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Kick Off: Schmid asks Sounders to "suck it up" for CCL

The road has been kind to the Seattle Sounders of late.

With five consecutive away victories in all competitions, Sigi Schmid’s side hope the trend continues during the longest road trip in franchise history with the team traveling 9,000 miles in 10 days. After last weekend’s Cascadia Cup triumph in Vancouver, manager Sigi Schmid’s side faces a CONCACAF Champions League match tonight against Guatemalan side Comunicaciones and a result is of utmost importance (10 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer).

It’s not just because they face Mexican side Monterrey in the final group match but also because Schmid wants the opportunity to shuffle players: "We want to make sure we get through. Our schedule congestion is such that the sooner we know we're through, the sooner we can make decisions appropriate to what we need to do in the other games."

The manager is hopeful midfielder Eric Friberg and forward Roger Levesque have recovered from injury to help the cause in Guatemala: “We’ve got some tired bodies. … The guys are going to have to suck it up for [tonight] because we want to get a result in Guatemala to advance.”

The Sounders have played in Guatemala before in this same competition … back in 1996 when they qualified as A-League champions. Read about the match in 1997 which they lost 11-0 after their best players didn’t show up because of the A-League All-Star Game.

And it looks like the Sounders are on their way to another record attendance for the final of the US Open Cup, with 29,000 tickets sold a week out from the title match vs. the Chicago Fire.

The Champions League suspense tonight starts with Toronto FC hosting Group C leaders Pumas UNAM at BMO Field in the Reds’ second-to-last group match (8 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer). A win would set TFC up nicely heading into the final matchday and FC Dallas, who sit in second place in the same group, will also be watching intently.

If Toronto FC are to emerge victorious in “the biggest game of the year,” according to one Toronto outlet, they will have to do it without suspended captain and leader Torsten Frings and midfielder Eric Avila, who is cup-tied after playing for FC Dallas. Defender Andy Iro points to a 2-1 win in Panama over Tauro FC as proof they can win without Frings.

Staying in Canada, the Seattle Times takes us for a tour of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ new home at BC Place and the writer has high praise for the venue which “won’t have anyone longing for Empire Field.” Among the features are the second-largest video board behind Cowboys Stadium and a different kind of artificial surface which is being called “a lush grass field.”

Looks can be deceiving when it comes to the Houston Dynamo, who find themselves in first place in the Eastern Conference: “We don't really feel like we're in first place," says veteran Brian Ching. "I wouldn't say we're in first place when other teams have games in hand."

The first-place team in the West, the league-leading LA Galaxy, will feature in a critical Champions League match against Morelia on Wednesday. In the meantime, Galaxy DP Robbie Keane is trying to work out a date to testify in a court case in Scotland. Find out more here.

New York Red Bulls Designated Player Rafael Márquez has not won any friends in the New York media after his comments last week. While one writer makes the argument that the Red Bulls can keep winning without him, another turns the Mexican’s words against him by stating: “It’s true they are not playing at his level this season. He’s playing below theirs.”

Playing at another level in recent weeks is D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario, who won the Player of the Week award. But some fans want him to be accountable for how he drew the last-minute penalty kick against Chivas USA last week. Here’s De Rosario’s answer to those who criticize the way he went down in the box.

De Rosario is one of several MLS MVP candidates this year and one writer takes a stab at handicapping the race for the most prestigious individual award in the league.

Remember ex-D.C. United midfielder Fred? He’s been named the new captain at Melbourne Heart and the coach just adores him.

More proof that Livestrong Sporting Park has opened the door for new possibilities at Sporting Kansas City: The club has created its own tech company designed to provide services and software for the sports industry. Ex-Kansas City player Sasha Victorine is involved in the new venture.

While Sporting are preparing for a playoff run, that can’t be said of the New England Revolution, who may still be mathematically alive but are already thinking to next year: “We have four games left," says Revs VP of player personnel Michael Burns. "We are not going to approach these games any differently. But we also are not doing our job if we are not looking to the offseason and next year.”

Slightly more of an upbeat mood is being experienced at Chivas USA, where “the team is gradually getting better,” according one writer, who lists the priorities of the team heading into next season. Squad depth is primary among them.

Another team that might miss the postseason but has a promising future ahead is the San Jose Earthquakes. There’s a news update on the stadium front and this report claims groundbreaking could be just weeks away.

The New York Times reporter Jack Bell is hearing that there may be a shake-up in the leadership of the New York Cosmos with a Saudi group reportedly buying out one of the most high profile investors in the MLS expansion hopefuls.

The televised action from overseas is dominated by UEFA Champions League play today, including both Manchester clubs in action: Manchester United vs. FC Basel (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer), Bayern Munich vs. Manchester City (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Plus) and Real Madrid vs. Ajax (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Deportes).

As you prepare for this afternoon’s action, enjoy this piece by The New York Times’ Jere Longman on Manchester City and their push to be among European soccer’s elite.

Courtesy of The Washington Post, we bring you the latest ESPN SportsCenter spot that features both Hope Solo and Alex Morgan of the USWNT and a mascot who knows how to head the ball pretty well. (VIDEO)

Here’s an in-depth feature on Solo, who grew up near a nuclear plant and whose father was a Vietnam veteran. And if you missed last night’s Dancing with the Stars episode, here’s the clip of her latest performance. (VIDEO)

Speaking of women’s soccer, WPS has hired a new commissioner, who comes from the Arena Football League. Find out what the owners saw in her to make the appointment.

Lastly, today is the official release of EA Sports FIFA 12 and some MLS fans already have a head start when it comes to studying the player ratings, which are getting good reviews.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Is Dwayne De Rosario the best MLS player ever? ExtraTime Radio breaks it down with Brian Straus

Complete review of the playoff and Supporters’ Shield scenarios heading into Week 29 of MLS action

For the ultimate experience of the MLS weekend that was: Watch the MLS Review Show

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