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Kick Off: US 'keeper thought Klinsmann was telemarketer

When they say you’ve been called up to the US national team, it literally means you get a call … from the US national team boss himself.

That’s what happened to D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid, arguably one of the biggest surprise call-ups by Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of his first match as national team boss. Hamid ignored the phone call coming into his cell phone because he thought it was a telemarketer.

This was Hamid’s reaction after listening to the voicemail: “I was shocked. As soon as I heard the voice, I knew it was him. I didn’t listen to the rest of the message. I put the phone down and was like staring into a far-off land. I started crying a little bit.”

Who would have thought that fans would be just as curious to look at the list of assistant coaches as they were the players named for Wednesday’s match against Mexico? Here’s the list of five names, some of which will go down as surprises.

Meanwhile Mexico have also named their roster with a few names that likely still strike the fear in US fans’ hearts after the 4-2 loss in the 2011 Gold Cup final.

Before we look ahead to next Wednesday's game, the slate of weekend MLS matches kicks off tonight. Can the East-leading Columbus Crew put a stranglehold on the conference with a win tonight at the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids, who are also surging of late (9:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer)?

The Crew’s Emmanuel Ekpo will want to leave his mark before joining Nigeria for an international match against Ghana. FIFA.com features him in this article in which he confesses he was surprised to get named to the Nigeria squad.

Who would have thought before the season started that the Rapids would become dependent on Sanna Nyassi. Here’s just how dependent they’ve become: “If Sanna doesn't show the explosive nature that we've now come to expect from him in three games, we don't score,” said manager Gary Smith.

The biggest match of the weekend with clear Supporters’ Shield ramifications is the 2010 Western Conference Championship rematch between the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas (10:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live) in which the Texan club can catch LA in the standings. In the meantime find out which FC Dallas player is called "Tex-Tex," after a Mexican soccer cartoon character that shares his first name.

Reports are that Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak will be back on the sidelines for his club after missing the Chicago game with a nerve problem in his back. The Union welcome the Houston Dynamo (8 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live), who are coming off a game vs. Seattle that the Dynamo label as their “best of the year.”

Houston’s new big signing, Honduran forward Carlo Costly, could make his debut in Philly if his paperwork comes through in time. And paperwork will soon allow the Dynamo to announce another player signing, this one Brazilian, according to reports.

The New England Revolution hope their new acquisition has the midas touch, as designated player Milton Caraglio is expected to get the start up top for the Revs against Chivas USA on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live).

One of the intriguing match-ups of the weekend comes from LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, where Sporting Kansas City welcome the Seattle Sounders (8:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live).

After Sporting defender Matt Besler earned an All-Star nod for the first time this season, it may not be long before we see another Besler starring in MLS: his brother Nick.

In Sounders camp, GM Adrian Hanauer gives an update on transfer market dealings and confirms that it is “highly likely that we’ll have a new surface next season” at CenturyLink Field.

Dwayne De Rosario will get to face one of his former teams from earlier this season when D.C. United take on Toronto FC at RFK Stadium on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live). If you’re not up on the De Rosario transfer saga this year, this Washington Times article will help explain why he’ll be especially motivated for this game.

Real Salt Lake are questioning team morale ahead of their match against the NY Red Bulls at Rio Tinto Stadium (9 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live). Manager Jason Kreis says “three losses in a row would be monstrously bad.”

The Saturday schedule of matches closes with the San Jose Earthquakes hosting the Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live), who are coming off a resounding 3-0 win over league leaders LA Galaxy. Without Steven Lenhart, the Quakes desperately need help in attack, getting shut out seven times during their nine-game winless streak. GM John Doyle says, “Ownership realizes we need some help.”

It will be a battle of two last-place teams that are desperate for a full three points on Sunday when the Vancouver Whitecaps host the Chicago Fire (7 p.m. ET, Galavisión). While the midweek debut of Chicago’s two new international signings has the Fire buzzing, in Vancouver there’s one writer who says, “There’s no better team for the Whitecaps to face right now.”

Don’t miss the match between the New York Cosmos and Manchester United this morning in the Paul Scholes Testimonial (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer). Read the opinion of long-time soccer writer Paul Gardner on the event. And here’s a video interview by the BBC with Eric Cantona, in which he provides an update on his vision for the Cosmos. (VIDEO)

The Cosmos aren’t done. They’re already setting up major international events, including one in Las Vegas.

While Europe digests today’s draw for the UEFA Champions League playoffs, several major European leagues will kick off this weekend in France, the Netherlands and Germany. The Italian Super Cup and England’s equivalent, the Charity Shield, also take center stage.

Lastly, one player who has had a quiet career stop in Europe is former US forward Eddie Johnson, who is named in a news story that he’d probably prefer did not surface.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Thursday’s edition of ExtraTime Radio with guest host Alexi Lalas

The Throw-In: Midseason makeovers require patience and time

Red Bulls’ Tim Ream reacts to latest US national team call-up

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