Written by Will Parchman

obbs

The 2014 World Cup’s been in the ground for more than six months now. Morose thought, and even worse when you consider the vast carpet of days and months and years stretching out to the horizon between now and the next one. But a handful of monumental moments live on in the retelling, and these five deserve a special place on the top shelf of the World Cup’s panoply of memorable moments.

Pirlo’s dummy against England

Andrea Pirlo is the coolest damn dude on the planet. He’s also world soccer’s on-field equivalent of Rico Suave. Pirlo had his wine and cheese moments in Brazil, namely a nearly brilliant free kick that donked the crossbar against England. But the true crucible of his careless brilliance came earlier in that England game when he dummied a cross that led to Claudio Marchisio’s opening salvo.

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Written by Will Parchman

College soccer is littered with English players. The ease of language transition and cultural similarity makes a jump from England to the States relatively straightforward, and for many the prospect of essentially being “paid” via scholarship to get an education and play soccer is too good an offer. As a result, “chaps from an agency,” in this case, rove the English countryside looking for capable recruits.

This is one recruit’s story. Christian, whose last name is never specified (and therefore I have no idea if he ended at that unspecified college in New England), came up in Fulham’s academy before being spotted by an American agency trawling for college soccer recruits. In most cases, these recruiters are looking for players who don’t necessarily have futures that track to their respective first teams. Otherwise they’d never leave.

But the human realities of the situation are striking. Dealing with leaving family and a girlfriend for another country and a newly defined career arc is no walk in the park.

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Written by Will Parchman

happy

Even if we admit Tab Ramos’ strategies yanked the U.S. through last week’s CONCACAF U20 qualifiers to World Cup qualification, it was through no great feat of tactical engineering. The 4-3-3 that’s served this team sporadically in this cycle quit on Ramos when Junior Flores was slow off the blocks, no true starting striker emerged and holding midfielder Kellyn Acosta was injured and lost for the tournament in the second match. Ramos’ answer was a bland switch to a 4-4-2 that harkened back to an earlier boot-and-chase era.

Ramos’s switch back to the 4-4-2 (which yielded four shutouts and a 4-0-0 record, but against four teams of sub-standard quality) looked like a guy who’d bought flashy new running shoes, became convinced the gym at large was judging him on his neon selection and switched back to the white New Balances he’s had for 10 years. Better to get it done without rocking the boat than die on an ideological sword. And credit goes to Ramos in some respects. The U.S. didn’t come close to winning its group, but it qualified.

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Written by Will Parchman

There was reason to be excited about the Canadian U20 team entering CONCACAF qualifying. In fact, there were multiple reasons. The team was littered with professionals, and the attack, studded with the Whitecaps’ Marco Bustos and QPR’s Michael Petrasso, looked on paper like one of the best in the entire tournament.

Well. It wasn’t. Canada lost four of its five games in Group B, finished above only Haiti (and it was by a measly goal on differential) and limped home without even sniffing the playoff for World Cup qualification.

It looked for a time like they’d bump off Honduras in the group finale on Thursday to spirit away some level of positivity before retreating north. Canada held a 2-1 lead in the second half when Honduras exploded for a pair of late goals to take all three points. The match-winner was this turn-and-burn from Bryan Rochez, who just signed a Designated Player contract with Orlando City as a 20-year-old. Meanwhile, new teammate and strike partner (or adversary) Cyle Larin, who went No. 1 overall in this year’s MLS draft, came off the bench for Canada and only played five minutes. Let the games begin.

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Written by Travis Clark

Who doesn’t love a crazy international tournament game between two fearsome rivals?

This morning’s Asian Cup semifinal (or Friday night, depending on where you are) between Iran and Iraq served up a game for the ages. A crazy 3-3 tie that went to penalties, featuring four goals in extra time.

It’s well worth the five minutes of madness, and includes a great atmosphere in Canberra, Australia.

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Written by Will Parchman

playyyyy

The fabled dance of the CBA negotiation found its way to MLS in earnest this offseason. The players are entrenching themselves along battle lines drawn up by previous players’ unions in other American sports – free agency, higher wages, more freedom. Meanwhile, the league continues to flaunt its lack of revenue as a bargaining chip. “How can we afford to raise the minimum wage when we aren’t making money?” the league intones with out-turned pockets. The waltz continues.

