The intensity is gradually ratcheting up as MLS preseason training continues at a variety of locations around the world. Catch all the other news and updates from MLS training camps below. And for the entire February preseason schedule, click here.
LIVE MATCH STREAMS TODAY:
1 pm ET: Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew, Disney Pro Soccer Classic | WATCH
3 pm ET: Sporting KC vs. New York Red Bulls, Disney Pro Soccer Classic | WATCH
5:30 pm ET: Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids, Desert Diamond Cup | WATCH
8 pm ET: Montreal Impact vs. Fluminense, Disney Pro Soccer Classic | WATCH
FIRE DOWN RAPIDS IN TUCSON: The Chicago Fire opened Desert Diamond Cup play in Arizona Wednesday with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. Goals from trialist Grant Ward and Quincy Amarikwa in the first half gave the Fire the edge, with Gabriel Torres notching the Rapids' consolation goal in the second half.
The Fire will play Desert Diamond Cup hosts FC Tucson next on Saturday, while Colorado will take on Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Real Salt Lake, also on Saturday.
CHIVAS DRAW FC TUCSON: Meanwhile, Chivas USA started their Desert Diamond Cup action Wednesday by taking on FC Tucson, drawing the USL PDL side 1-1. After Martino Rapella opened the scoring for Tucson in the 54th minute, Carlos Alvarez scored the equalizer just five minutes later for the Goats.
Chivas will play the New England Revolution Saturday in their next game in Tucson.
SPORTING WIN "SUPERCUP": Sporting Kansas City beat the New York Red Bulls Wednesday 1-0 at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Florida, in a match informally dubbed the "Supercup." Though it's not yet a tradition in MLS, in many other nations such a meeting of the previous season's champions is known as a "Super Cup" and the fact that New York and SKC are also Eastern Conference rivals adds further spice to the game.
Jacob Peterson bagged the lone goal for Sporting, in the 65th minute, as both sides open play in the preseason tournament.
NEW-LOOK TFC NOT THERE YET: MLS observers got another chance to look at Ryan Nelsen's dramatically revamped Toronto FC squad this afternoon in their Disney Pro Soccer Classic opener against the Columbus Crew, but it was the Reds' southern rivals that stole the show.
Toronto started two of their Designated players – Michael Bradley and Gilberto – plus recent acquisition Julio Cesar, but Federico Higuain gave Columbus the lead with a picture-perfect free kick in the 10th minute and Josh Williams took only two minutes more before firing home a goal of his own. TFC pulled one back via a Crew own goal, but the Ohio side found one more goal to seal the result:
FINAL: #Crew96 3 - TFC 1. Higuaín, Williams and Bedell tally for the Black & Gold.— Columbus Crew (@ColumbusCrew) February 19, 2014
IMPACT NIGHTCAP: The Montreal Impact are also kicking off their Disney schedule today as they meet the Under-23 squad from Brazilian club Fluminense at 8 pm ET (watch the live stream on MLSsoccer.com).
With a new coach and a fair amount of player turnover, plenty of questions have swirled around the Impact since their 2013 season ended in such ignominious fashion in the MLS Cup playoffs, and their South American opponents should provide a useful test. Check out a match preview here.
Montreal announced another interesting tidbit on Wednesday afternoon, tweeting out the news that defender Heath Pearce, on the hunt for a new club since parting ways with the New York Red Bulls, is working out with Frank Klopas' side.
BULLS VS. BULLS: A couple of hours to the southwest of Orlando, FC Dallas also have a friendly match happening today in the midst of their week of training in Bradenton, Fla.
FCD meet the University of South Florida Bulls at 4 pm ET, and the IMG Academy is providing a live feed of the action.
Meanwhile, Big D Soccer is reporting on the newest rumor concerning a Uruguayan striker who might be a Designated Player target for FCD.
PETKE PREVIEWS: On the other side of the coin, the Red Bulls are looking forward to Wednesday's matchup in Orlando, too.
The RBNY website posted a video feature providing a glimpse of the training-ground atmosphere as the squad begins its final preseason trip of 2014, and head coach Mike Petke and goalkeeper Luis Robles ventured in front of the camera to chat about the state of the team's preparations.
"It's nice that they have the tournament setup, so there's something on the line," said Robles, "not necessarily the same as the regular season, but you know it's not just an exhibition, it's not just a stroll."
TOWNSEND OUT IN D.C.: With a raft of new attacking options pushing him down the depth chart, D.C. United have released striker Casey Townsend.
The third-year pro was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 SuperDraft by Chivas USA, then traded to United last season. Townsend appeared in nine games for the Black-and-Red, spending much of the year on loan to the Richmond Kickers of USL PRO.
In two seasons in MLS, he has appeared in 26 games (13 starts) and scored one goal.
QUAKES SIGN KOVAL: San Jose have signed No. 9 overall 2013 SuperDraft pick JJ Koval, securing another midfield option for coach Mark Watson.
A product of nearby Stanford University, Koval is a central midfielder who earned All-Pac 12 honors in his junior and senior years. SJEarthquakes.com conducted a Q&A with the newest member of their team -- check it out to learn about Koval's role in Kicking and Screaming, the classic 1995 soccer movie starring Will Ferrell.
TIMBERS LOAN TWO: The Portland Timbers appear to have decided on the first two participants in their new affiliation agreement with Sacramento Republic FC, the USL PRO expansion club which debuts this spring.
Republic FC posted a tweet on Wednesday afternoon welcoming Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson and defender Bryan Gallego to their side. (PTFC have yet to confirm as much, however.) In other news, Portland have released the details of their 2014 broadcasting plan.
SOUNDERS PART WAYS WITH FIVE: The Seattle Sounders' preseason camp just got a little smaller, as the club announced Wednesday that it had parted ways with forward Will Bates, plus four trialists including former Columbus Crew standout Danny O'Rourke.
Bates was selected with the fifth pick of the 2013 Supplemental Draft and appeared in nine Reserve League matches for the Sounders. He had this to say following the news:
Thanks to the Seattle Sounders for the opportunity and thank you for the constant support from friends, family, and fans.— Will Bates (@WillBates10) February 19, 2014