Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...
1. TAKE IT EASY
Did Panama players really ask the US to ease up on them at the end of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier? A win for Panama would have sent them into the intercontinental playoff, but Michael Orozco wasn’t having any of it: “The truth is I couldn’t give him or Mexico a hand, we wanted to play our game.” And from a Panamanian point of view, how did Colorado Rapids star Gabriel Torres feel after the game?
2. SOWING THE SEEDS
Thursday saw the release of the latest FIFA world rankings, and the US remained at No. 13. It's no surprise, then, that the US do miss out on a top seed, while Switzerland are a surprise sight among the best in the world. Have you tried the World Cup draw simulator? Whatever way you spin it, this looks to be one of the US' toughest draws in recent memory.
3. AMERICANS ON THE MEND, AMERICANS ON THE MOVE
How does AZ Alkmaar’s director of football feel about Aron Jóhannsson representing the USA? While he may not love the travel, Earnie Stewart certainly thinks it’s far more marketable to have a US player than an Icelandic one. Michael Bradley is back in Roma’s squad for this weekend’s game, meanwhile, and in England it appears Brek Shea is to be sent out on loan as he tries to work his way into the US World Cup squad. Fellow countryman Will Packwood has already completed such a move, joining Bristol Rovers on a one-month deal.
4. PLANNING FOR THE PLAYOFFS
MLS has released the schedule for the upcoming playoffs. The MLS Cup final is scheduled for December 7 and it’s interesting to note that, on top of an extended break between the Conference Finals and the MLS Cup final again, this year also includes a break for the international fixtures in November. Now that MLS has the dates it just need the competitors, and eight teams can join New York and Sporting Kansas City in securing their places this weekend.
5. CHASING THE LEAD
Sporting Kansas City play host to D.C. United tonight (8 PM ET, NBCSN), bringing an end to fan appreciation week in Kansas City. SKC are still in the hunt for the Supporters' Shield, along with a number of other teams, so how does SI.com rate everyone’s chances? Ahead of Friday night’s game, Bob Gansler is set to be honored by his old club, and the former Wizards coach recalls his time in charge fondly. On the other side, United GM David Kasper sat down for a few minutes with The Washington Post to talk about the future in DC.
6. FIGHTING FOR FIRST
In what some are describing as the potential game of the year, Portland host Real Salt Lake in a straight-up battle for first place in the West and the Supporters' Shield. Real Salt Lake are expecting an open game, while the Portland Timbers may still be without Diego Valeri, although “if he’s healthy, he’s out there,” according to Caleb Porter. How have the Timbers evolved over the past season? Here’s an in-depth tactical analysis of the Timbers system.
7. ANOTHER SOUNDERS SELL-OUT?
It’s always a big game when the Seattle Sounders host the LA Galaxy but, with the way things have gone for the Sounders recently, next week’s game — their home season finale — could be especially important. As such, the Sounders have reported that they’ve sold more than 64,000 tickets to the match.
8. MLS ACADEMIES
MLS wants to become one of the best leagues in the world by 2022, and part of that will involve producing the best players possible from their academies. As part of that, FoxSoccer.com looks at the reasons behind the leagues partnership with the French Football Federation and the academy staff studying the Elite Coaching License.
9. JUST KEEP WINNING
After looking down and out just a few months ago, the San Jose Earthquakes still have a good chance of reaching both the MLS Playoffs and the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stages. What changed for interim coach Mark Watson? Simple, “We started winning some games.” Watson was the guest on Thursday’s ExtraTime Radio podcast, where he assessed his team’s chances.
10. SUNRISE, SUNSET
Vancouver Whitecaps veteran Lee Young-Pyo is set to retire at the end of this season and the former South Korean international is determined to go out on a high. Despite the odds being against them, Lee has targeted another appearance in the playoffs for his final game, stating ”It’s not a good situation, but I believe it can happen.” While a big part of the Whitecaps past is set to call time, a big part of their future is also ready to do his part.
11. COMING AND GOING IN DALLAS
Despite the season falling short for FC Dallas, one of their most promising aspects has been the development of Walker Zimmerman. Could the rookie be spending his offseason in Europe? While looking at FC Dallas’ collapse, just how big a factor was the loss of veteran coach John Ellinger?
12. COLUMUS STRETCHED THIN
While the playoffs seem increasingly unlikely for the Columbus Crew, the club might want to start looking at what they need to change for next year. However, MassiveReport.com wonders if the front office is spread a little bit thin at the moment to make that happen.
13. KEEN TO IMPRESS
Just how dedicated is Robbie Keane? Well, fresh from taking part in the Republic of Ireland's 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan on Tuesday night, Keane jumped straight on a plane, flew for 14 hours and played the final half hour of the LA Galaxy’s 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday night.
14. MEXICO CHANGE BOSS … AGAIN
Mexico boss Victor Manuel Vucetich’s two games in saw his team sneak into the World Cup playoff against New Zealand, they also showed that it takes more than two games to implement a change in a national side. So, ahead of those important games next month, The Mexican Football Federation did the only sensible thing and fired Vucetich, with Club América boss Miguel Herrera being brought in as a replacement with, again, two games to implement a change. At any rate, New Zealand striker and former Toronto FC loanee Jeremy Brockie is looking forward to his side's clash against El Tri.
15. SAN ZUSI
How did a group of Mexico fans show their appreciation to Graham Zusi? By creating possibly the greatest image ever. What about US fans? Well, naturally they’re not celebrating Mexico reaching the World Cup, but the American Outlaws did recently reach 100 chapters. Here’s a video showing how far they’ve come.