Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Julian Green Allowed To Train With US for Mexico

"Mexico! It's right there!"

“Mexico! It’s right there! Just Brazil somewhere.”

According to SI, Julian Green–the wunderkind striker out of Bayern II–has been given permission to train with the US team ahead of Mexico.

Signs certainly point to Green having more than a passing chance at making the World Cup roster in Brazil, cap-tying him to the US for his international career.

This is not an unprecedented from a US coach as Steve Sampson promised leftback David Regis a starting spot at World Cup 1998 if he committed. Regis was naturalized on May 20, 1998 and then summarily started ahead of Jeff Agoos on the backline in ’98.

At World Cup 2010, defenders were the least used players as no side came closer than one player–Germany–from using their entire roster.

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Openers: MLS Week One

Theme of the weekend...

Swoops Edu

….and we’re off!

Hell of an opening weekend to MLS. You don’t have to be an MLS apologist to like some of the end-to-end action that transpired in Vancouver, Portland and DC among other places.

Single observations are always very fleeting and often incorrect, but here are some one’s that may be material as the season gets going.

• Choreography improves.

One of the more subtle knocks on MLS is that the movement of the players doesn’t exist within a set team system. There are acceptable reasons for this–lack of some technical ability, lack of coaches with deep portfolios and little academy or d-league development. It’s hard to assume that any one player will be on the same team come the next year still AND that if they’re not, that the next man down the ladder will be ready to step-up.

However, in Columbus–with the movement of Hector Jiminez, Josh Williams & Higuain–he deserves a single moniker; for Philadelphia, with the movement of Maidana, Gaddis & Nogueira and even in Vancouver with the movement of Fernandez, Kenny Miller and, gulp, Darren Mattocks showed better and more systemic choreography of movement in creating chances.

I also don’t think that it’s any surprise that these combinations were by players educated outside the domestic system, but it’s welcome nonetheless.

…and one final note on that gorgeous goal by the Crew….you’re better than that Nick DeLeon. You really are.

• Don’t bring a bulldozer to a motorcycle fight.

Here’s was my tweet Saturday evening.

Stand up Union fans–at least for this week and despite that stoppage time mess–there should be a spring in your step. And Hackworth Ire should diminish–for now.

The Union went into Portland and gave Portland something to be seriously concerned about and that is, “Our midfield and fullback support are as fast or faster than yours.”

The Timbs busted teams up in 2013 by laying waste to the opponent’s midfield.

In Week One, Chainsaw fans saw the back of Diego Chara more than front as Chara raced back frequently to help close down Philly wingers–specifically Cristian Maidana–after the triumvirate of Brian Carroll,  Vincent Nogueira & Maurice–hereby by dubbed “Swoops–Edu continually linked through and around Will Johnson, Diego Valeria and Chara.

(Quick aside, Maidana might’ve quashed even the smallest hope that Michael Harrington had for a shot at the USMNT leftback  chart.)

More so, even when the Timbs got out on the break, Edu and Nogueira rushed to get back behind the ball. Probably easy to grab double digit images of times when the Timbers outletted and by the time they were bearing down on goal in the attacking third as many as seven Union defenders were there to greet them.

With Austin Berry and Amobi Okugo–you may not find a young defender with a better understanding of the game in MLS than Okugo–keeping a tight line, the Timbers had some looks but for the most part got bottled. That said, Portland being Portland capitalized on a singular fundamental mistake of the Union to wrest a point back at the death–good teams find a way to win without their–not pun intended–fastball.

The grander point here is–and one that was witnessed as Vancouver bum-rushed the Red Bulls–is that this year it is clear that you better have a midfield that can compete with speed at a minimum, but frankly technical ability as well. (FC Dallas had some pretty linking on the weekend as well.)

CAMIL-WHO?

• The replacement refs should get to the negotiating table

…because that was a well-refereed first weekend–something that is not always present with said “regular refs.”

• Chivas USA should’ve had it easier

Ultimately an authoritative header by Bobby Burling closed out what was a great first stanza by Wilmer Cabrera’s “FC ML”S squad. That said, Dan Kennedy had a bit of shocker.

The two goals he gave up were extremely soft–the first one being banged home by Benji Joya after Kennedy did a poor job of parrying and the second one–though screened–a poor reaction on a good, but not great ball on the turn outside the box.

Kennedy will be fine, but he dodged a two-point bullet today.

… and while we’re on keepers, Bill Hamid has too many reps to have as poor body language as he does.

• Bruin revolution?

It was an unfortunate call by many in pre-season but the Revs stumbles out of the gate is not surprising, but should it be troubling?

Hopefully, it’s singularly on account of the lack of continuity with Lee Nguyen and Andre Farrell nursing injuries.

Jose Goncalves was apparently not 100% and showed as such. He’s battling his contract situation as much as a knock. Scott Caldwell was hesitant–to put it kindly–on shutting down in the middle. And the Revs’ loss stands in stark contrast to when Jay Heap’s side went down to Houston last year and ran the Dynamo off the pitch.

Will Bruin last year regressed and scored in spurts. He got a soft NE side out of the gate Saturday–needs to keep up the consistency to show a healthy correction.

• Uri-nated (sorry)

Olum's passing chart.

Olum’s passing chart.

Plaudits for the work Saturday of such noted midfielders as Osvaldo Alonso for the Highlighters and Benny Feilhaber for Powder Blues, but the key midfielder for both sides Saturday was Uri Rosell, who sat on the day. Lawrence Olum filled in for the visitors and with KC missing their first-choice fullbacks in Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic, Seattle was able to get the ball in transition where it wanted to go faster and create some opportunities.

Continually with Rosell not moving the ball quickly out of the back, Feilhaber had a good game, but was much less integral in creating chances without Rosell protecting him.

For some visual and quantitative perspective, above is Olum’s passing chart (11 of 30 to go with some difficulties defensively). While not apples to apples (and in a 1-0 loss at home last year), Rosell went 14-of-66 against the Sonics at Sporting Park. Hard to overcome the engine out of the back being absent if the fullbacks require cover as well.

And PSA: Jeb Brovsky…onto another good cause. Have a click-and-sign if you would:

MLS 2014 Preseason Prediction Preview (II of II)

…and we forge on….without your consent or approval. (Part I here if you missed it.)

Hanging with Mr. Co...Magee!

Hanging with Mr. Co…Magee!

* The Mike Magee It’s Not HGH; it’s Landon’s Sabbatical Surprise Goal Scorer 2014 award?

