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Kick Off - Toronto FC vs. Santos Laguna

Kick Off: TFC-Santos CCL match gets ugly on & off field

“It’s going to be a war.”

That’s how Toronto FC captain Julian de Guzman referred to next week’s CONCACAF Champions League second-leg match against Santos Laguna in Mexico. What’s for sure is that the teams didn’t give each other parting hugs at the end of yesterday’s series opener which finished 1-1 at BMO Field. (Watch the highlights here). (VIDEO)

TFC left back Ashtone Morgan claims that Santos Laguna striker Darwin Quintero gave him a head butt at the final whistle, sending Morgan to the ground and resulting in a red card for Quintero and a subsequent melee on the field. Morgan reportedly had a “bulge” above his eye: “He got me. He got a nice one,” the young defender told media. (VIDEO)

But Santos coach Benjamín Galindo blamed the incident on the “gringo.”

Galindo took it a step further and took issue with the fact that an American MLS referee was officiating a match involving a Canadian MLS club. The Mexican side was especially irate at the lack of a penalty kick call on what looked like a clear push by TFC second-half substitute Aaron Maund on Quintero.

The match was eventful. There was a Santos red card, a sizeable gash to the leg of TFC’s Richard Eckersley, several opportunities for the home side and arguably the best performance in a TFC jersey for the heavily criticized de Guzman.

As for the goals, the opener came from American Herculez Gomez, who beat TFC’s offside trap in the 30th minute, while Miguel Aceval scored the equalizer for Toronto on a free kick. Gomez was left amused by the reactions he witnessed after the final whistle: “The opponent celebrating (at home) for having tied us in a home-and-home semifinal? How nice. #90left,” he wrote in a Spanish-language tweet.

Courtesy of @SoccerOverThere, who crunched the numbers, we see that Gomez is on par with the likes of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo when it comes to goalscoring over the last month. And the calls for a national team call-up for Gomez continue to get louder.

When it comes to noise, Gomez is really stirring it up. While Toronto are optimistic about the second leg in Mexico, de Guzman says, “I don’t see why we can’t give them a good run down there,” Gomez counters with this: “If the score was 6-1 to [one of the] best teams in MLS, can you imagine what we can do to Toronto? Just wait to be in Torreón.”

The Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps regular season match is likely to have similar intensity to yesterday’s Toronto-Santos matchup. Union manager Peter Nowak already stoked the flames by saying that maybe they’ll welcome former Philly star Sébastien Le Toux with “confetti, maybe a parade with banners.” Watch the video here. (VIDEO)

Everyone is focused on Le Toux and no one is talking about Jordan Harvey’s return to Philadelphia for the first time since a trade took him to Vancouver. The left back, who’ll be filling in at left back for the injured Alain Rochat, returns to the scene where he met his girlfriend, ex-American Idol singer and TV host Kimberly Caldwell. Here’s their story.

The pressure is mounting on Vancouver Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli, who is under the spotlight for the attacking woes of the Whitecaps to start the season. Here’s what Vancouver color analyst says about the Frenchman: “Hassli is the focal point and too often he stops the attack or comes way too deep to be effective. Watch the top forwards in this league and they all get in behind the defense of the opposition. You don’t see that with Hassli.”

One player who’s showing grace under pressure is Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, responsible for the decisive stoppage-time goal that eliminated the USA from CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. He returned to Fire training and didn’t shy away from the media. But he won’t play for Chicago any time soon: "With that position, you have to be playing games, and he hasn't played since November. We've talked of a plan to get Sean back in. We have a break after the Colorado game with some reserves matches — which I think will be beneficial for him,” said Fire manager Frank Klopas.

