Happy Friday! Freedom Kicks are a little late this morning so I could include some World Cup news from overnight.

D.C. United sign Brazilian midfielder Gabriel Pirani on loan (D.C. United)
To help fill the gap left by Lewis O’Brien, the black-and-red are bringing in 21-year-old attacking mid Gabriel Pirani. The loan lasts through the end of this year and includes an option to buy. According to the Washington Post, United are also looking to sign Panamanian left back Eric Davis in this transfer window.

FIFA invested in women and girls. Can it protect them? (Washington Post)
A new Washington Post investigation shows FIFA mishandled reports of sexual abuse, including from players in Haiti, Argentina, and Zambia. The coaches and federation officials discussed have been accused of some pretty horrible things, and FIFA’s actions have allowed them to continue working with the players who reported them. In one case, FIFA even published information that could allow the specific players to be identified.

Gianni Infantino: FIFA President leaves Women’s World Cup after less than a week to go to Tahiti (Sky News)
Way to show you care about the women’s game, guy.

Now, a little round-up of Women’s World Cup results from the past few days: Nigeria beat Australia 3-2 yesterday morning, putting the hosts in surprising danger of not making it out of their group. Portugal eliminated Vietnam and also positioned themselves to possibly make it out of Group B if they can beat or tie the USWNT. England defeated Denmark, but midfielder Kiera Walsh was taken off the field on a stretcher in the 35th minute. And Argentina came back from a two-goal deficit to tie South Africa. I love World Cups.

Finally, here’s the schedule for this weekend. All three of our covered teams are playing at home, where the Spirit will be collecting new sports bras to donate to local underserved athletes and Loudoun United will be hosting a pre-match cornhole tournament to benefit local LGBTQ+ groups. For those who are planning to attend: have fun and do what you can to stay cool and hydrated!

TeamsWhenWhereWatch
Washington Spirit vs. NJ/NY Gotham FCFri., July 28 at 7 p.m. ETAudi FieldParamount+
Loudoun United FC vs. Miami FCSat., July 29 at 7:30 p.m. ETSegra FieldESPN+
D.C. United vs. Pumas UNAMSat., July 29 at 9 p.m. ETAudi FieldApple TV

ByAnnie Elliott

Mostly writing about the Washington Spirit

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Brendan Cartwright

The club has officially sold Victor Palsson. While he was one of the less-inspiring DPs on a team that has a rich history of getting underperforming DPs, Palsson was always very professional, and had found a nice niche as a right center back. However, he was 32, had another year (plus a club option) on his deal, and was making nearly $900,000. The team needs to get younger, and this gives them the chance to do that and provides some good flexibility.

It leaves them a little thin in defensive midfield, and makes them reliant on Brendan Hines-Ike. Perhaps most importantly, it surfaces the question of who’s going to be making the decisions on what to do with this new flexibility.

Regardless, thank you Victor for your time and service to the club. Best of luck back in Europe.

Sunspot

Were it not for Pines, Palsson would’ve been most improved from last year to this. Real solid player, glad he was able to get his career going upwards after his struggles earlier on. It’s not great for us in the near-term, but a good move even just thinking of next year.

Brendan Cartwright

Looks like Gaga Slonina is also going to Eupen, the same club Palsson was sold to. So prepare for Eupen and Westerlo to fight it out as your favorite MLS-flavored Belgian club.

Brendan Cartwright

With an eye on cost-savings, Cristian Dajome makes $965,000 total compensation. Vancouver is paying a bunch of it this year, but that will come on to United’s books next year. So that could be where the cost of Palsson’s contract is being spent next year.

David Rusk

Late Freedom Kicks excused, Annie, especially for the reason. You’ve been a rock of reliability.

I managed to convince an Argentine nephew to watch Argentina-South Africa last night. No one in our Argentine family (about twenty immediate relatives) had been watching Women’s World Cup nor did Diego know anyone who was watching. Maybe last night’s match (“muy emocionante”, Diego declared) will begin to change that.

BTW, at least my cuñado and three sobrinos are going to France to watch the Rugby World Cup this fall. Los Pumas are ranked about eighth in the world. (Correct me if needed, Will.)

Will Nelson

https://www.world.rugby/tournaments/rankings/mru
Just checked Los Pumas are now 7th in Men’s. Sadly the US has fallen to 18th, but we’ve been slumping. We did really well heading into the last Rugby World Cup in 2019, but haven’t been great since. Not going to get any better with the new league system the tier 1 nations + Japan and Fiji have set up where they play only each other. That’s going to leave a lot desired of the seasoning for the US heading into our hosted world cup in 2031.