Zack: Can I still pick Mike Magee for this? I look around that Chicago team and I’m not sure where else the goals will come from. I expect another big start to the season for him, especially with that potential, if unlikely, World Cup spot up for grabs.

Parchy: SURPRISE! You might’ve thought FC Dallas found Tesho Akindele in the Mines of Moria, and you’d be right. He’s an Oredigger, and he only escaped the mighty Balrog of the Misty Mountains via his wits and a pretty handy left foot. But, his entrance to the league delayed by a nasty case of dwarvish gout, it’ll be Alan Gordon. PLOT TWIST!

Nutmeg: You might think I’d say someone like Eddie Johnson, because anyone scoring goals in DC would be a shock to the senses. I think we’re all well aware that Ben Olsen is probably going to ride GAM until the wheels fall off, but I still don’t think that Eddie Johnson scoring goals is that surprising. The surprisingly still under-30 Kenny Cooper putting up Red Bulls numbers again, however, would be. Prepare.

Matthew: Urruti Tutti Fresh N’ Fruity. Can you imagine Timbs’ opponents this year. Valeri? ✓. Gaga Fernandez? ✓. Nagbe? ✓ “Damn, where did Valeri go?” “Wait who’s the young rattail kid sneaking in on goal all alone.” 12 to 15. Book it.

Biggy: Assuming Eddie Johnson is off to the World Cup, and that is a mighty large assumption, it will be Conor Doyle. He’s got a lot of potential, and with the offseason to actually get to know some of his teammates, he could be the breakout star of 2014. In fact, I’m going to go pick him up in fantasy right now.

 

Never gets old

* Seattle’s pitch in 2014 will…. get better? get worse? burst into flames? cave into a sinkhole? or other?

Zack: Somehow be triumphantly proclaimed “the loudest pitch in the league” in another MLS Cup-less season by Sounders fans and media.

Nutmeg: I’d like to allow Richard Sherman to answer this question for me since he feels the same way about Michael Crabtree as I do about Seattle’s pitch.

Matthew: …will do this:

Don’t laugh…that happened in Tacoma. Something about the Washington … air.

Parchy: This question should’ve somehow been melded with the Merritt Paulson tweet one. Can we give Merritt a dedicated Twitter account entitled “Does Seattle’s Field Have Football Lines Today?” Even when it doesn’t, every day is a “Yes.” To answer your question, orange.

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* Player most likely to enjoy “the air” when in Seattle or Colorado?

Nutmeg: Thierry Henry isn’t a fan of the “grass” in Seattle, but at some point, if he decides to travel, he’ll need something to do with his free time. And they say “the air” helps with phantom ailments.

Continue reading

USA v. Ukraine: Live Commentary

One hour to Cam vs. Kono at UFC 238. (If you missed the preview, it’s here.)

USA vs. Ukraine as the US tunes for Brazil.

The grounds ... via Rog Bennett, ESPN.

The grounds … via Rog Bennett, ESPN.

TSG’s USA vs. Ukraine Preview: Shadow Casting

Ruslan Rotan and Clint Dempsey may face off again Thursday almost three years after they dueled in the Europa League.

Ruslan Rotan and Clint Dempsey may face off again Wednesday almost three years after they dueled in the Europa League. Deuce dropped a brace on Dnipro as Fulham led a rout at home on the day.

Wednesday’s USMNT match will be a game of shadows.

The stratified and sweeping pall of turmoil dragging south from Ukraine, clinging to the nation’s players like a wet lapel in unrelenting snow.

The Ukrainian republic compacted in a beleaguered state of revolt, tamped down under the sole of the imperialistic whimsy of Vladamir Putin and Russia. And, as is such with many smaller Eastern European republics, the narrative of the national football team somehow gets interwoven tightly with the national dealings. This week–in fact yesterday–became an exercise is media manipulation as reports–apparently perhaps erroneous–out of the former Soviet state claimed players unwilling or refusing to travel for competition.

Yanukovych

Yanukovych

More, European rags just two months ago were enlivened by the cartoonish words of recently-ousted Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych who shook his fist at none other than John Terry–yes freaking that John Terry–blaming the centerback for his country’s rickety state of affairs, sternly pointing to the Chelsea centerback cleaning a ball off his goal-line in a key Euro 2012 match and consequently dumping the Yellow-Blue out of the Euro championship tourney. That Euro championship of course was partly held on Ukraine soil in what now seems like a half-decade ago.

Many a fair accusation has been laid at the feet of the villainous English defender; this however is not remotely one of them.

[Note: Simon Schuster, Reporter for Time, is a must-follow on Twitter for events happening on the ground in the Ukraine.]

For the US, the theme is shadows too–none as magnanimous or important as the ones their opponents will tote with them, respectfully.

The States were expected to have a fairly rigorous test here as the World Cup countdown marched into double digits–playing Ukraine on their home pitch with a fairly flush US side.

However, injuries to Michael Bradley and even Tim Chandler–word was the Nurnberg man finally played his way back into contention–Mix Diskerud retained by his club  and MLS’s season kickoff have conspired to further muddle the prospects of the match for the visiting side and making it more an individual player fact-finding mission.

Pep: "Head westward young man!"

Pep: “Head westward young man!”

The US training path wrapped through Frankfurt this week with some player story lines distilling into focus–none more omnipresent than Bayern II man Julian Green in camp for a look-see.

Another want-away refugee from what seems like a bottomless vat of German-American dual nationals, Green brings as much or more of the sizzle that American fans grasped at with the early reviews of Juan Agudelo in South Africa or YouTube watch sessions of Josh Gatt.

Green is already who we thought Charlie Davies might be–and then some.

Word around the camp is that US skipper Jurgen Klinsmann is dangling Brazil in front of Green, knowing that the 22nd-rostered man may or may not make a difference in South America, but the commitment could see Green blossom into a force come Russia 2018….if he chooses the red, white and blue.

A few other fresh and grizzled faces of note are in camp. Birmingham defender Will Packwood who just overcame a Bryan Oviedo-esque leg injury gets a look. Long time centerback Oguchi Onyewu, coming off an injury, is in camp and looking to scratch his way into May’s 30-man roster. RFK October 2009 seems like just yesterday.

Also, of note, leftback Edgar Castillo and left wing Brek Shea are both in camp and it sure looks like “a Klinsmann tell” here. With DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson already locked in to Rio, Castillo and Shea may be battling for the final southpaw role.

Likewise, Sacha Kljestan and Danny Williams (with Diskerud’s club embargo) may be battling for an ultimate look in midfield. Since Mo Edu has trailed off, the US has been desperately lacking a tracking central midfielder to guard against inverted wingers. (More here in a minute.)

