Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.
1. THIS IS SOCCER
A huge weekend of action is on the horizon with top dogs in the West, FC Dallas, hosting the defending champion LA Galaxy on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) and San Jose travelling to the resurgent Portland Timbers on Sunday. (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) "The Scouting Report" breaks down LA’s chances in Dallas as the home side looks to stay ahead of the pack.
Also, check out these eye-catching promotional posters in the build-up to both games. What do you make of them?
2. STREAM OF THE WEEK: UNION HOST TORONTO
The good people at el Jimador present this week's Stream of the Week once again, available free on MLSsoccer.com, as the Philadelphia Union host Toronto FC (Saturday, 4 pm ET). Make sure you log onto the site to watch the game for FREE and see if Brazilian ace Kléberson makes his Union debut and if TFC can carry on their battling form.
3. ESPÍNDOLA, HENRY AND DERO ALL FIT?
A fit and healthy attack is music to the ears of Red Bulls fans. And Mike Petke may get that and more as New York travel to RFK on Saturday (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) to face D.C. United. Thierry Henry – who sent this message of support for Kevin Alston yesterday – is pushing for a start and could be joined by Fabián Espíndola, who scored twice on his RBNY debut vs. Portland but has been missing since the defeat to Montreal last month. Having both back would be a huge boost for Petke: “Fabián has made great strides and he is in a great position to see the field this weekend.” While Ben Olsen revealed Dwayne De Rosario could be ready to start. “He heals pretty quickly for an old man,” laughed Olsen.
4. WINTER CLASSIC?
Stade Saputo is braced for snow this weekend. Dress warm, Columbus. According to Impact ‘keeper Troy Perkins, “It’s been really cold here all winter, so it feels mild outside right now.” But with up to 10 inches of snow predicted prior to kickoff and a wind chill of lower than 35, Perkins might soon change his mind. Gearing up for the season opener outdoors at Stade Saputo, (2 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in US) Montreal’s head coach Marco Schällibaum is ready to go. But he won’t be on the sidelines on Saturday, Mauro Biello will be in charge.
5. MARTINS BACK IN SEATTLE
Good news for Sounders fans; Obafemi Martins is back. However, he may not be ready to feature on Saturday (4 pm ET, watch on MLS LIVE) against New England. Sigi Schmid acknowledged that they need to take their time with injured stars: "We have to make sure he's healthy," Schmid said. "We have to make sure our guys are healthy before we put them in there.”
6. THE GENERAL HAS FOUND HIS FEET
This brilliant piece from Dylan Fahy looks at just how well US national team star Michael Bradley has adapted to life in Italy, and Rome in particular. Speaking Italian fluently has certainly helped, with Bradley becoming a role model and leader for AS Roma. What lies ahead for "Il Generale"?
7. US U-17s REACH QUARTERS, DESTINY CALLS VS. HONDURAS
Richie Williams' Under-17 national team team is now just one win away from booking their spot at the U-17 World Cup in the UAE in the fall. The US youngsters defeated Guatemala 1-0 last night, to seal their place as group winners for a top seed in the quarters. Corey Baird scored the game-winner just before halftime and the US now face Honduras on Sunday (6 pm ET, Fox Soccer) to decide who will go to the World Cup.
8. EXTRATIME RADIO TALKS THORNS
With the newly reformed National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) starting play this weekend, the guys at ExtraTime Radio caught up with Portland Thorns star player and Canadian international Christine Sinclair. Portland’s other star, USWNT forward Alex Morgan, caught up with USA Today. The NWSL website has all the news, fixtures and videos ahead of this weekend's historic season openers.
9. SOCEER STADIUM ARRIVES IN THE STEEL CITY
Tomorrow will see the Pittsburgh Riverhounds open their new home in downtown Pittsburgh. Highmark Stadium has finally arrived and is placed perfectly on the riverbank at the confluence of three rivers that run through the heart of the Steel City, with this breathtaking skyline of Pittsburgh behind it and Heinz Field just across the water. As The New York Times points out, the USL Pro outfit hosts Harrisburg City Islanders in the home opener, as years of hard work have finally come to fruition. Congrats guys, onwards and upwards.
10. ORLANDO STADIUM PLAN MOVING AHEAD
Staying in USL Pro, Orlando City announced plans to move ahead with a new soccer specific stadium on Friday morning. "We want to have the stadium financing in place by June so we can move forward with the second half of the year," OC president Phil Rawlins told AM 740 The Game.
11. FANTASY: YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
This week Jason Saghini and Andrew Wiebe were inundated with questions and concerns about your MLS Fantasy: Soccer Manager sides. So here they are helping you out, in this edition of "Starting Lineup." Apparently Henry is about to explode and the best sleeper picks are revealed. Essential viewing for all MLS Fantasy junkies.
12. DEMPSEY’S HEROICS CANT SAVE SPURS
Clint Dempsey did his best, but it wasn’t enough for Tottenham against FC Basel, as they crashed out of the Europa League on penalties. Dempsey scored twice, as the 2-2 tie sent the game to extra time and then PKs. In the shootout, Brad Friedel got close to the first, but Basel scored all four attempts to send Spurs out of Europe. Check out the Europa League semifinal draw made this morning.
13. SPANISH GIANTS SEPARATED IN UCL SEMIS
Having an El Clasico for the first time ever in a UEFA Champions League final is still a possibility, as Barcelona and Real Madrid were kept apart in this morning's UCL semifinal draw. Barça face Bayern Munich, with the German club hosting the first leg. While Real Madrid will square off against Borussia Dortmund with the second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu. Reaction on the draw.
14. BIG WEEKEND ON THE TUBE WITH EPL, FA CUP SEMIS
Kei Kamara’s Norwich City side travels to Arsenal on Saturday, (10 am ET, Fox Soccer) as the Sporting KC loan star hopes to steer the Canaries away from the EPL drop zone. Then it’s an FA Cup semifinal between Millwall and Wigan at noon ET on Fox Soccer Plus. Newcastle host Sunderland in a huge North East derby on Sunday (8:30 am ET, ESPN2) with both teams embroiled in the relegation battle and the FA Cup semifinal between Chelsea and Manchester City on Sunday (11 am ET, Fox Soccer) rounds off the weekend.
15. QUAKES MASCOT TAKES ONE FOR THE TEAM…
Finally ICYMI, here is a painful way to end today’s Kick Off, as San Jose’s mascot "Q" was humbled so cruelly in front of his adoring home crowd. Watch on squeamishly as UFC fighter Luke Rockhold smashes a PK into a "delicate region" of the Quakes mascot last Saturday. No doubt he’ll be wearing a cup this weekend…
Tiro Libre: Bieler on why he loves KC (PODCAST)
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