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Kick Off: Can the Seattle Sounders seize the CCL spotlight?

With the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals back in full swing on this week, is it finally time for the Seattle Sounders to shine?

Seattle begin their CCL quest in a rare spot tonight: as underdogs. They open the two-leg aggregate-goal series against Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL on the road (10 pm ET; Fox Soccer).

The Sounders have been in this spot before and not fared well, having  twice lost the opening leg of CCL series by a scoreline of 3-0. They bowed out to Santos Laguna in the CCL quarterfinals last year by a combined score of 6-1.

“It’s like if somebody throws you in a pool and you can’t swim, you either figure out that you want to swim or you never go in the pool again,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told the media this week. 

Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer this week called the Tigres series a “massive task,” considering the discrepancy in salaries between the two teams. "Those guys like Tigres are spending three, four, five times as much on salaries as MLS teams,” Hanauer said, “and it makes it tough to compete."

No such concern this morning in Houston, where the Dynamo clawed out a 1-0 win in the first leg of their CCL series against US striker Herculez Gomez and Santos Laguna on Tuesday night at BBVA Compass Stadium. Star midfielder Brad Davis got the late game-winner.

Missed the video of Davis’ deciding goal? Check out the full match highlights.

Davis doesn’t usually find himself on the bench during big games for the Dynamo, but he made the most of his chance on Tuesday night. “I’m not on the starting sheet, so when you get the opportunity to come in, you’ve got to try and bring a spark to your team and make a difference and that’s what I tried to do,” Davis said.

Despite the loss, Santos don't seem too concerned. Manager Pedro Caixinha promises: “I don’t want to talk about the return leg, but I believe Houston is going to have a bad time, very bad." Besides, Santos, who host next week's second leg in Torreón, have been in this spot before.

And for those who missed it, here’s a quick look at some comments from Gomez ahead of Tuesday’s CCL match in Houston, with the US striker talking about the respect level between MLS and their counterparts in the Liga MX.

So just how important is CCL success to the reputation of MLS? Depends on who you ask. Here’s Goal.com’s Avi Creditor explaining why it’s crucial as MLS looks into the future, while Pro Soccer Talk’s Steve Davis tries to keep things in perspective.

Speaking of the Liga MX, check out ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and his interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber touching on a number of topics, including the relationship between the two leagues and what MLS can learn from their counterparts in Mexico.

“The majority of Mexican players are playing in Mexico. They are deeply connected with the local and national media, and the local communities,” Garber says. “They are certainly doing a good job on the field. They are the dominant league in CONCACAF. That’s something we should have as a real goal. We’ve got to be as good as we can be in our own area before we can start thinking about being one of the leaders around the world.”

And if you’re looking for interviews with top-level MLS personalities, here’s some interesting insight from FC Dallas figurehead Dan Hunt, son of MLS founding father Lamar Hunt. “My father was an original shareholder in the Chicago Bulls,” Hunt says. “He bought [a piece of the team] in 1966 at the behest of my mother, who enjoyed basketball very much.

"Every year before they drafted Michael Jordan, they would send a letter that said ‘Please send money.’ Then they drafted Michael Jordan and every year since it’s been a great business. … Our Michael Jordan moment is coming. Our Jordan moment is coming, I know it is.”

Big news in the world of the US Open Cup came out Tuesday, when it was revealed that the prize money has more than doubled for this year’s version of the tournament, and the hosts of the final three matches will now be determined by a coin flip, as opposed to by a sealed-bid process.

Did the recent resignation of Pope Benedict have an adverse effect on Chivas USA’s fan base during the team’s season opener last weekend? The Long Beach Press-Telegram’s Nick Green has that and an interesting look at the conundrum at Chivas.

Chivas USA were one of the more active teams on Tuesday, adding two more players with Mexican league experience.

Some more player news from around the league starts with Portland Timbers midfielder Sal Zizzo, who will miss at least four weeks of action with a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Chicago Fire defenders Arne Friedrich and Logan Pause are also dealing with injuries and might not be ready for the team’s home opener this weekend against New England.

As for the Revs, they’re eyeing a potential April return for striker Saer Sene.

One player healthy and headstrong after one match in the books this season is Vancouver Whitecaps defender Brad Rusin, who appears to be the team’s go-to guy in the absence of injured star Jay DeMerit.

Two more signings to report this morning, as the Union have added former Red Bulls academy product Matt Kassel, and the Montreal Impact have added Canadian Under-20 national team goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau.

How about some midweek MLS Power Rankings? You got it. Here’s the latest from the folks at Goal.com, the Seattle Times, Yahoo and Bleacher Report.

Let’s turn to the world of broadcasting: The folks at LAG Confidential have the lowdown on why you might not have seen the Galaxy game last weekend on UniMas, and the Colorado Rapids have a new face in the play-by-play booth.

Will soccer in India begin to look a lot more like it does in MLS? Here’s a step in that direction.

Here’s news of a prominent name change in the NASL ranks, where the Minnesota Stars are no more. Welcome to a new, more united era in Minneapolis.

Could D.C. United fans find themselves driving around with specialized license plates in the District? Yes, if one city councilman gets his way.

And here’s a nod to Real Madrid, who clawed their way past Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday, thanks in no small part to a controversial red card. But did Madrid really deserve to win this one? Maybe not, if you ask José Mourinho.

And last but not least, keep an eye peeled for David Beckham in the lineup for Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, as they look to top Spanish side Valencia in the second leg of their round-of-16 series.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

MLS Power Rankings: Week 1

Chivas USA players, not coach, take the blame for opening loss

VOTE: The Save of the Week

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