Williams has a golden opportunity to put his star back on Klinsmann’s clipboard. Then again and once again, Alfredo Morales has somehow “earned” a call. Morales is to Klinsmann as Findley was to Bradley…or something like that.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview. This time it goes:

» About the Opponent: Ukraine

» TSG What We’re Looking For

» 11 At the Whistle

Yarmo & Kono...

Yarmo & Kono…

About The Opponent: Ukraine

Not only did Ukraine get bounced from their home Euros in 2012, but the former Soviet state is still smarting from getting knee-capped–hard–from a World Cup birth at the eleventh hour by a resilient French side just a few months ago. That loss all the more compounding as Ukraine bowed out in a similar style for a 2010 World Cup bid, succumbing to Greece on their home turf. Tragic poetry that you just cannot make up under present circumstances.

Irrespective of outcomes, Ukraine have been struggling since that 2010 qualification campaign to develop their style, but under former FC Dynamo Kyiv defender Mykhaylo Fomenko–their fifth manager in six years when he assumed the top spot in December 2012–the national team hopes are now at minimum flickering. It appears a committed youth movement is in flight. In fact, only one or two starters remain from the side that crashed out of the ill-fated 2012 Euro.

For USMNT watchers, most are pinning Ukraine as a warm-up for the States’ third group match against Germany in Brazil. However, a closer look at the Ukrainians unveils a side that is nearly identical to how the Portuguese play, replete with similar strengths and weaknesses.

Ukraine organizes well as most Eastern European sides do, explodes into attack on turnovers when it presses the opponents’ backline, but they can have difficulty breaking down good defensive sides.

For Ukraine, like Portugal, it all begins on the flanks in attack.

Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine’s Ronaldo and Nani in some one-two order.

Both are the future for Ukraine. They are both strong, technical inverted wingers who must be accounted for at all times.

Konoplyanka is arguably the chief conductor of the Ukraine attack. “Kono”–a Liverpool transfer target this past January and dubbed the “Ukrainian Messi”–actually plays like a sturdier version of Brazil’s Robinho, matching the Milan man’s skillset and uncanny ability to exploit space between the lines.

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… This is a little nifty play here. A dead ball has produced an entry pass to Stephenko. Konoplyanka has occupied the right back for France who faceguards him (top arrow) between the lines–this move however releases the left back who will have a free run-on to a well played ball if the opposing right midfielder is unaware of his assignment or falls asleep. Organized well though the ball is misplayed on this occasion.

The winger can often be found looking to drive the touchline or tucking in centrally between the lines (above) and allowing for his left fullback to overlap. Those fond of the Robinho comparison will immediately recall Michel Bastos marauding down the flank as Robinho caused fits off the 18-yard hashmarks at World Cup 2010. (The Dutch remember.)

Kono is a spirited and well-balanced dribbler and Geoff Cameron’s movement and communication will be tested in handling him–especially in transitions. (More on the Cameron-Konoplyanka dynamic below.)

On the other wing is the Ukrainian Nani to continue the narrative and frankly mangle it a bit too.

Strong and stout at 6’2”, Andriy Yarmolenko actually plays a lot closer to another United player–an inverted Valencia. Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko both came up through the ranks together, but with Kono preferred at left wing, Yarmolenko was tried unsuccessfully at leftback before settling in on the right. (Look for the pair to switch if the opportunity or advantage presents itself Wednesday.)

On to Ukraine’s weaknesses which ape Portugal’s, keenly the lack of a true striker and central midfield management.

Up top, 23-year-old Roman Bezus has been demoing. He’s a fair if not freakish facsimile for Portugal’s Postiga. Bezus will be a nuisance for the uninitiated Onyewu-Brooks combo and can scurry through on probing balls on the floor but will get worked over if he needs to fend in the air. Think Soldado for Spurs if Postiga’s game play escapes you.

As for the midfield management, Ukraine can get caught in two mindsets that are as much the challenge of their tactics as of the players.

The formation will be labeled a classic 4-2-3-1 but how it truly plays is more of a 4-1-3-1-1.

In attack, it will likely be the aforementioned Bezus with veteran Ruslan Rotan pushed forward from his box-to-box role.

Rotan moved forward accounts for Denys Harmash to make the first eleven.

Harmash will be expected to form the base of the attacking midfield and has developed chemistry with Konoplayanka and Yarmolenka since the youth teams. Few discussions about the prospects of the Ukraine team begin without the mention of this trio.

Harmash will be backed by another youngster, Taras Stepanenko recently back from injury. The 24-year-old was thought to ooze potential but common thinking on the Shaktar player is that’s he up for nearly any one-vs-one battle, but is positionally naive or just negligent.

This is where Dempsey’s movement off Jozy Altidore–think Deuce against Panama in Seattle–may should create a chance or two.

The fullbacks in the Ukrainian equation are the unspectacular Yevhen Khacheridi on the right and Yevhen Makarenko on the left. Khacheridi, of course, is the rightback who chopped down Ribery with 40 minutes to go in the French home-and-away elimination series to all but scuttle Ukraine’s bid for Brazil.

Makarenko–who should see his first cap–on the other hand has the homeland (as it much as it can be right now) buzzing. He’s Ukraine’s Josh Gatt so to speak–fast, fearless, but inexperienced.

The centerback pairing is Oleksandr Kucher and Yaroslav Rakytskiy.

And finally, at keeper is what should be a settled situation for Fomenko but is not (a courtesy to English journo-on-Ukraine John Bradley on Twitter for this intel).

Not traveling to Cyprus is Oleksandr Rybka who completed a two-year PED ban just days ago. By all accounts, Rybka is the future for Ukraine in goal but with less than two full matches since his ban ended, Fomenko went with Shakhtar Donetsk’s Andriy Pyatov–who comes with the memo, “Just shoot because you never know which way he’s blowing on the day.”

A possible Ukraine deployment.

A possible Ukraine deployment.

The Ukrainians–excepting a mindset that is likely worlds away from the match–will look to pressure high sporadically and create some chances.

When not commanding the run of play or pressing, Fomenko’s team will drop to a low block defense and look to swarm the ball once the US fullbacks have committed to being in possession at the top of the attacking third–it’s a defensive strategy that perennially gives the US fits.

In the back Oleksandr Kucher and Yaroslav Rakytskiy can sometimes be sucked in to trying to win aerial balls in their opponent’s defensive half. The young pair can be had with balls measured into space behind the them–that sound you heard was Aron Johannsson revving his engine.

