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'Super cup' showdown kicks off tournament
by Paul Kennedy, February 18th, 2014 8:34PM
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TAGS:  mls


[MLS PRESEASON: Disney Pro Classic] The Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic gets underway Wednesday with four games headlined by a super cup of sorts as MLS Cup 2013 champion Sporting Kansas City faces 2013 Supporters' Shield winner New York in the second game. Six MLS teams are entered in addition to Orlando City (set to join MLS in 2015) and Fluminense's U-23 team (featuring former U.S. U-20 and U-17 Alfred Koroma). For a look at what the six MLS teams have to sort out in the final two weeks of preseason.

Wednesday Schedule:
Game 1: Columbus Crew 3 Toronto FC 1.
Game 2: New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m. ET
Game 3: Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union, 6 p.m. ET
Game 4: Montreal Impact vs. Fluminense U-23, 8 p.m. ET
(All games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.)

What needs sorting out. New coach Gregg Berhalter was a defender during his playing days in Europe and with the LA Galaxy and U.S. national team, so the first thing to look at is how he re-works the defense. Chad Marshall, a fixture in the middle for 10 seasons (253 games), and Brazilian Glauber are gone. The only thing that is for sure is Michael Parkhurst, battling for a World Cup spot, will start somewhere in the back.

As for the rest of the lineup, the other sure thing is that Argentine star Federico Higuain, now in his third season and back with the team after battling an illness early in preseason, will pull the strings in the five-man midfield behind a lone striker.

Preseason results. Malmo FF 1-0.

What needs sorting out. The Impact is the only team besides Columbus at Disney with a new coach (Frank Klopas) and the last MLS team to venture outdoors. After three weeks indoors at Marie Victorin College, Montreal finally hit Florida last week ahead of the Disney Classic, which it won in 2013.

Klopas says he already knew a lot about the Impact, having coached against it during the last two seasons with the Chicago Fire. Impact players got a chance during the indoor work to get to know Klopas. Early reports are they like the feedback they're getting from him in contrast to the chaotic reign of Swiss coach Marco Schallibaum.

The Impact has two big holes to fill: former Italian World Cup champion Alessandro Nesta has retired and captain Davy Arnaud has moved to D.C. United. Nesta's retirement means that the center-back pairing of Matteo Ferrari and Hassoun Camara could become permanent as Camara often slid into the middle last season when Nesta was unavailable. As for the Impact captaincy, Klopas has handed the armband to Patrice Bernier.

Preseason results. Orlando City 1-0.

What needs sorting out. Last year at this time, Mike Petke was just settling in as the Red Bulls' head coach. He didn't do too bad as a last-minute appointment -- the Red Bulls won the Supporters' Shield for their first ever MLS trophy.

A new year has brought new battles as at least four positions are up for grabs: incumbent Kosuke Kimura against Richard Eckersley (formerly of Toronto FC) at right back, Ugandan vet Ibrahim Sekagya against Spanish signing Armando at center back next to Jamison Olave (signed to a new contract), Roy Miller against Bobby Convey (another Toronto FC castoff) at left back and Lloyd Sam and Eric Alexander in a dogfight at right midfield. Peguy Luyindula took over as playmaker late in the 2013 season and looks like he will keep it until further notice.

Preseason results. USF 0-2, Philadelphia 2-1.

What needs sorting out. The Union's preseason game against the Red Bulls in Jacksonville gave Philly fans their first chance to see its new midfield with recent acquisitions Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira all starting. The five-man midfield also included captain Brian Carroll as the holding midfielder and Danny Cruz on the right side opposite Maidana.

Several issues will be need to be resolved: who starts up front if John Hackworth goes with one striker -- Jack McInerney or Conor Casey? -- who starts at center back alongside Amobi Okugo -- rookie Richard Marquez out of D3 Redlands got the start against the Red Bulls -- and where to play Sebastien Le Toux if he starts. For now, Zac MacMath looks to keep his starting job in goal ahead of No. 1 SuperDraft pick Andre Blake.

Preseason results. New England 1-1, Univ. of North Florida 9-1, New York 1-2.

What needs sorting out. Even though they were at first missing five starters on national team duty in Brazil, the defending champs had two solid weeks of training in Arizona before heading to Orlando. After returning from Brazil, free agent Chance Myers sorted out his contractual arrangements, signing a new deal.

SKC camp opened with Eric Kronberg, a perennial backup, as the No. 1 ahead of newcomer Andy Gruenebaum in the battle to replace retired Jimmy Nielsen in goal, and the Cal product started all three games in Arizona.

SKC has one of the deepest frontlines in MLS with Claudio Bieler, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury, Soony Saad and Dom Dywer all back in 2014, but none has held the mantle of the SKC go-to guy and grasped it for long. Bunbury leads the quintet with 19 career MLS goals, the fourth fewest goals of the leading scorer of any MLS team. To the list of goal scorers, you should add a name: Sal Zizzo, picked up from Portland in the offseason, had two of the five SKC goals in Arizona.

UPDATE: Revs pick up Bunbury from Sporting KC

Preseason results. FC Tucson 1-0, Portland 1-1, Indy Eleven 3-1.

What needs sorting out. Foggy Bradenton meant it was hard to figure just who was new in the Toronto FC lineup as it opened preseason play with a 1-0 win over D.C. United at the IMG Academy Stadium. But, yes, that was Michael Bradley at the controls in midfield, and Dwayne De Rosario back with in TFC's red jersey. Not playing were the three Brazilians -- Jackson, Gilberto and goalie Julio Cesar -- all new the team and all now in Orlando for the Disney Classic. Not yet with the team is the other big offseason signing, Jermain Defoe, who officially becomes Toronto property at the end of February.

The new signings give Toronto plenty of firepower up front, but Ryan Nelsen still must rebuild the backline in front of Julio Cesar (or Joe Bendik when the Brazilian heads to the World Cup). Nelsen has enough confidence in center back Steven Caldwell that he intends for the Scotsman to keep his captain's armband.

Preseason results. D.C. United 1-0.

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