Kick Off, Feb. 23

Kick Off: CCL gets ugly; Sounders hit the beach

The Crew and RSL slogged out the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Tuesday night, and considering both clubs' preseason form and the tough weather conditions in Columbus, it's no surprise one coach called the game "ugly to watch."

The contest finished scoreless with just 19 players on the field. That had Crew coach Robert Warzycha wishing he were still in Arizona.

Still, the result surprised some, especially given few expected the Crew to dominate the match.

Cruz Azul eased past Santos Laguna, 2-0, in the opposite Champions League bracket. Guess who scored one the goals?

In the "other" Champions League, French star Nicolas Anelka is showing the kind of form that could play himself out of an MLS contract, so says one commentator.

The Chicago Fire could have used Anelka's goals last year. This year, however, they're banking on a pair of Uruguayan imports to find the net.

Goals came easy for the US U-17s on Tuesday. Wilmer Cabrera's kids survived two ejections to edge past El Salvador and earn a place in this summer's World Cup.

The Philadelphia Union landed one of MLS' all-time greatest strikers when they signed Carlos "El Pescadito" Ruiz. Local media, meanwhile, can't resist comparing him to another Philly sports hero of the same name.

Ruiz's former Galaxy teammate David Beckham will return to LA on Thursday having spent the offseason in London. The 35-year-old earned the highest praise from Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp, who called Beckham "a top-class bloke, a proper good lad."

The San Jose Earthquakes are touring Beckham's home country and will play English League One (third tier) team Colchester United today. Yesterday, a US international got a chance to play in San Jose's 4-0 defeat of Birmingham City's reserves. However, the player didn't suit up for the MLS team.

US international Teal Bunbury is recovering from a dislocated elbow. The unofficial diagnosis? It could be worse.

America's exports were in action in England's lower divisions on Tuesday with mixed results. Meanwhile, Leeds United are confident they can hold onto American defender Eric Lichaj despite loaner club Aston Villa's injury woes.

Charlie Davies may be getting all the attention at D.C. United, but he'll have competition this year from Supplemental Draft pick Brett Blakeschneider. The rookie came off the bench to score his third goal in two games on Tuesday. DC edged past UCSB, 1-0, in a match that saw former Gaucho Chris Pontius go up against his younger brother.

Goalkeeper Pat Onstad may be returning to the field with DC, but Houston have officially moved on to their new No. 1, who is earning plenty of praise this preseason.

Staying with preseason action, Sigi Schmid said his Sounders played "some pretty good soccer" in a 2-2 tie with Houston on Tuesday.

Revs winger Sainey Nyassi is hoping he has overcome a bout of Malaria and that he can return to the New England lineup for their preseason scrimmage against FC Dallas today.

Fans can follow New England vs. FC Dallas via an live chat at 11 am ET. Tune in at 1 pm ET to follow the New York vs. Chicago Fire scrimmage.

It's perhaps too early to panic, but the Vancouver Whitecaps once again failed to score in a preseason scrimmage. Still, at least the team is looking fit. Meanwhile, 'Caps forward Omar Salgado is starting to feel the pressure, while a Canada U-20 star is hoping to earn a starting spot in 2011.

On a brighter note, Vancouver head coach Teitur Thordarson said he's expecting up to 30,000 fans when the Whitecaps host the Portland Timbers for BC Place's grand opening on Oct. 2.

Chivas USA's defensive revolution continues as they look set to finalize a loan deal with Ghanaian defender Seth Owusu. Meanwhile, one of the Goats' draft picks has been let go for being "too similar."

Another Ghanaian, Fire forward Patrick Nyarko, is hoping for a breakout year in 2011.

There's another professional soccer team in Chicago, and this one's hoping it'll survive to play another season.

Don't think much of indoor soccer? What about beach soccer? The Sounders are game.

NY Cosmos director of soccer Eric Cantona used to be the captain of the French national beach soccer team (true!), and he's still bringing that "Gallic flair" to the game. This time he's comparing soccer to both acting and art, and Alex Ferguson to Mahatma Gandhi.

Finally, Sports Illustrated reporter and sometime ExtraTime Radio guest Grant Wahl's bona fide bid for FIFA president is beginning to send ripples throughout Europe [GERMAN]. Still, SI itself has filed a report that suggests incumbent president Sepp Blatter is doing a pretty good job, at least when it comes to improving FIFA's bottom line. must-sees:

Danish midfielder Brian Nielsen is hoping to stay in the Red Bulls' plans for '11.

Starter or not, Devon McTavish is ready to be a leader at DC.

Watch highlights and reactions from Houston's preseason draw with Seattle.

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