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New 2018 Washington Spirit jersey, D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo, & more: Freedom Kicks for 3/16/2018

Lots of DC soccer news to get through, plus a USMNT friendly, NWSL rules, and MLS expansion

Tomorrow I’ll be driving out to the Plex for D.C. United’s pretty-much-a-must-win game against the Houston Dynamo and getting a parking spot right by the gate. At full time, I’m going to run out to the car and head south on 270, to 495, to 95, and on down to Richmond for the Washington Spirit’s preseason game against the North Carolina Courage. There’s a 3.5 hour window to do the 2+ hour drive from the Plex to City Stadium. Please stay out of my way.

Let’s get to it:

Given Oniel Fisher’s troubles to start the season and the looming threat of Alberth Elis, Joseph Mora might get a start straight away. On the other hand, throwing him in with under two weeks of training with the group might be setting him up to fail. Personally, I’ve talked myself into the idea of carrying on with Ben Olsen’s late first half move to switch Fisher and Nick DeLeon, and giving the latter orders to mostly stay home and contain Elis. He’ll need support from the midfield and from Steve Birnbaum, but I think it’s more likely to work than sending Fisher or Mora out against him.

For what it’s worth, we checked with United on the international roster spot situation. As long as Bruno Miranda is on loan with the Richmond Kickers (or another international goes on loan, or if someone is put on the injured reserve), United has room to deploy Mora and the rest of their internationals.

Olsen, Mattocks and Ousted preview #DCvHOU |
Quick interview with the trio named above.

Dynamo solve one problem but face another after loss | Dynamo Theory
Here’s a bit on what United is up against this weekend. The Dynamo are a great team if the game becomes a transition battle, but when forced to break an opponent down, they tend to end up just hoofing in crosses. If United can stay solid in their defensive shape (and, especially, give themselves the luxury of a lead), they might be able to lean on Steve Birnbaum and Frederic Brillant winning headers against Houston’s not particularly physically imposing strikeforce.

Let’s move on to some unambiguously good news. The Spirit unveiled their 2018 home jersey yesterday, and I’ve got to say...I dig it:

Before you ask, that’s a dark navy blue, not black. Sharp look for sure.

Sticking with the Spirit, former United attacker Santino Quaranta just got his USSF A License.

LA Galaxy II sign midfielder Julian Büscher |
Apparently the Galaxy organization just wants every ex-DCU player available.

In any case, I think Buescher’s problem here was style of play and the presence of Luciano Acosta depriving him of minutes. Given the chance to play regularly and build his confidence, I think he’ll be back in MLS before long. DCU2/Loudoun United can’t get started fast enough, fam.

New York Red Bulls leading the charge in MLS-USL partnerships |
What a convenient segue! I don’t enjoy saying it, but the undeniable truth is that the Red Bulls have by far the best pathway from their academy through to the first team. United needs to see them as the benchmark to strive to match, and then beat, rather than be like the numerous clubs who have no real connection between their USL and senior teams. A vision linking the sides is vital, because “give him a year of minutes at a lower level” isn’t a magic formula.

NEWS: Rapids sign striker Yannick Boli | Burgundy Wave
Colorado is increasing their attacking depth with a TAM forward. Boli, Joe Mason, Shkelzen Gashi, and Dominique Badji might actually be able to produce some goals...if the midfield shows some creativity. Look, it’s a long-term rebuild out there. If you combined United’s midfield moves and Colorado’s spending on their front line, you might have something.

Going back to the NWSL, they’ve put out their 2018 roster rules and their competition rules. Short version: amateur call-ups have been replaced by paid short-term contracts, and the salary cap is up to $350,000.

Christen Press saga illustrates NWSL’s growing pains | Stars and Stripes FC
If you haven’t been keeping up, Christen Press was traded to the Houston Dash on draft day, but she has no plans on playing for them. This piece will get you up to speed, and then dives into what it means for the league’s future.

Lowered Expectations: Week Two | American Soccer Analysis
Here’s a look back (with gifs and chalkboard data) on the five best chances that were missed in MLS this past week. Darren Mattocks has ended up on this list two straight weeks.

Arsenal 3 - Milan 1: Champions League dreams live on | The Short Fuse
Wait, this is a story about Arsenal...winning? Is that a thing?

USMNT adds third summer friendly, will play Bolivia on May 28 | Stars and Stripes FC
Paul Arriola vs. Bruno Miranda will take place at Talen Energy Stadium in a couple of months.

Phoenix’s MLS Expansion Bid Unveils New Stadium Renderings | Sports Illustrated
There is a positively insane statement in here from Phoenix Rising’s co-chairman in here about Arizona’s dangerously hot weather only being an issue for 90 days of the year...and it’s 10 miles from downtown Phoenix...and they don’t own the land. But Phoenix does have a billionaire in their ownership group, and that probably matters more than the rest of it when MLS is concerned.

OK, 905 words is enough. Hope to see you folks at at least one of tomorrow’s games, if not both.