Will Nelson

Los Pumas continue their Rugby World Cup warm-up tour playing against World Champs South Africa tomorrow: https://www.americasrugbynews.com/2023/07/27/rugby-championship-2023-south-africa-vs-argentina-arn-guide/

JoeW

It makes sense to delay the publication/posting in order to capture important news. As usual, what you’ve posted (as well as the other DP team) is good stuff.

Lots of roster transition–LOTS of roster transition. Davis and Pirani IN, Jackson Hopkins back in the fold. Maybe some walking wounded back in a week. But Palsson and O’Brien out and probably Taxi as well. I also heard from somewhere (I think another post here on the DP) that there is a Panamanian striker we’re coveting. Given how their NT plays (lots of direct soccer, in the air, very physical), that’s a decent backup for Benteke.

Let’s see if the US Women can take care of business. As I recall the brackets to this WC, if we finish second in our group we not only have to face Sweden (likely) in the first knockout, but that’s also the difficult side of the bracket. I thought England, Spain, and Germany were all likely on that side. So winning the group is a BFD in terms of the path to the Final. If I’m wrong on the brackets, someone please correct me.

Bryan McEachern

If we don’t handle Portugal in solid fashion, it doesn’t matter who we play next.

JoeW

I agree we need to be Portugal. Beat them and we’re through. But the key is to maintain the GD edge (as Annie points out). I don’t know how this plays out. If Vietnam plays like they played us, maybe the Netherlands doesn’t score a lot and we keep the GD and the “easier” side of the bracket. A lot depends upon which Vietnam shows up in the last game. If they stay compact and their GK stands on her head (ala the US)…good news for the US Women.

Bryan McEachern

Annie, you are being judgmental about Gianni. He is scouting the Tahiti nation football squads, men and women. He generous and forward thinking.

Not to single you out, but I think people are cruelly abusive towards FIFA, one of the most considerate and charitable operations in the world. Tahiti needs our help and attention, let alone an injection of capital into the local economy.

FIFA, Altruism for The People.

Will Nelson

https://www.americasrugbynews.com/2023/07/26/mlr-talent-spread-throughout-new-zealand-npc/
Players from across Major League Rugby are getting game time down in New Zealand with the start of the National Provincial Championship. OGDC players down in New Zealand:
Niko Jones with Auckland, he was a great mid-season addition to the roster.
Kyle Stewart with Taranaki Bulls

Will Nelson

The US Rugby Men’s U-20 Eagles have continued their downward spiral at the Junior World Trophy having lost all 3 pool play games now. This time losing to Zimbabwe in a tight 38-37 game. https://www.americasrugbynews.com/2023/07/25/usa-continue-u20-downward-spiral-with-loss-against-zimbabwe/

They’d started with a close loss to Uruguay 33-31: https://www.americasrugbynews.com/2023/07/25/usa-continue-u20-downward-spiral-with-loss-against-zimbabwe/

Then a heavy loss to Scotland 40-13: https://www.americasrugbynews.com/2023/07/20/usa-fall-to-heavy-defeat-against-scotland-in-u20-trophy/

Ryan Hunt

I was thinking last night that it would be amazing if Pirani had as much of an impact as Christian Gomez. Which naturally led me to sort of mentally compare the 2004 squad to this one.

I think the only players I’d want from the current squad to go with that one would maybe be Najar, Klich, and Pines. The rest of that 2004 team was just so solid. Including probably my favorite ever DC player, Brian Carroll

DannyMS

I am not sure that would be a fair comparison for the current squad or fair expectations for Pirani to be honest. Christian joined an already solid team, and he fit perfectly as the one missing piece. He completed them but that team already had Jaime Moreno, Ben Olsen, Ryan Nelsen, Bryan Namoff, Alecko, Ernie Stewart, Rimando, Perkins, Joshua Gross and even a Petke and a Kovalenko to play the needed roles of the aholes everyone else hates to play against. That team was a solid/very good team for a few years, even if they only won one championship. The goal for the current squad is to make the playoffs and maybe even win one game in the playoffs. And if we ever want to return to the times when we were consistently very good, then the FO needs to start with the back line and build from there. Just remember that when we ruled MLS, we had defenses that usually didn’t need help from the attacking players to do their job properly.

Also Pirani is 21, Gomez I believe was nearing 30 when he joined us and like I mentioned before, he joined a team with tons of experience.

Ryan Hunt

Yeah, when I said as much of an impact, I was picturing him raising DCs level from bubble team to playoff lock. Whereas Gomez took us from playoff lock to legit contender.

And you’re definitely right about needing to focus on the defense. As frustrating as the Oslen tenure could be at times, we almost always had a chance to win games because the back line was organized and solid. But we haven’t really had a good organizer back there since Brillant retired. Maybe Williams can turn into that guy, but I haven’t seen it yet from BHI or Birnbaum and Pines’ strength lies on other areas.

