Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. AND THEN THERE WERE TWO…
With the Seattle Sounders already through to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, LA and Houston had the chance to join them on Wednesday. But only Bruce Arena’s men made it through. The Galaxy eased into the semis for the first time in club history thanks to a 4-1 home win against Herediano, while Houston were their own worst enemies in a 3-0 defeat at Santos Laguna.
2. LA BREEZE INTO SEMIS, WITH AN ALL-MLS FINAL IN THE CARDS
For the first time in history, there could be an all-MLS CCL final. Pause for a moment. That sounds pretty awesome. However, there is the small task of LA and Seattle negotiating the semifinal hurdle first, against Monterrey and Santos Laguna, respectively. Here is a closer look at how LA eased into the last four.
3. MLS VS. LIGA MX SHOWDOWN
LA head coach Bruce Arena was already looking forward to the clash with two-time defending champions Monterrey in the semis, with the first leg set to take place at home on April 2, 3 or 4: "Monterrey has been the best club team in our region for a number of years now," said Arena. “They’re the best team, they’re the team to beat, so it’s going to be a very big challenge for our club."
4. VILLARREAL LEADS CHARGE OF PROMISING MLS TEENS
With LA holding a slender 1-0 advantage going into the second half last night, one teenager came up big. Jose Villarreal scored a stunning goal with his left foot to make it 2-0 and set LA on their way to the CCL semifinals. Galaxy veteran Todd Dunivant was impressed: “He’s on fire, and he’s going to be a big player for us this year.” And then Jack McBean scored late to cap off a trio of goals for MLS teenagers in CCL quarterfinals, after DeAndre Yedlin’s stunner for Seattle against Tigres UANL. Looks like a bright future for MLS, NBC Pro Soccer Talk looks at the rising stars.
5. HOUSTON UNDONE BY CALAMITOUS DEFENDING
“Anytime you make mistakes at the back, you’re spelling trouble for yourself.” Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear summed his teams night up perfectly, as the Dynamo saw their 1-0 lead from the first leg evaporate in Torreón. Defensive mishaps cost Houston an all-MLS showdown with Seattle in the semifinals. Now Kinnear is rooting for the Sounders: “We were dangerous on set pieces the entire 180 minutes,” he said. “Hopefully, Seattle takes note of that and beats them.”
6. 2007 GOLD CUP REPEAT IN CHI-TOWN?
CONCACAF yesterday released the draw and fixtures for summer's Gold Cup. The US are in Group C, while Canada are in Group A. The US will open at JELD-WEN Field in Portland vs. Belize, then move onto to Rio Tinto in Utah against Cuba, before facing Costa Rica at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn. The Canadians get a tough slate, opening against Martinique at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., vs. two-time defending champions Mexico at Seattle's CenturyLink Field and wrapping group play vs. Panama at Denver's Sports Authority Field. Chicago's Soldier Field will once again be home to the final, as it was in 2007 when Benny Feilhaber's golazo helped the US defeat Mexico. Get all the details here.
7. MILLER’S WEEK KEEPS GETTING WORSE
Surely this week couldn’t get any worse for Roy Miller? Oh wait … it just did. The Red Bulls defender spoke out about his crazy encroachment on Chris Wondolowski’s winning PK on Sunday: “I did it so that if he made it, he would have to do it again and then he missed.” Um, if Wondo scored the first time then the goal would have stood regardless of Miller’s encroachment. The guys over at Big Apple Soccer are certainly fired up about it.
8. KLINSI: THANKS BUT NO THANKS, BRAD
Jurgen Klinsmann thanked Brad Friedel for his offer to come out of international retirement, and that’s as far as it went: “It's a nice comment by Brad. Obviously he's a great guy, but we have total faith in Brad Guzan now as No. 1 for Costa Rica and the Mexico game, and also with Nick Rimando being his backup.”
9. USMNT DROPS IN LATEST WORLD RANKINGS
With the ‘keeper situation sorted, something else popped up for Klinsmann. Even though his side hasn’t played in five weeks, they slipped one place in the latest FIFA World ranking to 33rd. With a slate of tough games coming up, the US will be hoping to grab some valuable ranking points with wins. They of course face Mexico in the Azteca on March 26 and El Tri have named their 23-man squad.
Staying on the international scence, congrats to the USWNT, who dispatched Germany 2-0 and clinched their ninth Algarve Cup on Wednesday. Alex Morgan scored twice to grab the title and stretch the USA’s unbeaten streak to 29 games.
10. NEW MLS FANTASY SECTION
For all you MLS Fantasy fans out there, Fantasy Soccer: Manager has a new stats section where you can analyze every single player on your squad. Don't miss anything. Check it out, now.
11. RIVALRY WEEK, IT’S A BIG DEAL
With Rivalry Week in full flow in MLS, let’s take a look at the history, passion and pride behind the local rivals locking horns this weekend. Montreal vs. Toronto is a tale of Canada’s two biggest cities. Houston vs. FC Dallas is a battle for the lone star state and Portland against Seattle, well that one’s been brewing for over 40 years. Then there’s the Atlantic Cup between RBNY and D.C., while RSL and Colorado battle for the Rocky Mountain Cup. It is going to be a huge weekend.
12. GOOCH IN THE QUARTERS
Lest we forget, Europe has its own Champions League, too. With the quarterfinal field set, Oguchi Onyewu’s Málaga on Wednesday made it to the last eight for the first time in club history. The draw is set for Friday morning. See how Clarence Goodson got on in the Danish Cup semifinals, too.
13. FRIEDEL IS FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS … OF HIS MOM
Ever wonder how Friedel can keep pulling off superb stops in the EPL at the ripe old age of 41? Here’s a hint according to the Daily Express: His mother is 70 and still works as a teacher in kindergarten and elementary school. Wow. So can Brad outdo his mom and squeeze another 30 years of service into his profession? It seems as if longevity runs in the family.
14. KAMARA’S INCREDIBLE RISE CONTINUES
The people of Norwich have taken to Kei Kamara like a duck to water. The on-loan Sporting KC star started his first EPL game last weekend, and tomorrow a cinema in Norwich will be airing the short documentary, Kei, which tells his story of refugee to pro soccer star. The BBC speak in-depth with the people who made the film and Kamara’s former boss, Dominic Kinnear, amongst others. Heart-shaped hands all round.
15. AND FINALLY…
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you’ll know a new Pope was elected at the Vatican. And one former MLSer watched on more eagerly than most. CNN caught up with Chase Hilgenbrinck and his incredible story – a former US youth international midfielder who played in Chile’s top flight and with the New England Revolution – as he explains why he swapped pro soccer for the seminary. For more of Hilgenbrinck's surprising career change, check out this "What Ever Happened To" feature on the former Revs man from last winter.
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