And that goes double for me.

Here’s everything I wrote this week:

  • Tuesday: The USA women beat Colombia 2-0, and at Northern Pitch, I had three thoughts.
  • Friday: With the Women’s World Cup reaching the quarterfinal stage – i.e., the point at which the games actually start to matter – I wrote a preview of what to watch for in the four quarterfinals for SoccerCentric.
  • Saturday: Soccer Insider in the Star Tribune this week looks at Teal Bunbury, the standout Minnesota kid that somehow flies under the local media radar. (Seriously, he’s like the Tyus Jones of soccer. Why he’s barely been covered is beyond me.) Plus some short takes on Women’s World Cup ticket sales, Jonny Steele, Copa America, and the upcoming Gold Cup, and a weekend watch guide.
  • Saturday: More thoughts, this time from USA-China, as the USA has now finished the warmup rounds.

Here’s what I worked on this week:

Tuesday: At Northern Pitch, three thoughts on the USA’s 1-0 win over Nigeria at the Women’s World Cup.

Thursday: Episode 110 of The Sportive has a lot of Twins talk, some Timberwolves talk, and a little bit of Wild, harmonicas, and nuts thrown in.

Friday: MLS week 16, and even though it’s midseason I’m still complaining about the CBA.

Saturday: This week’s Soccer Insider looks at the USA women’s national team, and how they’re doing the same thing they always do – plus US Open Cup, Mexico national team, Sporting KC, Kassey Kallman, and what to watch this weekend.

Today is the debut of my weekly “Soccer Insider” column in the Star Tribune. I can hardly believe it, but the paper says it’s true – Page 2 has my byline and my mug shot.

This week, I wrote about Minnesota Kicks star Alan Willey – and how the Kicks’ attack from 1976 to 1981 is similar to United’s strikeforce this year, and why Minnesota isn’t currently duplicating the setup that made Willey a star.

Here’s a few more things I wrote in the past two weeks:

The FIFA scandal has reached “parent” status, in that those of us who are known soccer aficionados have spent the week trying to explain the whole thing to our parents, who have always been a little confused about this strange game.

Here’s what I worked on this week:

At Northern Pitch, a look at what LA’s stadium plan means for Minnesota – including a one-act play in which Bill McGuire and Nick Rogers receive a special visitor. Plus, a look at how the NASL is pushing the MLS out of its “chosen league in a chosen land” comfort zone in the Week 12 MLS Preview.

Episode 106 of The Sportive got jubilant over the Timberwolves winning the draft lottery, but sad about the end of Letterman.

At SoccerCentric, I learned to love the Champions League, and wondered why more attention isn’t paid to Liga MX, the USA’s most popular soccer league.

I never really sat down to tell the whole story of Northern Pitch, our new Minnesota-focused soccer website, so now – almost two months after it launched – is as good a time as any.

I’ve been covering Minnesota pro soccer officially since mid-2012, and unofficially following the teams – first the Minnesota Thunder, then the Minnesota Stars, now Minnesota United – for a lot longer. This led to the SoccerCentric blog at startribune.com, where in 2013 and 2014 I did my best to churn out as much soccer coverage as I could while working for free. During that time, I also had lunch with my friend John Bonnes, of Twins Daily and KFAN / Gleeman and the Geek fame, about once every six months.

The first time we had lunch, I managed to pique his curiosity enough that he told me to “keep on me” about starting up a soccer website under the MinnCentric umbrella. So I bothered him for two years. And during that time, more and more people got interested in writing about, and covering, pro soccer in Minnesota.

So, in January, I sent out a feeler email to most of the local soccer-writing community, asking them to sit down and listen to John talk about what we might be able to do. Basically, the MinnCentric umbrellas takes care of the two most annoying things about independent sportswriting – IT infrastructure, and advertising sales. This leaves those of us who just want to write a chance to focus only on that, and even make a (very small) amount of money along the way – attractive, for someone like me who’d been writing for free for two years.

I didn’t know if anybody would be interested – and frankly, had they not been, the whole thing would have died. But almost to a man, they agreed to be part of the team – and that’s how Northern Pitch got here.

