Kick Off: Brazilian head coach confirms Julio Cesar will play for Toronto FC

Kick Off Gregg Berhalter

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USA TODAY Sports

Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.

1. SIGNING CESAR

While the deal is still not technically complete, Júlio César’s loan to Toronto FC was confirmed Tuesday by none other than Brazilian national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. TFC brass steered clear of the news during media day in Toronto on Tuesday, but current goalkeeper Joe Bendik is well aware he has a battle on his hands to win the starting job. Meanwhile, the folks at SoccerByIves.net are pretty high on the World Cup veteran César in their latest ranking of the top 10 goalkeepers in MLS.

2. REPLACING A RAPID

The Colorado Rapids could be close to a new signing, as 26-year-old Spanish pro José Mari is set to join the team for preseason. José Mari, a defensive midfielder, spent the last two seasons with Real Zaragoza but has been without a club since the two agreed to mutually part ways. If the Rapids can agree a deal, he will likely serve as a replacement for Hendry Thomas, who has been stuck in negotations with the team since last season ended.

3. TALKING UNION

After being recently hired by the Philadelphia Union, new assistant coach Mike Sorber has been talking about his own coaching philosophy and what he expects from the Union this season. Meanwhile, John Hackworth has confirmed that the club is interested in former Bolton captain Zat Knight, but that he’s only one of several options the Union are considering.

4. NO LABA IN COLUMBUS

While Toronto FC castaway Matías Laba will apparently not be joining the Columbus Crew camp, Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson apparently had a few thoughts about new Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter and his public reveal that Laba was even on the table in the first place.

5. LUIS GIL: AN INSPIRATION?

As U.S Soccer looks to the future, there are probably few stars burning as brightly as Luis Gil, whose sharp rise through the MLS ranks saw him rewarded with a recent US national team appearance. Gil’s choice to stay in America could serve as inspiration to other youngsters  and so could the cautionary tale of Freddy Adu.

6. NOSTALGIC TRIP FOR CAHILL?

Tim Cahill already assured New York Red Bulls fans than this season would be no different than the last and, as such, the team could see their designated player jetting off to England for an international friendly just days before the start of the new MLS season. While Cahill would likely have played the game regardless, the choice of venue for the match has added significance to the 34-year-old.

7. SEATTLE TURNING 40

The Seattle Sounders are one of three teams celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2014, and the club has unveiled its own plans to commemorate the occasion. One of its games against the Vancouver Whitecaps, also celebrating 40 years, will be used as a ceremonial match, and the club has revealed an anniversary logo to be displayed on their third kits all season and on the home kit for select games.

8. HOUSE OF PANE NO MORE

With the Portland Timbers' stadium officially renamed Providence Park, let’s look back at some of the best moments to take place at the venue while it was known as JELD-WEN Field, according the folks at FoxSports.com. We can probably all agree that the new name has something of a ring to it, but did you know that the Timbers had strict instructions on what the stadium could or could not be called? The club also announced on Tuesday that two of their 2014 SuperDraft picks will be joining the team for the upcoming season.

9. QUAKES' CHARACTER

When clubs look at players in the SuperDraft, their main concerns are usually positional need and talent level. But for the San Jose Earthquakes, an equal importance is placed upon personality and the way the players conduct themselves away from the field. As such, both head coach Mark Watson and general manager John Doyle aren’t surprised at all that the three players picked up in the SuperDraft are settling in nicely during preseason training.

10. MLSERS OFF TO USL PRO

Orlando City announced another new signing on Tuesday, with Corey Hertzog joining the team on a one-year deal. However, the Seattle Sounders picked up Hertzog’s MLS rights in the Re-Entry Draft so, as things stand, that means the former New York Red Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps forward will not be a part of Orlando’s 2015 MLS team. Orlando City weren’t the only USL PRO side picking up former MLS talent on Tuesday though, as the Sacramento Republic announced the signing of Justin Braun. There also seems to be a number of former MLS players currently training with the NASL’s New York Cosmos.

11. LOOKING FOR LOANEES

As part of their extended affiliation, Richmond Kickers head coach Leigh Cowlishaw has spent the past 10 days with D.C. United at their preseason camp in Florida. The time will have allowed Cowlishaw to not only observe United practices and training methods, but also get a look at some players he may want to take on loan this year. However, the Kickers coach revealed we shouldn’t expect any announcements on those players until early March.

12. WHAT WE CAN LEARN…

Nielsen recently released its 2013 sports report and, while a quick glance at the main information may not make it seem like a huge success for soccer, there are in fact several reason to be optimistic. Away from that though, one thing that has certainly increased is the value of each MLS franchise and, with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring at the end of this year, what does that mean for club owners?

13. ONE WORD FOR KLINSMANN

In a recent interview with FIFA.com, US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke some more about building a strong mental attitude, but also about closing the gaps on some of the bigger soccer nations: "Even when we take on stronger nations, we are not going to sit there and just wait to see what happens. The only word that matters to us is ‘winning’.” One other word that Klinsmann might want to think about though is "travel," because they’ll certainly be doing a lot of it this summer.

14. GIVE ME LIBERTADORES

The Copa Libertadores is underway again and, once again, Mexico has representatives in the South American tournament while the US does not. However, if teams from MLS want to compete in the tournament someday, there are certain obstacles they need to overcome first.

15. THE AMERICAN DREAM

Ever wanted an insight into the workings of clubs in Central America? Wondering if they’re more or less stable than their rivals in the bigger more established leagues? Well, meet Jeff Korytoshi, the American in charge of Guatemalan side Coatepeque, who is about to be fired despite beating the league’s top team.

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