Written by Will Parchman

favre

Every so often, a crack of opportunity meets a seam of luck. And the 2010 interregnum between the fired Curt Onalfo and whoever would follow behind him appeared to be that avenue into rarely luminescent daylight for D.C. United.

At the time, D.C. United had a shortlist of at least seven coaching candidates, each of whom it interviewed. Among that list was, of course, Ben Olsen, who ultimately won the gig permanently after guiding the club to a 3-8-1 record as an interim after Onalfo was jettisoned. Olsen’s tenure since has been a rocket that periodically loses its thrust before jetting into the atmosphere again. In 2013, D.C. United recorded the worst regular season in MLS history (while simultaneously winning a U.S. Open Cup) and then snapped up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference a year later. The years since settled somewhere in between.

But the biggest story in hindsight isn’t necessarily who won the job. It’s who didn’t.

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Written by Will Parchman

haberer

Friday marked the 2017 inauguration of the Bundesliga after a bitterly long winter break (do you see what I did right there) with a meeting between Bayern Munich and ninth-place Freiburg. The match itself was played in 19 degree temps which plunged into single digits with the windchill. So. Fun.

In any case, Bayern mostly dominated the run of play, as they do, and Freiburg was relegated to quick rabbit punches while Bayern largely had their opponents by the scruff of the neck. This is, in a nutshell, the Bundesliga experience when Bayern is involved.

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Written by Will Parchman

joe-gyau-borussia-dortmund-4

In 2009, an otherwise unknown club named SG Sonnenhof Grossaspach, named after a hotel, scored on Stuttgart.

Sonnenhof (as they shall hence be known, since “Grossaspach” is not particularly enjoyable to transcribe 30 times over) had spent the majority of its 15 years of existence in amateur regional leagues before being promoted to the Regionalliga Süd, German soccer’s fouth tier, in 2009. The club was still entirely anonymous, living underneath the sheen of the country’s growing prominence, but a goal against Stuttgart in 2009 changed some things.

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Written by Will Parchman

East

In reality, the great Yellow Wall is a bit of a misnomer. Its name implies a sort of barrier, a bulwark against an advancing horde that would shut them out from the fleshy business of everyday life in a population center. Walls are defensive structures, built at their core for the business of shielding.

Borussia Dortmund’s Yellow Wall is not an imagining of defensive engineering. It is a weapon. And it is perhaps the greatest monument to fan culture in all of Europe.

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Written by Will Parchman

klins

The more Joachim Löw pored over his options, the more his problems danced like demons on the periphery.

The German camp at the 2012 Euros had been more fractious than most knew, a giant rift pulling the Dortmund and Bayern players apart at the seams. Germany suffered for it in the end, winning three quiet one-goal games in the group phase, dispatching Greece in the quarters and then bowing out to Italy in the semifinals.

In the two years between 2012 and the World Cup, Löw operated like a coach-cum-armchair psychologist. He pulled in players as mediators between the fire of the two warring Bundesliga factions, and by the time 2014 rolled around he was still unsure of his purchase. German soccer is not without its egos, and Löw was tasked with juggling the most fragile of them all at once.

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Written by Will Parchman

Haji-Wright

As we already know, Haji Wright is doing things with Schalke’s U19s at the moment. After officially joining the club earlier this year once he hit his 18th birthday, the wispy attacker is already putting in goals against some heady competition. And he’s done it alongside a couple Americans, notably former FC Dallas academy midfielder and U.S. U19 Weston McKennie. He’s expected to finalize his Schalke contract once he turns 18 later this month.

Wright was something of an enigma during the latter part of his tenure with the U17 MNT 2013-15 cycle. Wright popped onto a lot of radars – Schalke’s included – thanks to his Golden Boot performance at the 2013 Nike International Friendlies, a tournament that also helped launch Christian Pulisic to Dortmund.

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Written by Will Parchman

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Emerson Hyndman arrived at Fulham in 2011 riding the great crest of the American-English soccer wave. To say nothing of the American youth boots already on the ground in Albion, the seismic NBC Premier League deal was only a year off, an agreement that gave Americans readier access to every one of the league’s games than even the average Englishman.

Hyndman’s signing was quiet, far more so than the relative trumpets that heralded Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey’s signatures for the Cottager senior team. It was a speculative deal in more than a few ways, Hyndman latching on with Fulham’s youth apparatus to see if he had the stern stuff required for the Premier League’s rocky paces.

At the time, five years ago, the English youth ladder still looked like the grand final destination for America’s best and brightest bristling to test themselves abroad. It was England, after all. The culture, the language, the prestige-limned clubs — that particular transition made more sense than anything. If you had a choice, or even if you were actively attempting to direct your steps abroad, you went to England.

A lot can happen in five years.

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Written by Will Parchman

zack-steffen-maryland-freiburg

The last most of us saw of Zack Steffen, he was breaking saucy Colombian hearts.

After a widely lauded freshman campaign at Maryland, Steffen eschewed MLS and penned a deal with Freiburg in the German Bundesliga in December 2014. A few months later, Freiburg dropped to the second tier, and Steffen was shrouded in its reserves anyway. If you thought you’d have a shot to actually watch Steffen play club ball, well, good luck.

Steffen resurfaced at the U20 World Cup in the summer of 2015, and he was easily the U.S.’s best player. He captained the back line and reached a career zenith when he saved a penalty against Colombia in the first knockout round that ultimately saved the match. The U.S. won. Statues of Steffen were spontaneously erected across the nation.

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Written by Will Parchman

picault

The lead-in sentence to Fafa Picault’s soccer history on Wikipedia is clipped, left almost intentionally vague.

Picault started his career with the youth and reserve team of Italian club Cagliari, but later parted ways with the club after six years, for unknown reasons.

There are some things that freeze in time and we leave them buried under us in the deepest recesses of our past. Picault’s history as a youth player in Italy is something like that.

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Written by Travis Clark

bobby-wood-two-goalsA few years ago, Bobby Wood’s career looked dead in the water.

Today, the 24-year-old U.S. men’s national team forward entered the record books.

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