Kick Off: Portland Timbers starting to click, New York City FC linked with Spanish forward David Villa

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

1. TIMBERS FIND THEIR BALANCE

The Portland Timbers ran their unbeaten streak to six games and won their second consecutive road contest with a 2-0 win over Chivas USA on Wednesday night (watch highlights here). With Caleb Porter rotating his squad to accommodate the heavy workload facing his team, the Timbers head coach seems to have found just what he was hoping for from his players. For Chivas USA, though, the result marked their fourth straight defeat at home.

2. CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP FINELY BALANCED

The first leg of the Canadian Championship final ended in a 1-1 draw between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact (watch highlights here). The result seemed to hinge on one decision: a missed penalty call on a Steven Caldwell handball. The Scottish defender admits the ball hit his arm, but the decision was not given – a fact Impact head coach Frank Klopas called “an embarrassment.”

3. FIELD SET FOR US OPEN CUP FOURTH ROUND

The third round of the US Open Cup is complete, and the 16 American-based MLS teams now know who they will face in the fourth round, which will run from June 11-18. Fans will get the Red Bulls-Cosmos derby they have been waiting for, and there are plenty of other great local rivalries to look forward to.

4. VILLA FOR NYCFC?

New York City FC are again being linked with big-name signings, and this time it’s another Spanish World Cup winner who just played in the UEFA Champions League final. Could NYCFC really be on the verge of securing David Villa on a three-year deal?

5. CAST YOUR VOTE!

With voting now open for the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, it’s your chance to have a say in who should represent MLS against Bayern Munich on August 6. There are 152 players to choose from (eight from each team), so pick wisely.

6. DEMPSEY “NO PROBLEM AT ALL”

With Clint Dempsey scratched from the US lineup just before kick off on Tuesday, is that something that fans should be worried about? Not according to Jurgen Klinsmann, who insists, “It’s not serious at all … it should be no problem at all for Turkey.”

7. BYE BYE, BLANCO

With the exception of a potential injury, Mexico’s game against Israel couldn’t have gone much better. Not only did El Tri give former Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtémoc Blanco the send-off he deserved but, following his withdrawal in the 39th minute, the team really clicked and started their World Cup preparations with a 3-0 win.

8. MLS SIDES LEARN CCL FATE

The draw has been made for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League, with mixed results for the MLS teams. Once again, Canada’s representative has been put in with a US team, in this case the New York Red Bulls, while Sporting Kansas City will be facing a familiar opponent from last year.

9. RUNNING THE RED BULLS

With Mike Petke in charge, it’s clear who calls the shots on the field for the New York Red Bulls, but following the departure of general manager Jerome de Bontin, who’s in charge behind the scenes? Let Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh help explain the club’s hierarchy.

10. BLISS TALKS TARGETS

The Chicago Fire currently sit outside the playoffs and have won just twice this season. That's the same win total they had this time last year, but this year's point total is on a better pace. With the summer transfer window about to open, is technical director Brian Bliss planning to make any new signings?

11. RAPIDS “MAKING PROGRESS” ON LOWER-LEAGUE LINK

This year marks the last of the MLS Reserve League, and while the Colorado Rapids have yet to announce any sort of deal with a USL PRO team, 2015 expansion club Colorado Spring Switchbacks seem the logical option. Club president Tim Hinchey says, “We’re certainly making progress, and I think, when we announce, it’ll make sense," but denied that the Rapids and Switchbacks are currently in talks.

12. EJ RED RESCINDED

There was some good news for Eddie Johnson for a change, as an independent review panel unanimously agreed to rescind the red card he received for violent conduct during D.C. United’s clash with the New England Revolution. Johnson is now eligible to play against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

13. PAREJA SEES CASTILLO PROMISE

Fabián Castillo’s momentum has slowed down considerably since the start of the season, but Oscar Pareja, his coach at FC Dallas, still sees progress from the 21-year-old forward, noting, “He has one more goal than last year, and we still have 20 games to go. That’s not bad.”

14. REAM REMAINS A WANDERER

Former New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream was a popular figure with English club Bolton Wanderers this year, and Ream is set to stay at the club after agreeing to a new contract with Bolton.

15. NWSL TV DEAL

The National Women’s Soccer League announced some good news on Wednesday with their 2014 national TV deal. ESPN will air three regular-season and all three playoff games, adding three more via the ESPN3 platform.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

March to the Match: Did John O’Brien foresee Donovan’s omission?

World Cup Memories: Matt Besler remembers Donovan’s goal against Algeria

Brazil Bound: Keys to success in a diamond formation

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