Kick Off: Backe, May 8
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Kick Off: Red Bulls' Backe has tough decisions to make

Now what, Hans Backe?

Despite several high-profile injuries and suspensions, the New York Red Bulls have won two in a row, a feat that, according to one columnist, “defies explanation.” So what will coach Hans Backe do for Wednesday’s showdown with the Houston Dynamo now that Rafa Márquez is back from his three-game suspension and Juan Agudelo and Roy Miller have returned from injury?

From the way he is talking, Backe won’t mess with Brandon Barklage, who started at right back in the win over the LA Galaxy, and clearly impressed. “That kind of defending … is absolutely top-class,” Backe said.

Wednesday’s match at New York will be the seventh straight road game until the Houston Dynamo finally go home to open the new BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday vs. D.C. United. Seems like a good time to recount an eye-openingly long list of previous MLS stadium openers.

The Dynamo’s new downtown jewel would probably never have gotten off the ground if not for Oliver Luck, the former club president. "He knew who to talk to, and he knew how to go about getting us a stadium,” Brian Ching said. Luck and his family — including son Andrew — are expected to be at Saturday’s opener as guests of the club.

Staying on the stadium front, up in Minnesota, politicians continue to kick around the idea of the proposed stadium for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings — who have said they would also like to bring an MLS team in to use the stadium.

These days, the LA Galaxy are feeling Minnesota. Struggling to get results, even at home, they are currently in seventh place in MLS’ Western Conference, 12 points behind leaders San Jose. So what’s to be done? “There isn’t much [Bruce Arena] can do aside from shake up the lineup and bench players in hopes of sending a message,” writes’s Ives Galarcep.

Arena will have to shake up his lineup soon enough. LA striker Robbie Keane was officially called into the Ireland team for the European Championship on Monday.

When discussing the Galaxy’s struggles, no one has mentioned the absence midfielder Chris Birchall. Well, when he returns, it’ll be as a member of a different MLS club.

Maybe a match against one of the best clubs in the world would help the Galaxy. The reigning MLS champions will take on recently crowned Spanish champions Real Madrid as part of the World Football Challenge.

Three other World Football Challenge matches were announced on Monday, as well, including what will be the first-ever soccer game at the new Yankee Stadium. It was also announced that the Spanish and Italian champions, Real Madrid and Juventus, will play a WFC match in Las Vegas.

They’ve been playing soccer at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for several years now, but it’s a different brand these days than it was a few years ago. Oscar Pareja’s transformation of the Rapids from a direct team to a more possession-oriented side has not come without a few hiccups. “At times, it's been great,” one veteran striker tells’s Kyle McCarthy. “At times, it's like, ‘What are we doing?’”

There have been no hiccups for San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski, whose assault on the goal-scoring record continues unabated. His three strikes last week earned him Player of the Week honors.

San Jose might be a good landing spot for recently released Barnsley winger David Cotterill, who has reportedly received offers from several MLS clubs. Why San Jose? His middle names give him an historical link to the Earthquakes.

The historical links between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders go back several decades. But that doesn’t mean Vancouver’s Jay DeMerit doesn’t think his club shouldn’t emulate its rivals to the south.

Despite their scoring struggles, the third club of Cascadia Cup, the Portland Timbers, have reportedly sent striker Bright Dike on loan to one of the Los Angeles clubs. Don’t worry, Timbers Army members, it’s not an MLS club.

Real Salt Lake would never loan out goalkeeper Nick Rimando. But they also won’t have him in the lineup against Chicago on Wednesday. A shoulder injury has ruled him out.

Would FIFA rule out a men’s World Cup in Canada? That’s the question TSN’s Luke Wileman recently asked Sepp Blatter. The FIFA boss sounded pretty bullish in reply: “With the Women's World Cup in 2015, with the new stadia they have in Canada, I am sure they are ready to organize the big competition.”

Speaking of the WWC, this article about “the future of women’s soccer” in the wake of WPS’ suspension has some strong comments from Women’s Professional Soccer League Commissioner Jerry Zanelli. “We want teams to survive,” he says.

Would Clint Dempsey survive at Arsenal, his latest reported suitor? Most pundits say, “Of course.” Which is why this article says Fulham’s main off-season focus should be to keep Dempsey. Must Reads

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