Kick Off: USMNT, Landon Donovan set to take Gold Cup practice test against Guatemala in San Diego

Landon Donovan, Kick Off, Gold Cup

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USA Today sports

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

1. GOLD CUP PREP KICKS OFF FOR USMNT WITH FRIENDLY VS. GUATEMALA

They may not be the most glamorous of opponents, but there's plenty of work to be done on Friday when the USMNT take on Guatemala in San Diego (11 pm ET | NBCSN, UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). Everything you need to know about the match is here, and some are speculating that Brek Shea could even get a chance to play despite not finding himself on the Gold Cup squad.

2. DONOVAN BACK IN THE USMNT FOLD WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE

Jurgen Klinsmann hasn't given Landon Donovan any breaks. For the German manager, you're only as valuable as what you brought to the table today. And after a prolonged stretch away from the US national team dining room, Donovan finally has a chance to prove he should be back in the mix as the 2014 World Cup rapidly approaches. He won't captain the Gold Cup squad -- that would be DaMarcus Beasley -- but don't count the US' all-time leading scorer out, especially with this attitude: "Now I am very much on the outside looking in, and I’ve got to make my way back in. I look forward to it.”

3. STRONG GOLD CUP COULD BE HELP SEAL WORLD CUP PLACE FOR FRINGE PLAYERS

World Cup. Copa Mundial. Coupe du Monde. Weltmeisterschaft. Whatever you call it, the tournament is the crowning moment for professional soccer players, and the US squad gathered for the Gold Cup knows this summer could be their chance to earn a place. And although the top two goalkeeping spots seemed to be locked down, there is plenty of competition for the third, with all three players fancying their chances.

4. CREW CRY FOUL AFTER DOUBLE DOSE OF KEANE PKS TAKES POINTS

If Twitter was any indication last night, the fans might've been more upset than Columbus about the way LA snagged all three points at home. Two late penalty kicks, including one in stoppage time, gave the Galaxy a 2-1 win, but it was what many judged a soft decision after Bernardo Añor bumped Keane that really got the rank and file riled up: "He's smart," Añor said of Keane. "He was waiting for a tiny touch for him to go down." Keane, for his part, apologized for nothing.

5. SECOND-HALF GOALS FUEL COLORADO TO JULY 4TH WIN AGAINST NEW YORK

Independence Day soccer is a tradition in Colorado, and the Rapids didn't disappoint their sell-out crowd on Thursday night, using goals from Nathan Sturgis and Deshorn Brown to walk away with all three points. The Red Bulls pointed to Sturgis' goal as the turning point, a "broken play" that deflated the visitors early in the second half. Meanwhile, the Rapids are feeling pretty good about themselves after yet another strong performance: “We’ve started doing things like were supposed to,” head coach Oscar Pareja said.

6. FC DALLAS AND CHIVAS USA FAIL TO FIND THE BACK OF THE NET IN DRAW

You knew Chivas USA would be happy with a scoreless draw, but FC Dallas sure weren't after both sides failed to score in the opening game of Thursday's tripleheader. The home side laid their failure to take more than a point at the feet of their attackers, who had a few prime chances early but failed to convert. On the other side, shirt color apparently motivates Chivas USA against their red-and-white rivals. Yes, really.

7. SCHMID SET TO REACH ANOTHER MILESTONE WITH MORE MLS PLAY ON TAP

Did you enjoy seven games in two days during midweek? Well, get ready for more as you've got eight more matches coming your way this weekend. Seattle will head to Vancouver for a Cascadia Cup clash, one that will see head coach Sigi Schmid manage his 400th game, the first to reach that mark.

8. UNION'S WILLIAMS WELCOMED INTO UPPER ECHELON OF MLS RIGHT BACK STABLE

Philadelphia visit steamy Houston this weekend, and you can bet Dominic Kinnear has put a target on Sheanon Williams' back. The right back is racking up assists -- seven already this season -- as the Union have climbed to third in the Eastern Conference. But is Philly left back Raymond Gaddis' spot secure? Yes, says head coach John Hackworth, but the Union have also brought in cover.

9. WITH EUROPEAN TRANSFER MARKET OPEN, CURRENCY COMES IN ALL FORMS

The New York Times' Sam Borden is back with yet another interesting enterprise piece, this time exploring the transfer market and all it's irregularities and idiosyncrasies. There's insight into Jozy Altidore's current situation at AZ Alkmaar and what Clint Dempsey went through last summer, which means it's pretty much a must read.

10. MULTIPLE MLS CLUBS COMPETING FOR LA LIGA DEFENDER?

Speaking of transfers, it's about to go down in MLS as well, with a couple teams reportedly tracking Levante center back Sergio Ballesteros. The Chicago Fire are in the lead if you believe the reports, perhaps looking for a replacement for Arne Friedrich, and the Sounders and New York Cosmos could be sniffing around as well.

11. MONTERO TRANSFER TO SPORTING LISBON CLOSE TO COMPLETED?

Yes, this one is still dragging on. But it may be completed this weekend. Or not. You never know. Either way, check out the latest regarding Fredy Montero's Portuguese adventure. On the other hadn, Mario Martinez's situation in Seattle looks dead in the water.

12. NEW YORK RED BULLS AFTER FORMER LEEDS UNITED DEFENDER?

Former because Paul Connolly was released at the end of last season by the Championship outfit. Not exactly what Red Bulls fans would want to hear, but then again they've got pretty good memories of another English castoff in Luke Rodgers. Either way, there's not much to this report in the form of sourcing. Perhaps an enterprising agent is chucking names into the wind and seeing what sticks? We'll see.

13. MEANWHILE, UP IN VANCOUVER...

Seems the Whitecaps squad takes its ping-pong very seriously. On their recent trip to Kansas City, the players took part in a tournament in a lovely hotel space. You might be surprised to learn who won.   

14. GROUNDSWELL OF SUPPORT GATHERS BEHIND DETROIT CITY FC

Like seemingly everyone else, they've got MLS ambitions. No matter whether that happens or not, though, Detroit City FC are undefeated and riding high from just about any perspective. They're dreaming big, too. As co-owner Alex Wright put it: "This is simply the largest market without a pro soccer team. So it would be odd for us not to have one forever. Personally, I think it’s going to happen."

15. D.C. UNITED OWNER PICKS UP STAKE IN INTER MILAN

Indonesian mogul Erick Thohir already has stakes in the Philadelphia 76ers and D.C. United, as well as sporting properties in his native country. It seems he could add the blue and black of the Nerazzurri as well, with AC Milan's owners actually coming out in support of Thohir's takeover.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

MLS Goal Timeline (July 4, 2013): Watch all the goals in Thursday's action

Gold Cup: Getting three points vs. Martinique is a must for Canada

Don't forget to change your MLS Fantasy: Manager lineup ahead of the weekend!


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