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Kick Off: MLS openers loom as preseason comes to close

We’re finally here: The first Monday before the start of the MLS season.

So with five days remaining it’s time to get ready. Here’s a checklist: securing tickets to the matches; loading up on team gear and pre-ordering new jerseys; the download of the MLS Matchday app is a must; a subscription to MLS Live to watch the games you can’t make; and setting up a team on MLS Fantasy.

And if you're reading this article on your mobile device or via e-mail, you may want to get online at some point to check out MLSsoccer.com's new look ahead of the season kickoff. The brand new site design just launched this morning.

And if you’re working on that MLS Fantasy team, it’d be a good thing to get up to speed with the final verdicts of the preseason with four trophies handed out over the weekend.

We start in Orlando, where the Montreal Impact came away with the Disney Pro Soccer Classic title following their 1-0 defeat of the Columbus Crew in the final on a goal by Justin Mapp. Their new manager Marco Schällibaum was impressed: “We finished this game very professionally and we were almost perfect defensively.”

But that wasn’t even the biggest story coming out of the final weekend of the tournament. D.C. United beat Philadelphia 2-0 in a match marred by a red card to Dwayne De Rosario, accused of head-butting his former teammate, the Union’s Danny Cruz. The Philly winger claims: “[De Rosario] came up pretending like he was going to punch me and then head-butted me. It was a cheap shot.”

The Seattle Sounders took home the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday with what was largely a reserve side. They still came away with the trophy. Watch the sensational effort by Alex Caskey that gave the Sounders victory over Real Salt Lake. (VIDEO)

Staying in Tucson, Ariz., New York Red Bulls star Tim Cahill has provided his take on the Landon Donovan hiatus from LA Galaxy camp. “He knows what he can do and what he can’t do, so I would just look at putting life into perspective. We’ve got a great job in the MLS. That’s the way I look at things.”

The defending Supporters’ Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes registered the best record in the Portland Preseason Tournament,

Finally, the Carolina Challenge Cup went to the Chicago Fire, who collected the most points of any of the four clubs competing in the tournament. The clincher came in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Vancouver (watch the highlights here).

The Crew and the Whitecaps played the final matches of the MLS preseason on Sunday. Vancouver beat the Carolina RailHawks in the annual Community Shield match in Cary, N.C., behind a hat trick from Camilo Sanvezzo (watch the goals here), while the Crew downed the University of North Carolina in the Kirk Urso Memorial Match on a goal by the coach’s son, Konrad Warzycha.

The Crew vs. UNC match brought more than 2,000 fans to the Greensboro stadium with all proceeds going to the Kirk Urso Memorial Fund. Urso’s death in August from a genetic heart defect has led the Crew to implement new heart screenings for its players in the hope of improving the chances of detection.

The first Monday ahead of the 2013 season also coincides with the first annual Jersey Week during which 12 clubs will release new kits. The festivities start today with three clubs holding private events to give their fans the first look. See the full schedule here.

There is also the traditional season-opening media address by MLS Commissioner Don Garber and he will be going where no pro sports commissioner has gone before. He’s doing it via a Google+ Hangout on Wednesday.

Might one of the topics of conversation be the transition to a new league logo for Major League Soccer? NBC’s Pro Soccer Talk found the clues here.

It’s your typical season lead-up piece: the 10 players to watch in MLS this season, courtesy of the Bleacher Report.

In that Top 10 list is LA’s Donovan, who is still on a sabbatical. In case you were wondering, he’s not getting paid by the LA Galaxy during his time off, according to SI.com’s Grant Wahl.

By all the coverage he’s getting, it looks like David Beckham is already one of the Top 10 players in the French league. The former Galaxy star made his PSG debut in Sunday’s big match against Olympique Marseille and it turned into the latest Beckham fairytale: He helped create the goal that put the game away in what he called “the perfect day.”

Another MLS export, on-loan winger Kei Kamara, had an even bigger impact, scoring the equalizer for his first English Premier League goal since joining Norwich City from Sporting Kansas City. Now he says he expects to be a “marked man” against Manchester United. (VIDEO)

When it comes to US national team players, Terrence Boyd scored for Rapid Vienna and Michael Bradley assisted on AS Roma’s game-winner in Italy. Watch the Boyd goal here and see the Bradley assist in the snow here. (VIDEO)

There was an interesting interview with Anderlecht’s American midfielder Sacha Kljestan over the weekend, in which he talked USMNT and shared his opinion that he might be more effective at center mid: “I think my best games with the national team came in games where I played in the middle of the field paired with Michael Bradley. … We believe in each other, and we have similar ideas on the field.”

Flávio Augusto da Silva believes in soccer in Orlando. That’s why he’s committing as much as $70-80 million to help Orlando City’s bid to become an MLS team. Here’s a full-fledged feature on the man, who built a multimillion-dollar language school business and now can bankroll his soccer dreams.

Lastly, there’s been a lot of talk about the use of drones in the USA. Well, be prepared to see the unmanned planes in use at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Letter from the Editor: MLS and its supporters enter brave new era

Chelís says Bornstein not in his plans at Chivas USA

Fire manager makes it clear no starters are safe


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