Kick Off: A bad night for US national team against Ukraine bodes well for MLS' World Cup hopefuls

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

1.  NATIONAL TEAM NEEDS MLS PLAYERS

The US national team fell to Ukraine 2-0 on Wednesday (highlights here). After conceding an early goal, the US were never really able to get going, and perhaps the only good thing about the result was that a number of MLS players can probably feel a little more secure in their World Cup squad places now. It just leaves the game against Mexico, who drew 0-0 with Nigeria, before Jurgen Klinsmann announces his squad for the World Cup. Finally, what lessons were there to be learned last night and how did the players rank?

2. SB NATION RUNS RULE OVER MLS

Two days. That's all that's left between now and the start of the MLS regular season. To get you in the mood, SB Nation put together this comprehensive preview. Go ahead, sink a couple hours into boning up on the season. Maybe it will even help you pick you MLS Fantasy Manager team. Check out a complete breakdown of the Eastern Conference here.

3. KEANE TO STAY

Robbie Keane had signed a multi-year contract extension with the LA Galaxy. It’s a good move for both the player and the club and means that the Galaxy’s three Designated Player slots are completely filled for the foreseeable future. What does Keane bring to the team? The simple answer would be goals, as this infographic shows, and while terms of the deal were not made available, at 33 years old, chances are this will allow Keane to finish his career in LA.

4. GALAXY NEED TO CHALLENGE FOR EVERYTHING

“We want to position our team to win championships.” Those are the words of LA Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena. Even more pointed: ”We’re at a point where we feel we need to seriously contend for every championship we’re in.” The club's offseason acquisitions certainly put them in a good position to do that, and Arena talked about those moves as well as their upcoming CONCACAF Champions League match, LA Galaxy II and what it might mean for the players spending the year with the new USL PRO side.

5. CAHILL’S COMMITTED

Tim Cahill bagged two goals during Australia’s 4-3 loss to Ecuador on Wednesday to become his country’s all-time leading goalscorer. The New York Red Bulls midfielder has also been busy explaining what it takes to succeed in MLS and what it’s like playing alongside Thierry Henry on a daily basis.

6.GOALS GALORE FOR INTERNATIONALS

Cahill wasn’t the only MLSer scoring goals for his country this week. Soony Saad came on as a first-half sub for Lebanon and scored in the country’s 5-2 win over Thailand, which, sadly, was still not enough to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup. Meanwhile, it was a great night for some of Jamaica’s MLS contingent with Darren Mattocks, Deshorn Brown and 17-year-old Michael Seaton all registering goals as the Reggae Boyz defeated St. Lucia 5-0.

7. RED BULLS II?

A link to a USL PRO team is a league requirement by 2015 and, while a number of clubs have already formed their affiliations, it seems that, rather than follow those examples, the New York Red Bulls are planning to take a page out of the LA Galaxy’s book and form their very own side instead. According to the Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh, “The league are now telling every team they need to do it, so it won’t be a debate.”

8. NEW WHITECAPS DP AIMS TO BE BETTER

The Vancouver Whitecaps have completed the Designated Player signing of Chilean Pedro Morales. The 28-year-old midfielder, who will wear the No. 77, spent the last two years with Spanish La Liga side Málaga and will arrive on a free transfer. The new South American isn’t aiming low with his expectations either, with head coach Carl Robinson revealing that Morales has Federico Higuaín and Diego Valeri in his sights.

9. FEEL THE FUSION

Now, we’ve all been burnt before when it comes to this stuff, so take the following news with a grain of salt. Once again, could David Beckham’s new Miami franchise be set to use the Miami Fusion name? A new logo has appeared alongside the trademarked name, which suggests that someone at least is planning to use it.

10. DC INS AND OUTS

D.C. United’s new relationship with Italian side Inter Milan has seen another move between the clubs, with United welcoming former Canadian International Enzo Concina to the team as an assistant coach. While Concina may bring some new experience to United, he will also still operate as a scout for Inter Milan. There was some bad news for United on Wednesday, though, as Chris Korb was ruled out for 3-4 weeks following surgery on his knee. Now that the team is back in DC, they’ve also been in a battle to find somewhere to train amid all the snow.

11. GRANDPA FRED

The Philadelphia Union signed SuperDraft selections Pedro Ribeiro and Richie Marquez, but there was no such luck for former New York Red Bulls Academy player Matt Kassel. Another player still in the Union camp but yet to sign a contract is former player Fred. Has the Brazilian done enough to earn a new contract?

12. ADDING TO THE FIRE

The Chicago Fire are still busy making some last-minute adjustments to their team, and Wednesday saw the club acquire Matt Watson from the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for an international roster spot. The English midfielder should provide some added depth to the Fire, while another of the squad players, forward Quincy Amarikwa, is hoping to push for more starts under new coach Frank Yallop.

13. PRESEASON ENDS

The San Jose Earthquakes officially brought preseason to an end on Wednesday night when they took on their USL PRO affiliate Sacramento Republic FC in a friendly in Turlock, Calif. The Quakes won the game 2-0 and, with no game this weekend, they’re as ready as they can be for their upcoming CONCACAF Champions League game against Mexican side Toluca. If the Quakes hope to go through, they’re going to need strong performances from the whole team and no one more so than Víctor Bernárdez.

14. INJURIES TAKE THEIR TOLL ON RSL

Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerway took part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Wednesday in which he discussed the how to compete on a smaller budget, what makes RSL unique and what a ‘normal’ day involves. The players are certainly ready for the season to get started, and while the squad is still very much the same as last year, injuries could force a few changes.

15. VISIONARY SOUNDER

Gonzalo Pineda has been training with the Seattle Sounders for the better part of a month now, and after featuring in several of their preseason games, the former Mexican international obviously did enough to impress as the club has stumped up a contract. “His left foot and vision on the ball will help us in key situations,” was the opinion of Sounders head coach SigI Schmid.

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