Kick Off: US opens World Cup tune-up series, Bradley Wright-Phillips takes Golden Boot lead

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

1. US OFF TO A WINNING START

The US national team got their pre-World Cup send-off series off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Tuesday night in San Francisco. Clint Dempsey was ruled out of the game at the last minute, replaced by Chris Wondolowski. But it was Mix Diskerud, wearing the No. 10 jersey, and Aron Johannsson who scored the goals late in the second half.

2. OLYMPIAN EFFORT FOR MIX

The night was a resurrection of sorts for Mix Diskerud. After struggling for the Olympic team a few years ago, Diskerud is now headed to the World Cup, and on Tuesday came in for gobs of praise from US manager Jurgen Klinsmann.

3. SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND

One of the biggest talking points of the USA-Azerbaijan game was Klinsmann's use of the "diamond midfield," with Michael Bradley at the top of the diamond and Jermaine Jones behind him. So how did it work?

4. WHEREFORE ART THOU, LANDON?

While the US fans were focused on events in San Francisco, their longtime hero Landon Donovan was voted MLS Player of the Week, and he is reportedly contemplating a broadcasting role this summer.

5. HONORS EVEN BETWEEN SKC & NY

Before the USA game kicked off, the New York Red Bulls came back to earn a 1-1 draw at Sporting KC (HIGHLIGHTS). Given injuries and absences, it was probably a fair result, though the Red Buls lamented another slow start. The match also pitted MLS’s two leading scorers – SKC's Dom Dwyer and RBNY's Bradley Wright-Phillips – and the New Yorker came out on top with a goal, taking the lead in the Budweiser MLS Golden Boot race

6. PORTLAND LOOKING FOR TWO IN A ROW

The Portland Timbers will try to secure back-to-back wins for the first time this season when they travel to Chivas USA on Wednesday evening (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). The Timbers could have a new face in the backline after signing veteran defender Danny O’Rourke. Meanwhile, the Goats, winners of just one in their last 10 games, were busy announcing a new local TV deal.

7. CANADIAN CUP FINAL FIRST LEG

The Amway Canadian Championship final between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact gets under way tonight (7:30 pm ET, Sportsnet One in Canada, free stream on MLSsoccer.com in USA/Mexico) with the first leg. With the Impact currently last in MLS, TFC go into the game as favorites, but the Reds say they're on guard against a Montreal side looking to make a statement.

8. MORE PROGRESS FOR CANMNT

The Canadian national team may still be winless under Benito Floro, but their 1-1 draw against Moldova on Tuesday was another step in the right direction. For one thing, Canada scored again, something that hasn't happened much under Floro, and this time it came from the run of play. Is this the turning point?

9. OPEN CUP, ROUND 3

Wednesday's US Open Cup third round – the final round before MLS teams enter the competition – sees many USL PRO MLS affiliates going at it. There will be a number of teams and players to keep an eye on tonight. One game has already been decided as well, with legendary former champions Rochester Rhinos beating Reading United to set up an encounter with reigning champions D.C. United.

10. MEXICO READY TO SAY GOODBYE

Finally, on Wednesday, Mexico start their World Cup preparations with a friendly against Israel at the Estadio Azteca. The team sheet seems to have Chicharito on the bench again, but El Tri's fans are probably more interested in saying a fond farewell to longtime hero Cuauhtémoc Blanco.

11. JULIO CESAR PRAISES MLS

Whether or not Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar returns to Toronto FC remains to be seen, but he recently gushed about MLS and how it helped his preparation for the World Cup: “I come in [to this year's World Cup] better than in 2010, better focused, better prepared.

12. NO SHARING FOR TFC

With Toronto FC’s home stadium, BMO Field, still due for an upgrade, reports emerged on Tuesday that Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment might have scrapped their plan to make the venue home to the Toronto Argonauts as well. Turns out that's not entirely true, though it does appear that the plans have been put "on the backburner."

13. DC DEAL

D.C. United are another MLS side looking to move forward with stadium plans. The fate of their new home now rests with the D.C. Council, with many people, both councillors and local residents, still divided on the plan.

14. AGUDELO HEADING TO GERMANY?

With Juan Agudelo still unable to get a UK work permit, is the 21-year-old international moving to Germany? The latest rumors suggest that Hannover 96 will try to sign him as a replacement for Senegalese striker Mame Diouf.

15. FIVE SOCCER LIVES

With the World Cup mere weeks away, The Washington Post takes a look at how soccer has affected the lives of five of the city’s notable residents, including US Soccer hall of famer Len Oliver and former Cameroon star Emile M’bouh.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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