Written by Will Parchman

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As the season putters toward the playoffs, a handful of coach of the year candidates are beginning to separate from the league’s cluster. These typically run the gamut from coaches turning big talent into points to molding former also-rans into legitimate MLS Cup contenders. I don’t necessarily buy that one is intrinsically more impressive than the other. That Mike Petke has done what he’s done in New York, for instance, is not diminished by the team’s payroll. Look at his predecessors and the praise seems baked into the pie.

And while his tenure is short, I want to acknowledge what Brian Bliss is doing in Columbus.

Bliss’ rap sheet is the shortest of any coach here, which means he’ll have a difficult time dislodging other coaches from higher places. So perhaps Bliss won’t win the honor, but he at least deserves praise for his brief month-long stint in the manager’s chair in Columbus. The Crew had lost seven of 11 when Robert Warzycha was let go at the start of September, and they were drowning and left for dead in the playoff race. Since then, Columbus has won four of five, including an entertaining 4-2 win over FCD over the weekend that inched the Crew closer to the playoffs. The Crew are playing vibrant attacking soccer (11 goals in those four wins), and if their year stretches into the postseason, there might not have been a more dramatic shift in the league all year. And that’s down to Bliss.

Without further ado, five of the top MLS coach of the year candidates.

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Written by Will Parchman

On a wet and slick Sunday night in Seattle, it seemed like the Sounders were girding for a three-pointer to go two points clear of RSL in the West with two in hand. With a 1-0 lead and just 15 minutes left, NYRB was down to its last few punches.

That’s when Tim Cahill came up with this thumping effort after a weather-appropriate melee in the box. It curled into the far netting and sent the Red Bulls home with a point they’ll be happy to have. Suddenly New York has a four-point lead over SKC in the East and are legitimate contenders for the Supporters Shield.

Mike Petke, the miracle worker. Where’s Hans Backe when you need him?

 

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Written by Will Parchman

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The parity MLS provides is undoubtedly one of its greatest attributes. If we compare TFC to a Cardiff or a Hertha Berlin, the scope of optimism MLS allows is wider than perhaps any league in the world. Fans in Toronto can expect futility now, but they can just as easily expect it to vanish in short order with a couple signings and some good bounces. Conceivably, TFC could be in the playoff hunt next year and it wouldn’t be all that surprising.

But the parity also acts as a tactical leveling agent. The chasm between the most and least efficient teams in the league is as shallow as it is anywhere in the world, which means MLS’ broader tactical sense tends to root out tactical differences and eliminate them like antibodies. The San Jose 4-4-2 is always dangling just within reach for adventurous coaches whose schemes haven’t found their mark.

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Written by Travis Clark

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Every year, over the past few years, Major League Soccer puts on its annual Generation adidas Cup, a youth tournament that matches up its academies against once another.

In the past, the tourney is held nationally, with all participating teams congregating in one location. This year, it’s been split regionally into East, Central and West groups, with a national final scheduled around Easter 2014.

On Friday down in Leesburg, Virginia, six teams kicked off the East group, with the Montreal Impact, D.C. United, Columbus Crew, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union U16s doing battle.

Check out photos and scores from Friday after the jump.

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Written by Will Parchman

Guys, MLS needs you, apparently. After Juan Agudelo’s infamous snub last week (really?), we need to flood this thing with proper votes.

Gladly, this week’s is a closer call. For me it comes down to Rowe and Donovan, and my nod goes to Lando. The degree of difficulty was higher, and catching it on the run with bodies around him made it doubly impressive. When’s the last time Donovan hit a ball like that? Rowe had an English breakfast before he hit his.

That’s mine. Who are you taking?

 

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Written by Will Parchman

About four minutes into ESPN’s Seattle-Portland broadcast on Sunday night, Adrian Healey started glowing rave green.

He likened CenturyLink Field’s booming soundscape to a growling 747, deafening those in its backwash. Which, aside from the obvious Boeing reference, meant that Healey would’ve had to scream through his tinnitus for the rest of the evening. Thankfully we were spared.

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Written by Will Parchman

Carlo Cudicini is kind of a running joke in LA. When your MLS career is best summed up with a “what the hell is happening here” photo, I don’t know. Chelsea heaped on some unintentional scorn when its official Twitter handle referred to Crudicini (yeah, sorry) as a “legend” during the MLS All-Star Game festivities. Eek. Does that seem like a decade ago to you? Because it was.

So that’s why Jaime Penedo is receiving such joyous vuvuzela blasts as he rides to spell Cudicini… forever. The Panamanian produced this brilliant bit of cat-like scrambling skill in just his second ever MLS game to preserve a shutout in a 1-0 win over the Caps over the weekend.

Already better than Cudicini. And yet he’s still not the best keeper in LA. Mr. Kennedy is, somehow, still standing.

 

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Written by Will Parchman

Toyota Park

Six months ago, Dan Lobring joined the Chicago Fire as its senior director of communications. It only took that space of time for him to alienate a significant portion of his home fan base. Impressive.

Lobring spent the previous six years doing PR for a Chicago-based company called rEvolution, which did sports marketing for ESPN and EA Sports, among others. Before that, he’d done marketing for two years at a different company.

So Lobring clearly has a grasp of public relations. He’s done it for nearly a decade. What he does not understand, apparently, is soccer culture.

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Written by Will Parchman

Say what you will about Juan Agudelo’s precipitous decline in favor after his smashing debut in South Africa. He’s wandered from New York to Los Angeles to Boston, and now he’s en route to Stoke City, where ankles are summarily crushed in a factory assembly line run by Ryan Shawcross. And all the while, Agudelo has been quietly going through the motions, unable to replicate the fervor that accompanied his post-debut form.

Anyway, this goal is a glimpse into Agudelo’s occasional genius. He shows this side of himself too infrequently, but when he does, it’s never a dull occasion. Watch and marvel at the goal that stole some of the Prem’s opening-weekend thunder.

 

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Written by Will Parchman

Chelis

Late in the first season of Game of Thrones, as a pregnant Daenerys Targaryen is taken deeper into Khal Drogo’s sanctum of confidence, she does a daring thing. In a public forum, she challenges Drogo by taking under her wing a group of recently conquered women who were dangerously close to becoming fodder for Drogo’s army. Initially taken aback, Drogo eventually relents with an understanding that his son’s magnetic ousia has granted her a lust for power beyond her means.

And then a weird thing happens. Drogo is challenged by Mago, one of his lieutenants, on Khaleesi’s newfound power. Mago’s response to Drogo taking benevolent orders from an outsider? “A Khal who takes orders from a foreign whore is no Khal.” See where this is going? Drogo’s guards quickly step forward to cut off the threat, but he calls them off. He “fights” Mago, weaving in and out of his meaty hacks before ripping out his trachea. Thanksgiving with these dudes must be a ball.

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