Written by Will Parchman

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Mukwelle Akale’s courtship with Spain’s Villarreal began humbly enough. The Minnesotan spent part of September 2014 on trial, impressed the club with his bevy of skills and then made the move official once he turned 18 the next January.

The diminutive attacking mighty mite became, on the spot, one of the select handful of U.S. YNT contributors in a La Liga development system. And he still is.

The last year and a half have been good to the fast improving Akale, 19, who’s risen up from the Juvenil A ranks to become a full-fledged member of the Villarreal C side playing in the Spanish Tercera this season. In the meantime, the U.S. U20 spent the preseason with the Villarreal first team, and Sunday was a relatively monumental day in that regard.

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Written by Will Parchman

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In 2012, Manchester United let Paul Pogba pass out of the Mersey sluice gate with hardly a raised eyebrow of protest. Pogba was a world class prospect even then, at the age of 18, but Alex Ferguson was unwilling to treat with his agent and could not stomach the massive weekly wages he was asking.

So Pogba was allowed to cross borders unmolested into the grateful arms of Juventus that year for a middling fee. Pogba went on to become one of the world’s best midfielders before being sold back to Manchester United this summer for the GDP of Lichtenstein. In the interim, while Juve was building a roster that would come inches from a Champions League title, Manchester United fell off the relative map.

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Written by Will Parchman

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In some strange and almost unaccountable ways, fate brought Mauro Diaz and FC Dallas together. Or at least it would be easy to think so.

Diaz grew up in the vaunted River Plate system in Buenos Aires, surrounded by world class talent essentially being baked for someone else’s dinner table. River, like Boca Juniors down the road, trades off its highly prized youth players it sells to Europe for exorbitant sums that then fuel the academy and first team to produce more. For a time, Diaz was in that oven.

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Written by Will Parchman

Argentinian soccer is burning.

It burns and smolders and then burns again for a variety of systemic reasons, many of them coming to a head at the same time in largely the same places. Shackled by those bounds of reality, then, it was all too easy to write off the Argentinian U23 side’s embarrassing exit in the Olympic group stages this week. Even with all the might of a side that handily won the qualifying tournament, they carried the heavy stone cinders of their federation’s turmoil with them to Brazil.

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Written by Will Parchman

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This has been something of a charmed year for the FC Dallas organization from root to stem. On the academy level, FCD shockingly swept the U16 and U18 Development Academy titles in July, a feat that may not be equaled in millennia (maybe).

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Written by Will Parchman

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MLS is full of cautionary tales so quiet and barely whispered that they dissipate before rising to an auditory decibel level. Who weeps for Omar Salgado? Or Danny Mwanga? In a league that struggles for abiding storylines, there is barely enough room for Michael Jordans, let alone Sam Bowies.

And yet even as the league’s narrative generator struggles to kick online, what has happened to Cubo Torres in MLS remains one of the saddest unfurling what-ifs in MLS history. And it is getting worse.

In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, we’re introduced to a young, handsome socialite caught between two worlds: the hedonism of Lord Henry and the quiet, humble asceticism of Basil Hallward. If the latter represents a cautious, structured pathway through life’s burning hallways, Lord Henry advises Gray to throw his caution to the hurricane and simply be, whatever that would be.

Gray chooses Lord Henry’s beguiling unstructured world view and is undone by its relentless, overwrought bidding. With no guiderails he is undone and crumbles under his own weight. It is a tragedy, in the end, that Gray was unprepared to face. And it ended him.

There are acres of Dorian Gray in Cubo Torres.

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Written by Will Parchman

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As early as March 2014, we’d known Julian Green was going to be on the plane to Brazil for the World Cup. We didn’t know know, but there is the type of knowing that involves late night D&D sessions and conspiracies in the woods that involve a fugitive lab experiments but you just know something’s happening in the Upside Down.

Julian Green’s impending selection to the World Cup was something like that. We were all the sheriff and we all knew it was falling into place in front of everything else.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Desperate men find inspiration in excess. A trading caravan lost in the desert will offer half its wares bound for kings and prophets to a passing water train if it meant survival. When the need spikes and the lifeline begins to flatten, what are material goods but the chaff separated from the wheat?

And in their search for absolution, these men of desperate straits are ripe for swindling. Lucky for Juventus, Manchester United is desperate, loaded down with jewels and dying.

Paul Pogba has drawn about him almost every financially oriented soccer take known to man over the past month. Pogba’s sale from Juve to Manchester United is all but sewn up for the tidy sum of £89 million, which is $116 million (!) in our devalued American currency. That’s £1 million less than Gareth Bale’s sale to Real Madrid in 2013, but according to Italian journalist Gianluca DiMarzio, Pogba’s contract is loaded with £5 million in bonuses, so it will most likely rise.

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Written by Will Parchman

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There’s something of a great migration currently taking place among American youth prospects. Where England was once the de facto point of disembarkation for the best and brightest young Americans looking abroad, Germany’s spent the last two years usurping that title.

For as long as most of us can remember, southwest London club Fulham was the nexus of that English-American fusion. Now it certainly looks as though Schalke is taking that title and running with it.

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Written by Will Parchman

nigeria

The Nigerian full national team has always been a roundly talented if somewhat forgettable side on the international scene. They routinely show well in African competition and then wilt in World Cups. But even if the results aren’t always there, the individual talent is undeniable.

Part of that has to do with the frankly absurd success of Nigeria’s YNT sides, the Eaglets (yes I know, but it’s the actual name). The U20 side has been African champion seven times – including 2015 – has advanced out of its World Cup group every year since 1987. That includes runner-up finishes twice, including in 2005.

But the U17 team is the real cash cow. And they’ve been that way forever.

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