Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today...
1. PRESEASON PLANS
Today marks the kickoff of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, with four matches taking place including an "MLS Super Cup" of MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City vs. Supporters' Shield holders New York Red Bulls at 3 pm ET (streamed live at Sporting KC.com). Over in Arizona, the Desert Diamond Cup kicks off in Tucson with three games, including Colorado vs. Chicago at 5:30 pm ET (streamed live at Chicago-Fire.com). Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders are moving on to Charleston, S.C., as they prepare for the Carolina Challenge Cup, and it seems Osvaldo Alonso could be in for a warm reception.
2. 'CAPS KEEPER
The Vancouver Whitecaps have added a new goalkeeper to their roster with the addition of Inter Milan product and former Chicago Fire backup Paolo Tornaghi. The 25-year-old Italian will now challenge David Ousted for the starting spot in net after the club declined its option on Joe Cannon and traded Brad Knighton to the New England Revolution.
3. STRONGER IN SEATTLE?
After falling apart in last year's MLS Cup playoffs, the Seattle Sounders have spent the winter overhauling their squad. Are they stronger than before? Midfielder Brad Evans, who also just hosted his own show on MLSsoccer.com, perhaps sums it up best: “I think, in years past, we probably had better players, but I think we filled those shoes with better people.”
4. FINDING THE TARGET
Are FC Dallas looking to make more signings? The latest rumors suggest the club is pursuing Uruguayan striker David Texeira. In the meantime, however, after arriving via weighted lottery, Brian "Cobi" Span is one striker the club has already added and the young American is looking to prove himself a vital part of Dallas’ plans.
5. GAPS TO FILL IN TORONTO
Toronto FC have made plenty of signings this offseason, not just big names like Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe but also players who fill important needs such as Jackson and Justin Morrow. However, does the squad still have one or two gaps in it? Bright Dike may already be lost for the season – could one or two key injuries end up derailing the grand plan?
6. LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP IN TIJUANA
The LA Galaxy will be looking to make another run at the CONCACAF Champions League next month, but standing in their way are quarterfinal opponents Club Tijuana. The Mexican team features some Americans of their own, and it turns out that Herculez Gomez and Paul Arriola have a relationship dating back 12 years. Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City’s opponents, Cruz Azul, have sent Galaxy loanee Jose Villarreal down to second-division affiliate Cruz Azul Hidalgo.
7. CHANGING MARKETS
This winter, we’ve seen a number of transfers that, in the past, many fans might not have thought possible. A large part of that will be down to MLS’ growing stature in the world, which Matt Besler and Brad Evans discuss with Bloomberg TV – but could another factor be the changing markets in other parts of the globe?
8. CHOICES, CHOICES, CHOICES
Despite an uncertain offseason, Jairo Arrieta was always sure of one thing: that Columbus was where he wanted to be. After finally negotiating a new deal with the Costa Rican forward, bringing Arrieta back was an easy decision to make for the Crew – certainly a lot easier than some of the roster choices the team currently faces.
9. LOOKING AFTER OUR OWN
Despite the constant message that MLS players need to go overseas to test themselves and improve, a look at the current national team picture shows this message not to be true. As the quality on the field continues to grow, an increasing number of players in the squad are based in MLS, with even more who did once venture abroad making the choice to return back home. Just as importantly, MLS is welcoming them back with open arms.
10. ST. LOUIS STEPPING UP?
St. Louis may have just taken a big step towards eventually gaining an MLS franchise after it was revealed on Tuesday that two team owners in the city are coming together with the plan to field a side in the USL PRO. Tony Glavin, owner of the St. Louis Lions, and Andrew Haines, owner of the St Louis Ambush, plan to use the venture as a way of testing the waters as to whether there are enough soccer fans in the Gateway City to support an MLS side.
11. PRO CHOICES
The New England Revolution and Rochester Rhinos were among the first teams to form an MLS-USL PRO affiliation last season and, after enjoying a good year together, the two clubs have renewed their relationship in 2014. However, Revolution Academy product Mawolo Gissie won’t see any time for the Rhinos this year as the player has chosen to leave the MLS side and join Sacramento Republic FC instead.
12. LOAN SHARKS
Gissie isn’t the only player to be joining the Republic, though, as the Portland Timbers have made a decision on the first two players they will be sending to their new USL PRO affiliate, with goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and defender Bryan Gallego making the trip to Northern California. In other USL PRO affiliate news, Sporting Kansas City are in the unique position of having to send players to two different clubs and, while head coach Peter Vermes says we can expect an announcement on the outgoing players within two weeks, who might they be?
13. JACKSONVILLE SETS SAIL
There’s another new club in Florida now as the NASL’s Jacksonville franchise officially unveiled its name and logo on Tuesday, with the Jacksonville Armada FC name chosen by fans taking part in an online vote. The club is set to begin play in 2015, at which point it will become the third NASL side based in Florida, and team president Steve Lingstone sat down with the Off The Bench podcast to discuss, among other things, burgeoning Florida rivalries, something MLS fans will know plenty about soon enough.
14. CONCERNS OVER UKRAINE
The US national team is scheduled to take on Ukraine in Kharkiv on March 5. However, following the outbreak of deadly clashes between police and protestors in the country's capital city of Kiev, some have questioned whether the game will still go ahead. As things stand, U.S. Soccer says that although the federation is closely monitoring the situation, the game – set 300 miles from the unrest – is still set to take place.
15. KINDLE OUT OF JUICE
The name Kory Kindle might not be overly familiar to those who aren’t Colorado Rapids fans – the 2013 second-round SuperDraft pick didn’t make any appearances for the first team last season as injuries brought his year to an early finish. At just 22 years old, Kindle has chosen to retire from soccer and return to school in order to pursue his doctorate.
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