Here are the Top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.
1. WILL RSL-PORTLAND LIVE UP TO THE HYPE? It's one of the most anticipated matchups of the MLS season, but it's taken five months to finally see it. Wednesday's US Open Cup semifinal between Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers -- two teams with uptempo, attack-minded playing styles -- even has neutrals licking their chops. "I've been looking forward to this matchup, probably since I took the job," says Portland manager Caleb Porter who will match wits against Jason Kreis. A chance to host the US Open Cup final is at stake.
2. WILL JOHNSON RETURNS TO RIO TINTO: After five seasons as a loyal RSL soldier and Rio Tinto Stadium fan favorite, Will Johnson is now considered by many to be an MVP candidate as captain of the Portland Timbers. He takes on RSL for the first time and talks about his grand return on the OnFrame soccer show (listen beginning at minute 44:00). Here's how his former teammate, Sebastian Velasquez, will celebrate Johnson's return: new Colombian braids (photo).
3. TIMBERS SNAP UP DESIGNATED PLAYER'S CONTRACT: The Timbers were also been busy off the field, ensuring that playmaker Diego Valeri will remain at the club for the forseeable future by purchasing his contract from Argentine side Lanús on Tuesday. Now Timbers fans can dream about a whole lot more of this (watch highlight video).
4. CAN D.C. SALVAGE THEIR SEASON IN CHICAGO: In the other semifinal between the Chicago Fire and D.C. United at Toyota Park (live stream at 8:30 pm ET), the visitors are hoping "to get some happiness back in our lives" given their 3-15-4 regular-season record. Meanwhile, the Fire could be brandishing their newest attacking weapon for the very first time. DP forward Juan Luis Anangonó says he's ready and waiting to be thrown into action for the first time. Here's a video preview of the match.
5. MONTREAL AND SAN JOSE IN ALL-MLS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BATTLE: In the only all-MLS confrontation in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, the Montreal Impact and San Jose Earthquakes will face off at Stade Saputo (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus) with the knowledge that one of them won't survive the group. Only one team moves on to the knockout phase. If that weren't enough to make tonight's match an appetizing one, there's the potential debut of new Impact DP Hernán Bernardello.
6. SPORTING KC MAKE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DEBUT IN NICARAGUA: Although it will mark their CONCACAF Champions League debut, Sporting Kansas City already have an idea what to expect when they take on Real Estelí in Nicaragua (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Plus). The competition on the field should be manageable -- Real Estelí are 0-27-7 all-time in CONCACAF competition -- but SKC know the biggest challenge will come off the field: "There’s some interesting stadiums down there and, with this club, I think there’s a three-hour bus ride the day of the game," said Jacob Peterson.
7. TIJUANA OFF TO SLOW START IN CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Two Mexican clubs kicked off group stage action on Tuesday night and while Toluca were easy 3-1 winners at home against Caledonia (watch the highlights here), their Liga MX counterparts Club Tijuana were held to a 0-0 draw by Salvadoran side Luis Ángel Firpo (watch the highlights here) despite best efforts by Americans Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Paul Arriola.
8. CAN LA GALAXY TAKE DOWN ANOTHER SERIE A POWER? After taking out reigning Italian champions Juventus, up next for the MLS Cup holders is a date tonight with Italy's AC Milan in the third-place match of the International Champions Cup (6:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer). While Landon Donovan takes the game "with a grain of salt," Marcelo Sarvas feels the Galaxy have a point to prove: “I think that everyone expected us to be in last place, but now we’re playing for third place." In the meantime, on the trip to Miami, Galaxy forward Robbie Keane showed skills of a magician (VIDEO), picking out cards with his teammates' numbers on them. And he nailed them all.
9. MORE MLS VS. SERIE A IN TORONTO: Toronto FC will be looking to continue their hot streak when they host AS Roma (8 pm ET, TSN), the same team that downed the MLS All-Stars 3-1 last week. TFC manager Ryan Nelsen outlines his plans for the friendly in this video interview.
10. FIRST DEMPSEY HOME GAME SELLS OUT: Call it the Dempsey effect. The Seattle vs. Portland Cascadia Cup clash on August 25, which will mark Clint Dempsey's home debut is essentially sold out. Just days after Deuce's signing, the Sounders announced that the team has opened 400 upper level bleachers and standing-room tickets. The rest of us will have to watch on ESPN2 (10 pm ET). As for his league debut this weekend in Toronto? It'll come down to whether he can overcome a virus that has him sidelined.
11. DYNAMO CLOSING IN ON YOUNG HONDURAN STAR: With 24 hours remaining until the close of the MLS secondary transfer window on August 8, the Houston Dynamo are hoping to come away with a promising young Honduran midfielder, 21-year-old Alex López, who featured for his country during the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup. Although Houston manager Dominic Kinnear has seen him in person, López also comes highly recommended by fellow Honduran Boniek García.
12. DEADLINE-DAY MOVES IN MLS: In other deadline day moves, the Colorado Rapids made official the signing of former Mexican league star Vicente Sánchez, who they'll rely on for his finishing. Also, there are reports that New England forward Juan Agudelo has signed a pre-contract to join Stoke in January 2014. But could he move this summer? In the meantime, the Revs made room on their roster to make another acquisition. And lastly, remember the name Federico Puppo? Well, the former Fire forward, who failed to make the most of his opportunity in Chicago, has once again been loaned by the MLS club to Defensor Sporting.
13. CREW'S WARZYCHA NOT WORRIED: The Columbus Crew are 10 points out of a playoff spot and with the club's new owner coming into town for meetings with the front office and technical staff, manager Robert Warzycha is assuming a very practical approach about his position in Columbus: “If they make the decision that I am the problem, that I am not coaching the team the right way and I am not getting from the players what I can get and what they think I can get, then there is going to be a change. I don’t think it matters how I feel."
14. ORLANDO CITY PRESENT STADIUM PLAN: The USL club is hard at work to build a new soccer stadium that will allow it to move up to Major League Soccer as an expansion side. Part of that process was a presentation in front of the Orange County Commissioner with $20 million in tourist taxes at stake. Here's a recap of the meeting along with next steps for OCSC. One sports columnist has no doubt: If MLS works in Kansas City, it would thrive in Orlando.
15. ALEJANDRO BEDOYA HEADING TO LIGUE 1: Who saw this one coming? After a solid showing at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the USMNT winger is heading to FC Nantes, according to French reports. It's a three-year deal for the 26-year-old.
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