Hat Trick, QOTD Time... If you could go to any away game to Support the Fire, where would it be?

C'mon Jurgen, I know you want to start SJ tonight...

It's high time again for another hat trick and QOTD. Today's piece will focus a bit more on the USMNT as a couple of big games loom tonight and this weekend. One of the matchups includes two American soccer icons in a clash this weekend, which should make for must watch TV. Also follow after the break to have your say in the QOTD.

Also, before proceeding past the break, I wanted to remind everyone to join us tonight here on HTIOT for the USMNT gamethread. The US team faces a tough road test in Panama tonight. You can catch the action on Galavision or ESPN3.com, starting at 7:30 PM CST. We invite you to join us on the gamethread for USMNT banter, or to follow along if you can't watch the game anywhere. Follow me after the break for the hat trick and QOTD...

1. Touching further on the USMNT game tonight, this article is a good primer for the match tonight with lots of good info. It should be a very interesting one to watch, especially coming off the win vs. Venezuela in stoppage time the other night. This will be the first big road test that many of the younger players and newer capped players will face. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to the adversity. I found another good piece where Jurgen talks about this very thing.

One of Jurgen's big talking points when he was first hired and asked about the transformation he will bring to the US team centered around on a more attacking style of soccer. And we saw that the other night vs. Venezuela. As the 2nd article rightly points out, Venezuela didn't exactly come out swinging however. Panama on the other hand, is an up and coming CONCACAF team, so it will be interesting to see how the Americans respond if Panama "bunkers down", as Klinsmann mentions. I think it will be even more fun to watch if Panama comes out swinging, which will make the match very interesting. The US certainly has a chance to make a statement tonight and take the next step down the road of transformation under Jurgen's system.

Oh, and one more thing for any USMNT fan, and especially Chicago Fire fans. Although our very own Sean Johnson was not named to the 18 for the Venezuela game, everyone should definitely tune in tonight to see if he gets his chance to make the site of the match (Estadio Rommel Fernandez) into Sean Johnson's house.

2. As I referenced in the opening to this piece, two American soccer superstars are set to face off in an FA Cup clash on Saturday. That's right, it's a Landon Donovan vs. Clint Dempsey on Friday. Don't forget that Tim Howard should be in goal for Everton as well, so it will be a smorgasbord of American USMNT legends. This write up does a good job of comparing the resumes of Donovan and Dempsey. One caveat to note is that the article says the match is on Saturday when it is on fact Friday. Grant Wahl tweeted yesterday that Fox looks like they are going to pick the match up after all (originally it was not scheduled to air in the US). He mentioned that it has not been decided how it will air, so it could be online or on TV. For those interested in the American clash, make sure you keep checking for viewing options once they are announced. I already touched on the best USMNT player argument in a previous article (which also featured a poll), so I won't touch on that again in this piece.

I am sure our resident Fulham fans here at HTIOT (James Coston and Nick Fedora) will be deeply interested in the match. They certainly enjoyed the 5-2 thumping that Fulham gave my very own Newcastle United last weekend. We even talked about having a HTIOT Cup whenever the two teams play. Short of meeting in an FA Cup rematch (Newcastle plays Tom Dunmore's very own Brighton side on Friday), I will have to wait until next year to win back smack talk rights. Seriously though Nick and James, we need a traveling trophy or something for our "derby" matches...

3. For international soccer, the 2nd leg of the Copa Del Rey competition between Real Madrid and Barcelona (known as El Clasico) is set for today. You can catch the action on GolTV or ESPN3.com at 2PM CST. Some of the best players in the world will be facing off. Even if you aren't a big international soccer fan, these El Clasico matches are not to be missed. In the past couple of years, both teams have really increased their animosity towards one another. Rough play, yellow and red cards, and sadly flopping all are regular occurrences during matchups between these two bitter rivals. Although I hate to see the flopping and time wasting tactics that have marred the past couple of matchups, it is still worth watching by far. Both teams have it out for each other, and when a match features the best team in the world (Barcelona), along with the best player in the world (Lionel Messi), you have to catch it. Plus if you are fortunate enough to watch/listen to the GolTV broadcast, you MUST listen to Ray Hudson's always entertaining commentary and odd noises/calls.

This match also has a couple of extra talking points as well. Last week, in Barcelona's 2-1 1st leg win, Real Madrid player (labeled as a dirty player by many) Pepe stepped intentionally on Lionel Messi's hand. Certainly bush league tactics to anyone with common sense. Most people expected the Spanish FA to punish Pepe. Certainly his manager, The "Special One" Jose Mourinho would at least punish him, right? Nope and nope. Apparently the Spanish FA thought that the excuse that it was inadvertent was sufficient. Mourinho said that Pepe's weak, flimsy excuse for an apology was sufficient. Take a look at this video of the incident to decide for yourself (the bottom video is the better one). As you can see, there is no shortage for fireworks when these two teams clash.

The other big talking point recently is that Mourinho supposedly wants out of Real Madrid. The article I linked mentions that names are even being linked as his replacement, one of them current Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who has had his share of criticism recently for how he is running Arsenal (in both transfer policy and playing time/use of players). If he thinks he is under pressure now, I can only imagine Real Madrid would be even worse. And Mourinho himself is actually wanting to come to the MLS someday. That would certainly be the biggest coaching star to come into the league, even if it is a long way down the road.

Question of the Day

I had to pick something Fire related. I got to thinking of how much fun I have when I go to Toyota Park and how March still seems so far away. However, I would love to experience the fun of a trip to another stadium to watch and support the Fire. Since I don't live in Chicago, it makes the Fire sponsored bus trips (which I want to do someday) a bit harder to do (though I will make an away game on my own soon). I thought this would be a good idea for a poll question. If you could pick one away stadium to visit and support the Fire in, what would it be? Would it be a rival like Columbus? A state of the art stadium like Kansas City? A stadium like New York that houses a train wreck of a club? A visit to a place with a friendly, supporter's group companionship (Timbers Army in Portland). What say you?

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