Also, the Americans need to be wary of Ukraine’s set piece game–it’s less physically dominant than cunning.

The Ukrainians tend to take quick restarts looking for a down the line run when deep or for a quick switch or set play that catches the defense off guard. A gambling man would likely get good returns on betting Ukraine to get one on a restart or scrum after a restart.

The similarities to Portugal again are many.

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TSG – What Are We Looking For

Rightback hazards.

Cameron v. Konplyanka. UFC 238.

No one is Ronaldo and the Ukrainian Messi is certainly hyperbole, but Konoplyanka will ape Ronaldo well–a strong right-footed winger who is devastating coming off the left touchline. This is precisely the type of movement the US will need to solve in Game 2 in a few months and similar quick movement that has troubled Geoff Cameron at his rightback spot. (Remember this publication thinks Cameron should be inked in permanently at CB for the States and Stoke City though we’ll take him over all comers still at RB too.)

cam_belgium

The first series of images here is from the US – Belgium friendly almost a year ago in Cleveland. Any defender asked to defend an international caliber forward in space will have a challenge as Cameron does here when Kevin Mirallas is floated an over-the-top ball. The sequence here leads to Mirallas gaining space centrally and Tim Howard spilling a Romelu Lukaku shot on a criss-cross run. Eden Hazard cleans up the mess for Belgium’s first goal on the evening.

cam_hazard

Once again, just a month ago against Chelsea in the League Cup, Cameron is foiled–this time directly–by Hazard. Early in the game, Cameron closes aggressively on Hazard. The Belgium winger skips by him on his stronger right foot and buzzes centrally to create a chance.

It was the work of a pedestrian Andres Guardado in the US’s 0-0 draw in Mexico City that gave Klinsmann pause to anointing Cameron his rightback last year and Cameron–who has improved dramatically on the corner this year–still struggles with pacey wingers.

Of course, as is the change in state of the US team under Klinsmann, team defense, not emergency defense is the focal point. The US tries desperately to keep the ball off its weaker right flank early in the match. A situation above where Cameron is caught in space is already a breakdown of the defense ahead in defending the long pass. Continually, it’s the play of the defenders around Cameron who will be tasked with–and are just as culpable if–a breakdown occurs.

Wednesday that should be Danny Williams centrally and Oguchi Onyewu at centerback. This is where the US defense should be evaluated as well.

Take a look below at Konoplyana going up against England at the end of 2013.

gerrard

In the first set of images, Kono has gotten loose with Steven Gerrard tracking him. This is good defense by the Three Lions here as Gerrard insures that a cutback doesn’t happen by playing almost behind Kono’s run. Gerrard knows it is Gary Cahill–not Jamie Carragher–helping over the top. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

walker

In the second set of images here, Kyle Walker bites on the fullback overlap and Kono has a channel centrally. Whether Kono is respecting Walker’s speed, doesn’t like the look or whatever Kono fails to be aggressive and issues a relatively harmless entry pass that is well-defended.

Cameron vs. Kono will be the marquee match-up for Klinsmann’s staff Wednesday from the individual duel as well as the team defense. It’s one for fans to watch with Ronaldo dawning.

Will it be Gooch on ice skates in Cypress? Hopefully not. (Photo credit: The Yanks Are Coming.)

Will it be Gooch on ice skates in Cypress? Hopefully not. (Photo credit: The Yanks Are Coming.)

• Can you pass for a centerback?

It goes without saying that distribution is not at the top of the checklist for many a Yank centerback–save Matt Besler perhaps.

With the challenges of moving the ball and the desire to provide a layer of protection ahead of Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley can often be found dropping deep, separately or in parallel, in hopes of grinding the attack into motion.

Wednesday will showcase Onyewu–a lead-footed passer–paired with John Brooks–smoother handles, but inexperienced. Like Portugal, Ukraine will jump on vertical passing mistakes. How will Gooch and  Brooks fare? And will Jones have to drop deep and attempt hero balls to get the attack moving.

[The sound of a bunch of dishes crashing]

“I hear you knocking, but you STILL can’t come in!”

The US has found its attack lacking on road in Europe lacking under Klinsmann, save the a wild result 4-3 result in Slovenia.

Call it a 4-4-2 contact high. Remember that?

As with any team that swarms at the top of its defensive third, the US will need to proactively find the passing triangles– yeah those things–and get the ball moving horizontally. In the land of gang tackle, the square pass is king–that made sense I swear when I wrote it.

Anywho, for this reason, the US Thomas Muller–look I’m going to beat the sh*t out of this comparison so deal with it–Aron Johansson. Johannsson will be instrumental in coming all the way across the field to support on the right flank and integral is allowing for Fabian Johnson’s overlaps on the left. Space monkey!

11 At The Whistle

A possible US deployment in Cypress.

A possible US deployment in Cypress

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Duh.

DEF: Geoff Cameron, Oguchi Onyewu, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson

The skinny: Some veteran European presence here….and that is important as the US will trot out “Not Michael Bradley” in the shield role. Geoff Cameron again here looks to wrest the RB job away from Brad Evans. Geoff Cameron again here looks to wrest the RB job away from Brad Evans. That’s not a typo–the Brad Evans thing always takes another minute to sink in.

Onyewu and Brooks should be aerially superior, but at times positionally-challenged. Omar Gonzalez has shown similarly, but with good emergency defending–will these guys?

And Fabian Johnson in what should be a freer and better role. Leftback certainly looks like Diamond McBeasley’s position to lose but with Johnson given rope to push up the flank he may pencil in a good camp battle with a solid showing against Yarmolenko.

CDM: Danny Williams

The skinny: Danny Williams is playing and playing well for Reading while Sacha Kljestan has been in and out of the line-up in Belgium.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “What happens is Geoff Cameron’s my rightback of choice and Michael Bradley gets Costa Rican’d in the first game?” I bet Klinsman has on his mind-clearing copter rides and so should you … so should you.

Welcome back Danny Williams. I bet you’d even take playing out at right mid again; wouldn’t you?

Jones.

Jones.

CM: Jermaine Jones

The skinny: ‘Sup Pharrell.

I love everything about Jermaine Jones’s instagram account and intensity …. and almost nothing about the way he starts off game. A 20-30′ JJ drinking game should get every US fans loose on Thursday.

Short pass to the opposition. Take a sip.

Long ball to where only Robbie Findley roams. Drink twice.

Frustration foul in the back. Pound it.

