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Kick Off: New controversy brewing in Philadelphia

There’s never a dull day in Philadelphia.

After the Sébastien Le Toux story that dominated the preseason, there’s a new controversy in Union camp surrounding captain Danny Califf and the health of his knee after manager Peter Nowak kept him out of yesterday’s lineup in a 2-1 home loss to Colorado. Watch the highlights here.

“Supposedly I have a knee injury,” Califf said told Journal Register beat writer Chris Vito. “It was a surprise to me. I didn’t find out I wasn’t playing until today, when we walked into the locker room.”

There was more from Califf: “I have no idea what’s going on in Peter’s head because he hasn’t said a word to me. To be honest, I don’t really have any idea. I would’ve thought that he at least would have a conversation with me. But he didn’t and maybe that’s his style and that’s the situation right now.”

"I'm OK, my knee is fine," Califf told John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News. "I feel fine.”

Here’s Peter Nowak’s explanation: “You guys don't know but [Califf] still has a shot in his knee. The doctors in the offseason took a pretty big chunk of meniscus. … We have to go into this situation making sure that not only is he ready to play but he's going to be able to give the performance that we all suspect."

There were more benchings in the LA Galaxy vs. D.C. United match later Sunday (watch highlights here). D.C. manager Ben Olsen decided not to start Designated Players Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic and United suffered a lackluster 3-1 loss which led Washington Post veteran reporter Steve Goff to write: “D.C. United is showing signs of trouble.”

“I’m disappointed in the group because they are a reflection of me and this organization,” said manager Ben Olsen. “At the minimum, the fight has to be there.”

See you in two weeks. That’s what the LA Galaxy were saying after the victory with their next game not coming until March 31. That should concern the rest of the league based on these comments by forward Robbie Keane: “I'm sure we'll get a good bit of training in as a team. Hopefully, you'll see a stronger team in the next couple of weeks.”

Interesting to hear LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena say that even in hindsight he wouldn’t have changed his starting XI for last week’s league opener against Real Salt Lake, which was sandwiched between a two-leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series which LA lost: “We weren't going to open the season and not present our players to our fans. The scheduling is what it is, but our fans deserved to see our players, and they were going to play in that game.”

There may have been a reason that the defending champs had an extra spring in their step on Sunday: Here’s a look at the MLS Cup 2011 bling that the Galaxy received before the match. (PHOTOS)

Montreal was sparkling in the limelight of the first-ever home opener of the Impact, who tied the Chicago Fire 1-1 on Saturday in front of a record crowd of 58,912 at Olympic Stadium. The event has captain and goal-scorer Davy Arnaud wanting more: “It's a great home-field advantage for us, and if we have that consistently, we're going to win some games here."

The Chicago Fire can also come away feeling good about Dominic Oduro’s first goal of the year and the performance by Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, whose MLS debut was highlighted by Inter Milan’s web site.

Whether you’re a Fire fan or not, it’s always a must-watch when ESPN does an “All-Access” on an MLS team. Here are six minutes of exclusive access. (VIDEO)

What’s there not to like about Real Salt Lake’s start to the 2012 season as they’ve now knocked off both the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls, the latter with a 2-0 win at home on Saturday (watch highlights here). Well maybe there is one thing: RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and several of his teammates are regular viewers of The Bachelor and they’re man enough to admit it.

Seattle Sounders forward David Estrada also captured a few headlines for himself with a hat trick on St. Patrick’s Day as Seattle won 3-1 over Toronto FC. Watch the highlights here.

The Sounders fans also put on a good show. Watch their tifo display here. (VIDEO)

We’ll wait to see if there is news later today about Toronto FC Designated Player Torsten Frings, who will be reevaluated after coming off with an injury. It also remains to be seen whether TFC will lose Ashtone Morgan to Canada Under-23 duty.

The highlight of the Sporting Kansas City vs. New England Revolution has to be the Riverdance that C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara performed after one of their club’s three goals in a 3-0 rout of 10-man Revs. If you haven’t seen it, watch it here. For the rest of the goals, check the highlight package here.

Both teams had their spells in the 1-1 tie between FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers (watch the highlights here). And it was arguably Timbers manager John Spencer who had the best moment of the game, while on the Portland Timbers TV broadcast as forward Darlington Nagbe netted the equalizer.

Two controversial referee decisions marked the Houston Dynamo’s 1-0 road win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at AT&T Park. There was the penalty kick called on goalkeeper Jon Busch (“I feel it’s a little harsh,” Busch said) and the hand ball in the box not called on Houston’s Adam Moffat. Watch both instances here. (VIDEO)

Chivas USA manager Robin Fraser wanted to see a more aggressive side to his Goats in a 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, who earned their first road win ever in MLS (watch highlights here). Here’s what Goats veteran left back Ante Jazic had to say: “I thought Vancouver was certainly beatable. What did they have, just one shot on net, aside from the goal, and from distance? If you give up one shot on goal, you should win that game.”

If you’re looking for live TV action today, there’s Roma vs. Genoa from the Italian Serie A (3:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes).

You probably won’t believe us when we tell you that Chelsea’s Fernando Torres has ended his 24-hour-plus goal-scoring drought. So here’s video proof.

Kit unveilings never get old in soccer. Here are the newest threads for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. (PHOTOS)

While the world of soccer rallies behind Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba, who is still in critical condition after collapsing over the weekend, another tragedy has struck the game: Read the story of what happened to the father of 22-year-old Liam Kelly on the day his son and Kilmarnock captured the League Cup against Celtic.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Record crowd makes Montreal opener a moment to savor

Despite keen interest, Houston’s Andre Hainault never wanted to go to the Montreal Impact

American Exports: Find out what Yanks did in overseas action this weekend

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