Written by Will Parchman

The U.S. U20 MNT is currently in Australia gearing up for this month’s World Cup with a series of friendly tune-ups. The first came against Australia, which ended in a 2-1 result for the Americans on Monday night.

We only have a few brief glimpses as to how the game went (it wasn’t streamed or televised and the highlights package is less than two minutes long), but there are two things to look at here. On the first goal, Tommy Thompson’s in-pinching run from right to left will roughly approximate his work area in New Zealand, and Joel Sonora’s beautiful curler is a good look for a player trying to crack the XI. With a spot in the midfield ostensibly open, he could well be in the starting lineup for the opener against Myanmar.

But the more interesting question is who starts up top, and Maki Tall is making a compelling case for coach Tab Ramos. After scoring in his U20 debut in late March, Tall’s been slowly turning the wheel of public opinion in his favor, and his goal here should help in that regard. This was a bad mistake at the back on Australia’s part, but it couldn’t have happened without Tall’s press, and that finish was cool as you like.

This team was in desperate need of a consistent striker in qualifying. It may have found one in Maki Tall.

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Written by Will Parchman

luca

France’s Zinedine Zidane is arguably most famous for The Headbutt Heard ‘Round The World, but to me his most iconic moment was the panenka he somehow managed to pull off in the final of the 2006 World Cup. Pure brass.

Zidane’s fast-rising son Luca is a keeper, so it’s safe to say he hasn’t gotten many opportunities to emulate dear ‘ol pops in an actual game setting. But he did in the semifinals of France’s U17 World Cup qualifying campaign this week. And it did not go well.

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Written by Will Parchman

yas

Falcon Punch: Ep. 1 | Ep. 2 | Ep. 3

Early October

I have to  do something. The vampires are chasing me. I have to start winning games or I die. The tiny men stealing my underpants at night whisper it to me in the deep tongue of Mordor before leaving my room on Tuesdays. Did I imagine that? Was that a South Park episode mixed with Lord of the Rings lore? It’s literally impossible to know at this point.

The process of turning on the PS4 now to re-inhabit this terrifying world of werewolves and puking defenders and Esteban Cambiasso’s bald head following me into my dreams – THIS IS NOT A JOKE BY THE WAY – involves a lengthy ritual. There is the alcohol. And then there is the sigh.

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Written by Will Parchman

wemo

Falcon Punch: Ep. 1 | Ep. 2

September

I had my first meltdown. Or, I should say, Falcon Hammerclaw had his first meltdown. Come to think of it, the lines on that are blurring. Things are not going well.

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Written by Will Parchman

sepp

Over the weekend, John Oliver said some tremendously funny things about Sepp Blatter. You should watch them.

The basis of his quick two-minute diatribe revolved around the impending faux vote for FIFA president Sepp Blatter, which comes up in less than two weeks. Despite his latent sexism, reliance on pseudo-science to claim we are all genetically racist, claims that gays should “refrain from any sexual activities” in Qatar, his intimation that a transfer practice was akin to “modern slavery,” and any other laundry list of depressing factoids, Blatter will almost assuredly be reelected.

This may surprise you. And it should. Just last week, ESPN released a documentary on Blatter that laid bare many of the issues swirling around the man. You can now watch the entire thing on YouTube.

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Written by Will Parchman

Savage. The only truly appropriate word here. As if Liam Neeson inhabited Tobin Heath’s body for a brief moment and used an embarrassing elastico to exact his brutal revenge on the captors who kidnapped his family.

The USWNT is currently gearing up for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, which is now a mere month away. While this little pre-tourney tour has largely allowed the team to feast on lesser opponents, at the very least they’ve looked good doing it. Just like they did here, in a 5-1 win over Mexico Heath aided by doing this. Jill Ellis has garnered a deserved reputation as a hoof-it-out, direct coach, but the best you can say about her is that her teams largely put away the teams they should. And so it’s been lately.

We’ll see if the U.S. is more feast than famine against the true roadblocks once the World Cup arrives. But if Heath is planning on Neesoning more defenders, something tells me they don’t have much to worry about. Note to defenders: if she starts cranking up that I HAVE A PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS line in your presence, run, probably.

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Written by Will Parchman

u20z

College soccer’s influence on professional and national team soccer is faltering. There is little question that while the college game makes incremental strides, both in its aesthetic and its proposed progressive rule measures, it is losing the war for the hearts and minds of teenagers. How you view this news more than likely depends upon which side of the aisle you occupy.

At some point in the mist-shrouded past – maybe somewhere around Pearl Jam’s Vs. album – there was some devilishly clever argument to the affirmative about college soccer’s place as the ultimate talent developer among young American players. Had the NCAA worked to align its schedule with the world standard, had the game been more tactically progressive and had there been a professional pipeline that worked in legal harmony with leading college officials, perhaps things might’ve been different. MLS could’ve theoretically hooked its hose to college soccer in 1996 and made it what NCAA football has been to the NFL. But that never happened. And here we are.

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Written by The 91st

typppppp

The guys are back this week with another rousing episode of The Young Professionals, the internet’s top podcast exploring the great hype trains of American soccer. This week, the discussion revolves around how Gedion Zelalem fits into the U20 MNT’s World Cup plans, whether Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can avoid the first year DP malaise and how Brad Friedel’s academy collapsed.

Come with us if you want to live.

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Written by Will Parchman

_64588634_bradfriedelone

On Jan. 22, 2011, Aston Villa secured an unlikely 1-0 win over Manchester City, which at the time was still coming to grips with its new vaults of cash. Villa was fighting to stave off relegation while City was attempting to push into position to challenge for the title.

The match was notable in particular because of the man between the posts for Aston Villa. Brad Friedel was just four months shy of his 40th birthday, and even then, four years ago, questions about his retirement swirled. But at least on this day, Friedel acrobatically silenced them. The Ohio native was clearly breaking down as a player, but the glint of his world class ability burned through the fog. At one point he turned away a tricky header from Vincent Kompany, as if to make a statement that his career was much farther from its conclusion than his hairline would lead you to believe.

But there was more to it than that, more boiling underneath the surface than anyone in the stands that day understood. Two days before the match, an English judge declared Friedel bankrupt. He owed more than $8 million on a failed academy venture in his home state called Premier Soccer Academies. Despite earning $40,000/week in wages, one bad venture forced arguably the finest American goalkeeper to ever live into the depths of financial reorganization.

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Written by Will Parchman

Earlier this week, a story popped up on the Guardian about a completely amateur club team called Harpo’s FC. Named after a bar by the same name in Boulder, Colorado, Harpo’s garnered attention precisely for the reasons you’d expect from an English publication: For The Magic Of The Cup. It was formed in a bar. It’s players do other things. They considered themselves “dead last” of the 91 teams involved in this year’s cup.

As the EPL’s top four has increasingly become more of an elite nightclub for the mega-rich bottle service crowd, the FA Cup has largely kept its charm. The U.S. Open Cup, the competition for which Harpo’s garnered its attention, is like the FA Cup on steroids and shot into Zero-G orbit.

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