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Zlatan to LA Galaxy, NWSL season begins, and more: Freedom Kicks for 3/23/2018

Multiple D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew notes to go with plenty of NWSL news as the 2018 season looms

Starting tomorrow, we are well and truly in the thick of another season. D.C. United is on the road against the Columbus Crew, which looks like it’ll be a tough one. The Washington Spirit open their season with a daunting trip to face the Seattle Reign, their most difficult foe over the years. And the Richmond Kickers have their home opener, facing Indy Eleven at City Stadium.

What I’m getting at is that on Sunday, I’ll be sleeping in.

D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew lineup: Dealing with international absences | Black and Red United
Here’s hoping D.C. United’s homegrown engine room stands out this weekend.

Columbus Crew SC is looking for a Wil Trapp replacement against D.C. United | Massive Report
While United’s homegrown central midfielders are coming into the lineup, the Columbus Crew are doing without Wil Trapp. Either Mohammed Abu or Ricardo Clark will replace him, and they’re two very different players.

Different paths could determine who starts in goal for Columbus Crew SC | Massive Report
Columbus also has to replace their starting goalkeeper, as Zack Steffen is with the USMNT.

System is the star: How Berhalter built Crew SC into pass-and-move maestros |
Here’s a piece on what United is up against this weekend.

Mature beyond her years, rising USWNT star Sullivan back on track after knee injury |
Ahead of the Washington Spirit’s season opener, Thomas Floyd has an in-depth profile of rookie Andi Sullivan.

Four questions that will define the Washington Spirit’s 2018 season | Black and Red United
Here’s just one part of our many Spirit season previews. We’ll be adding more right here as today goes on.

Getting to know the 2018 Seattle Reign FC | Sounder at Heart
First up for the Spirit: a difficult trip west to face the Seattle Reign, who have largely tormented Washington throughout the existence of the NWSL.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Signs Contract With LA Galaxy Through 2019 | Sports Illustrated
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, TAM player. Yup, makes sense.

Actually it’s not the most sensible thing for a team that spent big to sign Ola Kamara, and that has otherwise built its roster around the idea of only fielding one center forward, but the Galaxy have marketing concerns that don’t really mesh with the soccer side of things.

This is a good time to point out that Darren Mattocks is the MLS leader in Expected Goals per American Soccer Analysis, meaning that signing a player who does what Mattocks does at a higher level should probably result in more goals. You know, someone who has been rendered superfluous so his team could field a 36 year old coming off of major knee surgery and who has only appeared 5 times out of a possible 30 for Man United.

Make the call Dave.

Iconic Juventus Named Opponent for MLS All-Star Game presented by Target |
Having a hard time getting excited for the All-Stars facing Juventus...

OK, now you have my attention. I’m excited, and confused.

Lights FC Makes Adu Signing Official |
Las Vegas is doing everything to be the most dramatic team in American soccer. Here’s hoping that Adu can find some stability and some success.

Neal swoops to sign former Charlton winger |
Sticking with former United players, Lloyd Sam has signed with Wimbledon in the English third division.

Let’s go back to the NWSL for a second, where the Chicago Red Stars revealed some excellent jerseys on the eve of the season:

The Chicago Red Stars 2018 Season Preview | Hot Time in Old Town
Speaking of the Red Stars, this might finally be the year they go beyond the semifinals. Sure they lost Christen Press, but her replacement just happens to be the best player in all of WoSo.

Power players: These figures will define the 2018 NWSL season | FourFourTwo USA
If you need a quick primer on the big names and stories around the NWSL as the league’s sixth season gets underway, here’s a good place to start.

All in one: 2018 Season Preview |
The league’s official preview takes a look at this weekend’s games, as well as giving you a ton of links and info to prepare for the season ahead.

USWNT appears set for 2019 World Cup qualifiers in North Carolina and North Texas | Washington Post
October’s World Cup qualifying tournament appears to be set for three venues. If everything goes according to plan, the United States will seal a spot in France 2019 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX.

OK folks, that’ll do it for me. Enjoy watching what better damn well be the final snow for a few months melt away!