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Tuesday Afternoon Union Freekicks: First Kick 2011 Is Finally Upon Us



Well, it’s finally here. After a crazed offseason including lots of player movement and two new teams entering the league, the 2011 season kicks off tonight at 9:30 PM ET at Qwest Field as Seattle Sounders FC take on the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The Galaxy come into the game having retooled their attack, adding Juan Pablo Angel, Chad Barrett, Adam Cristman, and homegrown signing Jack McBean to their striker corps in response to Edson Buddle‘s move to the German second division. Los Angeles also added depth to their already highly talented defense by grabbing U.S. national team veteran Frankie Hejduk in Stage 2 of the inaugural Re-Entry Draft.

Seattle enters their third season in MLS with most of the same pieces that they have had throughout their history in the league. Stalwarts Fredy Montero, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Steve Zakuani, Osvaldo Alonso, James Riley, and Kasey Keller have been, when healthy, in their starting 11 since nearly their first game in the league back in 2009 and many pundits believe that this is the year the Sounders may finally break through and win MLS Cup. Designated Players Alvaro Fernandez and Blaise Nkufo will be relied upon to carry a bit of the load this year as well.

Finally, the rest of the MLS teams will make their 2011 debuts this weekend, including the Philadelphia Union, who open their season in Houston. Here are some links to kick off your 2011 MLS season, and feel free to use this page as your daily discussion thread, especially during tonight's game.

Sounders, Galaxy launch 2011 season at Qwest Field [] A preview of the 2011 season opener from the official league website.

2011 Seattle Preview: Last chance for Sounders? [Andrew Winner –] Many experts around MLS feel that this year could be the Sounders' best, but also last chance to win MLS Cup with their current core. If they can't do it in 2011, rebuilding may await.

2011 LA Galaxy Preview: All in for a run at glory [Luis Bueno –] The Galaxy are in the same situation as the Sounders in many respects, as they haven’t won MLS Cup since 2005 and seem to be pushing all their chips into the pot this year in an attempt to win it all. This is, of course, the last year of David Beckham‘s contract.

Timbers rename home stadium JELD-WEN Field [Doug Binder –] Apparently, the Timbers weren't happy with their old stadium name, "PGE Park." While it's nice that there no longer is an MLS stadium with a really similar name to "PPL Park," couldn't they have come up with something better than "JELD-WEN Field"?

Real Salt Lake ink first Home Grown Player [Randy Davis –] The rich get richer as RSL add their first homegrown, 18-year-old attacker Donny Toia. Don’t forget, Salt Lake are also the home of teen sensation Luis Gil.

CCL Preview: RSL set to face Saprissa in semis [Randy Davis –] This match has been really under the radar as it unfortunately will be played nearly simultaneously with Sounders-Galaxy, but it’s importance cannot be understated. It’s the first time an MLS team plays in this round of the current incarnation of CONCACAF’s highest club competition, and RSL will likely need to win this one at Rio Tinto as their trip to Saprissa will be quite the difficult encounter. Striker Alvaro Saborio came up through the youth ranks at Saprissa and scored 95 goals for them in 149 league matches.

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