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What you need to know

Canada take on Uruguay

The Canadian men’s national team takes on Uruguay today in a friendly in Slovakia. Kickoff is set for 12 pm ET. Here’s more on how to watch and stream.

USMNT face Saudi Arabia

The USMNT will face Saudi Arabia in a friendly in Spain. Kickoff is set for 2 pm ET on FS1, UniMas and TUDN.

Seattle host Cincy

The Seattle Sounders are looking to keep their playoff hopes alive against an FC Cincinnati team looking to secure a playoff spot of their of own as the Knifey Lions travel to Lumen Field tonight. Kickoff is set for 10 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+.

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A random Tuesday throws haymaker

You might remember “short-sided” from the offseason edition of the Kickoff. It’s like how there are small-sided soccer games, but it sounds like “short-sighted?” It’s not my best. Or, even worse, it might actually be my best. Anyway, the name’s not important. What’s important is a random Tuesday has snuck up on us and thrown two men’s World Cup prep games and a critical MLS game at us. Here are a few quick notes on a busy day.

1. How much are we really putting into these friendlies?

For me, it’s a genuine question. The internet worked itself into a ball of anxiety and flop sweat after the USMNT’s 2-0 loss to Japan the other day. Which is great because it’s fun to be in a community and panic together so we can celebrate together etc. etc. etc. I’m not dismissing your right to drown in hot takes on the internet. You are valued and your intentions are pure of heart. You just want what’s best for this team.

But. BUT. We’re one step past practice here. The only thing I think we can classify as genuinely concerning are the guys fighting for a spot on the roster who came out flat in a chance to prove their worth. And that’s only on an individual level of assessment.

However, if you’re turning your anxiety up to 11 based on the team as a whole, let’s use our therapy words (I think/I feel/I know). I think it’s probably important to consider friendlies are for working on things you aren’t good at and not for trying to win by amplifying what you’re already good at. I feel it’s probably equal parts truth and motivational tactic when Gregg Berhalter says this group is missing five World Cup starters. And I know none of it really matters all that much in the end because soccer is a wildly variable sport and making it out of the group stage over three games is based on nothing, but whichever timeline in infinite multiverses your creator has placed you on.

There. Don’t you feel bett…Oh no, you’re still panicking aren’t you? Well, might as well make steer into the skid here…

2. Ricardo Pepi is starting today

I’m pretty firmly in favor of looking at a player’s entire body of work when determining their place in things like national teams. And we just talked about the glorified preseason game nature of these kinds of friendlies. That being said...

Man, if anyone can potentially make or break their World Cup chances today, it’s Pepi right? Especially considering his entire body of work as of late has been less than stellar. After his reported $20 million transfer to Augsburg this winter, the 19-year-old went on loan to Groningen of the Eredivisie. He’s played just 681 minutes since leaving FC Dallas at the beginning of the year and has just one goal and one assist.

Looking back on what I wrote at the time of his transfer, I’ve gotta pat myself on the back for being brave enough to echo the general opinion of other folks who are smarter than me.

“He’ll immediately be in a relegation fight once he arrives and, if I had to guess, might have a tough time adjusting. He’s 18 and will be under a lot of pressure to progress linearly from his hugely impressive 2021. A quick reminder: that’s not how it works. Well, usually that’s not how it works. Progress, in most cases, isn’t linear. Especially not when it comes to teenagers in new environments. The team culture will be different, the style of play will be different and the competition will be a little more stout."

A few months on, I’ll just throw out one more reminder Pepi is still just 19 and, as always, progress isn’t linear. No matter what happens today or even for the rest of the season, it would be absurd to give up on him entirely. But it sure would be nice for him and the USMNT if he made the most of this opportunity today.

3. When Seattle are laid to rest, you tell them it was FC Cincinnati

If Seattle lose tonight they’ll be six points below the line with two games left to play. In short: If they lose, they’re all but done. And how weird is it that it might be a seemingly playoff-bound FC Cincinnati team slamming the door?

We’re on the verge of watching the team who won three-straight Wooden Spoons ending a 13-year playoff streak. There’s something poetic about that if you look hard enough. Especially considering this game is only happening this late in the season after being rescheduled thanks to Seattle’s CCL run.

Or Seattle win and improbably make their way to the playoffs and win the whole thing and we have to once again accept our impending Sounders-based doom. All options are still on the table here. And teams from both conferences will be keeping a very, very close eye on this one.

Other Things
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Pulisic, Pepi to start for USMNT vs. Saudi Arabia

Head coach Gregg Berhalter has revealed two members of the US men's national team's lineup for Tuesday's international friendly vs. Saudi Arabia, telling reporters on site in Murcia, Spain forwards Christian Pulisic and Ricardo Pepi will return to the starting XI. It's significant news for the USMNT's final match before they gather for the 2022 World Cup in November.

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Good luck out there. Challenge the form.