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Diego Maradona dead at 60, D.C. United signs Jacob Greene, and more: Freedom Kicks for 11/26/2020

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We bid farewell to an irreplaceable great

Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, we Photo credit should read JORGE DURAN/AFP via Getty Images

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m up early because I didn’t get pancetta, which I need for my brussels sprouts, so wish me luck as I hustle off to the store on Thanksgiving Day like a true degenerate.

And with that, the soccer:

D.C. United signs Jacob Greene to homegrown contract | Black and Red United
We all knew it was coming, and now it’s done: D.C. United now has five homegrown players on its roster after Jacob Greene signed a professional deal. That’s a good start to the offseason in my book.

Mourning Diego Maradona | The Ringer
If you asked me who I’d want to eulogize Diego Maradona (at least in English), Brian Phillips would have been my pick.

As for my own take: I’m 38 and have spent my entire life living in American suburbs, so for the portion of Maradona’s career where his legend was born, I had no access to actually seeing him play. He was a name in books and magazines, a small photo on a poster with World Cup facts I had on my wall. I knew he was an all-time great, I knew he scored goals, but outside of random goal highlight VHS tapes teammates occasionally got as gifts from parents, I didn’t get to see it for myself. I had to take the rest of the world’s word for it.

Like just about everyone born and raised in the US at the time, the 1994 World Cup was the first experience I had with soccer regularly available on a TV channel that I got. Maradona was understood to be past his prime: he was playing for Newell’s Old Boys rather than a leading European club, and the 1990 World Cup had seen him struggle through an ankle injury. In 1992 he’d tested positive for using cocaine, and he made the Argentine squad at 34 seemingly more because he was Diego Maradona than because of his actual form at the time.

My household sat down to watch Argentina take on Greece as the group stage got going. With Maradona starting, Argentina went up 2-0 in the first half. And then around the hour mark, we saw this:

First of all, what a team goal. The one- and two-touch stuff at the top of the box is glorious. But it’s the end of this sequence, the celebration, that helped me finally understand Maradona the man, rather than Maradona the idea: eyes bulging, every muscle tensed. Goals are supposed to be a moment of release, and here he is, just pure intensity, almost in a rage.

It’s not the perfect Maradona memory: Argentina is not wearing the albiceleste, for one thing, and it’s hard to separate this out from the fact that he played one more game before being banned for epinephrine use before the group stage even ended. This was more or less it for his playing career. But it’s the first thing that comes to mind for me when I think about him, and I can’t help but think that both the goal and the celebration informed the player I was, which in turn made me the person I am.

I know we say this about icons, but even among icons, we’ll never have another Maradona.

‘God was in town’: The night Diego Maradona played in Canada | The Athletic
If you never read it when it came out, or even if you did, Pablo Maurer’s piece on some amazing found footage of Maradona playing with Canadian semi-pros in 1996 is top notch.

Crew confirms four positive COVID-19 tests | Massive Report
The Columbus Crew have four new positive Covid-19 tests, which casts doubt on their Eastern Conference semifinal on Sunday against Nashville SC. Right now it’s scheduled to be played, but you’ve gotta wonder if that’s a good idea.

Why NWSL heading back to Kansas City from Utah is not it | RSL Soapbox
The Utah Royals might be split off from the MLS organization and sold if there isn’t a buyer for Real Salt Lake very soon, with signs pointing to interest to move the club to Kansas City. You know, the same place that saw a bad venue, two failed ownership groups, and total disinterest from Sporting KC to help at all lead to FC Kansas City relocating...to Utah.

Can you tell I don’t like the idea? I don’t like it!

Why USWNT GM Kate Markgraf understands the program’s mentality better than any executive has before | Yahoo Sports
This is an insightful piece on how Kate Markgraf operates as the USWNT’s GM. The USWNT plays the Netherlands tomorrow at noon, so if you’re like me it’ll be a good accompaniment as you nurse a Thanksgiving hangover with a leftovers sandwich.

Oh, here’s the leftovers sandwich recipe I prefer:

Prepare to make a grilled cheese with the sharpest cheddar you can find, thick-sliced bread, and a lot of butter. Cook it open faced, topped with your poultry, a dollop of mashed potatoes, and whatever else you have left over that seems appealing. Just before putting the sides together to eat, add a thin slice of canned cranberry sauce (I know, I know, but trust me, this is the right move).

I used to have a sandwich-press contraption (not quite a panini press, but rather a thing that turned out these clamshell-shaped hot sandwiches), which is the best, but if not a pan will do just fine.

And that’s it. I’ll leave you with something that is pure joy: