The group stage of CONCACAF Champions League is almost complete, but most of the spots in the knockout round are still yet to be decided. The LA Galaxy secured their spot in the quarterfinals last night with their 3-0 win over Cartaginés. They are currently in position to be seeded third in the knockout round but Toluca and Cruz Azul only one goal ahead of them on goal difference, so they still have plenty to play for in the final group stage match on October 24th, even if they only send reserves to El Salvador (which they will). Tijuana is the only other team that has already qualified for the knockout stage.
After Houston's 2-0 win over W Connection, all they need to do to advance from the group stage is to avoid losing to Árabe Unido in Panama next month. Sporting Kansas City can advance with a win or draw at home against Olimpia, after failing to clinch Group 2 last week, settling for a draw at home against Real Estelí.
It wasn't all good news for MLS clubs in CCL this week though. Despite beating Heredia 2-0, the Montreal Impact have no chance of advancing to the quarterfinals. Ironically, their win gives San Jose a chance at winning the group if they can beat Heredia at home on October 23rd.
During the last week of the group stage of CCL, Sounders fans will have a few opportunities to get a look behind the scenes with the release of of American Football by Levy Films and the book being released by the Gasman, formerly of KJR radio. Mike "The Gasman" Gastineau released an excerpt from his upcoming book, "SoundersFC: Authentic Masterpiece" on Tuesday. There will be a release party for the book on October 22nd, which is the same night as the first showing of American Football.
On Tuesday, we discussed Brian Ching's announced retirement. After his retirement was officially announced, the Houston Dynamo also announced a testimonial match for Ching in December. Participants will include current and former teammates in Houston, the national team and other MLS teams he's played for. No Sounders players have been announced to take part in the testimonial. The announcement prompted Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America to call for more testimonials for retiring players like Ching, who have meant a lot to the league and their teams.
Zach Scott spoke about what Brian Ching has meant to him with Matt Gaschk of soundersfc.com. Scott and Ching were teammates at Gonzaga from 1998 until 2000 and once again with the Sounders in the USL A-League in 2002. Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid was asked about his feelings on Ching's retirement on Tuesday and responded by talking about some of their history together with the LA Galaxy.
There has been a lot of talk this season about how disappointing TV ratings have been for MLS games this season. With the push for the playoffs and the race for the Supporters Shield in full effect, it appears that the ratings on NBC Sports Network have been showing signs of improvement lately, thanks in part to a few Sounders games being featured on NBCSN in recent weeks.
In an interview with Jeff Bradley of MLSsoccer.com, former USMNT midfielder and ESPN commentator John Harkes mentioned that his son Ian, a freshman, is a teammate of Sounders Academy product Sean Okoli at Wake Forest. He also indicating that if he could play in today's MLS, he would probably want to play for the Sounders, largely because of the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field.
The Daily Wiz has an article that breaks down the remaining schedule for each team in contention for the Supporters Shield. Surprisingly, they see the New York Red Bulls as the team to beat, rather than the Sounders. Will they become the next piece of locker room material for Sigi?
With Thierry Henry unlikely to play in Seattle this weekend, Richard Farley of Pro Soccer Talk detailed some of the differences in the artificial turf in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. Like most neutral observers, he sees Portland as having the best turf and Vancouver having the worst. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson recently discussed the possibility of installing grass at Jeld-Wen Field. He also discussed the possibility of expanding capacity.
Real Salt Lake is now in serious danger of losing head coach Jason Kreis, who is reportedly interested in the head coaching position with New York City FC. With Kreis' contract set to expire at the end of the 2013 season, Real Salt Lake is preparing to make him an offer that would make him the second highest paid head coach in MLS. RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen could have saved a lot of money if he had re-signed Kreis earlier in the year, when Kreis was reportedly willing to agree to a less lucrative deal than he is now.
With all the names revealed in the annual MLS "24 Under 24" series, one name that is conspicuous by its absence is that of Kelyn Rowe. Rowe was excluded this year, despite the fact that he's currently putting up numbers approaching Fredy Montero's production at the same age with the Sounders in 2009.
UEFA has handed out its first major punishment for racist behavior. Dinamo Zagreb will have to play at least one UEFA match behind closed doors. A second match is subject to a 5 year probationary period. The club has also been fined nearly $95,000.
Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski revealed yesterday that he intends to sign a pre-contract agreement with Bayern Munich in January. He will join Pep Guardiola's squad after his contract expires in June.
Jozy Altidore will soon have a new manager at Sunderland. Reports have emerged indicating that Gus Poyet will be hired to take over Sunderland and attempt to rescue the club from relegation. Sunderland has yet to earn a win in the Premier League this season.
I'll leave you with this free kick goal from Germany's fourth division. Sometimes confusion can be an effective strategy on set pieces, possibly more so in lower divisions, where players may be more prone to lose their focus.