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Kick Off: Reports that Timbers star could be benched

With four losses in their last five matches, Portland Timbers manager John Spencer promised an overhaul and apparently he wasn’t kidding.

Reports out of Portland indicate that one of the players who could be replaced in the lineup this Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City (11 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live) is star forward Kenny Cooper. No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick Darlington Nagbe could also be a casualty.

Spencer is also patting himself on the back for the move that brought former Sporting midfielder Jack Jewsbury to Portland. He says it’s “been one of the best trades this year” and went as far as stating that he’d “be very disappointed if he's not there for an All-Star call-up.”

Sporting Kansas City will be without captain Davy Arnaud, who will undergo sports hernia surgery next week. There is also mystery surrounding the status of holding midfielder Stéphane Auvray, after Peter Vermes would not comment on his absence from training.

The Portland vs. Sporting matchup is one of several intriguing games on slate for this long holiday weekend, with plenty of national TV games to accompany the Independence Day festivities.

A reenergized Dax McCarty is prepared to help the Red Bulls against the San Jose Earthquakes in his first match since arriving at the club in a trade (Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes). He claims the Red Bulls suit his style best and he actually actually looks forward to going from captain at D.C. United to “a secondary role” with RBNY.

You probably have figured out that “Dax” is not his real first name. Turns out it was given to him as a middle name by his dad after reading The Adventurers by Harold Robbins.

The player traded for McCarty, Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario, is expected to make his D.C. United debut on national television on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer) as his new club hosts the Philadelphia Union. Here’s video of DeRo’s first practice in DC. (VIDEO)

De Rosario only hopes to become as engrained at the club and in Washington, D.C., as holding midfielder Clyde Simms. In this Washington Post piece, we learn about Simms’ two-minute door-to-door commute, his political activism and his DC-specific tattoo.

Fans will find it interesting that Saturday will not be the first time that De Rosario has donned the D.C. United jersey. It will be just as interesting to see if Charlie Davies comes through on his promise to allow DeRo to take the next penalty kick that is whistled for the club.

While the Union deal with the Sébastien Le Toux’s public dissatisfaction with the lineup and his position on the field, they are also forced to counter rumors about yet another Mexican club looking to get its hands on Carlos Ruiz. The Guatemalan says he has not been contacted “by any Mexican clubs ... yet.”

When the Chicago Fire visit Chivas USA on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET, Galavisión), there’s a good chance fans will see Fire captain Logan Pause back in action but he’ll look a little different. He’s wearing headgear after a routine header gave him concussion symptoms a few weeks back. (PHOTO)

Robbie Rogers is also hoping to make a comeback for the Columbus Crew at FC Dallas on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live). The problem for Rogers is the fact that rookie Bernardo Anor took his spot in midfield while he was away losing game fitness with the US national team at the Gold Cup: “I tried to do stuff on my own in the gym or wherever, but you just can't get the same kind of fitness that you get from games.”

Given the history between the two clubs and the fact that just four points separate them in the Western Conference standings, Seattle’s visit to the Home Depot Center on July 4 to face the LA Galaxy shapes up as the big match of the long weekend. Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller says “we owe them one.” (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)

Also on Independence Day, Real Salt Lake welcome the New England Revolution at Rio Tinto Stadium (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPNDeportes). Given manager Jason Kreis’ high praise of Luis Gil’s play of late, expect to see the teenager in the lineup somewhere. Same for Tony Beltran, who’s playing at a “really high level,” according to his coach.

New England, the lowest-scoring team in MLS, confirm that they will be on the market for attacking talent after declining options on both Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica. The surprise there is that the Revs say the injured Perovic was the one who wanted out, though his agent claims otherwise.

The Houston Dynamo, who travel to face the Colorado Rapids on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes), are on the market for more specific attacking talent: a speedy player who can get behind opposing back lines. Reports are that trialist Miler Castillo, who they say looks fitter and hungrier than Koke, may very well fit the bill.

Rapids manager Gary Smith doesn’t want to see any theatrics from Dynamo players come Sunday night. He claims that the embellishment of injuries by the opposition is what has led to some of his team’s red card ejections this season. Specifically the LA Galaxy and Will Hesmer of the Columbus Crew were accused in this article. “We're getting to a point where, if you can't beat them you've got to join them because we're losing out on this," Smith said.

This weekend also features the finale of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship as Vancouver play Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet). The teams faced each other in league play on Wednesday with TFC emerging 1-0 winners. One Whitecaps player says he hopes the win will give Toronto “some belief, so they don't sit back and they actually try to play. Hopefully, they'll come out of their shell.”

Looks like there could be two more potential Jamaican signings by MLS clubs. D.C. United are reportedly looking at defender Adrian Reid, while Omar Daley is on trial with the San Jose Earthquakes (SPANISH).

The arrival of Salvadoran Gold Cup star Rodolfo Zelaya is apparently hung up in negotiations with the player’s club in El Salvador, demanding more than what a particular club in MLS is offering. (SPANISH)

A former Paris St. Germain left winger, Samir Bengelloun, who recently played for Lokomotiv Plovdiv, has apparently conducted trials with two MLS clubs. The two clubs are named in this French article and the player claims one of them is very interested. (FRENCH)

Former Columbus Crew idol Guillermo Barros Schelotto could not save Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata. The club was relegated to the second division following an unsuccessful relegation playoff but Schelotto says that it was years in the making and was bound to happen.

Former US international forward Eddie Johnson will announce his new club in the next two weeks, according to his agent and MLS is among the options along with Germany and of course, Scandinavia.

Speaking of American players in Europe, here is a list of the most promising young names, many of which you likely have never heard of before.

The Copa América kicks off from Argentina later today with the hosts facing Bolivia in the opener. Manager Sergio Batista announced that Lionel Messi will join Carlos Tévez in attack, relegating Ángel di María to the bench. (8 p.m. ET, TeleFutura)

Here’s an interesting read for those interested in the relationship between referees and the US Soccer Federation. It’s a report regarding a federal judge’s ruling on a lawsuit brought by a former referee against the USSF, claiming age discrimination.

One boy is part of an Under-7 team and another is in a program for kids born in 2002. But the fact that both Virginia natives are doing it at Fulham FC in England and their parents moved to London is what makes this story noteworthy.

Could former World Cup champion Marcello Lippi be interested in taking on the US national team? In this article he says that he wants to come back to coaching after a break and take over a club or national team outside Italy. (ITALIAN)

MLS supporters are having a tough time finding anyone who supports the goal kick chant that has come under scrutiny in recent months. Another soccer writer pens an article which is critical of the language used by some fans.

Lastly, find out what Colorado’s Wells Thompson plans to do with the custom-made suit he wore to visit President Barack Obama at the White House.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Erik Solér talks about the next targets for the NY Red Bulls on the latest edition of ExtraTime Radio

The Throw-In: The elusive chase for third place in the CONCACAF region

Sporting Kansas City’s Teal Bunbury trying to find his mojo again

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