Written by Will Parchman

It’s awards season, which means MLS ladled out its goal and save of the year plaudits on Thursday, and both involved the Seattle Sounders. Oba Martins’ fun back-to-the-basket chip won goal of the year, while RBNY’s Luis Robles’ double save on the Sounders won him save of the year. To judge the path of the deflection to make an initial save and then parry away another at close range… nice.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the true goal of the year champion. Dillon Serna, folks. Didn’t even make the final vote. Somewhere Eric Hassli nods knowingly.

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Written by Will Parchman

lamps

In July, MLS announced that fledgling franchise and 2015 expansion side NYCFC had signed Frank Lampard. We didn’t know it at the time, but Lampard was soon shipped off to Manchester City on loan to keep the 36-year-old sharp for the start of the MLS season in March. Of 2015. That’s, like, nearly three months away. By the terms of the loan deal, Lampard should be in New York to prep for 2015 after the contract expires on Jan. 1.

Early this week, rumors began alighting the signal beacons from Manchester to New York. Were Lampard and Manchester City a little too happy with the loan? Is he staying on through the end of the ’14-15 EPL season?

The newest bit of intrigue dropped after Manchester City’s 3-0 defeat of Southampton over the weekend, which featured a Lampard goal off the bench. Unsurprisingly, City coach Manuel Pellegrini wanted Lampard to extend his deal. He certainly sounded like it, anyway. But his words had the lilt of a man with a bit more confidence than your ordinary “let’s make a deal” manager.

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Written by Will Parchman

A few days before the USMNT was embarrassed by a team of Irish B-list stars last week, Scotland dumped Ireland 1-0 in a Euro 2016 qualifier. The man who made that happen was Shaun Maloney, who, according to the Guardian, was “one of the few players on the pitch to display class.” That goal of his up there is visual evidence.

Now, Maloney’s on an MLS radar, specifically that of the Chicago Fire. The Fire need attacking presence. Maloney would seem to fit the bill. And he’d presumably be a DP, so there’s that as well.

The Fire have a pretty horrible reputation with DPs. They’ve signed seven in club history, and Cuahtemoc Blanco is the only one that really deserved the title. In fact, aside from Blanco, the other six Fire DPs have played a cumulative 97 matches. None have played more than lone current DP Juan Anangono, who’s made 28 appearances since signing in 2013 and is currently on loan in Ecuador.

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Written by Will Parchman

zardes

College soccer often gets a bad rap, but it can be an unwieldy beast. For all its advantages, it’s been historically slow to adapt, resistant to holistic change and stubbornly brazen when it comes to joining the developmental fray. In the face of a swiftly changing landscape, the question of “adapt or die” takes on vital significance.

Today is for talking points. The idea that men’s college soccer has fallen behind (or, at the very least, is falling behind) is popular, but is it true? Historically, for the most part, yes. That’s created a growing groundswell of support for the eventual abolition of college soccer as a rung in the developmental ladder. Who needs it? Direct jumps from the Development Academy/elite club ranks to the pros are the ultimate ideal. Right?

It may be that years into the future college soccer will be a footnote as a legitimate talent producer. But what a waste it would’ve been. Many top Division I programs have facilities that rival – and in some cases outpace – European academies. There are dozens of entrenched coaching staffs doing marvelous work preparing and teaching players for the next level (though yes, there are, as with any world league, bad apples).

Point being that the framework is there. With the help of a paring knife – right, better make it a machete – college soccer can one day become a real part of the equation. But it’ll take a massive overhaul and the willingness to completely change what we know about college soccer. It will have its adherents and its detractors like anything. But hopefully it’ll move the needle.

An important distinction we have to make off the bat is that many of these rules would require the NCAA to either bend or snap its current structure to fit. We’re living in a world of idealism today. And many of these innovations would require pruning to fit them into niches where they’d be most comfortable. But there’s loose precedent at play with how the NCAA deals in rulebook science differently with its various sports, albeit often haphazardly and blindly. We can harbor pipe dreams that it will come to see men’s soccer in a similarly important light some day.

Here we go. Ways to change college soccer from a standalone necklace into a bonafide link on a wider American developmental chain.

