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Freedom Kicks: D.C. United, MLS, and CONCACAF Champions League links for Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Intricate games, resurgent goalkeepers, the first leg of the CCL final, odd youth tournaments, slaps on the wrist, and beards. I promise, this involves D.C. United. It's also B&RU's open thread for the day.

To paraphrase The League, Pirlo bomb!
To paraphrase The League, Pirlo bomb!
Claudio Villa

Did you kick anyone for freedom today? Why the hell not? Get kickin' son!

Today, we have a plethora of links from D.C. United, and also focus on the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final, flawed methodologies, and Andrea Pirlo.

Training Notes: April 15, 2014 |
TJ Scholl was at training yesterday, and described it as "one of the most competitive and physical of the year." Also worth noting: Complicated possession games and goals for Michael Seaton and the suddenly scoresheet-friendly Perry Kitchen.

Andrew Dykstra earns top spot on Castrol Index and Save of the Week Nominee |
The praise for Dykstra after two straight shutouts continues with this piece from Molly Bruh, which is more or less the same thing that this piece is, just narrowly focused on Dykstra links. Look for this piece on Huffington Post, which will get picked up by Buzzfeed, on and on forever.

Where was I? Oh, right: I'm no big fan of the Castrol Index as a gauge of much of anything beyond vague "(insert player) did well this week" thoughts. For example, this week's top defender - in a league where everyone uses a back four, meaning that roughly three or four should expect to place in the top ten - finished 14th, and he had to score a goal to even get that high.

I'm also not sure Dykstra had so much to do that he was the best player out of everyone that took the field in all nine MLS games this past weekend, but in any case it's nice to see him get some recognition.

Winning ugly: In scrappy recent results, DC United see hallmarks of a playoff team |
Pablo Maurer gets quotes from Ben Olsen, Eddie Johnson, and Davy Arnaud on United's ability to pull results out of even games (New England) or when being outplayed (NYRB). Before the rabblerabblerabble begins, please note that the phrase "playoff team" only appears in the headline and does not come from any player or coach. I would hope everyone knows that there's a long road ahead.

Red Bulls Lose In D.C. As Tough Questions Loom | Gothamist
Dan Dickinson has the view from the other side of Saturday's game. Schadenfreude is Germany's most delicious export.

GA Cup Recap: April 15 |
Mostly included to note that the final paragraph describing the rules of the Generation Adidas Cup is basically everything that youth tournaments are not supposed to do: Many games in a compressed period with no time for training? Check. Preposterous rules to prevent ties, so that wins are the goal rather than development? Check.

Cruz Azul vs. Toluca: Final score 0-0, Diablos Rojos get away draw in first leg |
Despite the 0-0 scoreline, this was a fairly entertaining game thanks to an eventful second half. Cruz Azul created more chances, but were very lucky that Antonio Rios found the post with his 25 yard thunderbolt in the 87th minute. The second leg is next Wednesday at Estadio Nemesio Diez.

MLS Disciplinary Committee fines Columbus Crew defender Giancarlo Gonzalez for embellishment |
It would have made life a lot easier for United if Giancarlo Gonzalez's cheap-shot-plus-embarrassing-dive combination had gotten him suspended, but the DisCo only opted for a fine. Look for Gonzalez to retain his starting center back role this Saturday.

This may be upsetting, but given the fact that the DisCo completely ignored a very similar bit of craven playacting from Waylon Francis back on March 8th - who shoved a streaking Arnaud away from the ball during a United break forward, took a retaliatory arm to the chest from Johnson, and acted as if he had been struck with an axe - I guess this counts as progress?

I guess what I'm saying is that the Columbus Crew is not a morally upstanding soccer team right now.

MLS’s imperfect expansion plans | Soccer Insider
Steve Goff is (correctly) skeptical of all of the upcoming expansion teams that aren't Orlando City SC. We're talking about two historically bad sports markets in Atlanta and Miami, two teams without a concrete stadium plan (NYCFC and, again, Miami), and a situation in Atlanta that, given the "playing in an NFL stadium on turf" situation, reminds me a lot more of the New England Revolution than the Seattle Sounders.

Arthur Blank, Major League Soccer set to make major announcement in Atlanta on Wednesday |
Regarding said expansion. Be prepared to see every second of this jamming up your Twitter feed.

Also notable: Post-announcement party with Alexi Lalas. That part would probably be fun.

Andrea Pirlo: I Think Therefore I Play |
Michael Cox of Zonal Marking and ESPNFC fame reviews the English translation of Andrea Pirlo's autobiography. I kind of expected Pirlo to speak in symbols and be reminiscent of an Alejandro Jodorowsky film. Instead, we find out that he likes to swear and hates pre-game warm-ups. I'm putting it on my list of books to read.

It's not mentioned in this review, but Pirlo actually started his career being used as a trequartista. He was moved back to the deep-lying playmaker role while on loan with Brescia way back in the day to accommodate Roberto Baggio. That's right: Baggio and Pirlo, same club team. And they weren't even that good! Brescia came in 8th place that season.

Alright, that's as far as I got. Make with the commenting and the whatnot.