Speaking of Olympic qualifying, Salvadoran players say they’ve been disrespected by CONCACAF after receiving boarding passes for a charter flight to Kansas City, Mo., with the names of US players crossed out. Check out this image of US midfielder Joe Corona’s boarding pass, which was assigned to a Juan Rodas of El Salvador. "They thought the USA would go through [to the next round],” said one player. According to US Soccer, the local organizing committee had to give names when they bought the tickets a month ago, and they used the names from the only rosters that had been turned in. (PHOTO)

LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena has come out in support of Olympic head coach Caleb Porter. Despite the elimination and failure to qualify for London 2012, Arena tells BigAppleSoccer.com: "I think the world of Caleb Porter. I think he's got an outstanding future. I think we don't have any fingers to point anywhere. … We just can't look at one week in Nashville, Tenn., as a way of judging where we are."

In Dallas, FCD manager Schellas Hyndman is worried about Olympic team star Brek Shea, who is expected to play in Friday night's NBC Sports Network match against D.C. United (7:30 pm ET): "What he's going through right now is just a lot of mental frustrations and disappointments and we've got to continue to be aware of that and not let that affect his emotions."

As far as D.C. United are concerned, they get Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen back from CONCACAF qualifying, although only Kitchen is expected to see time. He talked to the media about the Olympic disappointment as well: "It hurts, and media can say whatever they want about it, but it won’t define us because we’re a strong group of guys.”

Back in MLS, the Montreal Impact are promising changes to improve the gameday experience for fans in the club’s second MLS match at Olympic Stadium.

In the meantime, as expected, the club announced the retirement of ex-Impact captain Nevio Pizzolitto, who instead of becoming a coach for the Impact’s Under-21 team, has decided to enter the business of ornamental railings.

Making news yesterday was the three-game suspension and undisclosed fine handed down by MLS against Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark for use of a gay slur toward a ball boy. But for a side of Clark many fans don’t know, which includes a Humanitarian of the Year award, here’s a Houston Chronicle blog post that provides some background.

In an article from the same paper, the same writer points out that there is still another issue to deal with: the gay Spanish-language slur screamed by fans when opposing goalkeepers take goal kicks.

The Clark video clip caused a storm not just because of the audio content but also because of a controversy that erupted over the publication of the video on YouTube by a fan. Check out the back story here.

Meanwhile, there could be controversy brewing in Seattle, where central defender Jeff Parke, a regular starter last year, isn’t happy about being benched in favor of Patrick Ianni: Do I agree with it? No. Do I think that’s the reality of it? No. That’s his take and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, views and thoughts. I’ll try my best to keep the frustration and anger down,” Parke said.

Also in Seattle, Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer vows that the club’s strategy will be different when they host Chelsea for a match this summer. The Sounders "certainly don't want to repeat a 7-0 result," he said making reference to the loss at the hands of Manchester United last year.

Staying in Cascadia, Portland Timbers Designated Player Kris Boyd offered this revealing comment regarding his state of mind before arriving in MLS: “My last experience back in Turkey wasn't good. I didn't enjoy it. I was as low as I possibly could get in terms of feeling towards football. I got the feeling that I needed to go back to basics and start loving the game. … I wanted to just prove to myself that I could play.”

Another international soccer match to be played in the USA this summer has been officially unveiled: Liverpool and AS Roma will face each other at Fenway Park as part of the baseball stadium’s 100-year anniversary. Both soccer clubs are owned by Fenway Sports Management executives.

So if you’re keeping tabs, here are the international clubs who have announced summer trips to the USA: Valencia (Spain), Roma (Italy), Aston Villa (England), Tottenham Hotspur (England), Chelsea (England) and Liverpool (England).

Lastly, more NCAA Final Four thoughts from former Louisville player Nick DeLeon of D.C. United, who reveals playing pick-up matches with one of Louisville’s basketball star players.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

WATCH: MLSsoccer.com with the finalists for the “Not” Goal of the Week

VIDEO: Thierry Henry’s goal dissected on “Anatomy of a Goal”

Between The Lines: Armchair Analyst breaks down high pressure by Sporting Kansas City

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