Irrlicht

Thought experiment for a Friday. If MLS teams were only allowed to field homegrown players and draft picks where would DCU be in the league? Who would dominate? Who would be in trouble?

Will Nelson

Philly would dominate their recent record with homegrowns has been way above everyone else. As for DCU we would be sucking….

Brendan Cartwright

I think we’d be pretty close to where we actually are, somewhere around the middle of the table. There are some teams that are just producing NO homegrowns. We’re producing a good amount, but just very few that are truly impactful. Bill Hamid and Andy Najar have that impact. Pines and Durkin are decent MLS starters. Ku-DiPietro has some potential, as does Kristian Fletcher and Matai Akinmboni. Ian Harkes had a successful European career and has looked good for New England (if only he could play United every game!).

There’s been a pretty bad ability to grow talent, though. Moses Nyeman and Griffin Yow flamed out, as did Collin Martin and Conor Shanosky before them. None of them really succeeded at other teams, though, either. Maybe they just weren’t that good. We have a couple intriguing youngsters in the academy, so it would be really great if we could actually start progressing some of them to superstars, like Dallas, Red Bulls, and Philly have.

JoeW

Philly, Dallas, NY Redbulls would dominate. Massively so.

And if this wasn’t a sudden rule change, then we’d likely have kept Hamid, kept Yow, kept Ian Harke, kept Moses Nyeman. I don’t think we’d be elite or a top team. But we’d have talent at every spot and a few guys (Pines, Najar) that would be among the leagues best.

And your scenario isn’t that wild. Before Bosman, most of the European teams played with rules that you could only have two foreign players start at any one time. You weren’t limited to homegrown–so Bayern Munich would still buy talent from other clubs in the Bundesliga. And frankly, I like it more when a team is a reflection–an honest reflection–of their base (where they play). I’m turned off by a squad full of Galacticos–talent purchased from other leagues. Wasn’t there a situation in the Premiership one year where there were NO native English starters at striker in the entire Prem? Subs yes. But not starters.

Fischy

DCU would be at the bottom

JoeW

Nah–it’s just that we wouldn’t have a proven striker. Our list of homegrowns would look something like this: Hamid, Najar, Pines, Akinboni, Shanosksy, Durkin, Nyeman, Yow, Hopkins, Ku-DiPietro, Fletcher, Paredes, Garay, Greene, Erik Williamson, Seaton, Bryang Kayo, Michael Edwards. Now, other than Hamid and Najar, not a lot of stars here. But I think the larger issue is we didn’t develop people like Kayo, Williamson–they left for greener pastures. My question is how we’d do at A-mid. I think we’d get some goals out of TKDP, Paredes, Yow, and Seaton–it would be scoring by committee I think.

Irrlicht

Would any of the draft picks move the needle?

JoeW

I was only including Homegrowns. If you include draft picks, then you’d have Birnbaum, And COA would probably still be on the roster then (with no foreign acquisitions like Ryan, Jeahze, Davis).

Brendan Cartwright

We had a stretch where we drafted Chris Pontius, Rodney Wallace, Perry Kitchen, Chris Korb, Joe Willis, Nick DeLeon, Taylor Kemp, and Steve Birnbaum. All of them except Wallace and Willis played over 100 games for the club, and Wallace won an MLS Cup and Willis has turned into one of the better keepers in MLS.

Talonesque #

Just wanted to say, on the FIFA thing, they just have no willingness nor desire to even appear as the good guys in any scenario. Do they understand, even on the most cynical level, that investigating and ousting abusers would be a good look for them? Helping these women is obviously far and away the right thing to do, but FIFA are just reflexive rug sweepers at heart.

JoeW

But the problem is that there is too much corruption in FAs. They have no incentive to shine the light on bad practices (whether is sexual harassment, forcing youth players to pay money to get selected for a U17 team, or rich supporters picking who’s on the NT).

garbaggio

Just a reminder that DC’s Leagues Cup game tonight will be on Univision. I guess they like the Mexico City teams as they are showing a double bill of Atlanta v Cruz Azul followed by DC United v UNAM. (I assume it’s also on the regular Apple TV streaming platform)

I remember when we played Pumas (not the rugby variety) way back when in the Concacaf Champions Cup after winning MLS Cup in 2004. We managed a 1-1 tie at RFK but then got spanked badly in the away leg. Hugo Sanchez doesn’t coach them anymore.

Will Nelson

Well shit coughing up an early goal…Greene got beat and Romo got beat by a deflection.

Matt Glad

Greene did fine. Stayed in front of him and gave away a low quality shot. Bono made a mess of it.

Matt Glad

Bono with a hollower to give Pumas a 1-0 lead. That’ll show the commentariat for giving him so many kudos recently.

Matt Glad

Me being on of those.

