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Kick Off - Aron Winter
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Kick Off: Toronto FC owners demand end to losing streak

After the club’s sixth straight loss to start the season, Toronto FC ownership has spoken out.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, said in a statement. “They have to get this straightened out. Our fans deserve better.”

Toronto manager Aron Winter was hoping that the return of Torsten Frings would stem the bleeding, but TFC still found a way to give up three goals in a 3-2 home loss to the Chicago Fire on Saturday (watch the highlights here). At 0-6-0, TFC are now one loss away from matching the record for worst start to an MLS season: “It’s hard to keep letting down our fans every week and it’s really starting to get to me,” Toronto forward Ryan Johnson said.

Winter admits he can’t figure out if it’s a lack of quality, focus or sharpness that is leading to the goals being conceded by his club, but he still feels that 2012 is better than last year: “I think, if you’re going to compare it to last season, we have made a very huge progression,” Winter is quoted as saying in the National Post. “And, of course, it needs some time.” Will he get it?

The first half was all the time D.C. United needed to jump out to a big lead en route a 4-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. Chris Pontius registered a hat trick for the home side, obviously making him the front-runner for the media’s Player of the Week award (watch the highlights here). “He still doesn’t know how to play forward though. And that’s a scary thing,” said D.C. manager Ben Olsen.

But NY captain Thierry Henry has no doubt that his team’s defense played a big part: "It's been terrible defending the way we do defend. We were going to get punished and we got punished today."

RBNY manager Hans Backe says the backline was so poor that D.C. “didn’t need to work for it,” when it came to the goals. New York's rookie left back Connor Lade was arguably at fault for two of D.C. United’s four goals, but he was not too down on himself after the match: “Overall, I thought I did okay, but I'm trying to focus on the team and not myself.”

There was plenty of drama and controversy in San Jose, where the San Jose Earthquakes beat Real Salt Lake 3-1 after the visitors went down to nine men for the first time in RSL history (watch the highlights here). Two red cards issued by referee Elias Bazakos did not sit well with RSL manager Jason Kreis: "It’s an inexperienced referee, from my point of view. I don’t know if he’s ever refereed one of our matches before. I think it’s difficult circumstances for him, and he struggled."

The question now is whether Real Salt Lake will appeal the red card suspensions that will be served by Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave when the club travels to face FC Dallas in midweek. Michael Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune feels “it might take a more clear-cut case than the ones RSL endured to get the league to overturn an ejection.”

The win was special for the San Jose Earthquakes, who played without four starters due to injury and suspension. The three points vaulted the club into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference and gave Frank Yallop his 100th victory as manager: "Hopefully I can get a few more and we can make the playoffs."

It wasn’t pretty in Portland, where an own goal and a lot of hard work by the Timbers brought an end to Sporting Kansas City’s perfect run in a slugfest (watch the highlights here). “We matched them man for man all over the pitch,” said Portland Designated Player Kris Boyd. “Yeah, we might have been late with some tackles. But we came out and showed what we’ve been trying to show all season.”

Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes wasn’t down on his team’s performance in the loss. Quite the contrary: “I’ll be real honest. I am happy with the way we played … We played well but came up short even though I thought we created more chances. Sometimes, that’s the way it happens, but we kept pressing it. All in all, I was happy with the performance.”

And with Sporting KC’s playing style becoming a topic of conversation this week, Portland manager John Spencer, whose “15 lucky shamrocks” came through vs. SKC, says he’s among the admirers: “I don’t think they’re an overly physical team. They just play the modern game the way it should be played at times. That team has hit the ideal when it comes to reputation. It’s a physical game.”

The defending champion LA Galaxy came away with a 2-1 win in Colorado thanks to a Josh Saunders penalty kick save in stoppage time (watch the highlights here). LA manager Bruce Arena does not mince words when it comes to the PK call: “I saw nothing. There was not a foul. It was a poor call. We survived it though, fortunately.”

The Rapids feel the final result was no indication of the way the game went: "We should have won the game on the scoreboard," said Rapids defender Drew Moor. "When you create so many chances and play so well, it's just so frustrating. But you have to take a positive from this game. We were by far the better team. Give LA credit, they finished their chances, but we did everything possible to win the game."

