Major Link Soccer: Group Stage Edition

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The Sounders are officially through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League after squeezing past Marathon. They are the first team to officially secure a spot, allowing the team to rest starters in preparation for the MLS Cup playoffs in a few months. One of the heroes (again) was Sammy Ochoa, who first put the team on the board in the 11th minute. Suffice to say he's now showing everyone why he was brought in late last year.

If you didn't get enough of Cascadia soccer last week, there are a couple of solutions. First, Watch Fredy Montero's goal of the week. On repeat. For several hours. Second, head down to Starfire on Saturday as the Sounders and Timbers youth academies go head-to-head. Third, you've still got time to buy tickets for the two remaining Cascadia fixtures, in Vancouver and at home against Portland. Well, November would probably be too late. But you've got a week until the team drives north. More than 60,000 tickets have already been sold for the home game against the Timbers.

Montero was explosive in that Portland match. Montero has been explosive throughout 2012. And while he doesn't hold the Sounders scoring title, he is in contention for league MVP, at least according to ProSoccerTalk.

Speaking of the youth academies, MLS is reportedly working on ways to up the involvement of its club development programs. One of the options includes throwing the reserve teams in with the USL, NASL, or another lower division, to find more and consistent playing time.

Oh, and don't look now, but Seattle NEEDS to win the MLS Cup this year.

Portland had another brush with winning on Wednesday as they traveled to San Jose, but narrowly managed to avoid it thanks to two late Wondo-goals. It would have been Portland's first win on the road this season, not to mention about as big an upset in this aging MLS season as could be imagined. Still, even with the tie, Portland managed to take points from the table-topping Earthquakes, keeping the Sounders' dream of the Supporters' Shield just barely alive. Without essentially locking up the West, San Jose is left counting sheep.

The NY/NJ Red Bulls were downed by Kansas City on Wednesday, who suddenly are making a very real push for the Supporters' Shield. Sporting is now only three points back of the leaders while even on games.

In perhaps the least surprising result of the week, the Columbus Crew won at home over Chivas.

The assumption has been that the second MLS team in New York would retain the Cosmos name, but MLS has found itself with a pair of intriguing trademarks. While they could apply to any future MLS city, "City FC" and "Empire FC" both seem especially suited for the Big Apple.

Yet another current MLS franchise sees itself on sale, as AEG puts most of its assets on the block. This time, it is the LA Galaxy (along with the Lakers, Kings and others) that are looking for a new home that will love them and care for them. I mean, it will be the same home, just different, strange parents. Now Phillip Anschutz, who used to own 5 MLS teams, will be out of the league entirely. The Houston Dynamo, who he still owns, are believed to be part of a separate transaction.

Peter Nowak just cannot stop causing pain to the Philadelphia Union. He rid the team of their best talent before he was fired, and now he is doing his best to antagonize every last friend he may have had left with a lawsuit against the team for wrongful termination. Innocent until proven guilty of course, but a set of leaked emails strongly imply that he was in fact, rightly terminated.

Did you think Chris Wondolowski was the biggest threat to the Sounders this weekend? You might be surprised to hear a different answer from the Bay Area, who credit Rafael Baca with much of their success. There are rumors that Hannover of the Bundesliga is interested in picking up Wondolowski.

I was under the assumption that Colombians were eager to play in MLS because of the Columbia River and District of Columbia, but this article seems to tell a different story. Montero gets a few words in on why the US and Canada have become destinations for Colombians attempting to advance their game.

DC United is teaming up with several of their supporters groups in order to supply free SG customization on team gear. Screaming Eagles and La Norte patches are attached at the team store for Supporters without charge. It's a good time for new United gear, as the team jumped back into playoff positioning with a 1-0 win over Philadelphia last night.

Darren Mattocks has been named the top player under the age of 24, and the award is likely merited. Mattocks exploded onto the scene earlier this year, and is currently the top goal scorer among rookies with seven.

The Chicago Fire have had a history great players. Such a history that they can make a list of the top 15.

While the future of women's soccer has never been terribly clear, the collapse of WPS didn't improve the situation.Yet the man frequently credited with killing his own league still enjoys the well wishes of several former players, including our own Hope Solo.

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