MLS set for March kick-off

Seattle Sounders’ Josh Ford dives to deflect a ball during a drill at the team’s first day of MLS soccer training camp, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, in Tukwila, Wash.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
AP Photo/Mel Evans

Major League Soccer will kick off its 16th season on Tuesday, March 15 when Seattle Sounders FC hosts Western Conference rival Los Angeles Galaxy in a 9:30 p.m. game to be televised on the ESPN network. The 16th season will see a new conference alignment because of the addition of expansion clubs Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

The league moved the Houston Dynamo to the Eastern Division since it makes more sense to place the new teams, which are further west than Houston, in the Western Conference; the move creates more balance in the league with nine teams in each Conference. Houston should welcome the switch since it means less travel for the Dynamo, because it is closer to Eastern Conference foes than most teams in the Western Conference. Each team in the league will play each other in a home-and-away game basis in a 34-game schedule. Houston opens at home versus Philadelphia on Saturday, March 19.

The new alignment: Eastern Conference teams are Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, and Toronto FC. The Western Conference teams are Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. MLS also announced that it has formed a joint seven-member task force with the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) to study the development of the game in Canada and provide players in Canada with the best opportunities to develop. This year, the two Canadian teams, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, must carry at least three Canadian domestic players on their rosters.

Red Bulls Readying

The Red Bulls started their training camp last week Monday with the season’s goal to reach the MLS Cup. The team created history when it made the biggest turnaround in MLS by going from bottom of the Eastern Conference to winning it in one year. Gone is the team’s all-time leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel to Los Angeles Galaxy, which means the scoring burden is mainly at the feet of former Arsenal and France star Thierry Henry, who said, “All I want is the team to win.” Said Henry further, “Every time you enter a competition, you want to try to win it. As an organization, we finally want to bring that trophy that New York has never won. That is the thing.”

“I’m absolutely sure if he stays fit we’ll see a very good striker,” said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe, whose team opens the season on Saturday, March 19 versus Seattle Sounders FC at Red Bull Arena.

Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler said the team plans to add two more players before the season-opener: a right back and either a central defender or defensive midfielder. The team recently signed versatile right-sided player Jan Gunnar Solli, academy product Matt Kassel and is high on rookie defender Tyler Lassiter out of North Carolina State.

Queiroz On Trinidad List

Former Portugal and Manchester United coach Carlos Queiroz is among four candidates to be interviewed by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation for its head coaching vacancy. Russell Latapy will not return as head coach of the national team. Trinidad technical advisor Keith Look Loy did not name the other three coaches, who are Dutch.

“We have actually been given the all clear by the TTFF (Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation) to start performing interviews with the names we have short listed,” Look Loy said. “Among those is former Manchester United assistant coach Queiroz, whose name has already been mentioned in the local media. Queiroz along with three coaches from Holland are the top contenders for the post.”

Queiroz, who had two stints as an assistant coach at Manchester United, led Portugal during the last World Cup, but was releases from his duties after a slow start to the Euro 2012 qualifiers. Queiroz also had brief stints with Real Madrid, United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

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