Kick Off: MLS returns to action, World Cup offers dramatic day for CONCACAF nations

Jack McInerney after scoring vs. Houston

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USA Today Sports

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

1. MAN OF THE MOMENT

With preparations well underway for the US national team's Round of 16 game against Belgium, Jurgen Klinsmann believes his side will go into the match without any fear. Klinsmann himself has been drawing interest from European side Galatasaray, but the German has shot down any such claims.

2. THE OTHER MAN OF THE MOMENT

Klinsmann was also full of praise for Jermaine Jones, the US’s star player in the group stages, and despite breaking his nose in the game against Germany, Jones is expected to play against Belgium on Tuesday. Could Jones use a superb World Cup to engineer a move to the US? According to Peter Vermes, MLS has been in talks with Jones, but Kansas City is just one of several teams interested.

3. MEXICO’S LAST-MINUTE HEARTBREAK

Miguel Herrera insisted his Mexico side could beat the Dutch, and for the better part of 90 minutes, it looked like the Mexico coach was right. A superb strike from Wesley Sneijder and one of the most-discussed calls of the tournament gave the Netherlands a 2-1 victory. Needless to say, Herrera was less than impressed, and Arjen Robben afterward apologized for diving, although not for the incident you’re thinking of.

4. REACHING NEW HEIGHTS

Costa Rica advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in their history, beating Greece 5-3 on penalties after the teams played to a 1-1 tie. Luis Pinto’s side, reduced to 10 men after taking the lead, allowed a stoppage-time equalizer from the Greeks but took the game all the way to penalties and got the decisive save from outstanding goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Costa Rica may well be making history with their quarterfinal appearance, but they’re not the only ones, as Mark Geiger will become the first American to referee in the knockout rounds when he takes charge of France vs. Nigeria on Monday (Noon ET, ESPN, Univision in the US, CBC in Canada, match preview).

5. A DESIGNATED IMPACT

It was all about the designated players during the New York Red Bulls' 2-2 tie with Toronto FC on Friday (watch highlights here). With both Jermain Defoe and Gilberto scoring for TFC, including a screaming first MLS goal for the Brazilian via free kick, Ryan Nelsen was extremely pleased with his side's performance, but Tim Cahill, fresh off a plane from Brazil, was on hand to spoil their party.

6. SUPER TUESDAY IN ORLANDO

Long-rumored, it looks like Tuesday, July 1, will be the day Kaka is introduced as Orlando City's first Designated Player, with his flight reportedly set to arrive in Orlando at 6:15 pm ET Monday night. Orlando City president Phil Rawlins has more than one reason it will be a big day for American soccer.

7. GRITTY WIN FOR KC

In the other Friday game, a single goal from Lawrence Olum was enough to hand Sporting Kansas City a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers (watch highlights here). It was much different than the 3-1 thriller between the two sides just three days before, but Peter Vermes was happy with the way his side performed. Caleb Porter, on the other hand, was not impressed with having to chase yet another game.

8. D.C. MISSING THEIR EDGE

With Fabian Espindola managing to be both injured and suspended for the game against the Seattle Sounders, D.C. United fell to a 1-0 defeat (watch highlights here). Espindola’s absence was keenly felt by United, but with the Sounders missing stars of their own, they were more than pleased with their performance.

9. CURTIN RAISER

Already with two wins in his pocket from the US Open Cup, Jim Curtin got his first MLS win as interim Philadelphia Union manager with a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution (watch highlights here), thanks in no small part to two goals from Sebastien Le Toux, relishing his return to a more advanced position. It could have gone differently, though, and the Revolution’s Jose Goncalves held his hands up for a mistake on the game's first goal.

10. SANCHEZ RETURNS

While the return of Vicente Sanchez helped lead the Colorado Rapids to a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps (watch highlights here), that’s two games the ‘Caps have played since the season restarted, and Carl Robinson is less than impressed with their performances so far.

11. NO WIN IN FIVE FOR RSL

After opening the year unbeaten in 12 games, Real Salt Lake are now winless in five following a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA (watch highlights here). An early red card for Luke Mulholland didn’t help matters for RSL, nor did a sensational strike by Erick Torres, which leaves the Goats forward as the top Mexican-born MLS goalscorer. Despite the loss, Javier Morales feels his side can be proud.

12. GALAXY’S COMPLETE WIN

LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena called his side's 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes (watch highlights here) their best performance of 2014. but the San Jose Earthquakes, playing in front of more than 50,000 people, were also happy with their own performance in the absence of several key players.

13. RESCHEDULED STALEMATE

Inclement weather meant that the Columbus Crew’s game against FC Dallas had to be rescheduled for Sunday. The game itself finished 0-0 (watch highlights here), and while the condition were less than ideal, the Crew support the decision to postpone the game, and FC Dallas were happy to walk away with a point.

14. JACK'S IMPACT

The Montreal Impact beat the Houston Dynamo 3-0 in Sunday night’s late match-up (watch highlights here). Jack McInerney scored twice, including a ridiculous finish that left McInerney himself incredulous, and the young American striker drew plenty of praise from none other than Marco Di Vaio. The Italian added a third, leaving the Dynamo with no answers for their fifth straight MLS loss.

15. SCORPIONS LOOK SOUTH

The San Antonio Scorpions have long been touted as a potential MLS expansion franchise, and while one of the city’s key advocates for such a move looks set to depart, Scorpions owner Gordon Hartman has met with parties from south of the border over potential investment.

MLSsoccer.com Musts

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