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 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 Trey Messiah

I recently asked some of the incoming MLS talent if they had any superstitions before games. Here are their responses followed by our 91st Minute analysis. No charge.

 

Andy Riemer (LA Galaxy): I don’t know if it’s necessarily a superstition, but during the national anthem I try to control my breathing and heart rate and visualize the game … Definitely not a superstition, Andy. I believe controlling your breathing and heart rate is more commonly referred to as, well … breathing.

 

Will Bates (Seattle Sounders): At Virginia I had to always be the last person to walk out of the locker room before a game. As Ricky Bobby used to say: you’re either first, or you’re Will Bates.

 

Andy Rose (Seattle Sounders): Right sock, left sock, right boot, left boot …wet foot, dry foot, low foot, high foot …

 

Fernando Monge (Montreal Impact): Naw, not really. I’ve always wondered about that but never figured out something. I wanted to respond to this, but I couldn’t figure out anything either.


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Written by Jahmal Corner

I guess this is one of the perks of being a No. 1 draft pick. MLS Rookie Andrew Wenger, the first overall pick of the January draft, has clearly aligned himself with an ideal roommate as Zarek Valentin prepares a pregame meal for the two of them.

I hope Wenger realizes just how good he has it. Between the six or so roommates I’ve had in my lifetime the closest any of them ever came to cooking for me was loaning me a pizza delivery coupon – and it was expired.

The meal above looks legit. I have newfound respect for Valentin who just might rival Stuart Holden in the kitchen.

 

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Written by Jahmal Corner

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of David Beckham these days soccer is kind of a secondary thought. Bentleys, kiss cams, Spice Girls … those things come to mind immediately, however.

Well, Beckham provided a nice little reminder of his main occupation this past weekend with this signature free kick against Montreal Impact.

I enjoyed it for, oh, about five minutes … then I started thinking about strawberry smoothies.

 

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Written by Jahmal Corner

I think I’m going to like Montreal’s addition to MLS if for no other reason than their highlight packages.

Playing down at the Walt Disney Pro Classic ahead of the March 10 opener, Montreal tied Sporting KC 1-1. Seems innocuous enough right?

The game itself wasn’t too exciting- Mike Fucito grabbing a goal off a cross from Hermann Trophy winner Andrew Wenger and Soony Saad scoring the equalizer for KC — and it featured the scrappiness common in most MLS preseason matches. But once the Impact’s video editors got their hands on the b-roll, the magic happened.

Not only are the highlights set to a Euro-trashy, Daft Punk-like beat, but the periodic slow motion effects remind me of being on … uh, the field (because when you’re as good as I am everything happens in slow motion. Just call me Neo, baby). So turn out the lights, grab a glow stick or two, and peep the video above in all its rave-like glory.

 

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Written by Jahmal Corner

Who doesn’t love a good transfer saga?

While commonplace in Europe, they don’t seem to happen too often in MLS. But this offseason, fans were treated to the tale of Brian Ching (there’s a “CHING! CHING!” Joke here somewhere, but I can’t find it … moving on.)

The longtime Dynamo favorite was left unprotected in the expansion draft last November, as head coach Dom Kinnear took a calculated risk, dangling him there for the Impact to grab. While Ching stated before the draft itself he’d retire before playing for the Impact, Montreal coach Jesse Marsch picked him anyway.

After some fiery words from both parties – and Montreal trying to trade Ching back for a king’s ransom – the back-and-forth between the two teams cooled off. Ching was
dealt to Houston on Thursday for a conditional draft pick in 2013.

So who comes off worse here? Houston, by leaving one of its veterans unprotected, didn’t look great. Montreal now has one less player with MLS experience to rely on in 2012, and Ching himself reportedly trimmed his salary to remain in Orange. If you’re the Impact, perhaps drafting Ching in the first place was a mistake.

But if that had been the case, where else would MLS fans have found their offseason drama?

 

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