I could enthuse further, but instead I’ll just link you to what I’ve written for the site. I’ll be doing United game coverage, a weekly look at the MLS schedule, and the occasional column – but even better, there are nine other guys besides me, all of whom are pumping out unbelievably excellent content.

It’s been fun. It’ll continue to be fun. I’m thrilled it actually happened. And all it took was two years of pestering John about it.

For the first time in podcast history, all four of us physically gathered in one spot. The result was perhaps not our most cohesive podcast – at one point, two people were having two different conversations with other people who were not holding microphones – but it was just a blast to get everyone together.

I haven’t been posting updates here with stuff from the site – we won Best Sports Podcast from the City Pages, did you know? –  but head over to thesportive.com if you’d like more from us.

We looked things up on Wikipedia in this episode. Things must be spiraling downhill.

The Journal de Montreal’s banner sports headline today read (in French, of course): A TRUE MIRACLE. It was referring to the Montreal Impact’s win over Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, in which Montreal’s Cameron Porter scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to send the Impact through to the semifinals.

While Porter scored the goal, it was made by Minnesota native Calum Mallace, who created it with some defensive hustle, followed by an astonishingly good 65-yard pass to set Porter up. Watch the goal here:

Mallace, scrambling back on defense as Pachuca tried to kill the game, picked up a loose ball and raced up the center of the field. His pass landed perfectly, hitting Porter in stride but landing far enough that the keeper couldn’t come out to clear his lines, and Porter scrambled around the Pachuca right back and poked the ball under the keeper and into the net.

Here’s another view, from behind the goal.

That’s a heck of a pass.

Chicago and Los Angeles are set to kick off the Major League Soccer season on Friday night, but with the opening game just two spaces down on the calendar, and the league’s full Saturday slate barely 72 hours away, no deal has been reached in the ongoing CBA talks between the owners and the players’ union. The two sides negotiated late into the evening in Washington, D.C. last night, with owners and league officials departing before midnight and the players’ side staying past the early morning hours. The players’ frustration was evident; one source on their side was quoted as saying, “It’s shocking. The owners are almost wanting a work stoppage.” by the Washington Post’s Steven Goff.

The central issue of the talks appears to be free agency, with the owners unwilling to consider anything like the open competition for players that has become the norm virtually everywhere else in the professional sports world. At one point yesterday, the owners reportedly offered a modified form of free agency that would have offered freedom to only players who had played at least 10 years with their current team – a rule so draconian that exactly one MLS player, Houston midfielder Brad Davis, would have qualified. Later in the day, several sources reported that the owners had nudged this offer to include players who were at least 28 years old, and had spent at least eight years in the league – but that those players, while able to choose their new team, would have their salary increases capped at 10%.

For comparison’s sake, NHL players are able to reach unrestricted free agency at age 27, and after seven years in the league – and of course there is no limit on what kind of salary increase the player might make. Players may reach restricted free agency earlier, generally around age 25, in which teams must make qualifying offers to retain a right of refusal on any contract offer the player might sign; otherwise, the player becomes unrestricted. In baseball, age is not a factor; players are effectively indentured servants for three years, then have three years in which they may take contract grievances to an arbitrator, after which they may become unrestricted free agents.

Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is that it is only in MLS where teams claim a right to players even after contracts expire. In every other sport, it’s taken for granted that once a player’s contract is over, and a team has renounced the ability to sign that player, then the player may sign with any team he chooses. In MLS, this isn’t true.

The few signs of hope on Wednesday morning, after three fruitless days of negotiating, were simply that the season hadn’t yet been delayed. Several sources this morning reported that players still planned to board their scheduled flights for this weekend’s games, leaving open the possibility that a deal could still happen. Montreal played its CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal as scheduled on Tuesday – with Minnesota native Calum Mallace providing the key assist late in the game to send the Impact through to the semifinals – and there was no indication that DC United planned to skip its own quarterfinal on Wednesday night.

Assuming players do indeed make their scheduled flights, the decision process could be delayed all the way up until Friday afternoon. But with the sides still so far apart on the free agency issue, very few seemed optimistic that a deal was possible – let alone imminent.

NOTE: This appeared at SoccerCentric.