So salaries matter. Based on the most updated salary figures we have (released in Sept. 2014), I’ve put together a list of the most overvalued and undervalued players from each MLS team based on total guaranteed compensation in 2014. As you’ll see, these figures are in constant flux, but the league’s measured salary dumps make across-the-board analysis a bit easier. I’m omitting NYCFC and Orlando City for obvious reasons.

Note that I’ll only be including players currently on these rosters, not necessarily jettisoned players who were on the books for most of 2014. And we can update this as more updated figures become available (MLS doesn’t release them on a per-deal basis). So let’s have at it, shall we?

Chicago Fire

Best
Harry Shipp ($95,000): The base floor of Shipp’s contract is $70K, which is a fantastic bit of business for a player of his quality. This is bound to fly up as Shipp renegotiates his contract with a near-ROY campaign crowning his CV, but for now the Fire can be happy with one of the buys of the year. Shipp’s quality only figures to increase, but his price tag for now makes him one of the best pickups of 2014.

Worst
Patrick Nyarko ($284,500): There may have been a time when the speedy Ghanian was worth this wad of cash, but it’s long passed. Nyarko only played 17 matches in 2014 due to injury, and a torn ACL and sprained MCL he suffered in October will keep him sidelined until at least April. When he comes back, will he be the same player, or even further diminished? This albatross of a contract certainly won’t reflect it.

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Written by Will Parchman

While we in the U.S. have largely been consumed with CONCACAF’s U20 World Cup qualifying campaign this month, which the U.S. has largely shuffled through without much of a flourish, CONMEBOL is holding its own World Cup entry exam in Uruguay.

Earlier this month, Brazil took six points from its three group games to advance to the final stage, and three of those points came in a 2-0 win over Venezuela, which finished at the bottom of the group. Fluminense’s Kenedy, one of the most promising youth talents in South America, scored this decisive goal in the 72nd, and holy crap was it decisive. Am I a bit surprised this shot didn’t burn a hole through the net, leave a conical sonic boom in its wake and spontaneously deafen thousands of people? Yes. Yes I am.

Funny story. Kenedy was named after JFK’s brother Robert, hence Kenedy’s first name (Robert). There’s also a Brazilian on this U20 squad named Malcom named after, you guessed it, Malcolm X.

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Written by Will Parchman

linsyyyy

However you feel about Jurgen Klinsmann as a Great Pontificator of the Lofty, he’s continually chased formational trends since he took over as USMNT’s head man. When he took over in 2011, he espoused the 4-3-3 that Barcelona had made so popular through its roughshod trampling of Europe’s best teams. In fact, he was so interested in using it that his first foray into the Hex in 2013, a disastrous 2-1 loss to Honduras, featured a 4-3-3 with three holding midfielders.

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Written by Will Parchman

unholy

Below is the new USMNT jersey. Supposedly. Leaks being what they are, and all.

(That photo up top, if you’re curious, is the greatest monstrosity of all time and utterly unrelated to anything. I think it was born from the aftermath of the San Zusi incident, but who knows. It may have actually been the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and his Argonauts three millennia ago.)

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Billy Haisley is rigged

Written by Will Parchman

laughs

Billy Haisley has fast become the internet’s Great MLS Agitator. He once tried to actively convince you to not watch MLS. An unabashed critic of the league’s steps, Haisley’s written time and time again about how the league knowingly defrauds its fans through a rules set it tilts toward a handful of Haves. Which, somehow, is unlike any other league structure in the world. We’ll get to that in a bit.

On Monday, Haisley released his Magnum Opus, his shining monument to MLS hatred. Entitled “MLS Is Putting The Fix In For Toronto FC, Right Before Our Eyes,” Haisley asserts MLS is totally rigged. Like a mayoral election in Chicago in the 30′s. Rigged.

So let’s look into the article to examine, point-by-point, just what in the hell he’s talking about. Quick note: if his grand point gives you an innate desire to reach for the tinfoil hat, he’s done his job.

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