Shank to the ankle of the opposite #10 with a concealed weapon in his heal. Pound two. (Oh what, you don’t think that can’t happen?)

Bedoya hoping to fly his magic red carpet to Rio.

Bedoya hoping to fly his magic red carpet to Rio.

RM: Alejandro Bedoya

The skinny: TSG dubbed Ale Bedoya The Ambassador to Brazil way back in 2011. Looks like it’s coming good. We also thought that Robbie Rogers might surprise on the road to Brazil. Wrong category though.

Nice spotting by Dax McCarty to find Bedoya on the Oscar’s the other night by the way.

LM: Aron Jóhannsson

The skinny: This is a bit of a stab here, but it makes some sense. Johannson is on form. Moves well laterally and will be asked to come centrally to support Dempsey in the attack.

If it’s not Johannsson, expect it to be Fabian Johnson in the midfield with Edgar Castillo behind him.

CM: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Paging Clinton Drew. Clinton Drew. Will Clint Dempsey please report to the pitch in 2014 and “TRY SOME SH*T!”

How do you think Don Garber feels about dollars recouped from Dempsey’s Fulham spell? It’s almost like getting comped at the casino. “Oh I’m sorry, you lost $1200, but here take a watered down Jack & Coke and please do come back.”

STR: Jozy Altidore

The skinny: I actually subscribe to the theory that Jozy’s education in hard knocks at Sunderland is better than tapping in shots in the Eredivisie.

Yup, talking myself into that line of reasoning.

Elsewhere: ESPN’s Rog Bennett with a cool retrospective on the 1994 World Cup.

2014 MLS Preseason Prediction Preview (I of II)

We made it to Year IV! Barely!

We made it to Year IV! Barely!

Welcome back folks to the most incorrect–politically, figuratively, quantitatively, qualitatively–MLS preview series out there. This is Year IV and if we’re going by Rocky’s or Mission: Impossibles instead of Karate Kid’s then we’re in for a good time. Of course, like all pieces (and authors) here at TSG, we could also regress considerably.

Expect regression, over-deliver as our good friend Devin Pleuler would say.

So we’re back.

Let’s get right to rounding out our MLS debate table….as usual, it’s filled with a cast of character castoffs from Bleacher Report and the New York Times. That’s about one and the same these days. Oh, where have you gone George Vecsey?

Our table of “Bieber-trained thugs”:

Jay Bell. Dude is legit. Started writing about soccer. Moved into beat reporting at his local newspaper. Still contributes decent commentary when he’s not speaking about Jozy Altidore or Arkansas football. Plus he’s in this video somewhere.

Co-captain?!

Co-captain?!

Matt “Biggy” Biggerstaff. Now this is the exact opposite. The only thing that “Biggy” is qualified for is being unqualified. Target striker (and now co-captain…yikes!) on the SF Black Sox. Never met an Indian food meal that didn’t have the toilet weeping afterward… whoops got off track there.

Over-under on “Wondo is dreamy” answers below? 13.5 … in Part I.

Will Parchman. Professor Parchy. The Wacko from Waco. Able to drop metaphorical phrases like Michael Gspurning outside the penalty box.

Big.

Time.

Socker.

Socker.

Since your last writing, Professor Von Parchison has taken up haunting the likes of Top Sock Drawer Top Drawer Soccer. You’re a Hall of Famer in my book coach. What you wrote about those kids….

Jared DuBois.

Dubois! J-Rod! Voodoo Economics!

Seems we’ve lost one folks. Only the strong survive. Only the strong survive.

Miriti Murungi aka Nutmeg Du Radio:

Arsenal Hall.

The Cark Jenkinson of this rambling literary rodeo. Oopfh! Just got punched in the face. Known as Nutmeg Radio, The Arsenal Guy on Twitter and owner of some of the most unique views on American soccer. Welcome to the table this year Nutmeg. ANTE UP!

Zack Goldman: Zack Morris. Zack Efron. Zack Braff.

“Zacks” don’t have a long distinguished history–don’t name your kid Zack–but this is the inverse Zack. Pure….Gold…man. Oxford educated, Spotify-retarded and still a pleasure to have. He’s like an accurate Wikipedia of soccer knowledge–probably due to getting hooked on Football Manager instead of World of Warcraft a few years ago, but we’ll take it.

Zack De La Rocha….that’s fair company. Whew, some company.

And pulling up the rear, yours truly.

Without further adu, time to rage against the MLS machine.

Your 4th annual MLS Prediction Preview starts … now!

* Who is your Supporter’s Shield Winner?

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

Nutmeg: Kansas City Wizards. Whatever. The safe answer here is LA or The Team Formerly Known as the Wizards. But if — and it’s a big if considering how many games a certain 37-year-old and 34-year-old played last year — the Red Bulls can stay healthy, given the continuity in the team, I’m going to reluctantly pencil them in. Shhh. Stop it. They won’t.

ZackPortland Timbers. There’s not a year I’ve felt more clueless about who’s going to shine brightest in MLS, but it’s hard to see Porterball taking a step backward in its second season. It’s fitting that PTFC’s home stadium has been renamed Providence Park, as there’s a certain kismet around this team – a squad that plays attractive soccer, has a defined core, a great deal of depth, and that I can only see getting better with experience.

Jay Bell: Seattle. Alright, Seattle invented choking in the postseason, but we’re talking about the regular season here. There are going to be questions about the Sounders’ backline and about whether Martins and Dempsey will thrive up top. However, Seattle has one of the strongest spines in the league and it seems like they have too much talent to fail…again.

Biggy: The Eastern Conference beefed up as Toronto got after it with that Liberace Money during the offseason and Philadelphia improved greatly too, which will make things harder for New York so it’s going to be Portland, if their defense can hold up for the long haul.

Not fully sold on their CBs + the West may beat itself up so much that someone from the East wins it. Who knows.

ParchyThe Portland Porters. God I love Caleb Porter. I love him so much I now have a beautiful, absurd obsession for porter beers. I’ve also become a baggage porter in my spare time at a local Motel 6. They didn’t ask for my help. But they can go screw themselves, I’m busy arranging baggage in formations in parking lots.

Matthew: It’s SKC’s time. They’ll survive the World Cup player drought and button up the East Coast. It’s that simple.

* Who is your most improved player?

Zardes. Passenger 57!

Zardes. Passenger 57!

