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D.C. United vs. New England Revolution, NWSL Challenge Cup knockouts, MLS is Back, and more: Freedom Kicks for 7/17/2020

Big games all day today!

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MLS: D.C. United at Toronto FC Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

I told myself I was going to start today’s Freedom Kicks early, but here it is, 12:11am, and I have just written the first sentence. Too predictable! Also, this post is earlier than normal because it’s a D.C. United gameday, so we’ve got a preview coming for you later this morning.

Let’s start with some good news:

“Cleats on” is a big moment for any player making a long recovery from an injury, so congrats to Paul Arriola! Hopefully his rehab keeps going at this pace, and that we somehow have games later this year.

D.C. United needed help in its MLS tournament opener. FIFA provided it. | Washington Post
Ben Olsen’s reputation is for not using all of his substitutions, and waiting late in games to do so. But, given his first shot at the temporary five-substitution rules, Olsen went to his bench early (at halftime) and often (used all five). Not only that, but by making the moves he did, Olsen managed to give a rest to three key attacking starters (Ola Kamara, Edison Flores, Julian Gressel) and a starting fullback (Joseph Mora).

DC United and US youth national team midfielder Kevin Paredes hailed after MLS debut | MLSsoccer.com
Another positive of those subs: Kevin Paredes made his United debut, and was a legit factor. Paredes has shown at training (remember way back in February, when yours truly went to training several times to see United players with my own eyes?) that he’s got the talent and the attitude to be a factor right now, and it was great to see that carry over to United’s draw with Toronto.

Looking back on that game, here’s a good behind-the-scenes video from United’s content team down in Florida:

Arena thinking about his lineup as Farrell and Zahibo return to full health | The Bent Musket
Bruce Arena is talking about possible rotation, and he’s got some options.

Full Time with Meg Linehan: Stay Home, Watch Soccer | The Athletic
Our own André Carlisle is talking Washington Spirit on Meg Linehan’s (still relatively new) podcast.

Pro Foul Podcast: Who doesn’t love NWSL Challenge Cup chaos? | Last Word on Soccer
André also just started a new NWSL podcast with Rachael Kriger and R.J. Allen (not the former NYCFC player) that I can’t recommend enough.

The Mixxed Zone: The Knockout Round | Beautiful Game Network
More podcasts! This one features me talking about the Spirit’s play thus far, their potential as a dynasty, and some under-the-radar players that have impressed at the Challenge Cup.

North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns: NWSL Challenge Cup live stream, how to watch, odds, storylines | CBS Sports
Sandra Herrera has been killing it doing CBS’s written NWSL content as well as pre- and post-game shows. Here’s her preview of this afternoon’s quarterfinal between the North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC.

Dash take on Royals in Challenge Cup quarterfinal | Dynamo Theory
And here’s what you need to know for the night game between the Houston Dash and Utah Royals FC.

Living in a hotel for a month would kinda suck | All For XI
NWSL players are going through something that is in its own way pretty difficult by being at the Challenge Cup.

Before we get to yesterday’s MLS is Back results, let’s look at two great pieces on the madness that was San Jose beating Vancouver 4-3. Sam Stejskal at The Athletic and Charles Boehm at MLSsoccer.com are both well-versed in this particular genre of nonsense game, and they really captured the strange fury the game was played in.

Atlanta United 0-1 FC Cincinnati: Highlights and recap | Dirty South Soccer
There are articles digging deeper on Atlanta United’s shock 1-0 loss to hapless FC Cincinnati, but sometimes a reaction from Troll 2 tells you all you need to know.

Five things noticed during Toronto FC’s wild 401 derby win over the Montreal Impact | Waking the Red
Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact always produce wild games, and sure enough, they did it again. Ayo Akinola posted a hat trick, but TFC kept giving up goals from extremely easy-to-defend long balls. Their Group C finale against the Revs is going to end up being 7-6 or some such.

Crew shows dominance, downing Red Bulls | Massive Report
Anemic Red Bulls fall 2-0 to Columbus in second match of MLS is Back Tournament | Once a Metro
Good news, everyone!

Metro Nashville Sports Authority approves MLS soccer stadium construction agreement again | The Tennessean
Nashville SC’s stadium proposal had to be voted on again because the last attempt was basically sprung on the public without adequate notice.

Alright, we’re done here. Let’s get that W today.