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Kick Off: MLS champs rocked by Smith-Bravo rift

Stunning news this morning emerges from the camp of the MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids.

The Denver Post reports that a “relationship issue” between manager Gary Smith and technical director Paul Bravo could see Smith pass on a new contract and depart the club: “We need to be able to come to terms with what both of us are at the club, or we need to move on," says Smith. "One of us does, anyway."

While Bravo avoided adding fuel to the fire with his comments in the article, Smith continued: “The reality is that when people don't work together well, you tend to miss out on certain things. Things fall through cracks.”

Will the timing of this controversy impact the Rapids’ quest to make the postseason and bid to repeat? They face Real Salt Lake tomorrow in the latest edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

LA Galaxy fans also have reason for concern this morning when it comes to Robbie Keane’s injury which kept him out of the second of two Euro 2012 qualifiers for the Republic of Ireland. His national-team manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, is critical of the fact that Keane played with a tear on Friday against Andorra. “I knew that it was a tear. ... It's a muscle injury and not just pain. Admitted Keane, “It's a grade-two tear, grade three is the worst."

Speaking of the Galaxy, ESPN analyst and American soccer icon Alexi Lalas has a radical suggestion to boost the bounty for the Supporters’ Shield winners: the MLS Cup cash prize, the No. 1 draft pick and a “guard of honor.”

In other Galaxy news, Le Monde in France is reporting that LA star David Beckham is looking for an apartment in Paris, which lends further credence to a possible move to Paris St. Germain after his Galaxy contract expires. (FRENCH)

Even though it was only his first MLS goal, 23-year-old Chinese forward Long Tan is already an undisputed fan favorite in Vancouver after scoring the game-winner against D.C. United last night. The #LoveYou-LongTan hashtag was trending in Vancouver yesterday. This was his comment after the match: "A Chinese guy can play MLS!"

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Vancouver 2, D.C. United 1

Camilo got the other goal for Vancouver and, with 12 tallies, he feels he’s in the running for the MLS Golden Boot. “Yes, of course I have a chance,” he said after yesterday’s match. This article breaks down the leading contenders for the award.

Although everything seems rosy for the Whitecaps with two straight wins at BC Place, the media is not losing sight of the fact that Davide Chiumiento wasn’t even in the 18-man squad: “He has to find ways now to work into the idea of working hard and making sure you're doing both sides of the ball and competing,” says Whitecaps manager Tom Soehn.

Soehn’s counterpart at D.C. United, Ben Olsen, feels the loss was “unacceptable” for a team chasing a berth in the playoffs. They will now look forward to getting Dwayne De Rosario back in the starting lineup for the three home games to wrap up the regular season.

Playoff verdicts were handed down at Toyota Park last night, where FC Dallas clinched a postseason berth with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire, who are virtually eliminated. While Chicago manager Frank Klopas complained about his team coming out “flat,” his left back Gonzalo Segares called the Fire “naïve” with their tactics.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago 1, FC Dallas 2

FC Dallas say the three points were a result of much-needed rest over the recent FIFA international weekend. “Today, we got back a little more to the FC Dallas that we are proud to be and get a victory,” said Kevin Hartman.

Sporting Kansas City hope to be next in line to clinch an MLS postseason berth and they warmed up for their Saturday afternoon Eastern Conference clash with the New York Red Bulls by drawing Chivas de Guadalajara 2-2 in an international exhibition last night. For the first time Sporting were the away team at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Staying with Sporting Kansas City, did you know that Roger Espinoza, who is a fixture in the Honduran national team system and often wears the captain’s armband for Sporting, is also an American citizen and thought about playing for the USA but the call never came.

Toronto FC defender Andy Iro has come out in the English press to back the possible signing of Rio Ferdinand by an MLS club: “It would be great to see him in MLS.”

Reports in Italy add two Serie A giants as part of the list of clubs chasing FC Dallas winger Brek Shea, who played for FCD last night, just 24 hours after featuring for 45 minutes against Ecuador in a USMNT jersey. Juventus and AC Milan have apparently joined the fray. (ITALIAN)

One day after MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he “didn’t know that they’re involved” in reference to the New York Cosmos, the club’s vice chairman, Terry Byrne, says nothing has changed in the Cosmos’ desire to land the next MLS expansion team: “We said from Day 1 that we want to be an MLS team, and whether it's doing that with our own ownership group or in collaboration with other ownership groups presented by the league – we are still committed to this vision.”

In the meantime, next year’s expansion team, the Montreal Impact, announced that manager Jesse Marsch will be heading on a 10-day scouting mission to South America on Friday.

We finally got a glimpse into the conversation between Portland Timbers manager John Spencer and forward and “Mr. Nice Guy” Kenny Cooper during the latter’s scoreless streak which had Spencer talking trades: "Too nice. Sometimes as a forward, you need to be a bit of a ruthless bastard at times. You can't play the game the way you live your life. You need to be a different character once you step over the white line," Spencer says.

After Bob Bradley took over the reins in Egypt, another former MLS coach will be heading up a national team. Thomas Rongen, winner of MLS Cup 1999 with D.C. United, will lead American Samoa into World Cup qualifying. Here’s the story of how he got the job. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says.

Remember former MLS star Diego Serna? He’s just signed to play for the indoor team in Syracuse, N.Y.

“Our business is our business.” That’s one of the phrases uttered by former CONCACAF president Jack Warner in a video leaked to the UK’s Daily Telegraph in which he tells the Caribbean Football Union how he convinced former FIFA president candidate Mohammed bin Hammam to ditch his idea of silver plaques, wooden trophies and bunting as gifts. (VIDEO)

Business was the main reason that American John Henry bought Liverpool FC last year, confessing in this article that his group “knew virtually nothing about Liverpool Football Club nor EPL.”

In other world soccer business news, the bids for the English- and Spanish-language US television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be submitted next week. Find out which networks are participating.

US manager Jurgen Klinsmann did an interview in German after Tuesday night’s match against Ecuador in which he indicates that he wants the USA to play in the Copa América and he feels he has the cooperation from the necessary parties to do it. (GERMAN)

We leave you with another item courtesy of the Galaxy’s Keane. They claim this is Robbie himself singing “The Green Fields of France” in a pub on Sunday night back in his home country. So when will Keane show off his talents on this side of the pond?

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Referee Week: So you think you can ref? (VIDEO)

MLS Cup Top 50 Moments: #39 Change in plans at MLS Cup 2007

MLS Playoff Standings: Which teams have clinched and which have been eliminated

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