ZackGyasi Zardes. Tremendous raw athleticism, limited technical polish, and questionable decision-making defined his 2013 – and in order to figure into the LA Galaxy’s first-team plans, he’ll need to improve his crossing and become more patient and clinical in front of goal. LA’s flanks and front line have become a more crowded pool this year, but Zardes’ skill set remains among the most unique in the league – and has the potential to be deadly if he can put it together.

He won’t tear the league up in 2014, but he should be vastly improved.

Parchy: Last year I had Benny Feilhaber, so I obviously don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Naturally, since it has to be an SKC player (why? don’t ask questions) I’ll go with C.J. Sapong this year to flower into the MVP candidate that we all figured he’d be. I now fully expect him to score one goal. And it’ll be an own goal. For a team he is not playing.

Jay Bell: Perry Kitchen. The guy has been in the league for three years now and he’s finally going to have more talent around him than your average USL Pro side. Defensive midfielders are still key to MLS success and Kitchen is going to stand out.

Biggy: Clint Dempsey, because he can’t be worse. Can he? Sometimes I feel like I can taste the tears of Sounders fans when it rains. Do they cry in Seattle or just go outside and let the rain do it for them?

'Do time.

‘Do time.

Matthew: As is customary here for the editor, we bend the rules. TSG drops two names, one of whom will be triumphant, the other forgotten–like a bad day at the Colisevm. First up, the Whitecaps’ Erik Hurtado.

While all the hype will be on Kekuta Manneh, Darren Buttocks, Argentine #1 and #2…or even Malaga refugee, it will be Hurtado who possesses the both speed and strength off the corner who sees his stock rise this year. Beware Hurtado, last year one of these picks was Tommy Heinneman.

And the secondary choice, well that’s Fabian Castillo. FC Dallas should just take 75% of Castillo’s contract and give it to Oscar Pareja. In Pareja’s 4-3-3 that favors slipping the cracks between the opposing rightback and right centerback, Castillo will thrive, released into space by the pillow feet of Mario Diaz. Book 10 goals right now, maybe more.

Nutmeg: Clint Dempsey has to be considered. I’m reluctant to put him in this category, but, based on what he looked like last season, he’ll be most improved if he can get back to three-quarters Deuce, which my calculations tell me is 1.5. Maybe he should put his mixtape on hold for now.

Silver: Project Maple Leaf’s Doniel Henry.

Like Steve Miller Band says, "Goin' take the money and run...Hoo! Hoo!"

Like Steve Miller Band says, “Goin’ take the money and run…Hoo! Hoo!”

* The Luis Landin Award — given to the first-year DP most accomplished in being unaccomplished.

Zack: The tempting pick here is Maurice Edu, but I’m going to go with his teammate, Cristian Maidana (whom—disclaimer—I know very little about). Cost aside, Edu’s a decent pickup for Philly in terms of what they need and I expect him to combine with Brian Carroll well to jump-start the famous Hackworthian counter.

I personally can’t see a journeyman winger who hasn’t had too much of a scoring touch his entire career figuring into the system any better than a guy like Danny Cruz.

Parchy: This will almost certainly be Christian Maidana. One, because he signed for Philly. Two, because he signed for Philly. Three, because. Philly.

Matthew:  Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Like Geovanni-bad. Tressor Moreno-bad. The eggs in one paper thin basket thing with the Quakes always has me on, well, egg shells.

[Note: Did a full San Jose Quakes preview here.]

BiggyGilberto for Toronto. With everything they have added, he will slip through the cracks, and I heard the poutine in Toronto is top notch. Eat up buddy, Luis Landin highly recommends it.

Nutmeg: Are we talking young DP, adult DP, geriatric DP? This tiered DP system is out of control. Bradley and Edu, Individually, will be fine, even if their teams struggle. Drake’s new best friend, Jermain Defoe, like his former teammate Sir Rob Keane, is a natural finisher and will thrive off of actually playing. Predicting the acclimation prospects of the remaining wild cards — Gilberto, Texeira and Maidana — requires Ms. Cleo.

Jay BellDavid Texeira.  Somehow, after all these years, Dallas is still young.  This team ages slower than Bart Simpson.  I don’t see much support their for Texeira.

The Original Portland Porter.

The Original Portland Porter.

* Who is your Coach of the Year?

Zack: Ryan Nelsen (by a hair). I like Caleb Porter’s odds to become the first-ever back-to-back Coach of the Year winner (and think he’ll deserve it), but we love a good worst-to-first story in this league – and Nelly should fit the bill in 2014. I like Toronto’s chances to win the East with a supremely talented squad that Nelsen “redknapps” to the top.

Parchy: Mastroeni. Just kidding. I had you for a minute, didn’t I? I’ve already written my poem to Caleb Porter. It begins, “There once was a man from…” I’m still ironing out the kinks.

Jay Bell: Jason Kreis.  Wait…no…yeah, Jason Kreis.

Matthew: I argued long and hard and long and…hard for Oscar Pareja in 2013. And it says something that Pareja jump to a bigger budget club and his trusty assistant Wilmer Cabrera rightfully got a head coaching gig too, but this is the Year of Porter. His squad is vamped–the precursor to revamped?–to his desires. He’ll have a bunch of little Argentines running around up top and a bunch of Gambian strong men to patrol the back and he’ll squint-eye his way to at least the Supporter’s Shield?

Nutmeg: Caleb Porter. Again. Even if Toronto ends up waltzing through teams, I don’t think I could bring myself to pick Ryan Nelsen, because this isn’t Friday Night Lights. Sometimes you just land in a good school district. That’s my stance until proven otherwise.

Oh, no...that's just wrong.

Oh, no…that’s just wrong.

* Who is your 2014 first half MVP?

Nutmeg: Camillo. Too soon? The audacity of his move was worthy of MVP recognition, even in absentia.

[Update: 03/01: Btw, given recent developments, I'd like to retract my Camilo for MVP vote. He has gone from gangsterness to hilarious sadness. He now deserves no award. You can't be most valuable if you aren't getting paid.]

Jay BellRobbie Keane. He’s happy and healthy this year. Those circumstances spelled doom for everyone else last year. Keane will be back at his best.

Parchy: Defying God, physics and everything you hold dear, Thierry Henry takes his “MLS ain’t easy” speech to the masses by scoring six goals in his first five. More importantly, this lets Mr. Jermain Defoe know whose backyard this still is.

I’d say Defoe, but really, I’ll believe a TFC player when I see it. And I have to see it first. Because TFC. Remember that TV show Jericho that came out a few years ago? Everybody thought it was going to be amazing, and it turned out to be Joanie Loves Chachi with more explosions? That’s TFC right now. Jericho.

