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MLS 2017 starts tonight, CCL delights, and more: Friday Freedom Kicks

A big change in the NWSL, Mix Diskerud, and a story about selling pants are all included

We’ve had four CCL games as the appetizer, but tonight the MLS season really gets started. The Portland Timbers host Minnesota United on Fox Sports 1. Finally, I can stop chipping away at my DVR backlog of shows and movies and get back to forgoing all popular culture in favor of soccer, soccer, and more soccer.

To be clear, this is a good thing.

MLS Fantasy is back - Join the B&RU leagues! | Black and Red United
I actually still have to do this. Join our leagues (we have two), it will solve all of your problems.

D.C. United names defender Steve Birnbaum its new captain | Washington Post
Steve Goff has the news that D.C. United has chosen a new captain, and also some notes about the local TV schedule.

Ian Harkes: "I've Enjoyed Every Minute of It So Far" | American Soccer Now
Brian Sciaretta with an Ian Harkes interview on the dawn of the season.

The Lowdown: Is Joanna Lohman the most interesting player in NWSL? | Equalizer Soccer
Yes, yes she is. This is a pretty deep profile on the Washington Spirit’s midfield engine that I really enjoyed.

NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush steps down | Black and Red United
So this was a surprise that naturally happened while I was driving. Basically if soccer news ever gets crazy, you can assume that I am at the wheel.

Whitecaps Defeat Red Bulls 2-0, Advance to Champions League Semi-Final | Eighty Six Forever

All praises to 16 year old Alphonso Davies, and to Carl Robinson’s wacky all-wingers lineup. And, of course, to Jesse Marsch’s continued, totally unfounded faith that a 4222 is the way forward. May he never, ever change course.

The Montreal Impact sign Matteo Mancosu to a two-year deal | Mount Royal Soccer
Smart move from the Impact in making Matteo Mancosu’s move permanent. Before this, his loan from Bologna ended in July.

Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United Preview Interview | Stumptown Footy
Like I said at the top, there is a real life MLS game tonight. The folks at Stumptown Footy (our Timbers equivalent) talked to the folks from E Pluribus Loonum (our Loons sister site) about what to expect in Minnesota’s first-ever MLS game.

2017 General Manager & Technical Director Survey |
As I told our staff last night, I would bet actual paper money that all the pro-Orlando answers in here came from the Lions themselves. There’s even a vote here for them as “most improved” despite the fact that their additions of note are only Jonathan Spector and PC (unless you think adding Giles Barnes was a game-changer, which...come on, fam).

Anyway, Luciano Acosta and Ian Harkes got some votes, and one person says United isn’t going to the playoffs, which seems very unlikely.

Armchair Analyst: The one player to watch this year is in New England |
Matt Doyle tackles what is undoubtedly the weirdest tactical look in MLS heading into the season. There’s a good breakdown (with video) of what New England is trying to do. I still think they’re going to struggle with it - Agudelo will have to do a lot in possession that isn’t really his strong suit, and making a forward’s runs out of midfield means a lot of extra yards to sprint for a player who has had a slew of muscular injuries - but it’s important to at least see their plan explained.

Portland Timbers waive forward Jack McInerney | The Oregonian
The writing has been on the wall for Jack Mac in Portland since the Timbers traded up to snag Jeremy Ebobisse. While Caleb Porter praised McInerney’s professionalism, and the 24 year old’s strike rate is nearly at the 1 goal every 2 games played plateau that GMs and technical directors love to see, the combination of being a poacher in a league full of one-striker systems that have no room for his style of play and the persistent rumors of being a problem in the locker room have him without a club.

Don’t be surprised if he ends up trying to move abroad.

A magical night for Mr. Sounder at Memorial Stadium | Sounder at Heart
Zach Scott played for the Seattle Sounders for 15 seasons, and retired this offseason. Appropriately, Sounders fans threw him a testimonial game that included a goal for his son (despite eating a burrito before kickoff) and an interview with goalkeeper Kasey Keller while Keller was still involved in playing the game.

New York City FC Releases 2017 MLS Roster |
The Mix Diskerud saga continues to be weird:

New York City FC has exercised its one offseason Buyout of a Guaranteed Contract on Mix Diskerud. He remains under contract with MLS.

OK then. Any takers for a linking midfielder who doesn’t cover all that much ground, isn’t elite in terms of vision or passing range, but won’t settle for anything less than a DP salary?

Just kidding, we all know this ends with him scoring the game-winner for the New York Cosmos in Open Cup games against both the Red Bulls and NYCFC later this year.

Speaking of which...

2017 US Open Cup format unveiled with record number of teams |
I’ve been saying this for so long, and I’m going to keep saying it: Go to every USOC game you can get yourself to. Guaranteed weirdness, and it helps to see American soccer in all its forms.

The rise, fall, and rise of Zubaz, the pants you love and/or hate | Vocativ
Let’s end with a story. During my freshman year of college, I made a friend that I’m still close with today. I’m not going to list his name here because he is a respectable adult with a wife, children, and a job. As you can guess, there was a lot of clandestine drinking in the dorms at the University of Maryland, and on the nights that this was just going on somewhere on his floor of Ellicott Hall, he’d often actually change into a pair of Zubaz to drink.

One night, some young women from some other hall were wandering through and decided to hang out, when my friend emerged in his Zubaz, already quite drunk. The girls loved the Zubaz - whether this was ironic or sincere, I’ll never be sure - and started offering to buy them. At first, the answer was a firm no, and the pants were deemed “priceless,” which was frankly an outrageous claim. However, after some haggling, my friend and these young strangers made a deal: $10 and a slice of pie (one of them was to go to the dining hall and get the pie before the exchange) for the Zubaz.

Naturally, this story ends the way a lot of nights went in that particular time and place: my friend, sitting pantsless in the hallway, lustily eating a slice of apple pie while clutching a $10 bill.

And with that, I say have a good weekend. Please let us know in the comments if you sell your pants.