The Kick Off: Toronto FC unveil Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar

Here are the top 14 soccer stories we’re following today.

1. CESAR’S PALACE

Júlio César was officially unveiled as the newest Toronto FC player on Friday, with the Brazilian international goalkeeper joining the club on a season-long loan. It continues Toronto FC’s strong rebuilding project, but this time looks set to potentially upend one of TFC’s most promising players. However, Joe Bendik isn’t letting the new signing get him down, instead suggesting, “I’m only looking at it as a win-win situation. He comes in and I get to learn from a legend.”

2. THE NEW FC DALLAS

While it won’t garner as much attention as the Toronto FC deal, FC Dallas made a big loan signing of their own on Friday when they secured the services of Dynamo Kiev striker Andrés Escobar. According to the team’s technical director Fernando Clavijo, the 24-year-old Colombian will “make this team very aggressive going forward, very attractive.”

3. WHITECAPS UP THEIR GAME

As the Vancouver Whitecaps watch their Canadian rivals Toronto FC go from strength to strength, according to the Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett, “It forces us to be better at what we do. … We have to have better scouting and development. It just puts the pressure on us.” If the Whitecaps want to compete this year, a big part of their success will come down to Nigel Reo-Coker, who has in turn become something of a mentor to the younger Whitecaps players.

4.  RAPIDS RECRUITMENT

The Colorado Rapids are currently on the hunt for a new head coach, and while there is no guarantee that fans-choice Pablo Mastroeni will get the job, Rapids president Tim Hinchey claims he “is going to be part of this club, one way or another.” Yet it seems one person who won’t be a part of the club much longer is Matt Pickens, as the goalkeeper is currently in Norway, training with Bob Bradley’s Stabaek squad.

5. SOUND INVESTMENTS

The Seattle Sounders are currently undefeated in preseason matches and, while it might not be important to some, it's very important to Zach Scott. The team could also benefit from two things this year: One is that MLS regular Cam Weaver is currently on trial with the club, and the other is a longstanding friendship between Andy Rose and new teammate Jalil Anibaba.

6. THE RIVALRY TO END THEM ALL

While it may be a few years before we get to see a clash between Orlando City and MLS Miami, the rivalry between the two clubs is already shaping up to be something fierce. However, the two clubs' fortunes are looking quite different right now. Orlando City have reaffirmed their preferred location for their future USL PRO affiliate, while new striker Corey Hertzog is excited about the year ahead with his new club. Over in Miami though, not only is the Beckham deal being investigated by an ethics committee, it seems the planned stadium conflicts with the PortMiami business plan.

7. NEW LOOK FOR UNITED

There was plenty of exciting news for D.C. United fans on Saturday. At an exclusive event for season ticket holders, United unveiled their new kits and new renderings of their proposed stadium.  The team has now switched to architecture firm Populous, who also designed BBVA Compass stadium and Sporting Park. The club's new kits certainly look nice but currently have no sponsor adorning them, although it seems one could be coming very soon.

8. READY ORR NOT

The Chicago Fire have brought a familiar face back to the squad following the return of striker Orr Barouch after an 18-month spell in Israel. Barouch was originally with the Fire from 2011-12 but moved to Israel as he bid for a place on the national team at last year’s U-21 European tournament. Speaking about his return, Barouch exclaimed, “I’m super excited to come back, it has been too long.”

9.  THE REPLACEMENT

Brandon Barklage was signed by the San Jose Earthquakes to replace outgoing All-Star defender Steven Beitashour, and Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson believes his new signing is “someone that’s going to fit in really well.” Unfortunately for the Quakes fans, Barklage and his new teammates were unable to help their side beat the LA Galaxy on Saturday, and it was the team from Gyasi Zardes and the Galaxy who came away as winner of the Central California Cup.

10. PLAYING THE MARKET

Following the latest round of preseason signings, the folks at insidemls.com take a look at the number of foreign acquisitions already brought in this winter along with the potential benefits and perils of loan signings.

11. ADU AT THE WORLD CUP?

It seems that while Freddy Adu doesn't actually have a club to play for at the moment, the 24-year-old still hasn’t given up on playing in the World Cup this year. In other US international news, it appears Bolton have set a date for Stuart Holden’s return, and young German-American Julian Green has been invited to train with the US squad again with some outlets suggesting the player has made his choice.

12. MEXICO MATCHUPS

Mexico have revealed their pre-World Cup plans with their final three matches before the tournament – against Ecuador, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Portugal – all taking place in the US. However, after his recent trip to visit Mexico’s European-based players, nation team manager Miguel Herrera knows there is plenty of work to do. In other Mexico news, adidas has unveiled the national team’s new away kit for the World Cup.

13. HEADS UP

The NFL has dealt with a series of high-profile issues with concussions in recent years, but what about soccer? Check out the results of a recent study that says soccer results for 15 percent of all sports-related concussions.

14. LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION

If everything goes according to plan, this summer millions of people will be tuning in to watch Tim Cahill lead Australia in their quest to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup. However, had Cahill not become a soccer player, there’s a chance that millions of people would still be watching Cahill anyway, as the Socceroos star had backup plans to become an actor.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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Tony Cascio taking advantage of new opportunities on loan with the Houston Dynamo

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