Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.
1. WHO GOT THE CALL?
On Thursday US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann unveiled the camp roster for next week's game against Ukraine and, as expected, it’s a squad that draws heavily on those based in Europe. Seattle's Clint Dempsey and Toronto's Michael Bradley, however, were both called into the squad with the MLS season opening March 8 (Bradley and TFC open on March 15), and here's Klinsmann's thoughts on the selection process for the latest roster.
2. DEFOE READY TO GO
Relax Toronto fans: Jermain Defoe’s hamstring injury is not as bad as first feared. That’s the word from TFC general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, who offers his opinion that Defoe will be ready to play when he arrives. Meanwhile, the striker has been called into the England squad for their upcoming friendly against Denmark. There will also be a couple more absentees from MLS squads next week, after Costa Rica announced their squad for the upcoming FIFA international date, with four MLS players included for the game against Paraguay.
3. LESS THAN IDEAL
With all MLS teams required to have a USL PRO affiliate by 2015, MLS is hoping this year will mark the final season of the Reserve League. The Portland Timbers currently share their USL PRO affiliate with the San Jose Earthquakes, a situation Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson acknowledges is less than ideal, and the he admits it’s a situation they will revisit at the end of the season, with options including a different partner or forming their own team. In the meantime, the San Jose Earthquakes share Portland’s affiliation with Sacramento Republic FC, yet the MLS side has bypassed their USL partner and loaned two players to the San Antonio Scorpions in the NASL instead.
4. HOW TO REPLACE A GOLDEN BOOT
The biggest question in Vancouver this season? How will the team's forwards be able to replace Camilo Sanvezzo's goal tally? If they’re to have any chance of replacing last year's Golden Boot winner, they’ll need to be in top shape, so meet the man responsible for getting them there.
5. SOUNDERS SETTLED ON SQUAD
The Seattle Sounders are preparing to face D.C. United in the final of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday and head coach Sigi Schmid insists the squad that take the field for that game won’t be too dissimilar to the one that plays against Sporting Kansas City on opening day. The Sounders, like most teams, have seen plenty of turnover during the offseason, and in the second of his columns for Soccerly.com, Zach Scott explains the affect that can have on a locker room.
6. WHAT’S IN A NAME
D.C. United’s new left back is officially called Cristian Fernández, but don’t be alarmed if you see it spelled differently on his jersey. According to the Spaniard, it’s a tribute to his mother. However it's spelled, Fernández will be taking to the field at RFK Stadium this season and, while sadly, it’s a ground that’s certainly past its prime, meet the man who’s been in charge of making it look as nice as possible for the past 50 years.
7. IN OR OUT
In player news, D.C. United have decided which of their players will be making the short trip to join USL PRO affiliate the Richmond Kickers. The New England Revolution, meanwhile, have officially added second round SuperDraft pick Alec Sundly to their roster for the 2014 season and, while the Revolution are busy adding players, other teams are still making cuts. Chivas USA chose to waive Carlo Chueca.
8. VETERAN WORLD CUP WINNER EYES NEW YORK MOVE?
Is a Spanish international and Barcelona legend genuinely considering a move to MLS? It appears so, but we’re not talking about Xavi this time. Now, it’s Carlos Puyol being linked with a move to the States and it seems there are strong links to both the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC.
9. MAGEE TO ADDRESS THE MEDIA
Good news for Chicago Fire fans, as Mike Magee is back in camp. After taking time off for personal reasons, many believe the reigning MLS MVP was holding out for a new contract, yet a club source says Magee has returned under the terms of his current deal. Perhaps we’ll learn more soon, as a media conference call has been scheduled for Friday afternoon.
10. DIFFERENT MOTIVES, SAMES GOALS FOR CCL RIVALS
The CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals are just around the corner and the LA Galaxy-Club Tijuana matchup is shaping up to be perhaps the tourney's most interesting series. Winning the competition would mean different things to each team but, rather than hypothesize about what those things may be, let’s hear from the teams themselves. It’s not just the Champions League the Galaxy have their eye on either, as the former MLS Cup winners also have a plan to return to the domestic summit.
11. OUT AGAIN
It looks as though George John is set to miss the start of the season with another injury, but does that just open the door for some of FC Dallas’ youngsters to try and impress? Forget trying to earn a starting spot though, Victor Ulloa is just trying to earn a new contract, so where does the holding midfielder stand heading into the final week of the preseason?
12. ANOTHER PIECE OF THE ORLANDO PUZZLE
Orlando City SC have signed 17-year old US youth international Tyler Turner, with the defender signing on for the upcoming USL PRO season as well as the club’s debut year in MLS. In doing so, Turner becomes the fourth player officially signed on for 2015.
13. TOO MANY HOMEGROWNS?
As the academy system improves, we’re seeing more and more players being signed to Homegrown contracts. However, that doesn’t guarantee that those players are going to become superstars. Not every Homegrown Player is going to be the next DeAndre Yedlin, after all, and with the idea still in its infancy, is there such a thing as too many Homegrown players?
14. TOP 20
If you had to name the top 20 strikers in MLS right now, who would you pick and what order would you place them in? It’s a tougher task than you might think, but Bleacher Report has put together their own list. Check it out and see who they ranked as No.1. Do you agree with their choices?
15. HONORING ALEXI
Alexi Lalas is already a highly respected former soccer star and well-renowned personality, but this Friday the former US international/early MLS pioneer will receive another honor when he becomes the first soccer player to be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
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