MatthewClint Dempsey. I legitimately think that people have forgotten how good he is. They won’t in a few months.

Zack: Michael Bradley. He might not win the box-score battle against other first half MVP contenders, but Bradley will be the lynchpin to Toronto’s success this year and should prove a cut above in the center of the park every time he laces up.

Biggy: Chris Wondolowski, because the only way he gets on the plane to Brazil is if he crushes it right out of the gate. So he will, and he will make that row 26 seat B on Jurgen America’s non-stop flight to the promised land a highly contested spot.

NutmegCamilo. Too soon? The audacity of his move is worthy of MVP recognition, even in absentia.

* Who is your most underrated player?

Barnes for Houston.

Barnes for Houston.

Parchy:  Now that Osvaldo Alonso finally has his DP deal, I guess I have to stop thumping my Ozzie Drum. I don’t think a lot of people realize how good Giles Barnes is for Houston. Gets a lot done, is a lot of fun to watch and added another dimension to that team. With Bruin and Boswell (may he rest in peace in DC) and Boniek and Davis, Barnes occasionally gets overlooked. But he’s what helps that team go.

Zack: Oriol Rosell. Like Michael Bradley, “Uri” does more than what the box score (and even our beloved Opta) will immediately reveal. He’s become a vital presence for Sporting Kansas City in the midfield, setting the tone both in defense and attack—a talented ball-winner with a quick brain, who seems way too savvy on the ball to be only 21.

Matthew: Whew, many to be honest. Nat Borchers should be on this list every year, but I’ll go with a guy a little bit more on the upslope: Sam Cronin. The challenges to Cronin’s game is his pass accuracy, but he plays in a system that values hurrying the ball up the field. What if he had a midfield counterpart that didn’t run like Tom Berenger’s character in Major League. That’d be something.

Biggy: Is it possible for Dan Kennedy to be underrated? If so, he’s the guy after dealing with all the fun at the artist formerly known as Chivas USA last year, and with an actual defense in front of him he will help power Chivas MLS to, dare I say, a playoff spot? Nope, I don’t dare say it, but he’s real good.

Nutmeg: #TeamGrabavoy. He’s perpetually underrated, despite his ability to keep showing up and doing his job consistently, year after year. He’s basically the Frankie Hejduk of technically proficient players. We should treat him better. It’s a shame. It’s a damn shame.

* Player you’re most okay letting go out with your wife for a night in 2014?

Biggy: Thierry Henry, because I want to know how he enjoys his nightlife. Is he a classy lounge with smooth jazz rocking the new USMNT polo type of guy? More of a Gesaffelstein late night in a dark warehouse man? Or perhaps popping bottles with Tony Parker at the 40/40 Club? Why I want to know these things I have no idea, but I DO.

ParchyMarco Di Vaio seems like the kind of guy who’d get disinterested with anyone other than himself, peace out on the date and go speak to himself in a mirror for a couple hours until he blacks out. Can he speak English? Either way.

Matthew: Terrified to death of Robbie Rogers….still. I’ll go with Diego Fagundez. South American suave, up-and-comer, but he’s got to order chocolate milk and he lives in his parent’s basement. As long as they don’t make a Bron-bron-DWade-Boshasaurus pact I’m in the clear. I think.

Nutmeg: Depends on where they’re going. If tank-top shopping, definitely Eddie Johnson. Otherwise, definitely not Conor Casey, because he fouls even when he’s not trying to. More on Casey below.

Zack: Landon Donovan. Courteous, honest, wonderful. He’d no doubt stick to his word and have her back from Cars 2 before 10. Total sweetheart.

RIP Bodhi....

RIP Bodhi….

* Who will win the inaugural Roadhouse Award, presented by Danny Szetela for the player most likely to be MLS’s Ron Artest in a game.

Nutmeg: Stevan Lenhart. Define Ron Artest. If we’re talking about brawling in the stands or punching an opponent or teammate on the field, I’m telling you, all of the pieces are in place to make Eddie Johnson the super-angry Ron Artest villain. All it’ll take is for him to breathe too heavily on the wrong person. He’s always one step removed from Ron Artest/Richard Sherman treatment. Having to walk that line can bring the Ron Artest out of anyone. But how about those adorable Bash Brothers?

Zack: Steven Lenhart. It’s a shame that John Valencia, who once nearly decapitated a fan next to me at the StubHub Center by kicking a water bottle into the stands (a move fondly referred to as “The Reverse Artest”) is no longer in the league because he’d be a great candidate. In his place, I select the equally insane chia pet.

Parchy: Since everyone will go Lenhart on this, I’ll go Oswaldo Minda for a final “screw you” mic drop in Chivas USA’s last game as Chivas USA. It’ll be instigated by a breathtaking Robbie Keane studs-to-fart-smelling glance, upon which time Minda will go full roundhouse on Keano, both delighting and horrifying most of the universe.

Matthew:  I once interviewed Chad Marshall. Grounded in brevity, Stanford-educated, “Aw-shucks” haircut. He’s Steve Buscemi in Billy Madison and he’s been making a list. Don’t say I didn’t warn you because I’m doing it right now.

Jay BellAurelien Collin.  Steven Lenhart is going to throw one too many ‘bows one game.  Collin is going to see the words “FINISH HIM” flashing in red, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Biggy: Victor Bernardez. Not only will he jump into the stands, kick your and your friends asses for talking shit while swearing at you in Spanish, he will then sit down and enjoy your beer and nachos while you watch helplessly. Then he will likely get a red card on the field. Or two.

More impressive about this pic: Junior's hair or that Bobbo used to coach Chivas USA?

More impressive about this pic: Junior’s hair or that Bobbo used to coach Chivas USA?

* Who is the best 2014 American MLS player?

Nutmeg: Michael Bradley. At some point, it’s going to be Luis Gil. But not yet. Michael Bradley. If they’re good, he’ll get the credit.

Zack: Michael Bradley. Landon Donovan has been the correct answer to this question for over a decade, but it’s hard to imagine any American player being as large an influence this year as Bradley. He’s the USMNT’s best player, CONCACAF’s best player, and now, quite likely, tops in MLS.

Matthew: MB110%x2 Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna, Michael Bradley. It’s like that. Yeah.

Parchy: Can I say Darlington Nagbe here to make myself feel better about the general state of humanity? I’m going to say Darlington Nagbe. You cannot stop me. Nagbe 2018.

Biggy: Matt Besler, but only for half the season, because he will be off to the mysterious land called Europe, where great challenges and danger await him. Oh and silly accents.

