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DC United, Minnesota, NYCFC — American Soccer Analysis

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Yet again, Minnesota brings back a solid core of players with a great deal of MLS experience and production. Yet again, they have a talisman who is among the best players in the league. There’s no reason Minnesota United shouldn’t make a deep run in the playoffs or contend for cups this year. Which I said last year. And the year before.

It’s strange and frustrating to watch a team that is reasonably talented and well put together trip over themselves again and again. There’s no glaring incompetence or absentee ownership. There have been injury issues, losing key midfielders like Arriaga and Dotson, which are hopefully behind them. Reynoso’s erratic behavior has shaken some of the confidence around the team, but that on its own should not keep them from performing up to expectations.

With the team starting from zero at the front office and coaching level, this year should be a chance for redemption, or at bare minimum competence. Minnesota fans deserve it.

By Kevin Nelson

New York City Football Club fans are used to having nice things. Their team set quite the standard from 2016 to 2022, firmly entrenching itself among the elites of Major League Soccer. During that stretch, NYCFC ranked 2nd in MLS in npxGD (+0.33) and g+ differential (+0.37) per game. With the backing of City Football Group’s finances and global scouting network, that success should last forever right? Right?!? Somebody say right! 

Then 2023 happened.  

NYCFC finished 11th in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016. A general sense of blah enveloped the team as a once-prolific attack sputtered. The Talles Magno at center forward experiment only served to alienate the team’s young star. A defense 3rd in npxGA, led by DP center back Thiago Martins, kept them in games but an offense 20th in npXG couldn’t win them. Fourteen draws, tied for 5th-most in the last decade, illustrate a stagnant team living in constant mediocrity.

What happens when you rip away vicarious success from a group of people? They take up arms and invade the Capit- erm, wait, sorry, wrong notes. Ah, here we go – they want to blame someone! 

Many of those cries targeted head coach Nick Cushing but let’s start somewhere else, gestures vaguely at roster construction. Call it a miscalculation of the existing roster or arrogance that it could stay in the playoff race until summer, but many significant outgoings from the prior year were left unaddressed going into 2023. Historically, the MLS season is forgiving enough that even if you f#$% around like that in the offseason, you often don’t find out.  

NYCFC found out in 2023. By the time technical director David Lee got down to business and reinforcements arrived in the summer, it was too late. NYCFC won a single regular season game between late April and late August, dooming their season. 





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North Carolina Courage’s Brianna Pinto embracing new role in 2024 – Equalizer Soccer

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Gotham FC's Delanie Sheehan battles for a ball with North Carolina Courage's Brianna Pinto


Photo Copyright Rob Kinnan for USA TODAY Sports

CARY, N.C. — When the North Carolina Courage lined up for their opening match of the 2024 National Women’s Soccer League season, an interesting name filled the central striker’s role at kickoff: Brianna Pinto.

The 23-year-old had previously been a midfielder while a member of the Courage, albeit a versatile player who had been used in both defensive and attacking roles. But with North Carolina’s leading scorer from 2023 Kerolin sidelined with a torn ACL for the time being, as well as head coach Sean Nahas having a surplus of midfielders and a track history of playing players in various roles on the field, Pinto got the call as the No. 9, a move that paid immediate dividends.

Pinto drew a penalty to open the scoring in the season opener, a 5-1 romp over the Houston Dash, and notched her second start of the season back at WakeMed Soccer Park on March 30, with her first goal of 2024 in a gritty 1-0 win over Gotham FC.

“I think just being in a new role is obviously a learning moment. But I love playing the No. 9 just because I’m close to goal and there’s nothing more special than getting to score,” Pinto told reporters in the postgame press conference after the win over Gotham.

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Star in the making – Equalizer Soccer

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Emeri Adames stands with her arms folded and a massive smile on her face. She is posing in front of gold drapery in the Reign's dark blue home kit with gold accents.


Photo Copyright Jane Gershovich for Seattle Reign FC

SEATTLE — As calendars turned to December, Emeri Adames was graduating high school and preparing for life playing college soccer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The Dallas, Texas, native was not planning on going pro. She had committed to a Tarheels program that is consistently one of the best in the nation as one of the nation’s top recruits.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Seattle Reign came calling. Discussions began in late December and an invite to preseason soon followed. Adames still wasn’t set on going pro but, time training with the Reign changed everything.

“It was definitely a really hard decision. I have so much respect for UNC coaches, and I have such a good connection with them still, I talked to them. But it was just mainly this team,” Adames told The Equalizer.

It has been Adames’ goal ever since she was young to go pro but she didn’t think it would happen so soon.

“It wasn’t like I was just trying to go pro just to go pro,” Adames said. “I found my place and I found a great team that would support me and the staff that really wanted me to grow as a player and I saw their visions for me. And so I talked to my family and we had a lot of conversations and that’s what led me to this decision.”

The Reign were just as excited to sign Adames as she was to join the team. Speaking after Adames’ NWSL debut, in the regular season opener, head coach Laura Harvey admitted that “honestly, within two days [of preseason] I was like ‘we need to sign this kid, she is special.’”

Harvey was almost gleeful talking about Adames, forewarning media “You wait, this kid’s unbelievable.”

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What to keep and what to change from the SheBelieves Cup – Equalizer Soccer

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The USWNT celebrates winning the SheBelieves Cup


Photo Copyright The Columbus Dispatch

On Tuesday night, the United States won its seventh SheBelieves Cup in nine years. This victory was secured in thrilling fashion – a full-time draw led to penalty kicks and featured goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher not only saving shots but also burying one of her own. But, as the post-match excitement died down, fans and followers immediately honed in on the predictable follow-up question to an international tournament: what could this mean for the Olympics? 

In short, a lot! This tournament saw some predictably solid play from Olympic roster shoo-ins like Lindsay Horan, whose abilities to consistently generate plays, draw fouls, and score goals looked as reliable as ever. Mallory Swanson returned from injury to the international stage for the first time in a year and has never looked faster or more eager for a goal. And joining her up front were Jaedyn Shaw and Sophia Smith, who more than earned their keep with goals throughout the tournament. 

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