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Freedom Kicks: D.C. United and MLS links for 3 March 2014

In today's Freedom Kicks, we say goodbye to the pre-season, with final prognostications for 2014, a turn of phrase from Eddie Johnson that hits somewhere close to the Yogi Berra bone, a bombing, a flop, geopolitics, religion, and so much more.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Are you excited?  This is the last Monday before the season starts.  This week, put a little spring in your step.  Whistle while you work.  Smile at that pretty girl/guy going the other way on that functioning Metro escalator.  Here come your freedom kicks.

D.C. United wins Carolina preseason title | Washington Post:  Goff assesses Saturday night's game against the Sounders:  "DCU was okay in the first half, exceptional early in the second half and just good enough before and after Cristian Fernandez's red card for chopping down DeAndre Yedlin."

2-2 draw with DC United puts Sounders FC undefeated for 2014 preseason | Sounder At Heart:  Our sister site in Seattle notes:  "The Black & Red struggled to deal with the speed from both Yedlin and Remick.  Late in the second half the only way that United could handle Yedlin at a full sprint was to take him out."  The discussion thread there briefly wonders whether MLS will discipline Fernandez in the regular season and points to DeRo's infamous pre-season - but, I daresay, distinguishable - headbutt from last year.

Match Analysis with Chad Ashton: D.C. United vs Seattle Sounders FC | D.C. United:  Assistant Coach Chad Ashton tells Molly Bruh that he's starting to see glimpses of "that rhythm part, that cohesiveness."

D.C. United's Eddie Johnson bears no ill will toward Sounders | The Olympian: In an interview last week about the prospects of facing his old team in the Carolina Cup, a gracious EJ said this: "And if for some reason I score a goal, you won’t see a celebration from me."  (Emphasis added).  Hmm!  New tifo idea! A banner that reads:


You're welcome, Screaming Eagles.  ( Imagine your doctor, just before your tonsillectomy, saying, "If for some reason I remove your tonsils...")

Sounders FC loans forward Zavaleta to Chivas USA | The Seattle Times: While we're on the topic of Seattle, let's note that the Sounders just loaned young forward Eriq Zavaleta to Chivas USA.  This is only the second time the new intraleague loan rule has been used by anyone.  Under the rule, Zavaleta can't play in any game against Seattle.

Soccer Outsider gives his initial thoughts on D.C. United’s 2014 campaign | Washington Post: Soccer Outsider makes this bold prediction for DCU’s 2014 season:  we will not be embarrassed.

Professional Referee Organization releases referee assignments for 2014 MLS opening weekend | Drew Fischer will be the referee for our season opener versus Columbus on Saturday.  Fischer was the ref who did the right thing at this SKC/Houston match last season, taking input from the assistant with the clearest view of a tackle inside the box and reversing his own errant penalty call.  Respect.

Cyprus car bomb puts USMNT friendly with Ukraine in doubt again | ProSoccerTalk: Speaking of referees, there's this story.  First, Ukraine imploded.  So USMNT moved its March 5 friendly versus Ukraine from Kharkiv to a safer, calmer locale.  That was a smart move because Sunday saw violence in the streets of Kharkiv.  So the powers-that-be chose sunny Cyprus.  That was last Tuesday.  Three days later, a car belonging to the Cyprus FA's top referee was bombed in the parking lot outside his apartment building.  Thankfully, no one was injured.  But, alarmed, the Cyprus FA postponed all league play for the weekend.  As of this moment, it's unclear what happens to the friendly.  Safety first.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says a win vs. Ghana in World Cup opener is key | ESPN FC: At a Google Hangout on Friday, Jurgen Klinsmann explained how the USMNT's fortunes in the World Cup depend almost entirely, if not totally entirely and utterly completely, on that first game against Ghana:  "When we go into camp, middle of May, we're going to prepare them for this game in the sharpest and most intense way possible."  No pressure, boys.

Soccer Player Hits the Deck in Remarkably Shameless Flop | Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen, who also plays on Belgium's national team, did a laugh-out-loud horrible job pretending to be elbowed in the head.  And the ref totally fell for it.  So Roman Zozulya of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk saw the red card for using The Dark Side of the Force on Vertonghen's face.  Tottenham went on to score twice with the one-man advantage and won the game.  I don't know about you, but I'll never, ever see enough soccer dive videos set to the tune of Yakety Sax.

Newcastle fine Alan Pardew £100,000 for head-butt on Hull's David Meyler | The Observer:  Why am I called Touchline?  Because it's on the touchline where all the headbutts and regret happen.

FIFA okays religious head covers for soccer players | Israel News: FIFA had already approved hijabs for women players.  And it has now rightly determined that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.  So, thumbs up for kippots, turbans, and, invariably, colanders.  Indeed, who will be the world's first pastafarian footballer?

Kosovo gets a real game, if it can assemble a team | New York Times: Kosovo, still not recognized by the United Nations thanks to objections from Serbia and its ally Russia, finally gets to field a national team of sorts.  But the deal with FIFA is that they can't use any national symbols, flags, or anthems.  Funny aside:  Last August, I was in Moscow at an UEFA Europa League play-in match between FC St. Gallen, a Swiss club, and Spartak FC.  One of St. Gallen's star players had been barred from entering Russia, and therefore was obviously unavailable to play, because he held a Kosovo passport., which Russia refuses to recognize.  In a pointed taunt at the Kosovar-less St. Gallen side, the Spartak supporter groups waved banners and chanted:  "Kosovo is Serbia!" throughout the first half.  Spartak still lost, 4-2.

Finally, I received my DC United season ticket holder box this weekend.  Opening the package and pulling out the pitch black box reminded me of this scene from Spinal Tap.  How much more black could this be?  The answer is none.  None more black.

And apropos of nothing, am I the only person who hasn't already heard of Footgolf?  It's "soccer without the running and golf without the self-discipline."  Apparently, there's a course in Midlothian and one under development in Manassas.  Count me in.