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Kick Off - Sigi Schmid (2012)

Kick Off: Schmid urges Sounders fans to help CCL bid

With ticket sales nearing 20,000 according to the latest reports, Seattle Sounders manager Sigi Schmid is making an appeal to fans to get behind the team on Wednesday for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Santos Laguna.

“It's a really vital, crucial series, and we expect our fans to come out," Schmid said. "We'd love to see the place sell out.”

The big question for the Sounders today: How is forward Eddie Johnson feeling? After participating in full training yesterday, Schmid says the condition of his striker’s hamstring will help dictate how much action he could see vs. Santos: “Whether he'll start on Wednesday or not, even if his hamstring's ready, is still a 50-50 proposition,” Schmid says.

Santos Laguna registered a big 5-2 victory in Mexican league play against San Luis with forward Oribe Peralta scoring four and American Herculez Gomez netting another. “They played a team they should beat,” Schmid said. Watch all the highlight clips here. (VIDEO)

Here’s what Santos goalkeeper Oswaldo Sánchez had to say about his team’s upcoming trip to Seattle: “We’re starting to prepare for the match against Seattle with the full intention of going there and take the lead [in the series].” (SPANISH)

Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy depart California later this morning for their CCL showdown against another MLS club Toronto FC. This reporter takes an educated guess at the LA starting lineup given the players present at Sunday’s scrimmage.

There is more news from yesterday’s practice session in LA. Landon Donovan says he’s at “about 90 percent” ahead of Wednesday’s match against TFC, while fellow Designated Player Robbie Keane took the occasion to commit his future to LA: “I really enjoyed me time in Birmingham, playing for Aston Villa, but I'm really delighted to be back and looking forward to staying here a long time.”

After winning the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, the Vancouver Whitecaps wrapped up an undefeated preseason with a 2-2 tie at the Carolina RailHawks yesterday as a rejuvenated Davide Chiumiento was once again the inspiration with a goal and even more spectacular assist. The MLS side did, however, lose the PK shootout that followed. Watch the highlights here. (VIDEO)

Another Cascadia side closed out an undefeated preseason as the Portland Timbers downed Swedish side AIK on a solitary goal by DP debutant Kris Boyd. The “Fox in the Box,” as Spencer dubbed him, raised his first log slice on Sunday and says “it was a bit strange at first, but hopefully I get used to it.” (VIDEO)

In the other match from the Portland Timbers Tournament, Chivas USA registered what their coach called “a poor performance,” losing by a rotund 5-0 scoreline to Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes. “They should be embarrassed. Everyone should be so embarrassed that we come into this week with some resolve that this can't continue,” Robin Fraser said.

With a match looming at Vancouver, Montreal Impact manager Jesse Marsch speaks highly about the squad he has assembled for the club’s 2012 expansion season: “I like our team. It's a talented group of guys and it's a group of guys who have a very strong mentality.”

Nothing can dampen the excitement in an expansion city, not even a concrete slab which reportedly fell from the ceiling of an underground parking facility in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, site of the Impact’s home opener.

Optimism is brimming in most cities around this time and Colorado is no different. They promise that the 2012 edition will be a very different Rapids side compared to recent years: “I think we are more dynamic,” says veteran Tyrone Marshall. “We’ve got some guys in there who can handle the ball more offensively. … You are going to see a lot of excitement going forward.”

Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen is feeling buoyant, stating that Sporting “should have the ambition to go for the MLS Cup.” Those are the words you’d expect to hear from a player whose just been named team captain.

Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman is officially a Cactus Prick. FC Tucson’s supporters group took a special liking to him after RSL’s Desert Diamond Cup visit and gave him one of their scarves. “When it comes to the fans, he's world-class, the best of the best. No one can top him. It's quite amazing. I don't think there's nothing the guy wouldn't do.”

No one knew that RSL defender Chris Wingert could do this: Watch his stunning game-winning goal against the New York Red Bulls in his club’s Desert Diamond Cup finale this weekend. But was it better than this goal in the same tournament from Nico Muñiz? (VIDEO)

Columbus manager Robert Warzycha was disappointed that his team’s final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup against D.C. United was cancelled due to weather. But he didn’t hesitate to share the starting lineup he would have used, including a rookie midfielder.

There’s an MLS lineup out there that could benefit from the availability of two American stars if this report coming out of Scotland is to be believed. It says that Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya could be cut from Glasgow Rangers as early as today in an effort to reduce costs in the face of the financial difficulties being faced by the former Scottish giants.

Clint Dempsey now seemingly has competition to score goals at Fulham in Russian Pavel Pogrebnyak but the American still managed to net another brace against Wolves over the weekend. “He was probably already the most productive wide midfielder in England, but hopefully he will get more than 15 goals this season at least,” says Fulham manager Martin Jol about Dempsey. (VIDEO)

Vancouver Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit says that he’d be “surprised if Clint doesn't have an opportunity to move to a bigger club this offseason.”

There is speculation in England that Ipswich Town may make a run to acquire Aston Villa’s American ‘keeper Brad Guzan.

US international forward Jozy Altidore was on the board again for AZ Alkmaar. Watch his goal here. (VIDEO)

Back in the USA, the owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings have outlined their interest in MLS expansion in the most public statement to date: “We also look forward to pursuing a Major League Soccer franchise for this market, if we are able to resolve the stadium issue this year.” The same report claims that the Vikings would have a five-year window to bring an MLS team to a newly constructed Vikings stadium, where no rent would be paid.

According to this report, Seattle Sounders owner Drew Carey joined Alexi Lalas and other international experts on a “Soccer Analytics” panel at MIT and spoke out about college soccer’s structure not being a good thing for MLS.

Lastly, regardless of what talents emerge in college, soccer is coming on strong in the USA. Check out this study conducted by ESPN which shows that pro soccer is the No. 2 sport among Americans ages 12 to 24.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Grading the teams after the Desert Diamond Cup in Arizona

Wondo: The pieces are starting to come together in San Jose

The very latest from the Road Trip to First Kick: A one-on-one with Brad Davis and a Q&A with Darlington Nagbe

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