Kick Off: Labeled a locker-room cancer in Seattle, what does Eddie Johnson have to say to his critics?

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

1. THE GHOST OF JOHNSON PAST

A lot has been said about Eddie Johnson and the events that unfolded in Seattle that led to his exit this offseason, but that's all in the past. These days, Johnson is more interested in winning a place in the US World Cup squad and making an impact for D.C. United. The same goes for United head coach Ben Olsen: “Until I start seeing otherwise, I’m not interested in talking about the Eddie of the past.” Speaking of Olsen, see what he had to say about his rapid transition to management in an exclusive interview with MLSsoccer.com.

2. THE RETURN OF THE FUSION?

While the Miami Vice story may have, unsurprisingly, turned out not to have much merit, could a little bit of research have uncovered the real name of Beckham’s MLS Miami franchise? It’s anyone’s guess at this point but, if this is true, it’s certainly a name that would appeal to fans of the city's heritage.

3. TORONTO INTERNATIONAL

After his high-profile move to Toronto FC, does Jermain Defoe still have an international future with England? According to national team boss Roy Hodgson, the answer is yes: “I know him and what he can do and I’ll pick him on those merits.” Defoe isn’t the only TFC striker with a promising international outlook, however, as Bright Dike has been called into the Nigeria squad for their upcoming friendly against Mexico. Could he make it into the World Cup squad?

4. AGUDELO’S AMBITION

With a number of US national team players returning to MLS, Juan Agudelo wants to buck that trend and succeed in Europe. However, it seems the US international appreciates everything he learned stateside: “MLS helped me and gave me more of an understanding of what professionalism is in a soccer aspect.”

5. RELUCTANT RETIREMENT

Sad news now as 31-year-old Clyde Simms announced his retirement on Thursday, with kidney disease the driving factor. Simms, a nine-year MLS veteran most recently with the New England Revolution, revealed that his "kidney function was around 50 percent” when he first joined MLS, making his career even more impressive. Unfortunately, he said that during “the last three years of my career, it has gotten down to about 20 percent.”

6. DEEP IMPACT

The Montreal Impact look set to welcome Uruguayan forward Santiago González to the club, with their new signing arriving as a Special Discovery. The Impact also unveiled Patrice Bernier as their new club captain and, in doing so, may have picked exactly the right man for the job. Meanwhile, how did recent SuperDraft pick Eric Miller end up in Montreal?

7. READY FOR LAUNCH

Sporting Kansas City announced a new signing on Thursday, dropping the news that former on-loan midfielder Jimmy Medranda has joined the side on a permanent deal from Colombian side Deportivo Pereira. Medranda made just one appearance for SKC last season, but head coach Peter Vermes believes he's “good young talent with a lot of potential.” The club has also announced plans for a season launch party to be held in an aircraft hangar, where they will also unveil their new kit.

8. TIME DELAY

For anyone who watched the Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls friendly on Wednesday night, you may have noticed something unusual. Luis Robles was penalized for time wasting, resulting in an indirect free kick within the box which led to Jack McInerney’s goal. That's all well within the letter of the law, but according to Red Bulls boss Mike Petke, the ferocity of the enforcement is part of a new initiative designed to crack down on timewasting. Be warned, goalkeepers.

9. HOMEGROWN CREW

Still no cuts to the roster yet for the Columbus Crew, but as preseason training rumbles on, how are the club’s Homegrowns finding the experience? According to Ross Friedman, the familiarity with the team and the players has made, "The transition has been easier than expected.”

10. SOUNDING OFF

The Seattle Sounders head into the 2014 season looking a lot more settled than they did in 2013. One player who made a name for himself last year was DeAndre Yedlin, who's set his sights on a late push for a place in the US World Cup squad. That’s sadly not an option for Osvaldo Alonso, so the club's newest Designated Player is just focused on continuing to give his all for the Sounders.

11. BATTLE LOS ANGELES

The San Jose Earthquakes are less than a month away from their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Toluca, and Chris Wondolowski believes the match is “going to be a great test of where we are as a team, and it’s definitely going to be a big battle, but I love those.” In another CCL quarterfinal, fellow California club LA Galaxy are shaping up for a battle of their own, a battle for an entire city.

12. CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Before those all-important Champions League clashes though, the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy will face off this Saturday in the Central California Cup, a preseason test involving two teams who appear to be finding just the right balance between youth and experience. Think the match is just for fun? Have a look at the trophy being handed out. The Galaxy have also stepped up their future player development, as the LA Galaxy II played their inaugural game on Thursday night.

13. FRIENDS REUNITED

Wilmer Cabrera continued to shape his coaching staff for the new season by adding Paul Grafer, previously of the Colorado Rapids and MetroStars, as goalkeeper coach. Grafer already has experience working for Cabrera, most recently served as an assistant on the US Under-17 national team, and both men finished their playing careers with the USL's Long Island Rough Riders in 2005.

14. THE OTHER HOLDEN

While Stuart Holden continues his recovery amid the prospect and promise of a new contract with English side Bolton Wanderers, his brother Euan has been without a club since canceling his contract with another English side, Bury. Now, the younger Holden brother is back in Houston and training with the Dynamo, but is he hoping to stick around long-term?

15. READY FOR A REMATCH?

The latest FIFA world rankings are out and the US rose one place to 13th. Mexico stayed at 21st, but Landon Donovan believes they can “do something special” in the World Cup this summer. He may get a chance to see them in action a little sooner than that. It’s been confirmed that the US will play Mexico on April 2 in Phoenix.

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