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Written by Will Parchman

villa

The lights went out on Chivas USA in the muted hush of a board room. Less than 24 hours after Chivas USA played its last game, team staff were herded into a room and told the franchise as it had been known was halting operations permanently. Their jobs no longer existed.

This kind of quiet sword-work was a fitting end to a franchise that skimmed so close to the water’s icy depths that in nine years even most local radars failed to find its blinking pulse. A sparse crowd of 5,571 showed for the Goats’ final game, a 1-0 win over San Jose played on a pristine SoCal fall day in late October. It was a sign, a referendum for MLS’ decision-makers, even. This kind of franchising doesn’t work in MLS. Not in this way, anyway. Plastic clubs melt. Absentee ownerships fail. Top-down disconnects turn into rifts turn into canyons turn into total systemic shutdowns.

Chivas USA’s crash landing was sad, but in no way was it unexpected.

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The 2014 MLS All-U23 Team

Written by Will Parchman

torres

The #PlayYourKids initiative has varied support in different MLS coaching circles. Bound by expectation and a raft of big-money players, about half of Seattle’s choice XI is on the north side of 30. San Jose’s only signed one Homegrown in its history, and it took a near act of God to get him on the field. The Red Bulls keep all their academy alumni locked in a dungeon with Hans Backe.

But there are pockets of successful young players carving niches in MLS and forcing the issue with bountiful performances stretched over time. This represents formal recognition of those players.

This is the All-U23 MLS team based on performance in 2014. The only caveat is that to make this list, the player needs to be U23 eligible right now (read: Olympics if it started tomorrow), which means they’re all at least ’91s.

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Written by Will Parchman

ozz

SEATTLE — Nervy days, but the job is done. And now MLS gets the matchup everyone wanted.

Dempsey vs. Donovan. Keane vs. Martins. Galaxy vs. Sounders.

The Sounders, expected by just about everyone to cut through FC Dallas and set up a dream two-legged meeting with the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference finals in two weeks, got it done. But barely. Through a grim, determined effort at the back and just enough panache going forward, the Sounders managed to pick their way to a scoreless draw Monday night at CenturyLink Field.

That advanced Seattle on away goals after Osvaldo Alonso booted one home to secure a 1-1 draw in Dallas last week. Here are a handful of takeaways from one of the wildest scoreless draws you’re likely to see any time soon.

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Written by Will Parchman

donovan

Landon Donovan is retiring at the end of the season. Whenever that happens to be. And it seems as though nobody really wants this to happen except Donovan himself. Thanks to LA’s impossibly dominant 5-0 demolition of RSL at the StubHub on Sunday night, he’s got at least two games left, either in LA and Seattle or LA and Dallas.

But the real story was how rampant and invested Donovan looked on Sunday night after failing to register either a goal or an assist in any of his previous four games. Retirement tours are fickle, and they can sap motivation, but at the very least Donovan is still pouring it on. We’ll see how he does in the Western finals when he faces a defense that doesn’t look like shredded cheese.

In any case, here are all three of Donovan’s goals from Sunday. Enjoy the sunset.

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Written by Will Parchman

arena

MLS is a unique league. With its panoply of rules, adherence to a strict salary cap and reliance on a massive and unkempt scouting pool, coaching in this league takes a unique personality set. It also creates a unique divide between those coaches who’ve had previous experience with the league before taking their first head coaching gig in its ranks, and those who have not.

So what are the differences between coaches with prior MLS experience (either as an assistant or a player) and those hired cold from outside the league’s ranks? Is MLS a different league for those initially unfamiliar with its vast switchboard of rules and requirements? Let’s have a look.

Here’s a list of every head coach in league history and the years in which they served split into two categories: those who’d had previous MLS experience and those who had not. Let’s see what we can find. Notable: this does not include coaches who operated exclusively under the interim tag.

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Written by Will Parchman

OC

Orlando City unveiled its jerseys for its maiden MLS voyage in 2015, and they’re pretty alright. Nothing fancy, certainly. Some slight variation in the purple, with darker hoops vining themselves around lighter ones. There’s some gold. That’s pretty OK. Kaka’s up there. So that’s cool, I guess.

It’s not exactly a splash, but that’s not always what you want with kits. They’re solid. They’re purple. Players will wear them in the midst of athletic contests. So… cool.

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