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Freedom Kicks: D.C. United, MLS, and NWSL links for Friday August 21, 2015

Rambling about the Supporters Shield while looking at the Chicago Fire for a while, plus a Rocky reference.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Today's Freedom Kicks is a little short, as I'm a late substitute for your normal Friday linker touchline (who has jetted off to single-handedly get the 2018 and 2022 World Cups re-allocated via a clean and open process).

D.C. United/Washington Wizards TV voice Dave Johnson Hospitalized for Dehydration | Black and Red United
Some bad news we found out about last night. Here's hoping for a full, speedy recovery for Dave Johnson.

Shot Limiting: Bringing the heat (maps) | American Soccer Analysis
Sean Steffen takes a deep dive into where on the field MLS teams are doing their defending, and uses his findings to explain why a given tactical idea might succeed or struggle. The main idea here is to praise teams who simply limit the number of shots they face, but when it comes to D.C. United the models still end up struggling to explain the defensive stinginess the Black-and-Red have (mostly) been able to fall back on.

This is a pretty fascinating piece, as it seeks to explain why teams like Seattle and DCU give up shots but not goals, and why the supposedly old-fashioned 442 is still regularly used as a formation.

Armchair Analyst: Breaking down the Supporters' Shield race |
Matt Doyle handicaps the race for the Shield, and he seems to have United no better than fifth in his order of favorites. However, it's not a distant fifth, given that he thinks that taking 6 points from the next two games - tomorrow vs. San Jose and on the 30th at Red Bull Arena - will make a huge difference.

I'm not sure I agree with the idea that United's schedule is particularly difficult. All four of United's home games (San Jose, Columbus, NYCFC, and Chicago) should be 3 points; in fact, I can't help but wonder if tomorrow's game is actually the most difficult of them given that Columbus is still hopelessly naive.

The road games? NYRB and Montreal will be tough, to be sure, and Columbus is better at home, but there's also a trip to face the hapless Colorado Rapids (basically a "first goal wins" match, that). I think United's realistic points ceiling should be thought of as around 63 points at this, er, point, especially since Wednesday's CCL win has likely given United the chance to rest every regular starter at Montego Bay on September 22nd. The threat of the CCL robbing United of too much energy is being overrated at this point in my book.

This is all early morning spitballing, though. The only thing I'm totally sure of here: 8/30 at RBA is the biggest game for United since the first leg of last season's CCL quarterfinals.

Season Encapsulated: Maloney off to Hull City | Hot Time in Old Town
A move that has been in the works for weeks finally happened, as the Fire have sold DP attacking midfielder Shaun Maloney to Hull City. Maloney apparently wanted to be back on the other side of the Atlantic anyway, and here's how to dispel any argument that Chicago should have played hardball:

By the time the transfer was confirmed Thursday, Maloney had logged a total of 14 MLS games, scoring three goals and notching two assists. To rub a little salt in the wound of what could have been, Maloney has scored four goals in six games during Euro qualifiers for Scotland.

In other words, Maloney is a talented player who either was unable to translate his game to MLS or was unwilling to make the required effort to do so. In the end, he was making 7 figures to stand near Harry Shipp. Honestly, this is addition by subtraction.

Maloney's departure just adds to Chicago's absolutely horrific record with Designated Players. I'm almost tempted to tag this as NSFW:

Orlando City SC plan to use recent Sebastian Giovinco tweet as motivation ahead of Toronto FC duel |
Yo Adrian: Those straws you guys are grasping at aren't really going to help.

Costa Rica replaces former national team head coach Paulo Wanchope with former Ticos star Oscar Ramirez |
Ramirez leaves Alajuelense to take over as Costa Rica's national team boss, meaning some of us have to once again face the demons of late February.

2015 NWSL Playoff Picture |
The Washington Spirit are off this week, but they could get closer to securing a playoff spot anyway this weekend if 5th placed Portland fails to win. They'd also be helped if Seattle takes the points tonight against Houston, a game you can see at 8pm tonight on FS1.

Rowdies part ways with Farrukh Quraishi and Thomas Rongen |
Very late-breaking news here. What kind of organization sends out a press release at 6am on a Friday? An NASL organization, that's who! Anyway, I'm scrambling to add this just before we publish.

Anyway, the Rowdies are home to roughly half of the former DCU players on the planet, but now have fired ex-United boss Thomas Rongen as well as their president/GM Farrukh Quraishi. The release goes on to refer to a 2W-1D-5L record as "terribly disappointing" before club owner Bill Edwards brags about his non-soccer accomplishments at length. I am reminded more than a little of Donald Trump.

Not too many links today, so feel free to add to the collection in the comments.