The Philadelphia Union made a Freddy Adu back-heel goal stand up in a 1-0 win at The Home Depot Center against Chivas USA, who have now lost all their home matches in 2012 (watch the highlights here). “I take full responsibility … I feel bad for the team, letting them down that way,” said Chivas right back James Riley, who misplayed the ball on Adu’s goal.

This game also had two red cards – the Union’s Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan were dismissed – and Philly manager Peter Nowak was sent off: “Even with two red cards, we didn’t give up much. We deserved to win,” Nowak said after the match.

The Houston Dynamo’s road stretch to start the season continued with a 2-2 tie in Columbus on Saturday night with forward Will Bruin once again showing he’s in fine form (watch the highlights here). Houston midfielder Adam Moffat was realistic about the result: "We didn't play great but it's another point on the road."

The offensive star for Columbus was Eddie Gaven, who had two goals playing in the attacking midfield role that was supposed to be filled by big offseason signing Milovan Mirosevic: “That position is where he really feels comfortable,” Mirosevic admitted. “With his way of playing, he likes to be free in the middle and he likes to go inside and go wide. I was very happy for him today.”

The Vancouver Whitecaps ended their two-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas (watch the highlights here). Brazilian forward Camilo got the winning goal and Omar Salgado made his first start since last July. Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento were benched to make room: "I'm disappointed and angry but that's part of my job – to be angry when this happens," Chiumiento says.

Back spasms suffered by regular starter Kevin Hartman forced FC Dallas “into a goalkeeping change that we weren’t prepared to make,” according to manager Schellas Hyndman. The FCD boss also had strong words for Vancouver: “There were double the amount of fouls that were called. They’re a much better team [than last season], but I still don’t like the way they play. You remember last year almost to the date the MVP of the league was taken out here and he’s still not on the field.”

Speaking of the Whitecaps, forward Darren Mattocks was called up to be part of the Jamaican national team when they host Guyana in a World Cup qualifying tuneup on Friday.

Back in the USA, U-20 national team manager Tab Ramos has revealed the formation he will be using to get his team to the 2013 World Cup: “There is no question that for the development of our players, the 4-3-3 is our preferred formation. That’s something that we are going to move forward with over the next few months.”

Meanwhile, Michael Ballack has confirmed that the “fire still burns” and that he’s seeking a new challenge when the current Bundesliga season ends. He’s leaning toward Major League Soccer.

Over the weekend there was news that one of Serie A’s most prolific strikers could be tempted into an MLS move. The agent of Bologna forward Marco di Vaio’s says that he’s also heard the rumor of interest from the Montreal Impact, but he indicates there’s nothing concrete yet. (ITALIAN)

Watch the sport of soccer in a whole new light after you read the eight things that NY Red Bulls Performance Analyst David Lee looks for in every soccer match, whether it’s MLS, the Champions League or college soccer.

There will be Reserve League soccer in LA when Chivas USA host the Seattle Sounders today but Steve Zakuani will not be a part of it. Check this report to see what the Sounders fan favorite had to say about his recovery process and the recent Brian Mullan appearance in Seattle.

In the biggest matches from the European scene this weekend, catch the highlights of Real Madrid’s win at Barcelona, Juventus extended its lead in Italy with a 4-0 thrashing of AS Roma, Borussia Dortmund won its second straight Bundesliga title and Everton’s 4-4 tie at Manchester United opened up the EPL title race.

As far as TV action today: It will be a dramatic night for West Ham United when they travel to face Leicester City with the aim of keeping pressure on Southampton for the remaining automatic promotion spot to the EPL (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Plus). Anything but a win for West Ham and Southampton fans will be in delirium.

Lastly, two celebrations caused a stir this weekend. First, Club America’s Chucho Benitez and Matias Vuoso gave each other a kiss on the mouth (kind of), while in Australia they awarded the wrong guy the MVP trophy after a crazy finale that included a dubious stoppage-time penalty kick.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

American Exports: Jozy Altidore’s magical season continues in Holland

The Sideline: Bobby Convey gives Twitter advice with a dog on his lap

American Exports: DaMarcus Beasley scores again in Mexico

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