Written by Will Parchman

The Columbus Crew are girding for a final playoff push, which means the end of the regular season is closer than a great many of us realize. To shore up a back line weakened by the departure of World Cup breakout star Giancarlo Gonzalez, who left for Palermo last month, the Crew signed Emanuel Pogatetz, an Austrian with the nickname “Mad Dog.” And whoever you are, he probably wants to break your leg.

That there is a horrific tackle on former Manchester United player Rodrigo Possebon, who’d just made his United debut a month before the Reds faced Middlesbrough. Pogotetz went in like that, Possebon was sent to the hospital and he only barely avoided snapping his leg in half.

He also has a somewhat contentious history with managers, and he became the first player in history to serve a ban through friendly matches, which FIFA instituted just as he had a falling out with coach Josef Hickersberger in 2007. He also has a history of, ahem, “fury.”

In any case, Pogatetz played 23 matches for Nuremberg last year and scored a goal. So we’ll see.

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Written by Will Parchman

porter

MLS is home to many different styles of coaching. Some of them are grandfathers. Some are sad. Some will not be deprived of their scarves. This is a power ranking of those coaches in current form. The rating is on a scientific scale of four to iridium, which is obviously from best to worst. Or worst to best. Who knows, really?

Grandpa in Residence

Bruce Arena, LA Galaxy: Every time Bruce Arena talks, he’s about three degrees away from telling you about that time in Nam with a glassy look in his eye before wandering aimlessly into the backyard to weed-whack some pebbles with a flamethrower nobody’s all that sure how he acquired. But he’s so damn effective with that flamethrower nobody thinks to ask questions. You don’t take the machinery away from grandpa. He’s busy burning down everyone’s houses. Bruce Arena is basically Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino.

Dom Kinnear, Houston Dynamo: Dom Kinnear hates young players, values hustle, has the 4-4-2 manifesto tattooed on the back of his eyelids and has probably at one point derided Neymar because of his hair and/or THOSE FLASHY SHOES. There’s literally nothing else to say.

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Written by Will Parchman

TF_EXPANSION_BOARDS_2

There was a time not so long ago when soccer stadiums in the U.S. were football stadiums in the U.S. Then Columbus did its thing, and now we cast sad, sidelong glances at D.C. and New England while the rest of the country rides on easy street. Groovy.

This week’s been a particular boon for stadium enthusiasts. First, we have Toronto FC’s proposed stadium expansion plans, which make it look like a double-decked European arena. Note the covered awnings above the sideline seating, which is reminiscent of CenturyLink in Seattle. Renderings. So hot right now.

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Written by Will Parchman

The latest MLS Insider is of particular interest this week. The crew featured MLS Homegrowns this week, particularly the Philly Union’s YSC Academy. There’s some good stuff here, namely the inside-the-locker room look with the Union and the snippet of Pep Guardiola training a few players in Portland.

One of the featured players in the video was Matthew Real, who used his experience playing with a club all-star team in Portland to springboard into a U15 BNT camp late this month. You can read more about that standout stint here. You can also read up on the YSC Academy via this in-depth feature I did last year. And if you’re still interested, a look at how each MLS side appropriates its Homegrown tag.

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Written by Will Parchman

JJ

MLS is getting weird again.

If you haven’t been paying attention, the Jermaine Jones saga’s been spiraling into a successive series of shady depths for weeks. It started just after the World Cup, when Jones and MLS connected over a possible deal (which was either after or before Jones took the greatest Instagram to ever Instagram). Jones fired the first salvo when he reportedly turned down a 2.5-year, $6 million contract from the league, but negotiations continued.

The situation hit a new bizarre depth on Wednesday night. At about 9:45 p.m. PT, Ives Galarcep dropped this bomb on the world.

