Kick Off: New Crew owner Anthony Precourt aims to change perception, reality in Columbus

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Kick Off: Now that MLS preseason is officially kaput, who heads into 2014 season with momentum?
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Kick Off: Now that MLS preseason is officially kaput, who heads into 2014 season with momentum?

Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today

1. CASCADIA CALLING

This weekend sees Seattle and Portland square off in the massive Cascadia cup match that also doubles as Clint Dempsey’s home debut. For Brad Evans, the fixture “defines MLS” and Taylor Twellman joins the boys on Extratime Radio to preview the match. The Timbers will be looking to make a statement after Wednesdays disappointing draw and with Diego Valeri in terrific form the big debate is: Which Designated Player would you rather build your team around?

2. IN ATTENDANCE

If the crowd for Sundays game surpasses 66,452, then Seattle will have broken its own attendance record, again with a Seattle-Portland match, and set the MLS record for second highest single-game attendance (the overall record is 69,255 set by the Galaxy). The Sounders MLS attendance has always been impressive and, as this article shows, for a team in only its fifth season their overall attendance figure is closing in on teams that have been around since the league's inception.

3. WE ARE FAMILY

By now, most people will have seen the rather unusual editorial, posted to the Chicago Fire website on Wednesday night, in which director of communications Dan Lobring called out a section of the club’s fanbase for their inappropriate behaviour. This drew the wrath of the majority of supporters, who it seems were already displeased to begin with, along with drawing the attention of the media. All that led to the club defending Lobring’s statement, but also apologising for what it calls a misunderstanding.

4. INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

The Columbus Crew may not get the respect they think they deserve, but new owner Anthony Precourt is out to change that. The aim is to be "Massive" in the community, and the template comes from the land of cheese. Can the Crew replicate the Green Bay Packers' success? They may just have the right man to lead the charge.

5. ADJUSTING FOR ALTITUDE

The Colorado Rapids may have a bye week, but new Designated Player Gabriel Torres is making the most of the free time to try and adjust to playing at altitude. The work seems to be paying off: “I’m already feeling more comfortable,” he said. Hopefully the striker will be able to go 90 minutes during the next game but, unfortunately for the Rapids, they will be losing their new man for at least one match as Torres has been called into the squad for Panama’s upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

6. FIXING THE GAME

News broke yesterday that 22 soccer players from El Salvador have been suspended on suspicion of match fixing. The investigation pertains to matches involving both the senior national side and the u-20’s but involves six former MLS players. This news broke on the same day UEFA banned two match officials for attempted match fixing.

7. THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER

Every single MLS team has a Designated Player for the first time in league history, but how many of them can afford to have three? There has been some suggestion recently about adding a fourth Designated Player spot for each team. Jonah Freedman explains why he thinks it’s a bad idea.

8. GOOD WILL BRUIN

Last season Will Bruin scored 16 goals for the Houston Dynamo on the way to another MLS Cup final. Hopes were high then that he could have a similar season in 2013, but after going seven games without scoring, that didn’t seem likely. You might imagine his call up to the Gold Cup, during which he saw zero minutes, would further damage his confidence, yet, if anything, Bruin has been revived.

9. EVERY POINT COUNTS

The LA Galaxy know better than most clubs how much every point counts now in the playoff race. Last season the Galaxy finished one point above the Dynamo, and it was enough to give them home field advantage for MLS Cup. A final played in Houston could have had a very different ending to the one in LA. This year they aim to finish as high as possible with their sights set on a three-peat.

10. STAYING POSITIVE

Andy O’Brien may or may not feature in Saturday’s game against the Galaxy. With Jay DeMerit also returning and the good work of Johnny Leveron and Carlyle Mitchell in his stead, O'Brien may or may not be able to force his way back into the starting lineup. But, as the Vancouver Sun finds out, the defender is definitely in a better place, both mentally and physically, thanks to joining the Whitecaps.

11. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

We’ve already seen that St Louis has an appetite for big soccer matches involving European teams. Now it seems like the city will get the chance to show us how they feel about the USMNT. A report from NBC’s Pro Soccer Talk suggests that the city could host the USMNT in a rematch against Bosnia if both teams qualify for the World Cup.

12. PROGRESS

PRO, the Professional Referees Organization, is still in its first year, but has been praised by MLS’ Nelson Rodriguez for the work they’ve done so far. But, as Rodriguez notes, “We’ve only just begun.” The Executive Vice President of Competition, Technical and Game Operations then shared his vision to “set the worldwide standard for officiating in 2022.”

13. BLUE GRASS, REALLY?

Fresh from the success of Dax McCarty’s Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Sporting KC's Robb Heinemann took to the social network last night to answer fan questions. Amongst the topic raised were Jermaine Jones, MLS expansion, the USMNT Training facility and blue grass!

14. QUESTIONS FOR CALEB

There will be another high-profile Q&A today and while this one will no doubt have a far more serious tone, it should be just as interesting. Portland head coach Caleb Porter will be taking part in a special Google+ hangout on Friday at 4:30 pm ET right here on MLSsoccer.com. If you have any questions you want answered, go to the article and leave them in the comments section.

15. MLS: CASTING THE MOVIE

Who would play your favorite MLS star in a movie? The Bleacher Report has some answers right here. Can you think of any other good lookalikes?

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