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Kick Off: Red Bulls' Henry thankful for MLS playoffs

An MLS single-table view of the standings would show today that the New York Red Bulls’ 25 points are 11 points behind the league-leading LA Galaxy.

Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry is glad the USA does not use the regular season to determine its champion. Despite their distance from LA, tonight New York have a chance to leap to the top of the Eastern Conference with a win against visiting Toronto FC (8 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live and TSN).

“If you’re in Europe, you might as well go on holiday right now because the season is over … that’s the beauty of it here,” Henry said. “We still have a chance to qualify for the playoffs.”

There is a sense of urgency around the Red Bulls and players are prepared to play hurt in order to snap their dry spell of one win in their last 11 matches. "We need to start winning," according to midfielder Teemu Tainio. "Every home game is a must-win game. Draws don't do us any good anymore."

Maybe there was always a concern in the minds of the Red Bulls technical staff about their goalkeepers’ abilities to carry the team throughout a whole season. In fact, Burnley goalkeeper Brian Jensen says that he was contacted by the New York club back in April.

New York host the Canadian champions, Toronto FC, who are a team that has turned a corner after an eventful week which saw them snatch the Voyageurs Cup and two Designated Players. “It’s starting to come together,” says TFC defender Dan Gargan.

Sporting Kansas City are unbeaten in their last eight matches but more important is the fact that they’re kicking off a stretch of 10 of the next 11 games at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. It starts with tonight’s match against the Colorado Rapids and the reunited duo of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings (8:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live).

Here’s an article that takes you behind the scenes in the day-to-day life of Peter Vermes, technical director and manager of Sporting Kansas City. He’s juggling the dual role but his club owner, Robb Heineman, admits that “whether it’s a more developed scouting system, an assistant technical director or whether it’s Peter saying, 'I don’t want to do it all anymore,' I do think he needs more help in the identification and analysis of players.”

While Sporting’s turnaround is a reality, the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping to embark on a similar run. It starts tonight against the Columbus Crew (10 p.m. ET, TSN and MatchDay Live) but it will have to come without creative playmaker Davide Chiumiento, who is doing all he can to return to full fitness — even using an innovative treatment in which he injects his hamstring with his own blood. “It’s faster,” he says.

The Crew, who are the only MLS team not to score on a set piece this season, believe they are in the running for the Eastern Conference regular-season crown: "I don't think it is too far-fetched to say we can still shoot for No. 1 in the East," goalkeeper William Hesmer said.

Chivas USA defeated the Earthquakes the last time they played in April at Buck Shaw Stadium. But San Jose manager Frank Yallop says, “We’re a better team than we were then … that was probably our second-worst game of the season.” He will have to do without suspended center back Bobby Burling and Brad Ring or Chris Leitch is expected to take his spot alongside Jason Hernandez (10:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live).

The Goats, who won just one of their last eight games, can catch the Quakes in the Western Conference standings with a victory at home tonight. “We’re so close, we’re so close. I really feel that we are,” says goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

It won’t ever get any better for Darlington Nagbe, according to Portland manager John Spencer. In reference to Nagbe’s first professional goal on Saturday, which has been splashed on highlight reels around the world, the Scotsman says, “I don’t think he’ll ever score another one as good as that.” That’s not to say he doesn’t expect great things out of Nagbe. He even compares him to Landon Donovan.

Some fans can’t quite get enough of the Jason Kreis stink eye unleashed by the Real Salt Lake manager during the wild 3-3 draw with the New England Revolution on Monday night. One blog even has it on a loop in this article. (VIDEO)

Here’s a tidbit on RSL’s Costa Rican trialist Carlos Hernandez, who apparently was once a Player of the Year in Australia.

Could a Honduran known as “Rambo” also be on the list of players heading to MLS this summer? Another report indicates that former FC Dallas winger Juan Toja has rejected an offer by Portland. (SPANISH)

Not too long ago, Marko Perovic was the New England Revolution’s star attacking player but the club did not pick up his player option, citing Perovic’s request. The player gives his version of the story in this blog post.

The 2010 MLS Cup victory by the Colorado Rapids has earned them a berth to the CONCACAF Champions League, a recent visit with President Barack Obama and now a trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, according to reports.

There’s no turning back now. The media has latched on to “there are too many draws in MLS” as if it were a bad thing. Here’s a New York Times comparison to other leagues around the world.

It’s not too early to think about the 2012 Olympics. Here’s one writer’s stab at a squad that is projected to have a significant MLS presence.

One player who probably dreamed of playing for the USA after featuring on youth national teams has now petitioned FIFA to play for El Salvador and his request has been accepted. He plays for Chivas USA. (SPANISH)

Lastly, the USA women’s team faces Sweden with the Group C title at stake this afternoon (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The storyline here is that the USWNT coach is Swedish and an ex-Sweden manager — Pia Sundhage. She’s very public about how she views her future with the USA: “I hope we do very well in the World Cup so I can stay another year so I can win the Olympics again. That's all that matters.”

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Special guest host Taylor Twellman is on the panel to talk to Dwayne De Rosario, C.J. Sapong and Jason Kreis in the latest edition of ExtraTime Radio

There’s a new No. 1 in the MLSsoccer.com Power Rankings

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