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Kick Off - Tim Howard

Kick Off: Howard gives Everton edge in #LDvCD matchup

With all the focus on the battle between Landon Donovan’s Everton and Clint Dempsey’s Fulham in this afternoon’s FA Cup showdown at Goodison Park, many have lost sight of the presence of Everton's American goalkeeper Tim Howard (3 pm ET, Fox Soccer).

The former MLS ‘keeper probably has the most revealing comments of anyone in the lead-up to the fourth round match in this ESPN.com Q&A: “We match up well with Fulham. … If we set ourselves up the way we have recently against them we feel good about it. … If things work out the way we expect we want to be through in the Cup."

Ahead of this afternoon’s FA Cup battle, Dempsey submitted a diary entry in which he talks about how much he misses bass fishing: “I’m sure I can find some kind of fishing, but it’s not the same because it's not the same as the bass fishing I grew up doing with my family.”

Deuce is also making it clear in the English press that he wants a move to a Champions League team: “You should never get content. I want to play in the Champions League. Nobody thought I would get this far. I want to go as far as I can.”

Dempsey's manager, Martin Jol, believes that Fulham have become overly reliant on the American's goals and it concerns him: “Hopefully someone else can score if they try and stop Clint. We have goals from other places. But I can't deny that Clint has been the difference for us this year and in previous years. He was our top scorer before.”

Everton manager David Moyes hopes that an extended FA Cup run can lift the spirits around his club: “The only negativity [around the club] is because of how the team has played. It is nothing to do with the board or the chairman. It's about me and the team. If the team performs better, that changes everything. … We have got to start winning games.”

The start of the 2012 MLS season is still weeks away, but Sporting Kansas City owner Robb Heineman has made it clear what his ambitions are this year: “On the field, we have one goal, and that is to win a championship. I’m not sure if the team likes to hear it, but, in my mind, if we don’t win, it’s disappointing.”

Talk about high expectations: Toronto FC assistant Bob de Klerk reportedly believes that 20 goals this year is not an unreasonable expectation for Designated Player Danny Koevermans.

Toronto FC held “media day” yesterday and it was a true event. Catch up on all the interviews from the Air Canada Centre.

Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman revealed that his brother Jonathan, who plays for Villarreal in Spain, is considering suiting up for the Canadian national side: “Finally, he kind of considered playing for the Canadian national team. I spoke to him as a brother saying this is something that would be great for him, for myself, for the country.”

Colombia is the country that has been the source for most of the offseason transactions in MLS. And the San Jose Earthquakes look set to get in on the act with Tressor Moreno impressing during his trial with the club as a No. 10. "He distributes the ball well," says GM John Doyle. "He can find players. He makes everyone around him better. Our big concern in bringing him in is he just turned 33. We want to make sure that he's physically fit and healthy. If he passes those hurdles, then we'll probably make him an offer."

So when’s the Tim Ream debut at Bolton? Here’s what the ex-Red Bull defender says about when he’ll return to the club after a short trip back to the USA: “I'm hoping to be back either late Wednesday night or early Thursday and hopefully be available for the following weekend [against Norwich].”

English media are having a field day with the story of how Ream had to give up his honeymoon to Tahiti and replace it with a trip to the Reebok Stadium in the Lancashire hills: “After getting that call, I sat down with my wife-of-one-day and tried to explain that we wouldn’t be going to Tahiti after all. … When we cancelled, we lost the majority of what we had paid, so it wasn’t just the sunshine we sacrificed to make sure I became a Bolton player. … It wasn’t cheap, not cheap at all.”

US national team goalkeeper Sean Johnson will get to enjoy a break. That according to Chicago Fire manager Frank Klopas who pointed out how it’s been non-stop for his starting netminder: “Since we stopped in the offseason, he barely had a two-week break. He'll take a little bit of a break and join the team in the second phase [next month] in California [Feb. 8].”

Klopas had a conference call with media yesterday in which the big news was the departure of central defenders Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta. The Croatian defender had a family situation that made it “very difficult for him to be this far away from his family, and we understand that,” Klopas said.

