Written by Will Parchman

161029 US Soccer Development Academy stock

It’s your favorite time of year, kids, when Development Academy golazos rain down upon your face like so many raindrops drumming on a tin roof in summer.

U.S. Soccer is currently running its DA GOTY competition, which is open for voting through Wednesday. You can see those voting details here, and below is the list of candidates (each with a trusty hashtag, as we all must have). One, Shandon Hopeau, is already on a pro contract after signing with Sounders 2 in the USL earlier this year following a promising stint with the full team in the preseason.

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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 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

pynadath

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

usa-nz-u20-wc

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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Written by Will Parchman

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The U.S. Open Cup, easily the single best soccer competition in these here United States, is currently running through its earlier pre-MLS rounds. Which is to say, its best rounds, those unkempt wilderness areas teeming with Kickstarters for travel funds and part-time soccer players working hotel lobby desks between practice sessions.

The third round, the last before MLS teams get involved, kicked off Tuesday night. And boy did Michigan Bucks forward Francis Atuahene make himself known.

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Written by Will Parchman

xadas

This was supposed to be South Korea’s tournament. Portugal, ever the disruptor of tournaments at every level, did not see it that way.

The U20 World Cup in South Korea handed the hosts some legitimate (and obvious) benefits. The home-field advantage was nice, of course, but it also coincided with the best U20 team the country’s produced in years. Led by two Barcelona-reared midfielders, namely Lee Seung-woo who broke Leo Messi’s La Masia scoring records, South Korea charged through the knockouts in an extremely difficult group. They beat Argentina, notably, and finished second in group just a point behind England.

A Round of 16 matchup against Portugal seemed to severely favor the hosts. Portugal had been eminently mediocre in the group phase, losing to Zambia, drawing Costa Rica and trailing for much of the match against Iran before pulling out a late win thanks to an 86th-minute own goal. That own goal, it should be noted, is the only reason Portugal was even in the knockouts at all.

All Portugal did was flip the narrative on its head and trump favored South Korea 3-1.

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Written by Will Parchman

woo

If Son Heung-Min’s done anything since first softly landing in Hamburg’s first team in 2010, it’s wake up the wider world to South Korea’s potential as a soccer nation. If he did anything in 2017, it’s beat us over the head practically to death with that knowledge.

Son’s 2016-17 with Tottenham was almost without peer. Two years after becoming the highest Asian transfer in history, Son broke the 20-goal barrier with Spurs en route to their second-place Premier League finish and a spot in the Champions League. On the way there, Son was as classy an operator as you were liable to find in the world’s most moneyed league, and amidst his performances the question lingered; are there more South Koreans like this coming up behind him?

The question, it seems, may well be yes.

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Written by Will Parchman

carleton

Before the U17 CONCACAF Championship even started, we knew this was probably the deepest U17 MNT any coach had ever taken to a major continental tournament. What we didn’t know was whether it had the most star power ever.

For the last 18 years, that mantle belonged to the 1999 team that finished fourth at the World Cup that year and produced, among others, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. We won’t be able to make a determination as to whether this crew has the star power of that team for years, but the portents certainly look good. Because the American stars have been peeking out of the clouds in this tournament, and in the World Cup-clinching win over Cuba, a 6-2 attacking masterclass, arguably the biggest one currently in a pro system sparkled particularly brightly.

Andrew Carleton, ladies and gentlemen.

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