Jay BellMichael Bradley‘s right foot. Second best will be The General’s left foot. And third place will be the trademark Bradley dome at CM for TFC.

—-

* Best player from Europe not including England or France?

Zack: Robbie Keane. Can’t imagine anyone’s even in the same race as this guy.

Jay Bell: Oriol Rosell. He’s from Barcelona and we all know that automatically means he’s better than everyone else.

Parchy: Jose Goncalves. But not for long!

Nutmeg: Marco di Vaio. Probably Silvio Berlusconi. There are documentaries about this stuff. Or Guti. If we’re talking soccer, the good news is that only two players are in contention. The bad news: good luck choosing between Marco Di Vaio and Sir Robert Keane. But if Di Vaio repeats 2013 in 2014, there’s my vote.

Biggy: Well I would say Robbie Keane but he’s from England, and you said not from England. We know the English love Robbie Keane just like he loves playing for his boyhood club, the Los Angeles Galaxy. I kid, I know geography, so cross that stereotype of stupid Americans off your list Europeans. I see you trying to judge me.

Matthew: Uri Rosell. (Keane of course, but that’s boring.)

This is docile.

This is docile.

* The Inaugural Jason Kreis Icy Stair Award for which coach who looks most intimidating on the sideline.

Look away. Look away..RIGHTNOW!

Look away. Look away..RIGHTNOW!

Biggy: Ryan Nelsen. Maybe you will start bleeding spontaneously if he stares at you. And by maybe I mean guaranteed.

Zack: Ryan Nelsen. Absolutely terrifying man. Would not want to be in a dark alley with Nelly — or even an oppositely innocuous public space (e.g.: well-lit place of worship, deli at brunch, Disneyland, etc.)

Nutmeg: Peter Vermes. Still rocking the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger crewcut. He has that “Down and give me 20, son!” look that scares teenagers. I actually start doing push-ups whenever I see him.

Parchy: It’s Sigi. I have nightmares about his scarf collection. Is it, like, just a couple scarves? What if he doesn’t wash them? Are there entire bacterial cities living in the folks between the S and the O? These things keep me up at night.

Matthew: Can I go with Not Mike Petke. Mike Petke is like Scott Wolf of Party of V all grown up–which means still figuring it out.

But seriously, Porter’s squint makes me laugh. Bruce Arena is Ba-Ba-Booey. Dom Kinnear’s mug flatly states, “Been here, done that.” But Big Peter Vermes? Messed myself.

Jay Bell: Ben Olsen is going to be locked in on the sidelines for DC United. His teams have had so little hope so far. Expect more intensity this season.

* 2014, The year of Darlington Nagbe, Diego Fagundez or DeAndre Yedlin? Why?

Biggy: Diego Fagundez. He will have an opportunity to be the star for New England, Portland has more horses so not as much focus on Nagbe and Yedlin can’t top Rihanna hair from last year, so the only way is down for him. Should have stuck it out under that Umbrella ella ella DeAn Dree eeeee.

Nutmeg: Nagbe. Here’s the formula: special talent + maturity + freedom + supporting cast = special things happening consistently. It’s rocket science, people. Only one of these guys has the package now. That’s Nagbe. He creates, he can finish simply and spectacularly, he can beat players off the dribble. “What can’t he do?” is the better question, and one that I can easily answer about the other two.

Parchy: Every year is the year of Darlington Nagbe. If I’m starting a fantasy draft and I can take any player in MLS No. 1 overall, I’ll take Nagbe every time. Brings people out to games, more skillful than anyone in the league and produces moments of sheer insanity. ALSO CALEB PORTER DID I MENTION HIM YET.

Jay Bell: Darlington Nagbe has been the “next big thing” for so long now. It has to be now, right? He’s got great support behind him.

Zack: Darlington Nagbe. Fagundez and Yedlin will both be spectacular, but Darlo’s team will be better than last year and he’s got some great wide players arriving, most notably in the form of Steve Zakuani, who will allow him to tuck further inside than last year (where I feel he’s much, much more dangerous). 10 goals and 3 assists last year is hard to improve upon for anyone, but the Year of the Nagbe is upon us.

140 characters of undeleted goodness?

140 characters of undeleted goodness?

* Merritt Paulson said … “What?!” ____________ fill in the blank with the most outrageous comment the P-Town owner will make this year.

Biggy:

“That was a correct call by the referee, even though it went against us. I’m disappointed that Ricketts would make such a poor decision and hats off to the Ref for getting it right…”

Oh, wait, that will never ever ever ever happen. Too outrageous.

...

Nutmeg:

“We’re bringing back the “Feeling Thorny” t-shirt, but to avoid controversy and ambiguity, we’re going to cross out the “T” and … what’s that? I’m sorry, we’ll pull it. It was just meant to be a fun shirt about horny unicorns.”

...

Parchy:

“I’m sending Grant Wahl anthrax if he doesn’t come to a game here soon. This is not a joke. Goodbye. -MPAUL”

Matthew:

“I love smurfs.”

Zack:

“That Caleb Porter is the best American coach ever.”

Which he isn’t. (Portland: shh.)”

Jay Bell:

“We lost, but those referees were outstanding.  We should pay them more money.  Oh yeah, and Seattle’s field was immaculate.  It was definitely not the reason we lost either.”
Jones. Angelic in presentation only....

Jones. Angelic in presentation only….

* Who will win the Golden Crowbar award presented by Jermaine Jones, given to the most unnecessarily physical or fouling player?

"Sorry about laying out your friend Jack. He looked sinister."

“Sorry about laying out your friend Jack. He looked sinister.”

Nutmeg: Hot take: The answer to this question is actually Conor Casey. We typically think unnecessary physical fouling is in the defensive midfielder’s wheelhouse. But Casey is an all-star at running into people. And despite his fashionista disguise, Collin is a close second. Reo-Coker with the bronze.

Parchy: Marcelo Sarvas and his stupid haircut. He’s a tornado of teeth and elbows.

Biggy: Have we renamed this the Osvaldo Alonso award yet? Or has that petition not reached the White House still?

Matthew: Really glad Parchman dropped the Sarvas here. That’s just a no-brainer really. But, truly, how long can Aurelien Collin get away with the Frenchie Thierry Henry shoulder shrug after he Roger Espinoza’s someone in the back of the head. There is a reason that KC defense is good. It’s the organization, athleticism and fear of cleat holes that Collin may put in you.

And Jermaine Taylor I’m watching you also.

Zack: Aurelien Collin gets the nod here. So handsy!

Part II here.

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