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Kick Off: Brazilian star Kaka says he wants to play in MLS

You heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Brazilian national team star Kaká formally expressed his desire to play in MLS yesterday after an international match between Brazil and Colombia in New Jersey: “I like it. I have some friends that are playing now here so they say a lot of good stuff about the MLS," Kaká told Goal.com. "One day I hope I can play here."

It’s worth noting that Kaká’s brother, Digao, plays for the New York Red Bulls and his close friend, Marcelo Saragosa, plays for D.C. United.

Speaking of D.C. United, they’re involved in that Eastern Conference Championship second leg on Sunday (4 pm ET, NBC Sports Network) against the Houston Dynamo. But there’s still fall-out from that Andre Hainault takedown of Raphael Augusto in the first leg, which wasn’t sanctioned by referee Ricardo Salazar. The head of the Professional Referees Organization says it should have been a foul and a red card.

D.C. United’s Ben Olsen is disappointed the call didn’t go his way in Houston, but his focus is on that lengthy infirmary list. With Dwayne De Rosario expected to play some minutes in Sunday’s second leg, the main concern is leading scorer Chris Pontius: “Chris at this point looks a little more severe than the other guys, but there’s still a chance he will be okay,” Olsen told The Washington Post.

The Houston Dynamo also have their fair share of injuries to grapple with as Ricardo Clark, Calen Carr and Jermaine Taylor look to gain full fitness ahead of Sunday’s decider. The biggest question is midfielder Adam Moffat, who may be listed as “out” on the injury report, but is holding out hope of being ready to go at RFK Stadium.

Olsen has one thing going for him: Rookie midfielder Nick DeLeon says he’s at his best when the chips are down: “When there is a lot on the line, that’s when I really come out.”

D.C. United feel their best qualities can also come out when they’re playing at RFK Stadium. This is what DC defender Dejan Jakovic had to say about Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium field: “I felt like it was a college pitch," he told the Washington Examiner. "I don't know why there was football lines and stuff. We've played some great games at home. The pitch is going to be a lot bigger. There's going to be a lot more room to play."

As far as the Western Conference Championship is concerned, the Seattle Sounders are brimming with confidence as they look to overturn a 3-0 aggregate goals deficit.

"I know we'll get chances," says Sounders forward Eddie Johnson. "If we can keep Keane quiet and Donovan quiet ... we've got a really good chance of making this a reality as far as advancing to the finals."

One person rooting for that not to happen is injured LA Galaxy central defender AJ DeLaGarza, who is targeting a role in MLS Cup 2012 if the Galaxy can hold on.

LA’s Mike Magee got a grip on his career when his daughter Keira was born. That’s what he tells the Los Angeles Times in this feature in which he reveals that he was “kind of living a bachelor lifestyle” during his six seasons in New York: “Sometimes it was hard to focus and do the right things off the field."

When it comes to doing the right things off the field, LA’s David Beckham has that market cornered. He’s now a spokesperson for Breitling watches and this video showed the behind-the-scenes of his latest commercial campaign. (VIDEO)

The 2012 campaign is over for the US national team. Yesterday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s crew escaped Krasnodar with a come-from-behind 2-2 tie (watch the highlights here). Man of the Match Michael Bradley felt the US “deserved at least a point” in the friendly.

As is typical for matches that involve comebacks, there’s the standard praise for “character” and “personality,” but Klinsmann says those qualities have been a long-time coming: "Our team over the last 6-12 months grew a lot. We developed a lot more personality and confidence to compete with the best teams out there.”

Some US fans might be shocked to see that US star goalkeeper Tim Howard thought the PK called against the USA “was a fair decision.” But the Everton netminder also has big picture items in his sights: “I think it was a very positive year and I think another year like that over the next 12 months, we'll be looking at [the 2014 World Cup], looking to head down there and hopefully do some damage."

Forward Jozy Altidore made his comeback with the USMNT by starting against Russia and Klinsmann had nice words for his performance although some might disagree with his assessment: "I think you saw Jozy Altidore today was a handful. He gets a big, big compliment for his performance."

Here are the full list of player ratings beginning with MLSsoccer.com’s Greg Seltzer, SI.com’s Avi Creditor, Ridge Mahoney at Soccer America, Jack Bell at The New York Times, Yanks Abroad and Bleacher Report.

Speaking of international players: Is there any hotter scorer these days than Javier “Chicharito” Hernández? So how could former Chivas USA coach Preki have declined taking him on his team? Well, that story told by Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara, is being disputed. Sources tell Soccer By Ives that the story isn’t entirely true.

Two player transactions that can’t be questioned is the Supporters’ Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes locking up Jason Hernandez and Sam Cronin to new deals. That apparently leaves one main question mark as far as returning players in 2013: Tottenham loanee Simon Dawkins.

A loan? Red Bulls Designated Player Rafa Márquez wants in. He reaffirmed that he is looking to play for two months with Atlas in Mexico during the MLS offseason: “A competitive year is coming up for me at Red Bull, which will be my last year and I will be trying to win a title and earn a call-up to the Mexican national team,” he told media in Mexico. (SPANISH)

Look to Mexico if want some great live action on the tube today. There’s Mexican playoff soccer as Monterrey host Tijuana (7:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes) and Chivas Guadalajara welcome Toluca (10 pm ET, Telemundo) in quarterfinal first legs. Colombian side Millonarios have to come back from a 1-0 aggregate-goal deficit when they host Brazilian side Grêmio in the quarterfinals of the Copa Sudamericana (7 pm ET, Fox Deportes). There’s also Argentine soccer on GolTV with Boca Juniors taking on Newell’s Old Boys (7:30 pm ET) and there’s an FA Cup first-round replay on Fox Soccer between two teams you’ve never heard of (2:30 pm ET).

And don’t miss the friendly match between MLS’ Montreal Impact and Serie A side Fiorentina which will be streamed live at 1 pm ET on the Impact’s official site.

Of all the international action taking place worldwide, there were three matches played on US soil yesterday that we’ll tell you about: 13,372 came out to watch Portland’s Bright Dike and Nigeria beat Venezuela 3-1 in the first soccer game at Marlins Park in Miami. There were 38,624 mainly pro-Colombian supporters to watch that entertaining 1-1 draw between Colombia and Brazil at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

And lastly, 9,142 showed up at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston to watch Honduras and Peru tie 0-0 with MLSers Andy Najar and Jerry Bengtson starting. MLS playoff participants Oscar Boniek García (Houston Dynamo) and Mario Martínez (Seattle Sounders) came in for about 15 minutes each (check out the lineups at the end of this article and then watch the highlights here).

Finally, what other highlight to close out today’s edition of Kick Off than the four-goal show put on by Sweden star Zlatan Ibrahimovic against England? And make sure you stick around until the end to watch that fourth and final goal. You won’t regret it. (VIDEO)

MLSsoccer.com Musts

The Sideline: Eric Hassli’s goal nominated for greatest goal in the world

The latest edition of March to the Match on the USMNT

Three MLS Homegrowns in US U-18 camp

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