Written by Will Parchman

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Unless your name is Arsene Wenger, and you have enchantment spells cast over your helpless ownership group, the life of a coach is mostly made up of small incremental moments between firings. You will win games, you will lose games, and you will not leave of your own accord. These things are invariably true.

Markus Weinzierl was reappraised of these facts this week. After just one season, Schalke fired its coach. And replaced him with a 31-year-old. The Bundesliga is a wonderland.

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Written by Will Parchman

pulisic

This is a story about how the USMNT suddenly and desperately needs an 18-year-old to reach its zenith.

There is little question among even the most conservative U.S. fans now that Christian Pulisic is the side’s best player. He is, without reservation most nights, the team’s most dangerous sword in the darkness. Pulisic is rare in that his deployment rarely bookends his night. He’s coherent enough tactically to settle where the game leads him to settle, and that means a central deployment could lead to a wide night, if the service up the central channel isn’t there. As it wasn’t in the U.S.’s most recent qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago.

You can read games by the flavor of Pulisic’s movement, and no matter where he finds himself on the field, there’s often either a purpose to it or a reasonable expectation that it’ll genuinely lead to something more positive. He’s perhaps the only player on the team with this kind of leeway, and it’s more than deserved. You can understand the exact tenor of a game (and, really, the tactical character of a team) by simply watching one man.

And the U.S. needs him now more than it ever has.

Pulisic has, incredibly, been directly or, in one case, indirectly involved in each of the U.S.’s last eight goals stretching back into the guts of the 6-0 qualifying blowout against Honduras nearly three months ago. That includes, of course, a crucial 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over T&T that featured a pair of Pulisic goals to bring his international tally to seven in 15 games. He is 18, need I remind you, and you stomp your feet on the brakes of his train at your peril. Let go.

This is what reliance looks like.

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Written by The 91st

Believe it or not, the ECNL National Playoffs is bearing down on us. It’s now just two weeks off in Rockford, Ill., and the qualified field from the U14-U19 age ranges is already set. Now we just need the playoff groupings, and we etched those in stone on Thursday night during the ECNL’s live unveil of the draw.

While the U15-U17 ages use this stage as a launch pad to the Finals later in the summer, the U14 and U18 ages will crown champions in Illinois. Which means these groups are of hugely significant importance across the board. And the ECNL streamed the draw, which you can watch in its entirety here. Happy hunting.

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Written by Will Parchman

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We are inundated with praise for FC Dallas’ academy. The positivity seems to ooze out of the league’s very fabric as the club signs one promising academy kid after another. And when one scores, well, you light the beacons to Frisco and tell the rest of the league to follow the leader.

There is something undoubtedly numbing about all this from a partisan point of view. Fans of the opposition become necessarily calloused to it - here comes more FCD academy news – but there is a method to it. The notion an academy can feed an entire MLS club is notably new, a fleeting ideal that’s never been tested in any substantive way until recently. The MLS modus operandi has historically involved a heavy dose of mistrust when it came to its own fledgling academies. Shifting that viewpoint takes time, but it also takes some small measure of indoctrination.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Somewhere on the trip between London, England’s southern shore and Glasgow, Emerson Hyndman became the U.S. national team’s great forgotten man.

There was a time not so long ago when Hyndman was the consensus Boy Who Would Be King for the USMNT. The 12-month period between August 2014 and 2015 was hugely formative for Hyndman’s budding legend, a seeming affirmation of a skill set you could practically see U.S. Soccer cradling as the kindling began to tremble and catch fire. He was getting games for Fulham’s first team in the Championship and captaining a U20 MNT run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Surely, by 2017, he’d have established himself as a doubtless call in every USMNT camp of record?

Now, Hyndman’s seat is cooler, giving way to super-heated names like Carter-Vickers, Pulisic, even Carleton. And in this, you understand how the twist of circumstance can subtly take a player out of your field of vision seemingly overnight.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Mili Hernandez likes her hair short. That was, apparently, enough to get the 8-year-old and her entire team disqualified from a recent youth tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.

Last weekend, Hernandez’s Azzuri Cachorros side was slated to play in a Nebraska youth tournament hosted by the Springfield Soccer Club, and they did well enough to make it to the final with Hernandez leading the way with a handful of sparkling displays. But before they could play the title game, tournament officials disqualified Hernandez and her entire team from playing because her close-cropped haircut led them to believe she was actually a boy. Hernandez and her family insisted she was not, even showing those same officials an insurance card for proof. They were not swayed, and Hernandez was banned along with her team, which was forced to forfeit.

“Just because I look like a boy doesn’t mean I am a boy,” Mili told local television station WOWT 6. “They don’t have a reason to kick the whole club out.”

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Written by Will Parchman

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Back in the 2017 preseason, we knew something big was swirling around Jesus Ferreira’s bourgeoning career. Months earlier he’d been made a 15-year-old Homegrown and then allowed to continue playing in the DA with the vaunted FCD U18 side that just won a national title. And on the heels of that, in the preseason he seemingly could not stop scoring.

Ferreira is now 16. And in his first ever appearance, a stint of just 19 minutes, Ferreira bagged his first professional goal. Ferreira is now the second-youngest goal-scorer in MLS history and the Youngest Not Named Freddy Adu. The speed of his train practically groans with excitement.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Ajax fans are still bandaging their bloodied expectations after Manchester United dulled them, bored them to death and then rammed them into the bottom of the ocean. So the Europa League final didn’t go quite as planned.

It was otherwise a somewhat disappointing season for trophy-less Ajax, which crashed out of the KNVB Cup in December and failed to win the league behind Feyenoord. The silver lining was the Europa League, because despite the loss in the finals the performance still granted them passage into the Champions League qualifying rounds. Consolation prizes are perhaps better than none at all?

In any case, Ajax enjoyed a pretty quality year elsewhere. Its renowned youth teams collected cup after cup, and the Ajax women won the Dutch league 11 points clear of its nearest competitor (that is, you’ll note, the new home of U.S. international Toni Payne). All those accomplishments were just this week rolled into one in Ajax’s annual Goal of the Year competition, in which they round up the 10 best goals scored by all of Ajax’s various teams and pit them against one another.

And there’s an American on it.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Six. Zero.

That is not, as you might currently be thinking, a Top Gun callsign. It is, rather, the U.S.’s scoreline in its most lopsided U20 World Cup win in 24 years. The U.S. atomized New Zealand 6-0 on Thursday despite lacking four starters; three were suspended (Derrick Jones, Aaron Herrera and Cameron Carter-Vickers) and a fourth was lost for the tournament earlier in Gedion Zelalem. No matter. New Zealand looked lost in the vast craggy expanses of Mordor (sorry).

The U.S. managed six goals from six (!) different players en route to the win, setting up a quarterfinal matchup with Venezuela in the process. In the meantime, revel in each of these six while New Zealand endures the Long Walk Home.

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Written by Will Parchman

zambia

The balance of power between Zambia and Germany entering their U20 World Cup Round of 16 clash was perhaps a bit more even than it would seem on paper. Germany had struggled through much of the group stage, losing handily to Venezuela 2-0 before drawing with Mexico and hanging on for a 3-2 win against Vanuatu (I’ll wait while you Google Maps it) after holding a 3-0 lead into the second half.

Germany had to scrape through a playoff just to get here, which it barely did in penalties over the Netherlands. Zambia, meanwhile, won its first ever AFCON U20 championship earlier this year to qualify as the continental champion. Germany might’ve been favored to win their knockout match, but the margins were slimmer than slim.

Zambia didn’t much care about all that. This is what you might call a good game.

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