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Kick Off - Sounders win in Monterrey

Kick Off: Sounders' win in Mexico leads to CCL debate

FC Dallas became the first team to win in Mexico last week against Pumas UNAM. But the Seattle Sounders may have very well topped their feat last night.

The Sounders, fielding an understrength side, defeated “the best team in Mexico” 1-0 on a goal by Álvaro Fernández after suffering an agonizing loss in the same building last year (watch the highlights here). While manager Sigi Schmid praised the maturity of his team, midfielder Brad Evans says the win is “what championship teams are made of.”

Did you think defending CCL champs Monterrey, losers of four of their last six matches overall, would tip their cap to the Sounders for being the first ever team to hand them a home loss in the Champions League? Fat chance. Manager Víctor Manuel Vucetich pins the recent string of defeats to a lack of finishing. (SPANISH)

The Colorado Rapids nearly made it seven wins in seven matches for MLS teams in CONCACAF Champions League group play but Honduran side Real España scored with three minutes left to level 1-1 last night. Watch the highlights here. (VIDEO)

Meanwhile, along with the much talked about bags of urine and batteries that are said to be typical of Champions League away matches, here’s another red flag for traveling MLS clubs: paparazzi media. Similar to what occurred in the case of Landon Donovan a few years back in Guadalajara, a Honduran paper is alleging Rapids forward Sanna Nyassi went behind the bushes when nature was calling at the Estadio Morazán in San Pedro Sula. (SPANISH)

That streak of consecutive wins by MLS clubs was bound to come to an end tonight, however, when the all-MLS showdown between FC Dallas and Toronto FC takes place at BMO Field (8 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer). TFC manager Aron Winter, who feels his team was “unlucky” against FC Dallas in two previous 1-0 defeats during league play, says “Dallas will see a different TFC.”

Once darlings of the CONCACAF Champions League, Real Salt Lake are experiencing the toughest stretch of their season, losers of four of their last five. “The guys who are feeling helpless about it should leave,” says manager Jason Kreis.

Kreis’ warning that changes could be on the way in the offseason was backed by GM Garth Lagerwey: “The players who were unable to finish [in Houston], it is a reflection on them. We’re always looking for ways to improve the team.”

Heading in the opposite direction of RSL are the Houston Dynamo, who collected seven points from a possible nine in their last three matches. Now comes a three-game road trip. “We need to keep this momentum and attitude, because we have some very difficult road games ahead,” says captain Brian Ching.

A team that knows what road games are all about is Chivas USA, who wraps up a five-match away swing with a match in Portland tonight which carries massive postseason implications for both sides (11 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live). The Goats want to wrap up their road trip on a high after registering a 1-1-2 record which includes a draw in Colorado that Robin Fraser called a “win.”

For the Timbers, expect another change at central defender, a position which has seen constant rotations throughout the season. Manager John Spencer explains it: “I don't think there is one player that can really put their hand up and say, ‘I played consistently well throughout the whole year.’”

Whatever the results, the supporters are always there to back their Timbers at JELD-WEN Field. The demand is so great is that the club is adding almost 2,000 seats to the capacity for two home games later this year.

The other 2011 expansion side, the Vancouver Whitecaps are not standing pat either, bringing in a former US Under-18 player who arrives from Mexican side Tigres UANL through the end of the year.

One player who is on his way out with his MLS club is FC Dallas defender George John, who is reportedly in Greece to secure a passport which would seal his deal with Blackburn Rovers of the EPL. Here’s what Blackburn manager Steve Kean had to say about him: “He is 6-foot-4, a commanding defender, he is quick, aggressive and he has a really bright future.”

John's transfer is already the subject of the notorious headline writers in England: “Yanks A Lot!”

Anyone who doubted whether Robbie Keane’s move to the LA Galaxy would mean an end to his international career for the Republic of Ireland got their answer on Tuesday when he was called up by Giovanni Trapattoni for two Euro qualifiers. However, it means he’ll miss his club's trip to Sporting Kansas City.

Keane’s arrival to MLS may be followed by another out-of-contract player, formerly of Spanish club Sevilla, who could be signed by an MLS club according to reports from Spain. Find out his name here. (SPANISH)

One team that probably doesn’t need reinforcements at this stage is Sporting Kansas City, who are slowly entering the discussion for MLS Cup contenders. Reigning MLS Player of the Week Graham Zusi sure thinks so: “We should be leading our conference, maybe by a bunch. … We've got the talent and the attitude to go the limit.” Here's another Q&A with Zusi, who was also a guest on ExtraTime Radio.

Another MLS side that has visions of MLS Cup is the Philadelphia Union, who take on affiliate club Harrisburg City Islanders tonight at the Skyline Sports Complex (7 p.m. ET).

The single-table proponents for Major League Soccer will be excited to learn that it is still “on the table” as one of the possible changes in the competitive and scheduling structure being entertained by league management.

New York Red Bulls GM Erik Solér points to the Gold Cup, which came in the middle of the season, as one of the reasons for his club’s recent downturn. But now there are no excuses and he explains why.

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger would have plenty of excuses if his club gets bounced from the UEFA Champions League today when they travel to Italy with a slim 1-0 aggregate-goal lead against Udinese (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes). Fox Soccer Plus will have Rubin Kazan vs. Lyon from Russia at 12:30 p.m. ET and a Carling Cup match between Exeter City and Liverpool at 2:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Deportes carries the Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu between Real Madrid and Galatasaray (4:30 p.m. ET).

While Wenger’s world is not a fun one right now, US national team boss Jurgen Klinsmann has to put up with reports from Germany of criticism leveled by German national team fullback Phillipp Lahm in a new book release. Lahm claims his teammates at Bayern Munich knew after about eight weeks that it was not going to work out with Klinsmann.

Back in the US, who says the best athletes in the country will always picked American football? A high school gridiron standout in North Carolina, who had offers to join European soccer academies, says his dream is to play in Major League Soccer.

Texas native Brek Shea of FC Dallas, son of a Virginia Tech football player, also played American football growing up but stuck with soccer because it “was something I could play year-round.”

Another group that must have soccer balls in their dreams are the Bolivian squirrel monkeys in the London Zoo. However, their future in the game is questionable since they handle the ball way too much. (PHOTOS)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

The first edition of the North American Soccer Almanac: a snapshot of the sport

MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week for Week 23

Talking Tactics: Old school defensive midfielders making a comeback

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