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Kick Off: Three wins out of three for USMNT in warmup games, next stop Brazil!

Kick Off Jozy Altidore Fabian Johnson

Photo Credit: 
USA Today

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

1. THREE-FOR-THREE IN SEND-OFF SERIES

With their 2-1 win over Nigeria in Jacksonville on Saturday (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS HERE), the US will head into the World Cup (they arrived in Brazil Monday morning) on a high note, having won all three of their Send-Off Series games. With head coach Jurgen Klinsmann again making changes to his lineup and formation, what points were there to be taken from the latest result and how did the players rate?

2. ALTIDORE FINDS THE NET

Perhaps the most important take-away from the result against Nigeria was that Jozy Altidore scored both goals. While most US fans believe that will give the striker a much-needed confidence boost heading into the tournament, Altidore himself claims to be unfazed by the pressure.

3. MEXICO LOSE TO PORTUGAL

Even facing a Portugal side missing several of their key players, Mexico were unable to overcome their Iberian opposition, falling to a 1-0 defeat on Friday night at Gillette Stadium. Yet El Tri were on the verge of earning a draw before Bruno Alves 93rd-minute header consigned them to defeat. Has the 2014 World Cup come too soon for us to see the best from Miguel Herrera’s team?

4. PAGING OSWALDO

Add one more name to the list of MLS representatives in Brazil. Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda, who was named to Ecuador's provisional roster but had not joined training camp with his country, was named as an injury replacement on Sunday in place of Segundo Castillo.

5. SPORTING STOP THEIR SLIDE

In MLS action, Sporting Kansas City proved to be too much for the Houston Dynamo, despite playing most of the match with 10 men, beating them 2-0 (watch highlights here) in Houston on Friday night. The result means the Dynamo have lost four in a row for the first time since 2010, and head coach Dominic Kinnear is taking full responsibility for the latest defeat.

6. TORONTO HOLD ON

On Saturday, Toronto FC took a 1-0 lead early against the San Jose Earthquakes and held it for the rest of the game (watch highlights here) as the Earthquakes struggled to mount their own offense. The goal came via a Jermain Defoe penalty kick, and while the result lifts Toronto FC back into the playoff places, Ryan Nelsen is cautioning fans not to get carried away.

7. TFC GET SOME PACE

Toronto’s win over San Jose also featured a debut for Dominic Oduro, whose trade from the Columbus Crew was the main story on Friday. In exchange for the Ghanaian, TFC sent Álvaro Rey in the other direction, but with Luke Moore and Designated Player Gilberto also on the books for TFC, the fight to partner Jermain Defoe has just gotten interesting.

8. SIX-GOAL THRILLER FOR CAPS AND UNION

Following a hugely entertaining 3-3 draw between the Philadelphia Union and the Vancouver Whitecaps (watch highlights here), it seems neither were particularly happy with the result. Yet while Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson feels his side need to “tighten up defensively,” the Philadelphia Union will hope to build on their own performance when the MLS season resumes.

9. PAREJA GETS THE FINAL WORD

A 3-2 win for FC Dallas meant there would be no revenge for the Colorado Rapids (watch highlights here) for bringing back former Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja during the offseason. Fabián Castillo proved to be the difference-maker for FCD, and it seems the midfielder has some extra motivation right now. It was a tough result for the Rapids, who dominated large portions of the match but, as head coach Pablo Mastroeni exclaimed afterwards, “The game of soccer doesn’t owe you anything.”

10. SEATTLE KEEP ON WINNING

The Seattle Sounders extended their lead at the top of the Western Conference to seven points following a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire (watch highlights here). Nigeria may wish they had selected Obafemi Martins after all, as the striker scored another two goals, but his performance was overshadowed by a red card. The Fire had a player of their own sent off, and head coach Frank Yallop can’t seem to understand why.

11. TIMBERS SCORE A HUGE RESULT

If the Portland Timbers were looking for a statement game, they don’t come much bigger than beating Real Salt Lake 3-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium (watch highlights here), with Fanendo Adi scoring twice as the Timbers finally beat the team from Utah for the first time in three years. The result means RSL are now winless in four, and Jeff Cassar knows something has to change.

12. STARS? WHO NEEDS ‘EM?

The New York Red Bulls showed that they were more than capable of getting a result without some of their biggest players, crediting belief (and perhaps goalkeeper Luis Robles) as they beat the New England Revolution 2-0 (watch highlights here) on Sunday. The Revolution, on the other hand, were unhappy that, following an incredibly strong run of games, they now head into the World Cup break on the back of two defeats. Despite the defeat for the home team, one local columnist enjoyed his visit.

13. SUPERCLASICO ENDS IN A DRAW

They may have only won two games this season, but after switching things up in their lineup, Chivas USA were able to walk away from the rivalry game against the LA Galaxy with a 1-1 draw (watch highlights here). If it was a good result for the Goats, then you can be sure the Galaxy did not feel the same way.

14 UNITED AND CREW IN GOALLESS STALEMATE

Trying to follow up World Cup and European champion Spain's 2-0 win over El Salvador was always going to be difficult, but D.C. United and the Columbus Crew did provide some late drama in their scoreless tie (watch highlights here). United blamed their poor performance on the unfamiliar surface, but they had a chance to win the game and would have done so if not for Steve Clark’s penalty premonition.

15. EXAMINING CHUCK

Chuck Blazer is a notorious figure these days, playing a significant role in the scandal that has engulfed large sections of the beautiful game's most powerful bodies. Having made huge contributions to the growth of the sport and its revenue in North America, there is no doubt that Blazer also profited heavily by doing so. A detailed look at Blazer's career sheds light on how he pulled it off.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

Plays of the Night: All the greatest moments in 60 seconds

World Cup Memories: Omar Gonzalez

The USA’s Greatest World Cup Moment: Dos a Cero in South Korea

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