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Taxiarchis Fountas to D.C. United, USMNT roster for March qualifiers, and more: Freedom Kicks for 3/18/2022

Standing on the curb yelling “Taxi!,” but just for soccer reasons

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SK Rapid Wien v FC Zorya Luhansk - UEFA Europa League: Play-Offs Leg One Photo by Josef Bollwein/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

Good morning! Tomorrow D.C. United plays a day game in Toronto, your NWSL champions the Washington Spirit are in Orlando for their Challenge Cup opener, and Loudoun United have a bizarre 1pm kickoff up in New Jersey. We’re in the deep end at B&RU! Hope you like to read articles online about soccer.

Speaking of...

D.C. United strikes deal to acquire Taxiarchis Fountas earlier than expected | Washington Post
Steven Goff is reporting that United has agreed to a deal with Rapid Wien to bring Taxi Fountas to the District sooner than originally planned, with roughly $400,000 going to the Austrian side to buy out the remaining few months of Fountas’ contract. It’s no secret that United has been pushing for this, and reports in Austria have pointed towards Fountas wanting to make the move happen ASAP as well, so if it costs a little money...I think the Black-and-Red will be able to live with it.

Fountas will need time to get his visa, so don’t expect him to make a dramatic, WWE “baw gawd that’s Taxi’s music!!!” entrance tomorrow at BMO Field, but it’ll still be a boon to a team that needs sharper movement and more creativity in the attack.

Speaking of United’s attack, Michael Estrada has been officially called up by Ecuador:

We already heard that Estrada is out for this weekend for family reasons and would stay in Ecuador to join up with the national team, so this is just crossing a T and dotting an I.

Spirit Coach Kris Ward Uses a Player-First Philosophy In Search of a Second NWSL Title | Washington City Paper
Not only is this a good read about Kris Ward and his path to becoming the Spirit’s head coach, but it contains some news about the team’s acting GM (it’s a familiar name!) and that the club will soon hire Angela Salem — who retired after an NWSL Best XI season in 2021, and who played for the Spirit in 2015 — as an assistant coach.

Ward spoke to media yesterday, breaking some news, praising Ashley Sanchez’s growth (if you like Sanchez, we have more about her coming up in an hour, or in the past if you didn’t read this post right when it went live), and alluding to adjustments in style of play. Here’s the thread of press conference quotes:

Washington Spirit Sign Defender Amber Brooks | WashingtonSpirit.com
Washington also added NWSL veteran Amber Brooks to its squad yesterday, a move that seemed expected once her preseason trial carried on through the Florida leg of training camp. Brooks will battle against Karina Rodríguez and Alia Martin for the job of being the go-do center back option when Emily Sonnett and/or Sam Staab are unavailable, but with international call-ups, Brooks and Martin will both get chances to play alongside Staab (unless Vlatko calls Staab up too, which...look I’m just a blogger but I feel like that should have happened months ago).

What I’m saying is that the Spirit are deep.

Interview with Andi Sullivan | RFK Refugees
Andi Sullivan stopped by RFK Refugees to talk about what’s to come for the Spirit, her USWNT play, and of course the mystery of the cherry blossom kits.

I’ll throw in that there is a new Plex Weather coming out in literally hours.

NWSL Challenge Cup: Taking stock of every team as the games begin | Just Women’s Sports
Want to know what’s going on with the rest of the league? Claire Watkins has a preview covering the basics for all 12 NWSL teams, including a note that the Spirit are right up there among the favorites.

USMNT roster named for March World Cup qualifying window | Stars and Stripes FC
Gregg Berhalter announced his 27-man USMNT squad, but it sounds like they’re probably going to have to make a quick change based on what happened just a couple of hours before the announcement:

Not ideal!

‘It’s like trying to hold water in your fist’: Searching for the truth behind the Querétaro stadium violence | The Athletic
This is a long read, but some tremendous on-the-ground reporting from Pablo Maurer and Felipe Cardenas on how things are in Querétaro in the aftermath of the horrible fighting seen at a match between los Gallos Blancos and Atlas.

Alright, that’s it for me for now, but there’s plenty more to come today and tomorrow. Enjoy your Friday, and go Terps!