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Written by Will Parchman

french

The hulking Ataturk Olympic Stadium sits on the western outskirts of Istanbul, and its enormous capacity makes it a harrowing place for visitors. It’s perhaps best known as the site of Liverpool’s miracle Champions League final victory over Milan. On Tuesday, Arsenal arrived for the first leg of a Champions League play-in game against Besiktas, and the venue lived up to its five-star reputation.

Thunderous boos and whistles rained down at every Arsenal touch. During several moments of particular emotional venom, the stadium’s camera emplacement shook. Late in the second half, fed by the crowd’s manic energy, Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic was sent off the touchline. The game ended scoreless, but it was a fitting showpiece for the game’s most expansive club competition.

Hours later, on the other side of the world, the Portland Timbers walked into Providence Stadium in the Caribbean hamlet of Georgetown, Guyana and were greeted by an enormous patch of dirt. The Timbers were 2,500 miles from home to face Alpha United in the opening group game of the CONCACAF Champions League, and the optics weren’t great. The newly built stadium seats 15,000 and is primarily used as a cricket ground, which means the scene looked like this.

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Written by Will Parchman

Goalkeeper is a funny position. The level of neuroticism, self-reliance and sheer obstinance it takes to be a top keeper pretty much excludes most young players from consideration. There are young keepers in the world doing incredible things (Courtois, De Gea et al), but they’re the decided minority. In this realm, 30 is hardly the start of the downslope. In most cases its the beginning of a long plateau at the summit.

Jon Kempin’s slowly becoming the next keeper to watch in MLS. The SKC Homegrown won this week’s MLS Save of the Week with his strong-wristed save of Darren Mattocks’ howitzer to his right. SKC didn’t win the game, but it could’ve been even worse had Kempin not popped up with this save. At just 21, we may soon by slotting Kempin’s name next to the likes of Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid as young keepers to monitor in MLS.

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Written by Will Parchman

USOC

The US Open Cup’s shining moment this season was probably a memorable meeting between Portland and Seattle at Starfire on July 9 that went 120 minutes before the Sounders advanced 3-1. That there will be some debate about this point is a remarkable thing in itself.

There were 4,233 people there, but they squeezed into every cranny of the small venue and created an atmosphere worth remembering. A small pocket of Timbers fans banged away at drums in one corner. Sounders chants raced around the field, one chasing after another. But the slouchy size of the venue was hard to ignore. Even for Timbers-Sounders, there was little point hosting at a much bigger venue. The thing would merely feel like a monstrosity with empty seats frowning on the field from every angle.

Even on its good days, the US Open Cup struggles for attention.

The reality of the cup’s day-to-day hit hard again on Tuesday. This was the scene in Frisco on Tuesday during FC Dallas’ eventual loss to the Philadelphia Union on penalties in the USOC semifinal. FCD wasn’t just playing for a spot in the final. It was playing to host the final.

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Written by Will Parchman

We like to play a game here every now and then on The 91st Minute called ‘PK Or No PK.’ It’s a game we just invented literally right now, but every ‘now and then’ has to start with a ‘now,’ so here we are.

Over the weekend FC Dallas nipped Colorado 3-1 to continue its torrid form since the start of June, and the talking point was the penalty called on Marvell Wynne that set up Michel’s penalty to make it 2-0. It was a puzzling call because it looked like Wynne got the ball and then Tesho Akindele simply ran over his leg after the fact, but it was probaby a bit closer than it looked on first blush.

What say you? Penalty or no penalty? The world hangs in the balance. And this photo of the ref’s face, also.

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Written by Will Parchman

bradley

Do American players playing in Europe have an uphill climb for respect? At least a few players who’ve been there and done that think so.

In February, Michael Bradley, recently returned from an eight-year stint with five different teams in Europe, mentioned that he thought there was a stigma orbiting American players in the minds of European talent evaluators.

“There’s no doubt that as Americans we continue to have to fight for respect,” Bradley said. “We have to continue to show that we have teams and players who can play at the highest level.”

And then this.

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