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Kick Off - Aron Winter
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Kick Off: Winter says playoffs not make-or-break for TFC

This might come as a shock to long-suffering Toronto FC fans.

Manager Aron Winter spoke to Goal.com and the report claims that “Winter is adamant that next season won't be considered a failure if the club doesn't make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year.” More important to the Dutchman is fielding a deep team that is competitive on all fronts.

His main priority this offseason? The back line: “In the back, if someone is unavailable then I have problems. That's the thing I want to tackle.”

Stadium projects are being tackled around the league. At yesterday’s announcement revealing the name of the Houston Dynamo’s new stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium, we found out that this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill stadium sponsorship deal. “They're the architects of how we ultimately figured out a way to pay for this without the taxpayers having to write a check," said Tim Leiweke of AEG.

Leiweke and AEG may not be commenting on Houston Dynamo affairs for much longer. He told local media that "we've already been approached by two or three people," who are looking to take over AEG’s 50 percent share in the club. “We are going to find the right owner,” Leiweke said, after admitting that MLS Cup was an “uneasy day for us” with two AEG-owned clubs facing off in the final.

The San Jose Earthquakes moved a step closer to a new stadium of their own yesterday, when they were granted a city permit which is necessary to start construction. If there are no appeals, the final permit should be delivered by January 3. "The city is very hopeful that groundbreaking would be happening here next year,” said San Jose’s planning director.

Could there be a 30,000-seat stadium set to go up in Fort Myers, Fla.? The end of this article claims that “preliminary discussions have taken place with a representative of European and South American professional soccer teams about converting City of Palms Park into a 30,000-seat soccer stadium.”

Mexican forward Omar Bravo helped Sporting Kansas City open their stadium in 2011 and now you can watch video of the ex-MLS forward being chased by media members as he undergoes a final medical ahead of joining Cruz Azul. (SPANISH)

Possibly going the opposite way from the Mexican league to MLS is Panamanian international midfielder Gabriel Gómez, who is reportedly destined for the Philadelphia Union. Kerith Gabriel says the announcement should come down later today. (SPANISH)

Also later today, former US youth international Lee Nguyen will find out where he will play in MLS next season after a player lottery is conducted.

One of the most influential central midfielders in MLS is the Seattle Sounders’ Osvaldo Alonso. The Cuban player claims that English clubs are in hot pursuit: “I know that I’m being looked at by several teams in the Premier League, but I’m concentrating on working here [in the USA] and if something comes about, I’d welcome it.” (SPANISH)

The future of 21-year-old Real España captain Alfredo Mejía is still up the air since his team is in the Honduran final against Olimpia. The Seattle Sounders are battling several Honduran clubs for his signature, according to reports in Honduras. (SPANISH)

In Dallas they’re not surprised that FCD manager Schellas Hyndman confirmed that forward Maicon Santos did not have a future with the club. One blog cites an unauthorized dental procedure as the point where the Brazilian’s relationship with the club disintegrated.

The 2011 season of Columbus Crew left back Shaun Francis disintegrated because of injuries. He tells a Jamaican outlet that he wants to reclaim his left back role with the Jamaican national team and stay injury free after tearing his hamstring twice and pulling his groin. His goal: to become “a household name.”

The US Under-23 national side continues its Olympic preparations today, as Caleb Porter leads the group through an eight-day camp which starts today. UCLA sophomore Kelyn Rowe, who is rumored to be signing a Generation adidas contract and be part of the SuperDraft, has been added to the squad as has Borussia Dortmund’s Terrence Boyd.

After Darren Mattocks, it seems that European clubs are targeting another surefire top pick in the 2012 SuperDraft. This report claims that North Carolina’s Billy Schuler was tracked all season, including at College Cup, by teams in Scandinavia, Germany and Greece who are set to make him an offer.

While Sacha Kljestan scored another goal for Anderlecht in the Europa League yesterday, Clint Dempsey’s goal for Fulham meant little after they conceded a goal at the end of their match to suffer elimination. You can watch both goals here.

The two televised Europa League matches today on GolTV feature already-qualified Hannover 96 (Steve Cherundolo is suspended) hosting Vorskla Potlava (1 p.m. ET) and Atlético Madrid facing French side Rennes (3 p.m. ET). Jozy Altidore’s AZ Alkmaar will advance with a victory, while Brad Friedel’s Tottenham Hotspur need help to make it through to the knockout rounds.

He’s not as talked about as Sporting's Oguchi Onyewu, but American goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell is making waves in Portugal. Apparently Sporting have come calling along with “one or two other clubs.”

“All that’s left for us is to pray,” says ex-MLS great Carlos Valderrama, who was in Miami on Wednesday together with Jorge Campos to promote the Mexico vs. Colombia match taking place at Sun Life Stadium on Feb. 29. He was referring to the Colombian national team’s chances to make the World Cup after former MLS midfielder Leonel Álvarez was fired as coach. (SPANISH)

For those jersey junkies out there, here are the latest kits for Costa Rican giants Saprissa, who turned back the clock on their newest designs. (PHOTO)

Staying in Costa Rica, national team manager Jorge Luis Pinto called up a 21-man roster to face Venezuela on Dec. 22. On the squad are MLS players Michael Umaña (Chivas USA), Roy Miller (New York), Gonzalo Segares (Chicago) and Rodney Wallace (Portland). (SPANISH)

Meanwhile, reports in France say that David Beckham and his wife will be in Paris this weekend. They also go as far as stating that, “He has already cleaned out his locker with the LA Galaxy.” (FRENCH)

The MLS Cup champions may be disappointed to learn that it doesn’t look like Frank Lampard is so eager to leave Chelsea just yet. His agent has contacted the EPL club seeking a contract extension.

When Hope Solo joins her family and friends to celebrate the New Year, she will be looking back at a dream-like 2011. USA Today saves her the time and compiles a photo gallery of all the special moments. (PHOTOS)

If you missed it in the early morning, FC Barcelona throttled Al-Sadd in the semifinals of the FIFA Club World Cup. Watch the highlights here. The European champs next face Santos of Brazil, setting up the Lionel Messi vs. Neymar battle that everyone has wanted to see. (VIDEO)

Neymar beats Messi when it comes to best promotional campaign of the year. Look at the surprise on this fan’s face when he realizes he has just hopped into a cab that is being driven by Neymar himself. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Climbing The Ladder: How many ’96 originals are left? Plus some SuperDraft historical findings

Find out the latest transfer scoop surrounding Dempsey, Davies and other Americans abroad

D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario is named Canada’s Player of the Year

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