Kick Off: Late drama, high emotions in Portland on eve of World Cup

Kick Off - Andrew Jacobson is not happy

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

1. WORLD'S BIGGEST PARTY

Any way you slice it, the No. 1 story in the soccer world is that the World Cup starts today. Enjoy it. Savor it. Watch every second. But before you do that, here are the 34 things you need to know about Brazil 2014.

2. YET ANOTHER LATE SHOWING FROM THE TIMBERS

A late goal from Pa Modou Kah meant the Portland Timbers were able to salvage a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas and another point at home (watch highlights here). Despite FCD’s second-half collapse, it wasn’t the result that the Timbers were looking for either, and head coach Caleb Porter challenged his team to step it up.

3. UNITED IN FIRST

Thanks to a 4-2 win over the Montreal Impact (watch highlights here), D.C. United sit first in the Eastern Conference. A first-half hat trick from Luis Silva was enough to do the job, and after the game, the midfielder reflected on what his team's current position means. Impact coach Frank Klopas was less than thrilled with his side: “This is not the team I want.”

4. NO UPSETS IN OPEN CUP

The fourth round of the US Open Cup got underway with two games on Wednesday, and it's so far, so good for MLS teams, as both avoided upsets against lower-division opposition. One goal from Alex Lopez was enough to see the Houston Dynamo past PDL club Laredo Heat, while the San Jose Earthquakes came from behind to win their NorCal Clasico against the Sacramento Republic.

5. NEVER BET AGAINST THE HOST, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT'S BRAZIL

While we have to wait until Monday for the first USA's first World Cup game, fans around the world are looking forward to watching hosts Brazil take on Croatia in the tournament's opening game on Thursday (4 pm ET, ESPN). This is the third consecutive tournament that will see the host play the opening game, following in the footsteps of Germany's 5-2 win over Costa Rica in 2006 and South Africa's 1-1 tie with Mexico in 2010. Do you dare bet against Brazil?

6. MAKING MANAUS MISERABLE

With a healthy Cristiano Ronaldo landing in Brazil, the FIFA World Player of the Year will be a major issue for the US to deal. Fear not, however, as Jurgen Klinsmann believes his side will find a way to make the Portuguese star miserable. However, the German also reiterated his belief about how far the US can realistically go in the tournament, but Landon Donovan strongly disagrees.

7. TRAFFIC JAM

While the US continue their World Cup preparations on Thursday, one thing they won’t be doing is playing their scheduled scrimmage against Belgium. That's because Belgian coach Marc Wilmots canceled the game on Wednesday, citing the risk of getting stuck in a traffic jam as his reason, stating, “I don’t want to sit on a bus for five hours.

8. WORLD CUP FEVER

With the World Cup upon us, it’s not just fans at home getting excited; MLS players are getting in the spirit as well. Sporting Kansas City players recount their favorite tournament memories, while some of the Philadelphia Union’s players make their case for who your second team should be.

9. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

What do you get for a city turning 375? If you're MLS Commissioner Don Garber, try an All-Star Game. Garber was in Montreal for Wednesday night's game, met with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and fielded questions about the possibility of awarding the 2017 All-Star Game to Montreal. The city will be celebrating the 375th anniversary of its founding. If you want to compete with the Commissioner, you'd better start planning your gift now.

10. BACK TO THE START

What does the latest setback regarding David Beckham's soccer stadium mean for an MLS club in Miami? According to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, it "puts us back to square one."

11. INJURIES AND PRIORITIES IN THE BIG APPLE

Dax McCarty’s recent injury was a blow for the New York Red Bulls and one that came as a surprise to many, including McCarty himself. While it means he is likely to miss the Red Bulls' US Open Cup game against the New York Cosmos on Saturday, the two teams are prioritizing that match quite differently.

12. UNION KEEP CUTTING

Having fired head coach John Hackworth on Tuesday, the Philadelphia Union continued to ring the changes on Wednesday, as they revealed that they also relieved assistant coach and technical director Rob Vartughian of his role with the club.

13. DEVELOPING DREAMS

A quick look at the US squad for this World Cup shows that US player development has come a long way over the past 20 years. Just how far, though, is best told by those who’ve been closest to the system.

14. FASHIONABLE

If you didn’t already know, aside from being one of the league's best defenders, Aurelien Collin is also pretty serious about his fashion. Now it seems that the French center back’s side business is getting a boost from his own club, Sporting Kansas City.

15. ANALYZE THIS

Landon Donovan had expressed uncertainty over how he would be viewing this World Cup: Would he sit at home by himself or watch it at a local soccer bar? Well, ESPN has answered that question for him by hiring him as an analyst for the tournament. Just as well really, considering the alternative.

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