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Kick Off: FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo raise derby stakes

The weekend slate of MLS matches is highlighted by the Texas derby between FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium (8:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live).

Catch up with a primer on the back-and-forth between these two clubs over recent weeks, from billboards to fly-overs, banners infiltrating stadiums and Twitter hashtags that are none too flattering. (VIDEO)

Late breaking news on the FC Dallas front. Central defender George John has been called up by the Greek national team to join the squad for practice sessions ahead of an exhibition match against Ecuador in New York. He won’t be participating in the match, leaving him with the option to join the USMNT in the future.

Yesterday wasn’t a good day for Seattle Sounders Designated Player Álvaro Fernández. First he finds out that he didn’t make the final cut for Uruguay’s friendly against Germany on Sunday and then his manager tells him he has a reputation for going down easy during MLS games.

Still stunned by the abandonment of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship game that they were winning, the Vancouver Whitecaps prepare to welcome one of the league powers in the New York Red Bulls (5:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live). ‘Caps starting goalkeeper Jay Nolly says: “We've got to rebound from being up late and a lack of sleep.”

The Red Bulls will be without Thierry Henry as his manager Hans Backe gives his reasons for leaving the Frenchman off the flight to Vancouver.

The manager of the defending MLS Cup champions wants to see more consistency in penalty kick calls around the league. Gary Smith says that in the case of the Colorado Rapids: “We are so far away from officials giving us any sort of leg up whatsoever.”

Sporting Kansas City travel to Colorado for their next match (9 pm ET, MatchDay Live) on Saturday and some in KC are wondering whether the club’s 5-0 US Open Cup win over the New England Revolution in midweek could be a turning point, with several players showing good form in the midweek fixture.

Another team hoping to use the Open Cup as a launching pad for better things in MLS is the Chicago Fire. Their come-from-behind PK shootout win over San Jose may be the “start of a good moment,” according to the Fire’s manager. They face San Jose again at Toyota Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live).

The New England Revolution are expecting to miss out on a few players due to Gold Cup commitments but they’ll be there on Saturday at Gillette Stadium to face the league-leading LA Galaxy (8 pm ET, MatchDay Live). However, despite initially asking for a release from his club to join Grenada, Revs captain Shalrie Joseph says there’s still a chance he might turn it down. “I’m still a little bit shocked at my decision,” he says.

While some players are thinking of backing out of national team duty, Real Salt Lake are already making do without their starting forwards due to the Gold Cup. Jason Kreis does not begrudge them for leaving the club, and it’s pretty clear which player has the best chance to move up top alongside striker Fabián Espíndola against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday (9 pm ET, MatchDay Live).

Meanwhile, RSL forward Arturo Alvarez is sitting out of training for El Salvador due to injury and he won’t participate in a Saturday exhibition against Honduras. (SPANISH)

In Philadelphia, they’re curious to see whether the Union’s polarizing forward, Carlos Ruiz, can leave a mark before joining the Guatemalan national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. His impending departure didn’t stop “El Pescadito” Ruiz from stating: "I think we are better than [Toronto], and I see this game as a way to get three points." (12:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live)

With one goal in their last 300 minutes and Chivas USA coming to town on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MatchDay Live), the Columbus Crew need their leadership to step up and help the team out of its funk. It’s leadership by committee in Columbus. Find out who the members are.

Meanwhile, the Crew were swift to respond to reports regarding the club potentially purchasing a specific property for purposes of a new stadium.

Forward Charlie Davies is not likely to figure prominently in D.C. United’s match at Portland on Sunday as they look to become the first team in MLS to claim points at JELD-WEN Field (5 pm ET, MatchDay Live).

Following the debut of the Timbers and Whitecaps this year, the Montreal Impact will follow in 2012 and a potential second NY team, according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who also revealed the range of the next expansion fee in this article.

This weekend there is also the UEFA Champions League final on over-the-air television in the United States. For the second straight year FOX will carry the match at 2 pm ET on Saturday and TV execs say it’s a sign of the “popularity of the sport in the US.” Here are some of the numbers surrounding Champions League coverage this year.

Also on Saturday, Red Bulls defender Rafael Márquez will lead Mexico against Ecuador in an international exhibition to be played in Seattle (4 pm ET, Univisión).

Big news on the international scene this morning is that FIFA will be investigating its own president in the corruption scandal that is rocking the world body just days ahead of its next presidential vote.

One writer wants to see a greater role played by US corporations and the US Soccer Federation in reforming FIFA’s management structure.

In case you haven’t heard, Chad Ochocinco is at it again. After trying out in MLS and then bull-riding, the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals gave him a new idea and it involves snakes.

What was LeBron James wearing to his postgame celebration after the Miami Heat advanced to the NBA finals with last night’s win against the Chicago Bulls? A Liverpool top. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

A Ray of Sunshine: GolTV’s Ray Hudson analyzes Barcelona vs. Man United like no one can on ExtraTime Radio

The Throw-In: MLS spreads its wings through Gold Cup

Former Revolution star Clint Dempsey is back in European competition

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