Speaking of the Fire, did you know that new Uruguayan striker Federico Puppo is close friends with recently departed forward Diego Chaves, who has since signed on with a Chilean club? “The other day in speaking with him, we couldn’t believe [that we wouldn’t play together in Chicago] because we always said that we wanted to play together again and this was a good opportunity for it," Puppo said. (SPANISH)

The Montreal Impact are sure playing well together. They wrap up with an undefeated record from their preseason trip to Mexico after a 1-1 tie against Atlas in their fourth and final outing yesterday. The only negative: Defender Nelson Rivas had to come off due to a muscle strain.

This morning Chivas USA takes the field for the first time this preseason as they face the Ventura County Fusion at 10 am local time.

The clock has started to tick on Real Salt Lake’s preseason, which kicks off with a handful of key players on the sidelines: “You never want to start off a season with five or six guys who are having to rest, but I also know that it’s an extremely long season and an extremely long preseason,” says manager Jason Kreis. "We still have six weeks in front of us before our first match."

RSL unveiled their new jerseys yesterday with a subtle change. Take a glimpse at them here. (PHOTOS)

One person who won’t be at RSL camp is Robbie Russell, whose reunion with his wife in DC is detailed in this touching Washington Post feature.

In Houston Dynamo preseason camp, playmaker Brad Davis is still being limited to conditioning drills: “After speaking with the doctors, they want to be on the cautious side of things," he said. "I still think I've got a little bit of time to get back.”

But it’s actually Houston forward Calen Carr who is furthest away from taking the practice fields. Find out what his offseason surgery was all about.

A knee injury hasn’t allowed Sean Franklin to take the field for the LA Galaxy in camp, but the injury that will probably get more attention is manager Bruce Arena’s. He was seen leaning on a crutch with his left knee wrapped yesterday. He says he "probably chipped a bone off my patella."

Arena should look over his shoulder. There’s a manager waiting in the wings right under his nose: “Keano was almost performing a manager’s role on the pitch with the other lads,” is what Aston Villa teammates are saying about on-loan striker Robbie Keane. "He was telling everyone where to go and where to pass it. That’s something he’s definitely bringing to the side."

Funny story to come out of Portland: Supplemental draft pick Ryan Kawulok was a University of Portland defender but grew up in Fort Collins, Colo. He says he remembered when Portland Timbers manager John Spencer coached his Under-12 team in the days when Spencer played for the Rapids: "Ryan said to me, 'You joined the practice and you were running around, screaming at all us young boys – You better pick up the pace!'" Spencer said. "And I said, 'It isn't going to change [during training camp]."

The highlight of Columbus Crew practice yesterday was a visit by Lamar Hunt Jr., who reportedly gave a pep talk to the team. “It shows that they support us and they care,” says forward Aaron Horton.

Leeds United have confirmed the LA Galaxy’s interest in defender Alex Bruce but they are unsure where that will lead: "They've enquired about the situation, but I don't know at this stage if anything will happen," said the Leeds manager. "We'll see what happens with that one."

Former German international Gerald Asamoah admits that he nearly made the jump to MLS before deciding on staying in Germany with second-division side Greuther Fürth. (GERMAN)

Meanwhile, another report from Deutschland claims that the relationship between Michael Ballack and Bayer Leverkusen has deteriorated to a point where it’s not inconceivable he could move to MLS before the Jan. 31 transfer deadline. (GERMAN)

In addition to Everton vs. Fulham on Fox Soccer, fans can also catch the broadcast of Watford vs. Tottenham on Fox Soccer Plus (2:30 pm ET). Later tonight, Mexican soccer Friday features Morelia taking on Monterrey (9 pm ET, Fox Deportes).

The US women’s national team look to officially lock up a spot in the 2012 London Olympics when they take on Costa Rica tonight (8 pm ET, Universal Sports). One player to keep an eye on: Sydney Leroux, a former Canadian youth player who will be a key figure in the US attack tonight in her hometown of Vancouver.

And for all the expansion enthusiasts out there, we conclude with an interesting line from a city councilwoman in Henderson, Nev., where there are discussions regarding a multi-sport complex that would also house a soccer stadium: "From what I understand, Major League Soccer is the one who is initiating all of this. They would be, I think, first in line. I've been with the mayor in New York, we've met with the MLS Commissioner there. They are very interested in Las Vegas as a market.”

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Revealing interviews with Bruce Arena and Steve Zakuani on ExtraTime Radio

Donovan vs. Dempsey: In MLS Donovan stakes claim as best ever but Deuce was no slouch

The latest collection of blogs from MLSsoccer.com’s The Sideline

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