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2018 MLS Cup previews, Columbus Crew stadium plan, and more: Freedom Kicks for 12/7/2018

Atlanta vs. Portland, College Cup, and the USSF doubles down on its love of bad news

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There’s not too much going on in the world of soccer right now. Just, you know, the 2018 MLS Cup final tomorrow night, plus the NCAA is holding its customary attempt to grind its last four teams standing into a pulp by staging both men’s College Cup semifinals tonight before a Sunday final. And that’s not even getting into the day that was, which included a whole lot of big news. Let’s get to it:

As MLS approaches a ‘tipping point,’ owners are divided over growth strategies | The Athletic
Get started with this piece that includes quotes from owners of a quarter of MLS’s teams, including Steve Kaplan from D.C. United’s ownership group. Things aren’t as straightforward as the headline would indicate.

A Maryland soccer player’s field work: Preventing goals and saving frogs | Washington Post
Ahead of Maryland’s game against Indiana (10:30, ESPN U), get to know Donovan Pines, their most important player and arguably United’s top homegrown target.

New potential ownership announces plans for new Crew SC stadium in Confluence Village | Massive Report
Here’s what you need to know about the Columbus Crew SC stadium proposal, which would put them closer to downtown while opening up Crew Stadium to become a training facility and public space.

Scouting the Portland Timbers’ Center Backs for MLS Cup Final | Dirty South Soccer
There’s a compelling case to be made that Atlanta United should set themselves up so that the Portland Timbers play out of the back through an experienced Premier League veteran rather than a journeyman whose longest career stopover is with a lesser Turkish club. I’m always into articles that bring solid facts to take down established thinking.

Know Your MLS Cup Opponent | How Portland can derail the Atlanta juggernaut |
A complete breakdown of what Portland is likely to be facing in each third of the field.

Jordan Morris signs massive new contract with Seattle Sounders | The Athletic
The Seattle Sounders are going to be paying Jordan Morris around $1 million per year for the next five years. It’s a major gamble that he can recover from a torn ACL and get back to the form he showed in 2016. It’s also a very rare sign of faith in a young American attacker in MLS.

U.S. Soccer Foundation Sues U.S. Soccer Federation Over Naming, Logo Dispute | Sports Illustrated
U.S. Soccer, ladies and gentlemen! As this piece points out, the USSF brought up the U.S. Soccer Foundation as a positive (for good reason!) in its bidding for the 2026 World Cup only to dissolve the partnership and demand a name change soon thereafter.

US women’s national team will play packed schedule before World Cup | Stars and Stripes FC
Staying on topic, here’s the federation crowding the first half of 2019 with USWNT friendlies, including three that don’t fall into a FIFA window. They’ve effectively guaranteed that star players who will participate in the Women’s World Cup this summer are non-appearing players for their NWSL clubs. With this calendar, players will miss both the first and last weeks of a six-week preseason, then be available for somewhere between 2-4 games, and then gone until the USWNT flies back from France (which, based on precedent, will be followed by a friendly tour regardless of how the tournament goes).

If you’re thinking “well, surely U.S. Soccer wouldn’t do something so potentially destructive to the fragile finances of the NWSL, a league the fed helps fund,” must be new here.

Staying with the NWSL, the Houston Dash apparently have their new head coach:

Houston Dash set to hire James Clarkson as head coach | The Equalizer
More details here. Clarkson has deep roots in Houston, and this report indicates that he was very well prepared for his interview. However, for a Dash organization that justifiably leaves fans and observers skeptical in terms of due diligence, a hire from the Dynamo side of the building (especially a hire with no pro or collegiate experience coaching women) is going to draw some skepticism.

Hello hockey, let us tell you about the Seattle Reign FC | Sounder at Heart
Seattle hockey fans are very excited about getting an NHL expansion side, and in the process they’ve often suggested a name that’s already taken by a team in their own city.

Orlando City Hires Oguchi Onyewu as OCB Technical Director | The Mane Land
An interesting landing spot for Maryland native and longtime USMNT center back Oguchi Onyewu.

It’s been 17 years since a woman refereed an MLS game, but there are people working to change that | The Athletic
I enjoyed this look at women referees pushing for more opportunities to officiate MLS and USL matches. Also, 17 years? That’s a yikes from me fam, especially when you consider that our male referees are hardly setting some impossibly high standard.

Kickers announce Spear as pro team president |
The Kickers have hired longtime Davidson College head coach Matt Spear, but he’s not taking over on the sidelines.

“This Is Just So Sh**ty, We Gotta Watch”: The Beautiful, Inspirational Disaster of ‘Cabin Boy,’ 25 Years Later | The Ringer
If you’re a weirdo like me, when Cabin Boy asked the world if we’d like to buy a sock monkey, you said “Yes!”

That’s more than enough out of me. Go be weird this weekend!