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Freedom Kicks: D.C. United and MLS links for Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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A nearly 100% United-centric Freedom Kicks, with the major exception being the replacement referees who will trigger Ragnarok through their mishandling of MLS games.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Think about it: This will publish 83 hour and 30 minutes before D.C. United kicks off the 2014 season. The gates at Lot 8 will be open four hours earlier. You and I have both likely turned down some proposed Saturday activity. It's that close.

However, it's not here yet, and if you go to Lot 8 right now you'll just be cold and alone. You might as well read some links at your computer instead. It'll be fun, I promise.

DC United star Eddie Johnson eyes career balance during formative year | MLSsoccer.com
Nick Firchau conducted this interview with EJ, who explains where he was coming from during some controversial moments and how his background makes him a bit unusual in MLS.

Bobby Boswell no longer a ‘snot-nosed kid’ upon his return to D.C. United | Washington Post
Speaking of important players, Steve Goff has a look at United's likely captain Bobby Boswell. In short, "Bos Bobwell," as Luciano Emilio called him, has grown up off the field and got better on it as a result.

Exclusive Q&A: Alex Caskey | DCUnited.com
A (brief) interview with United's newest player, midfielder Alex Caskey. Say what you will about him as a player, but his athlete cliche game is strong.

MLS refs’ union, management at impasse | Soccer Insider
Goff is, as usual, a busy man. Over on his blog, he's got news concerning the impasse between the Professional Soccer Referees Association and the Professional Referee Organization. Temptation to make Life of Brian jokes about splitters aside, this is a serious issue that is very close to becoming a lockout of MLS's referees. In the piece, Goff points out that PRO has held a training camp for potential replacement refs that included former MLS refs as well as referees from abroad. That would be comforting if not for the established standard for referees in the US and Canada; as such, I think replacement referees will be directly responsible for at least one stadium fire.

MLS Power Rankings | MLSsoccer.com
As with all Power Rankings that ever were, these are pretty shaky. United in 17th, but at least the comment is positive. Quick reaction from me: Seattle, Houston, and Vancouver are overrated (the latter two substantially), while United and Colorado - yes, even with the fact that they haven't just named Pablo Mastroeni as head coach - appear underrated. At least they got the bottom two right.

Dejan Jakovic debuts for Shimizu S-Pulse | @chestrockwell14
This is from the weekend,but it happened late at night so most people probably missed it. I was up working on some posts here and needed some soccer to put on, and ended up watching about an hour of Shimizu S-Pulse's first game of the new J.League season. Jakovic didn't get the start, but sure enough a late injury saw the former United center back sub in for about 6 minutes of play. Wearing #19, Jakovic ended up at right-center back and made a late block to help preserve a 3-2 road win for his new club.

Have at it, friends. This is your open thread, so talk about these links or whatever else is on your mind.