He has also strategically scheduled that honeymoon he never had for late June in the hope that he might get called up for the US national team’s World Cup qualifying camp.
US national team fans finally got what they wanted: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann reportedly reached out to Santos Laguna's American striker Herculez Gomez via text, but Herc had yet to reply as of yesterday: “I’d be stupid to ever deny my country or turn down an offer from my country, but right now I think that’s so far down the road and so out of the picture that I just have to concentrate on Santos.”
If Gomez ever returned to MLS, his rights reside with Sporting Kansas City and the team is reportedly considering trade offers for those rights.
One player who is eyeing a return to MLS, potentially as early as the upcoming summer transfer window is former Chicago Fire defender Bakary Soumare, who currently plays in Germany. The MLS allocation table would apparently come into play here.
Tottenham Hotspur’s American goalkeeper Brad Friedel turns 41 in May and has given an updated timeline on retirement plans: "How long can I play? Until no manager in the world wants to take me on,” he said.
Some Friday morning EPL soccer for fans today and it could be a spectacular match-up: Swansea vs. Newcastle (11:30 am ET, Fox Soccer). We’ll see if American Robbie Rogers gets in the game for Leeds United at Reading in England’s second tier (9 am ET, Fox Soccer Plus). That will be followed by Barnsley vs. West Ham United (noon ET, Fox Soccer Plus).
The newest NASL side, the San Antonio Scorpions, are staffing up with a handful of former Whitecaps players in the hope of leaving a mark. Find out which ex-Vancouver player said: “I was playing for a coach in Vancouver who didn't have any confidence in me."
Also, it’ll be USA vs. Mexico all over again in the Legends Classic at The Home Depot Center. Check out the details for the April 15 event here.
Lastly, here’s a 30-minute video that might be good for your lunch break today: Seattle Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer’s appearance at a lobby bar on a show called “The High Bar: Your weekly watering hole for light-heard conversation with people who care about culture that matters.” Find out about Hanauer’s dream of becoming a pro soccer player. (VIDEO)
LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena and San Jose’s Jon Busch on the latest edition of ExtraTime Radio
The Throw-In: How to respond to Mexico’s domination?
Instant Replay: A review of the most controversial plays from the weekend including that Blas Perez goal
Get the The Kick-Off delivered to you!
Enter your email address below to sign up for The Kick-Off mailing list and get it delivered to your inbox every morning.