Talonesque #

A rare collector’s item, as it seemed to nutmeg both the defender and the goalkeeper in one throughline

Will Nelson

Sounds like a heavy Pumas presence in the crowd on the AppleTV feed.

Matt Glad

DC is doing a decent job moving the ball up field in possession. The problem continues to be that they have no idea what to do when they get near the opposing 18.

Matt Glad

Fantastic defending in a tough situation from Pines.

Matt Glad

And it doesn’t matter because Pumas score on the ensuing corner

Michael Carter

DC lucky not to be down more than two. Pretty dire stuff thus far.

Talonesque #

Does anyone believe?!?! That we can compete with these guys in soccer IQ?

Talonesque #

Basically just losing the game mentally little by little all over the field

Will Nelson

We’re being played off the field.

Talonesque #

That set piece flick on for the tap in, when was the last time DC had players smart enough to pull something like that off?

Last edited 4 months ago by Talonesque #
Matt Glad

This is me being a pessimist, but I think Rooney came in knowing DC already is advancing and doesn’t really care. He’s been coaching recently like he sure doesn’t care anymore. This team has no heart.

Talonesque #

We maybe see Akinmboni if that’s really the case, rather than grinding our starting backline to mush

Talonesque #

I meant about not caring after advancing, I just think collectively we lost a lot of quality recently, so who does the squad really believe in anymore?

Last edited 4 months ago by Talonesque #
Michael Carter

Interested to see how Pirani fits in and how quick (or how long) the club can find a DP after Taxi is shown the door.

Last edited 4 months ago by Michael Carter
Talonesque #

Yeah, but do we want to rush into a new DP given the situation? Rooney is unlikely to leave his family alone forever, and the club clearly needs a massive overhaul, fresh leadership, and a change of direction.

Last edited 4 months ago by Talonesque #
Michael Carter

Maybe DC fancy their chances against Philly? Which given DCs recent history against that club would be a very poor judgement.

Last edited 4 months ago by Michael Carter
Matt Glad

I just don’t think Rooney cares about this tournament. Honestly I think he’s already thinking about hopping a on a plane back to England. This team has grown under him but they’ve hit an obvious wall. I see no obvious tactics. Even when Benteke isn’t on the field DC’s #1 option is to boot the ball up to the striker.

Will Nelson

What was Hopkins doing there with that shot?

Will Nelson

And United gets killed on the counter just like Loudoun earlier this evening…

Talonesque #

Bono probably not ready for prime time… which is unfortunate, cuz it’s basically prime time.

Michael Carter

Bono not making a great case for the starting spot.

Talonesque #

And there he passes right to their most dynamic player in the box… yeesh

Talonesque #

Time to sub the subs, and admit what needs admitting

Fischy

I am over my Alex Bono phase

Talonesque #

Benteke getting subbed into this for reasons that completely escape my comprehension

Talonesque #

Like, getting Santos and Ruan out there, I guess that’s good to get the minutes built up, Benteke is just risking the package entirely

Michael Carter

Austin vs. FC Juarez is a good palette cleanser. A lot more competitive match with more on the line and it shows. Switching back in forth between the DC game and that one.

Talonesque #

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m good for a while seeing this team outside the context of MLS play. A long while

Last edited 4 months ago by Talonesque #
Talonesque #

DC could use probably more than anything an overarching philosophy. This squad looks like a lot of coaches added disparate elements, and that’s accurate to what’s actually happened. It’s hard to talk tactics and understanding when the players themselves vary so greatly in functionality

Will Nelson

The Oles…what is this an El Tri game?

Talonesque #

I don’t begrudge Someone being worthy of OLEs at our stadium

Last edited 4 months ago by Talonesque #
Will Nelson

I’m not…its just odd/unexpected…to hear it in our stadium.

Talonesque #

Yeah, I edited my comment cuz I meant I personally don’t, was not intended as a command

Talonesque #

Realistically, DC should be courting the kind of fans that appreciate this sort of soccer in that way, but you kinda have to play that way first

Will Nelson

Wait Asad gets a card, but the Pumas player doesn’t?

Will Nelson

So uh whose ready to get spanked by Philly again?

Talonesque #

Playing Philly in a meaningful game… that’s a paddlin’…

Steve Comer

I jokingly told my brother that I’d wear a Union Jersey until DC clawed back those 13 goals. Brother: “I don’t think we make jerseys that can last that long”.

Talonesque #

Hey, the ref called it before we could get a comeback going, no fair!

Kidding

DBU

I understand why he did it and I am sure Rooney did not complain. But it shows a lack of professionalism on the part of the referee.

The B team was not competitive. The A team was competitive. I understand why Rooney did not play the A team, but the result is expected given the lineup.

That’s my take and I’m sticking to it.

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