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Freedom Kicks: D.C. United, MLS, US Open Cup and other American soccer links for Tuesday, September 16

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Of rookies, playoff chances, dirty words, failure to research, moving gestures, folding teams, springing affiliates (and not), Canadian referees and BEER. Welcome to your morning soccer links.

Chip Somodevilla

First off, Happy United Day! If anybody is reading this from (or on the way to) Kingston, know that I am incredibly jealous and that I expect you to bring those three points back Stateside safely. I'm not just jealous that you get to go to Jamaica (though that's a big part of it), I'm also envious that you get to watch the game without debating between getting gouged by Fox or breaking copyright laws (which I try not to do).

Anyway, onto the links.

Steven Birnbaum has stepped right into the fire | D.C. United
Craig Stouffer takes to his keyboard to write this profile of D.C. United's latest rookie gem, Steve Birnbaum. With Tasho Akindele's scoring streak in the past, Harrison Shipp now starting games on the bench, and Nick Hagglund proving error-prone in big moments, maybe the steady Cal product will finally start getting some love in the Rookie of the Year race.

Crew Playoffs 4caster | Massive Report
We are now well and truly into the home stretch of the 2014 MLS season, so playoff models are going to start coming into more alignment and focus. Our Ohioan counterparts over at Massive Report have their own model, which predicts D.C. United running away with the Eastern Conference, ending the year on 61 points, seven ahead of second place Sporting Kansas City. Almost as importantly, the model has the Metros finishing on the wrong side of the red line.

Mike Petke calls Union fans "scumbags" during pregame tirade | Brotherly Game
And speaking of those fabled New York Red Bulls, head coach Mike Petke apparently said a naughty word (well, several) at some Philly supporters before their game even kicked off last weekend.

England: If you're going to write about this MLS thing, you're going to have to learn a thing or two | Once A Metro
And one more Metro-flavored link (I promise, that bitterness it has is characteristic of the breed!). This one on the suggestion by a British outlet that Golden Boot candidate Bradley Wright-Phillips jump ship to NYC IDK LOL OMG WTF BBQ FC next year. As it turns out, player acquisition rules matter in MLS, and it's hard to write about player movement in our league without accounting for them. And so our old friend Matt Coyne took the Brits to task for failing to do two minutes of research before playing pundit with the Red Bulls' favorite toy this year.

AJ DeLaGarza returns to field for LA Galaxy after family tragedy, appreciative of gestures across MLS | MLSsoccer.com
Moving out to the other coast, where they have ALL THE FEELS. I have a 4-month-old asleep upstairs as I write this, and I don't want to imagine with AJ DeLaGarza and his wife have been through. I still well up when I see a photo or video of any team wearing Luca armbands. If you want to help the heart research center that treated Luca during his short life, you can donate to the Luca Knows Heart campaign. http://lucaknowsheart.wordpress.com/donate/

Why being a Chivas USA fan now feels like thousands of hours wasted | The Goat Parade
Our friend and sometime podcast guest Alicia Rodriguez has invested a lot of time supporting and reporting on the tire fire that is Chivas USA. Now that the team could go on hiatus for a year - or worse - she's working through the emotions that come from the possibility of losing not just the team but the community and sense of identity that comes from supporting it for so long. Share this link with any die-hard sports fans you know - not just soccer fans. These are universal feelings, and Alicia writes them very smartly. Well worth the read.

Seattle set to become latest MLS franchise to set up own USL Pro team | SI.com
While one MLS team might be going away for a little while, others are launching affiliate teams down in USL PRO. The Seattle Sounders are the latest to enter the starting gate.

Sporting KC will not field their own USL team next season | The Blue Testament
Meanwhile, the Sporks will not be joining Los Dos and whatever annoying nickname the Sounders give their under-team. At least not next year. (Meanwhile in the DMV, we all know that United won't be launching an in-house team while they still play at RFK, and we all assume the relationship with the Kickers will keep on keeping on.)

Michael Bradley doesn't seem to want Canadian referees working Canadian games | SBNation.com
The Toronto FC captain is not impressed with referee David Gantar, and he's not afraid to shout it from the rooftops. Bonus points to MB90 for working in the "They try too hard to be impartial and go too far the other way!" about all Canadian refs in MLS. I love painting with giant brushes.

US President Barack Obama pays World Cup bet, sends Belgian Prime Minister some beer | MLSsoccer.com
And finally, here's a story about American soccer and booze, because we wouldn't be B&RU without American soccer and booze.

The Whole Story: US Open Cup Final against Seattle Sounders | Brotherly Game
I'm the worst, since I didn't have the Open Cup Final represented this morning. So here's me throwing in our Philly counterparts' Story Stream on tonight's U.S. Open Cup final. You can watch it on... GolTV, or pay $9 a month to watch on Kloud something. Yes, tonight is Throwback Night to the bad old days where PPV was the only way to watch soccer.

Sounders seek 4th Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title in Philadelphia | Sounder At Heart
And here's the Story Stream from the more garishly colored side of tonight's title match.