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Kick Off: Landon Donovan eyes Gold Cup glory in return to USMNT

Kick Off Landon Donovan

Photo Credit: 
USA TODAY Sports

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

1) DONOVAN TARGETS GOLD CUP TITLE IN USMNT RETURN

Jurgen Klinsmann didn't pull any punches with this Gold Cup roster. He also put a group together that's so easy to like, so easy to root for that even MLSsoccer.com's own Jonah Freedman can't help but be a little giddy. The big name, of course, is Landon Donovan, who's trying to force his way back into the first team ahead of Brazil. Oh, and he's also trying to win that big Gold Cup trophy, telling Spanish media that the US should win the thing.

2) RSL TRIO RETURN TO SALT LAKE CITY TO FACE CUBA IN FROM OF HOME CROWD

Belize didn't provide much resistance, but Cuba should be a tougher nut to crack on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City (3:30 pm ET | Fox, Univision). Among those wearing red, white and blue, there will be three players with a little more to prove. After all, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Tony Beltran will be playing in front of friends and family and their home fans. “It will be weird wearing a different crest [in Rio Tinto]," Rimando said, "but once you cross those lines I’m familiar with those fans and the field so hopefully it will feel the same in that aspect."

3) HOLDEN AIMS HIGH, SAYS HE WANTS TO PUSH JONES AND BRADLEY

Perhaps no one has wowed fans and observers more this Gold Cup than Stuart Holden. It's been two years since the former EPL starlet was truly healthy, but he says he's 90-minutes fit and raring to go. His goal? Challenge Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones for a place in the USMNT central midfield. Bolton fans will certainly be glad to hear that for the man they'll be relying on next season.

4) CHEPO TAKES DEEP BREATH AFTER MEXICO LIMP PAST CANADA

It wasn't a dominating performance, but it was a win, and one Mexico desperately had to have to keep the peace. El Tri used a set-piece goal late in the first half and a penalty kick from Marco Fabián (perhaps set up by a bogus call) to take down Canada 2-0 in Seattle. For many, though, the real show came after the match when José Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre faced the adversarial press. Here's a taste: “If I paid attention to all the nonsense [the press] says, I'd be sick, in a hospital."

5) SHORT-HANDED CANADA TAKE SOLACE IN PERFORMANCE DESPITE LOSS

No Will Johnson, who was recovering from illness in Portland, was a big blow for the underdogs. Even bigger was the penalty call that put the game out of reach. Interim head coach Colin Miller may have been happy to blood his legion of young players against the Mexicans, but he wasn't pleased by the game's biggest call. “It’s not a penalty. I’m biting my lips here as hard as I possibly can,” Miller said. “What I’m saying and what I’m feeling are two totally different things, I can assure you.”

6) GOLD CUP MATCH-FIXING ATTEMPT CONFIRMED

You never want to hear these things are happening in your region, but Belize would seem to be a prime target for match fixers so it shouldn't be a surprise that a handful of players were offered money to throw their match against the USMNT. The story started out as a report, but it's been confirmed by CONCACAF, which seems to be on the trail of the suspect.

7) ALTIDORE OPENS SUNDERLAND ACCOUNT IN PRESEASON DEBUT

Well, that didn't take long. Jozy Altidore scored and notched an assist in a 45-minute shift for Sunderland against a local Select XI at their Italian training camp in a 13-1 win. People will wonder for the next year at least if Sunderland was the right club for Altidore, and Grantland digs in on that very subject. Meanwhile, MLSsoccer.com's own Greg Seltzer says Altidore's Dutch education will be crucial to his success.

8) PLAYOFFS? TORONTO FC'S NELSEN SAYS WHY NOT

Don't groan, Toronto fans. It could happen, it's just not likely, which I'm sure TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen would admit as well. You know who might be able to help? Diego Forlán. Toronto are staying mum about that rumor, though. Unfortunately, their other DP forward is hurt again. Bad luck.

9) LUIS SILVA SHOCKED BY TRADE BUT HOPES ATTACKING MIDFIELD IS IN HIS FUTURE

It's just a reality of professional sports. One day you're in one city, and the next you're on your way elsewhere. Luis Silva learned that personally for the first time when he was shipped from Toronto to D.C. without prior notice. Meeting, flight, practice with a new team. There are positives for Silva, though. Maybe he'll get to play attacking midfielder full time with United.

10) 2011 MLS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR SENT ON LOAN TO ORLANDO CITY

C.J. Sapong is following in Dom Dwyer's footsteps, heading to Orlando City to bang in goals for the USL PRO side along with Kevin Ellis. It's likely to be a short-term stint for both, and Sapong says he isn't reading too much into the move even if many were surprised to see the former ROY shipped out.

11) ALL-STAR HYPE HEATING UP FOR MIDSUMMER CLASSIC IN KANSAS CITY

Speaking of Sporting KC, the 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star game is fast approaching, and another player has been added to the still-developing roster. Marco Di Vaio was named the "In The Game" forward after fans took to FIFA 13 to put him on the roster. Fans will also have some non-soccer entertainment to enjoy. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will perform for free during the fan festival, and Sporting Park is getting fancy with their in-game dining.

12) GRASS IN PORTLAND? PERHAPS SOMEDAY, SAYS PAULSON

Here's something to give all you surface snobs some hope. Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson hasn't shut the door on grass. Hey, it could happen! “If I could do grass, I would do grass,” Paulson said. “There’s stigma around artificial surface, and it’s something that we’re continually assessing. So never say never. We’re looking at it.”

13) BOCANEGRA AND TORRES SET FOR DEBUTS WITH CHIVAS USA?

There hasn't been much to be happy about if you're a Chivas USA fan this year, but help is on the way. Carlos Bocanegra is ready to go against Philadelphia, and Erick "Cubo" Torres is waiting for his ITC to clear.

14) NEW YORK ADD ANOTHER CENTER BACK TO DEPLETED STABLE OF DEFENDERS

Welcome to New York City, Ibrahim Sekagya. New York signed the former Red Bull Salzburg captain on Thursday, shoring up what had become a depleted backline. Sekagya is eyeing a title, too. “I want the challenge in my career and this is one,” Sekagya said Thursday. “I need this team to be champion also. Where I’ve been, I’ve done this. Now, this is a new challenge and I think the players will help and the quality [here] is capable of being the champion."

15) ARE YOU MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR FANTASY BANKROLL?

How much do you have in the bank? Is it enough to compete? Allow MLSsoccer.com fantasy expert Ben Jata to guide you through the ins and outs of your budget and what it means to your title hopes.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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In busy week of transfers, DC continue to build "base of quality young Americans"


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