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Kick Off: RBNY turn to club legend to fill head coach role

Turns out, all the speculation surrounding the search for the Red Bulls new head coach was just that.

On Thursday, New York promoted Mike Petke from assistant coach to head coach, effective immediately, ending a search that stretched more than 70 days and included a handful of potential candidates.

Former Vancouver Whitecaps manager Teitur Thordarson was the latest candidate in a managerial search that saw No. 1 target Paulo Sousa decline the job. Sousa was apparently spotted at Tottenham Hotspur yesterday. That English Premier League club is coached by his compatriot André Villas-Boas.

Staying in the EPL, another surprising name to surface in the RBNY search was current Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert. Obviously, that one was out of left field. See what was said about him yesterday.

Red Bulls chief Jerome de Bontin was on the Seeing Red podcast last night. The big news from that interview, however, has to do with the club’s long-awaited practice facility. It’s almost done and there’s a target date. (AUDIO)

Who knows if this latest rumor will ever be close to being done? Sporting Kansas City star Kei Kamara is the latest player linked with a move to the English Premier League in the current European transfer window.

In other personnel news that broke late Wednesday, Portland Timbers manager Caleb Porter revealed that veteran winger Franck Songo’o would not be returning to the club and the player didn’t take the news too well on Twitter: “It looks like I came to PDX for no reason. I wanted to put my cleats on, but it wasn't up to me. Some people forget easily."

Meanwhile, Timbers forward Kris Boyd wants out of Portland. He’s quoted in the English press as saying he is hoping for a return to England: "I have a bit of unfinished business and hopefully I can go back there."

In nearby Seattle Sounders camp, forwards David Estrada and Babayele Sodade were busy making early headlines with goals in the first scrimmage of preseason. Take a look at Estrada’s great finish on one of his two goals.

Speaking of finished, that’s how we can now describe Shalrie Joseph’s time with Chivas USA. New Goats manager José Luis Sánchez Solá says: “He’s a great player, but he is not in my plans. … Management knows he’s not in my plans. Hopefully he’ll be able to play with another team.”

US youth national team goalkeeper Diego Restrepo seems destined for a new team in MLS after spells in South America. A Washington Post report indicates that he’ll be joining the Philadelphia Union in preseason.

What’s not to like at the Union’s preseason camp, especially with two newcomers at target forward Aron Wheeler and veteran Conor Casey. “We now have two true No. 9s, and we didn’t have one true No. 9 last year,” manager John Hackworth said. “Now we have a couple of big boys if you will with soft feet, and that’s what we like.”

Another team brimming with optimism in the lead-up to the 2013 campaign is the Chicago Fire, who welcome newly arrived MLS veterans like Joel Lindpere, Jeff Larentowicz and Maicon Santos: “We made additions to the team that bring good, experienced players from the league,” said manager Frank Klopas. “You know what you're going to get from them. Hopefully, it will take us to the next level in the league."

There was one player who could have helped the Fire in that quest, but Borussia Dortmund’s Sebastian Kehl apparently rejected a move to Chicago.

Another player with international experience, Canada’s Rob Friend, will apparently not be heading to the Vancouver Whitecaps, according to The Province.

There was a big announcement in FC Dallas training camp. Schellas Hyndman named 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira as team captain: “He’s taken the responsibility of not only leading the team but also motivating the team,” Hyndman told the Dallas Morning News. “He does that by his actions, not just his words.”

Wednesday’s big news revolved around the partnership struck between MLS and USL-Pro that will see MLS reserve teams playing USL sides with matches counting toward the standings in both leagues. Stay tuned for more details on the conference call scheduled for Thursday morning.

Aside from the competitive relationship, MLS teams will be permitted to form an affiliation with USL sides in lieu of fielding a reserve side. That’s the direction that the New England Revolution seem to be heading after confirming reports of a partnership with the Rochester Rhinos. “I think [an affiliation] gives us the ability to get our guys more games throughout the calendar year, more competitive games on a regular basis as opposed to maybe one or two games a month,” said Revs GM Mike Burns.

Sporting Kansas City were the first MLS club to announce a partnership with USL powers Orlando City. SKC manager Peter Vermes explains why: “We like that they're motivated to try to come into MLS. We like the way they play. It has similar characteristics to the way that we try to play.”

What does this mean for Orlando City’s MLS ambitions? They say that the two-year deal with Sporting helps them: “With our mission of going to MLS ourselves, we were looking for something to use as a stepping stone to move to MLS. KC has offered to help us with that process.”

One Rochester player pointed out how all current USL-Pro players stand to benefit from the arrangement because of the exposure provided: “You wondered: Is anybody really watching these games?” Rhinos defender Troy Roberts said. “Now there are definitely eyes [of MLS scouts] on you, and you always want that chance.”

The head of the soon-to-be 14-team USL-Pro tells the Sporting News that the MLS connection could boost the lower division league to reach “several dozen teams over a five- to 10-year period.”

Here’s the obvious follow-up question. Where does the arrangement leave the NASL? Luke Lohr over at MLSReserves.com takes a stab at answering it.

On that same topic, here’s the opinion of Philadelphia Union assistant coach Brendan Burke, whose MLS club will be associating with the Harrisburg City Islanders: “From an NASL standpoint, which is a good league and has good players and has kind of been that second tier between MLS and USL Pro, I think it drastically closes that gap if not put the USL now on a level footing in terms of sustainability.”

Exactly a week has gone by since the 2013 SuperDraft. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the event through the eyes of new Sporting Kansas City midfielder Mikey Lopez, who was followed around by MLSsoccer.com’s own Nick Firchau.

Here’s another behind-the-scenes: This one getting into the mind of USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who insists it’s all about the mental side of the game. And that “n” word came up again during one of the training scrimmages witnessed by Andrew Keh of The New York Times: “This is a game that shows your character. This is a game to get nasty. … If you see someone here that doesn’t want to win, it should make you very mad.”

Klinsmann was also featured in the lead story of Wednesday’s edition of The Kick Off, which featured a Wall Street Journal article where Klinsmann said: “My whole talk to Clint Dempsey for 18 months was [about how] he hasn’t made s—. You play for Fulham? Yeah, so?” Well he’s not backing down from the article. He tweeted out a link to it this morning. ICYMI.

And lastly, if you’ve yet to see it, here’s that video of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard kicking a Swansea ball boy, who threw himself onto a ball that out of play. Was the act premeditated?

MLSsoccer.com Musts

LISTEN: Latest edition of March to the Match discusses new MLS-USL partnership

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FC Dallas’ Castillo: “I want to score more goals and be an All-Star in 2013”

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