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Kick Off: Roger Rojas, Honduras

Kick Off: Honduras target US "gringos" for WCQ smack talk

For the players fortunate enough to be named to Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT roster ahead of the opening match of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal at Honduras on Wednesday (check out the full squad list), here’s a taste of what awaits them when they travel to the Olympic stadium in San Pedro Sula.

“Our fort is the Olímpico, and we hope as we say, that the ‘gringos’ feel this pressure, and that those blondies leave here red-headed and that they leave Honduras scared.” Big words from Honduran national team forward Roger Rojas.

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler wasn’t worried about what color hair his flight partner donned as he traveled to Miami for USMNT camp. It was Kim Kardashian for crying out loud. "Yes, of course you can sit next to me on my flight this morning. Nothing to worry about, [Kanye]," Besler wrote via Twitter. Check out the picture of the two here.

One of Besler’s former teammates in Kansas City is likely to be on the field in that US vs. Honduras clash. The Honduran press, in fact, are already taking a stab at a potential starting XI for the national team against the USA. The Americans would face five current or former MLS players, according to the projections. (SPANISH)

Keep in mind, Honduras national team boss Luis Fernando Suárez has had to replace two players in his squad due to injury. Ex-D.C. United right back Andy Najar and Celtic left back Emilio Izaguirre are out with Orlin Peralta (Vida) and Christian Altamirano (Marathón) taking their spot. (SPANISH)

While the buzz grows for midweek World Cup qualifying, the MLS preseason saw two more matches from the Desert Friendlies streamed live on MLSsoccer.com over the weekend: The Vancouver Whitecaps got another goal from red-hot Darren Mattocks as they downed the Houston Dynamo 2-1 (watch the highlights here), while an old-hand decided the match for the Colorado Rapids, who beat the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 (watch the highlights here).

One player who left his mark for the Whitecaps was No. 5 overall draft pick Erik Hurtado, who is already drawing praise from his manager Martin Rennie: “Erik brings a different dimension to our team,” Rennie told The Oregonian. “He's going to get chances with his pace and work rate.”

Also on Saturday, FC Dallas eked out a 2-1 win over the University of Memphis with their newly signed academy forward and a promising local draft pick getting the goals.

FCD boss Schellas Hyndman hopes to be getting goals in the future from big man Eric Hassli soon enough. He’s awaiting a trade with Toronto FC to get done: “We’re hoping that it all does come through,” Hyndman said. “He’s a player that will be in the right place in the right time and if he’s not scoring goals, he will be creating goals for players."

Do you think the Seattle Sounders are slightly concerned about their center back situation given the injury to Patrick Ianni? They’ve brought in an MLS veteran into camp who could potentially help fill the void.

Sounders supporters will be happy to know that Fredy Montero is off to a good start in his stint at Colombia’s Millonarios. He scored a goal and registered an assist in his league debut (watch the highlights here).

Staying in Cascadia, apparently Nigel Reo-Coker has rejected a chance to join the Portland Timbers and instead is looking to stay in England, according to the Daily Mail.

More Portland Timbers news: Here’s a feature on the club’s performance analyst, John Galas.

In other international news, Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni will not be calling up Toronto FC defender Darren O’Dea for the upcoming FIFA international fixture date this week “after being excused duty at the request of his club,” reports say.

Another central defender, No. 1 overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell, is already making waves with the New England Revolution during preseason. Here’s what manager Jay Heaps had to say about this rookie defender after a recent performance: “He did excellent," Heaps told The Bent Musket. "I thought he was a good, calming presence on the ball. Defensively he made no errors, and when he makes a ball forward, it's a smart ball forward."

The reviews from a police investigation are not as glowing in Europe. In a breaking story on Monday that still has plenty of bombshells to come: Europol announce that it has unlocked a match-fixing network that even involves UEFA Champions League matches: “It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe,” said Europol’s director.

That’s the not the only challenge facing the sport’s authorities. FIFA is reportedly also looking at a potential tweak in the offside rule and will discuss it next month.

But we end with one of the best on-field stories from the weekend: Mario Balotelli scoring two goals in his AC Milan debut after his controversial transfer from Manchester City. They’re already losing their minds in Milan: “We don’t have Messi, but we have Balotelli,” said one club exec.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

March To Soccer: Supporters eagerly anticipate March 2

Inside the SuperDraft: Episode 5

Dempsey, Tottenham tighten hold on Champions League spot


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