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First Kick 2017: Sounders open title defense in HOU; ATL, MNU debuts

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The 2016 MLS season came to a close 11 short days ago, and already it’s (almost) time for the 2017 schedule to be released.

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On Wednesday, MLS gave us just enough to whet our palates and tide us over through the holidays before the release of the full schedule sometime shortly (hopefully) after the New Year — dates, times and opponents for the home openers of all 22 teams.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Julian Green makes permanent move away from Bayern ]

The season will kick off in Portland, Friday, March 3, when Minnesota United make their MLS debut away to the Timbers. Fellow MLS newcomers Atlanta United will debut two days later, Sunday, March 5, at home (Bobby Dodd Stadium, home of Georgia Tech football) against the New York Red Bulls. Orlando City SC will open their brand new stadium in downtown Orlando the same day.

[ MORE: Offseason needs for the Western Conference | Eastern Conference ]

The Seattle Sounders’ MLS Cup defense will begin with a trip to Houston, where they’ll take on Wilmer Cabrera’s new-look Dynamo. As they have done each of the past two seasons, Toronto FC will begin their season with an extended road trip, this time less than a month long, making their home debut against Sporting Kansas City on March 31.

WEEK 1

Friday, March 3, 2017 — Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC (Providence Park)

Saturday, March 4, 2017
Columbus Crew SC vs. Chicago Fire (MAPFRE Stadium)
LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas (StubHub Center)
Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC (Rio Tinto Stadium)
Colorado Rapids vs. New England Revolution (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park)
D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City (RFK Stadium)
Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders FC (BBVA Compass Stadium)
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Montreal Impact (Avaya Stadium)

Sunday, March 5, 2017 

Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC (Orlando City SC Stadium)
Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls (Bobby Dodd Stadium)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Philadelphia Union (BC Place)

WEEK 2

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake (Toyota Park)
New England Revolution vs. Orlando City SC (Gillette Stadium)
New York Red Bulls vs. Colorado Rapids (Red Bull Arena)
Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC (Talen Energy Stadium)
Montreal Impact vs. Seattle Sounders FC (Olympic Stadium)
Sporting Kansas City vs. FC Dallas (Children’s Mercy Park)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

New York City FC vs. D.C. United (Yankee Stadium)
Minnesota United FC vs. Atlanta United (TCF Bank Stadium)

WEEK 3

Saturday, March 18, 2017 — FC Dallas vs. New England Revolution (Toyota Stadium)

Sunday, March 19, 2017 — Seattle Sounders FC vs. New York Red Bulls (CenturyLink Field)

WEEK 5

Friday, March 31, 2017 — Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City (BMO Field)

Man United honor attack victims ahead of Europa League final

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Manchester United’s players and coaching staff held a minute’s silence ahead of training on Tuesday at their Carrington base in Manchester.

Following the terrorist attack in Manchester late on Monday where a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured 59 at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, United will not hold a press conference and other media activities on Tuesday ahead of the Europa League final in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Europa League final against Ajax on Wednesday will still go ahead as planned at the Friends Arena in nearby Solna, with UEFA releasing a statement reassuring fans that there was no security threat in the Swedish capital.

“UEFA is shocked by last night’s attack in Manchester. Our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those affected. There is currently no specific intelligence which might suggest that any of the UEFA Europa League final activities in Stockholm may be the target of attacks.

“UEFA has been closely working with local authorities and the Swedish FA for many months and the terrorist risk had been taken into account since the very beginning of the project. Furthermore, a number of additional security measures were implemented following the attacks in Stockholm last April. Due to the tight security arrangements, UEFA urges fans to arrive at the stadium as early as possible, as detailed checks will be made at the entrances, resulting in potential delays in accessing the stadium.”

United released the following statement early on Tuesday morning following the attack, while many of their players and key figures in the soccer world have been sharing their condolences on social media.

Everyone at Manchester United is deeply shocked by last night’s terrible events at the Manchester Arena. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected, including our supporters, club staff and members of our community such as the children from our Manchester United Foundation partner schools who were attending the concert at the Arena. Club staff are ready to help the police and other emergency services in any way that may be required at this challenging time for our city.

Soccer world reacts to the Manchester attacks

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NBC News is reporting that at least 19 people have been killed and another 50 are injured following a possible suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

Multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials who are monitoring British authorities told NBC News that preliminary reports indicate that a single explosion took place outside the arena on the southwest side opposite the train station. The explosion occurred as the concert ended, catching people as they exited.

Soccer clubs, players and personalities around the world are reacting to the horrible event.

Juventus purchases Cuadrado from Chelsea

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If you didn’t realize Juan Cuadrado still belonged to Chelsea, you’re forgiven.

The Colombian attacker will complete his second season at Juventus after the UEFA Champions League Final against Real Madrid, and won’t be headed back to Chelsea afterwards.

Juve has purchased Cuadrado, and the fee is $22 million, and Juve will pay it over three seasons. Cuadrado, 28, is now signed through 2020 with The Old Lady.

Cuadrado first went on loan to Juve in Aug. 2015, and has eight goals and 18 assists in 83 career appearances with the club.

Chelsea bought Cuadrado from Fiorentina for around $32 million in the January 2015 transfer window, but made just 14 appearances with the club.

Report: Jermain Defoe meeting with Bournemouth

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Sky Sports is reporting that Jermain Defoe may head back to the south of England following Sunderland’s relegation.

Defoe, 34, spent two seasons with Portsmouth between 2008-09, scoring 15 goals in 31 appearances.

[ MORE: ‘The Moment’ of each PL club’s season ]

The 56-times capped England striker had a clause in his Sunderland contract allowing him to leave the Stadium of Light were the Black Cats to be relegated, as they were this season. He’d have little interest in dropping into the Championship given his desire to stay a part of the England squad ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Bournemouth’s strike corps includes Joshua King, who scored the most goals of any player not on a Top Seven side this season. King’s 16 goals were one more than Defoe’s 15, though the latter scored just one goal following a brace against Crystal Palace on Feb. 4.