Written by Will Parchman

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a pretty awesome half-volley for PSG against Ajax in the Champions League, but that wasn’t the coolest thing he’s done this week. The coolest thing he’s done this week is to pick is Dream Team XI, select himself as the striker and call himself “The God.” This is the most Ibra thing that ever Ibra’d.

And this damn smirk. It also is the most Ibra thing to Ibra.

xiiiii

Here’s his full team with his succinct comment on each player.

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Written by Will Parchman

The most fascinating soccer game of this Champions League season so far went down this week between Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Bayern went down to 10 men early in the second half when Benatia cut down Sergio Aguero, who promptly hit the penalty for a 1-0 lead. What happened next was unpredictably incredible.

Why? Because Bayern didn’t change a thing about its game plan, to say nothing of the specific tactics at hand. Even on 10 men, they forced City to cope with aggressive numbers in the attacking third and a possessive approach that didn’t even look shellshocked by the loss of a defender and an early goal. This is the heat map for the first half, at which point Bayern led 2-1 with both goals coming after they were reduced a man.

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Written by Will Parchman

Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp is probably the best manager in world soccer. He may not be the greatest manager, but he’s the best. Allow this video, a pregame conference in advance of BVB’s match against Arsenal on Nov. 26, to elucidate my point.

The money moment of the clip is Klopp responding to a recent report that England is the “only other country” he’d coach in aside from Germany. After hilariously dropping his head once hearing the meat of the question (this happens at around the 2:22 mark), here’s what he had to say to the question of whether he wants to coach in England.

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Written by Will Parchman

This is Greek youth player George Vrakas. He wants you to feel very, very badly about how good you are at the soccer. He’s going to do that pretty promptly here about seven seconds into the video.

He scored all four goals in his team’s win that day (you can see all four here if you’re a weirdo), which means Greece may be getting its first national team player soon with the ability to execute a step-over without spontaneously exploding. All hail Vrakas.

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Written by Will Parchman

kempin-us

MLS clubs released roster news on Tuesday. As far as I’m concerned, the biggest bit of news involved Sporting KC, which severed ties with first team keepers Andy Gruenebaum and Eric Kronberg. The latter of those two was named the MLS Player of the Month for June. He’s the only keeper to win the honor since 2011.

Which leaves SKC with a single keeper on the roster. His name is Jon Kempin, he’s a Homegrown, and he’s 21 years old. The #playyourkids initiative is having a good day.

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Written by Will Parchman

believe

The No. 10 is probably the most vexing positional hole in the USMNT senior team system right now. There are a handful of touted creative prospects currently working their way through the YNT fish ladders, but the here-and-now prospects for the senior team haven’t look particularly encouraging of late. In fact, they haven’t looked particularly encouraging for years.

If the World Cup represented the height of the senior team’s tactical ingenuity, it didn’t say much about Klinsmann’s faith in his midfield creators. Michael Bradley was shoehorned into a bizarre is-he-or-isn’t-he No. 6/8/10 mutant role that forced him to cover more ground than any other player in Brazil. It was also his most ineffective spell stretched over several games since most anyone can remember. Clint Dempsey’s march inside and then up has mirrored his advancing age. He has gone from an inside-out winger to a high midfielder to a stalking shadow striker, where he’s been deployed for club and country the last several years.

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Written by Will Parchman

At last year’s Nike International Friendlies, the U.S. U17s thumped Brazil 4-1 in the finale to win the tournament for the second time in three years. It was one of the strangest matches I’ve ever seen, primarily because at the behest of its coach, Brazil literally quit playing with a couple minutes left in the match. It was a protest for two red cards (both of them deserved, I should say), and it was just bizarre to watch.

For the first time since that night in Florida, those two teams squared off again. This time, Brazil did not stop playing. Which was good for Brazil, because it won 4-3 off a goal in the third minute of stoppage time.

But it was an easy game on the eyes. The U.S. came back from 3-0 down to make it a match. Christian Pulisic did some stuff. Haji Wright scored some goals. We’re all winners. Watch the video. This U17 team is the best.

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Written by Will Parchman

Another postseason edition of the TDS College Goal of the Week, and another three-way battle for the belt. After last week’s three-person fight ended with a victory for Maryland’s Mael Corboz, his older sister Daphne makes an appearance this week after a lovely curling effort for Georgetown.

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Written by Will Parchman

klins

Republican politician Ted Cruz is a caricature of a caricature of a vague idea. He has said there were 12 Communists on the teaching faculty during his time at Princeton. He claimed that defense secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination was openly and publicly celebrated by the Iranian government. He has been booed off the stage by members of his own party.

It’s hard to imagine Cruz haranguing his own family with this kind of spiteful, indignant and knowingly false rhetoric. He acts this way in the public sphere precisely because it is a public sphere. These are general, defaming, often blatantly false comments he lobs into the ionosphere without specific aim because they make him something. We are talking about him. But the Cruz of the face-to-face, outside of the suit? If we’re honest, he’s most likely an affable man. In a lot of ways, you have to be simply to get along as a professional human being. It’s hard to imagine him approaching daily life with the daggers out.

But you don’t know this Ted Cruz, if he even exists, because he has not allowed himself to be known.

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Written by Will Parchman

woohoo

Since 2010, the U.S. Club Soccer-run id2 program’s been directing an international offshoot called the National Selection International Tour. The point is to cull the best young U14 players from a series of four previous id2 camps. The coaching staff pulls together a selection of the best players and pushes them abroad to face some of the best youth academies in the world. During the 2014 tour in Italy, the team faced youth sides from Juventus, Inter Milan, Siena and Fiorentina. The id2 side didn’t lose a game and finished with a 3-0-1 record.

The ostensible point of the id2 tour is to identify. During the most recent 2014 tour through Italy – the most successful ever – former USMNT keeper Tony Meola accompanied the team as a liaison to pass back recommendations to the U.S. BNT staff. These tours are a unique practice, because they offer the cohesiveness of a U14 BNT camp paired with the challenge of an international friendly. There isn’t really anything like it in the system.

In that sense, the id2 selection tours operate in their own world, devoid of the trappings and difficulties inherent in national team camps. And the beauty is that it’s now old enough to dissect. The program’s first class in 2010 was primarily comprised of ’96s (there were only two ’97s, and one, as you’ll see, is already an MLS Homegrown), meaning at the very least they’re U18 eligible. And U20, in some cases.

Remember, development isn’t like rounding up sheep and pushing a bunch through the fence. It’s a winnowing process, a numbers game. Especially at the U14 level, you hope one or two of these kids turn into future full national team contributors on a consistent level. It’s all gravy if you get more. Paradoxically, a five percent rate of return off one U14 roster isn’t terrible. Of course you want as many as possible, but that’s generally not how elite development works.

So anyway, with the 2015 tour through Argentina freshly announced, let’s walk through each id2 roster since 2010 and see what we find. How is it doing? We’ll grade each class by what we know of these players and how they project as pro prospects. Preview: the program’s already doing pretty well for itself. Nothing’s perfect, but as we’ll see, it’s off to a fast start.

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