Let’s be crystal clear about Monday’s U.S.-Canada decision: It was wrong. Period.

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A few media colleagues have donned their oven mitts this morning, now baking up a fresh round of lesser informed excuse-making about the Norwegian referee’s decision yesterday during the Miracle in Manchester.

The theory goes, the referee’s assistant at the Canadian end “warned” goalkeeper Erin McLeod not to slow down the action.  So, this thin line of thought goes, the decision to punish McLeod was wholly justified.

A lot of this is coming from our friends who may not watch soccer as much – and some of them are making apples-to-orange comparisons.

(For the record, I hate that all this detracts from a rousing, brave U.S. win. It really was quite something … which is why we are writing all this other stuff about it.)

If you are relatively unfamiliar to soccer, I promise I’m not judging. My role here is simply to inform, to keep the conversation within the chalk lines of relevancy. Because some of what I’m hearing simply isn’t. Relevant, that is.

To wit: About this warning of “not slowing down the play,” I say “So what?”

It is absolutely immaterial in the context of such a meaningful decision from the woman in the middle, at such a critical time in the contest.  Referee assistants and referees are always providing information and communicating in formal and less formal ways.  So, there’s that.

But the more important issue here is the context and timing of this massive free kick award. (A decision that, as I’ve already tried to make clear, is never issued.)

So, let me be crystal clear about this:

Only the most egregious, blatant violation of the perennially-ignored six-second rule, one that demonstrated a nakedly overt effort to defy and show up match officials, deserved such harsh treatment.

McLeod’s actions didn’t even approach such a standard.

Warning? Only if referee Christiana Pedersen had pulled McLeod aside and said the following words would a “warning” be considered as such in this case: “Look, you are clearly stalling. You will leave me no choice but to award a free kick if you hold onto the ball for more than six – SIX, you hear? – seconds. Am I being clear?”

Even in that case, I might argue that McLeod got to her feet and released the ball in acceptable time.

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By the way, most goalkeepers would hear such a “warning” as McLeod apparently received and reasonably conclude she was being instructed not to dally on goal kicks. (Which McLeod didn’t appear to be doing.)

Want a fair comparison? This would be like a bunch of people heading out of town in a panic over Hurricane warnings. On the way out, police warn drivers almost in passing to “watch your speed.” And then someone gets tagged for going 71 in a 70 – and then gets their vehicle towed because of unpaid parking tickets from back in college.

By letter of the law, yeah, that’s justifiably enforcement. But I think we’d all agree it was pretty silly and utterly unnecessary.

Chelsea expected to let Cahill leave on loan in January

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Gary Cahill is no longer first-choice at Chelsea — anything but, in fact, as he’s played just 21 minutes in the Premier League this season — and the club is prepared to allow its captain to leave on loan in January as a reward for six years of excellent service, according to a report from the Guardian.

[ MORE: Fulham hire Claudio Ranieri after firing Slavisa Jokanovic ]

New Blues boss Maurizio Sarri has used Cahill sparingly thus far — even leaving him out of the 18-man team for Sunday’s draw with Everton — but has praised the 32-year-old for his professionalism and influence as a valued member inside the locker room. For those reasons, Sarri is prepared to do right by one of the club’s most senior members as Cahill seeks regular first-team minutes.

[ MORE: England vs. USMNT preview ]

Cahill’s current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2020, thus a loan in January and an ensuing permanent transfer this coming summer represents the club’s final opportunity to recoup a small fee for a player who will surely garner plenty of interest from within the PL. Having paid under $9 million to sign him from Bolton in January 2012, Chelsea have gotten pretty good value for their initial investment, including two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, and one Champions League and Europa League title each during Cahill’s spell at the club.

U.S. U-20 men one win from World Cup

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One win.

That’s all the United States’ U-20 men’s national team will need to advance to this summer’s World Cup in Poland and the Pan-American Games in Peru.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

The Yanks cruised through group play with a nearly perfect nine days of soccer, the closest of five wins a 6-1 defeat of Trinidad and Tobago.

Competition is a bit tougher in the knockout stage, but Costa Rica and Honduras did the U.S. a massive solid by drawing 1-1 in their opener.

Now Tab Ramos’ kids can qualify for the World Cup with a defeat of Costa Rica on Friday or Honduras on Monday.

The top two teams in each group qualify for Poland, while the Group A winner advances to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship to face the winner of Group B (Mexico, El Salvador, or Panama).

The U.S. has spread the scoring around, lead by 17-year-old Ulysses Lainez of LA Galaxy II (six goals). His former Galaxy Academy buddy, Alexis Mendez of Freiburg has five goals, as does Toronto FC 18-year-old Ayo Akinola.

Atlanta United sits atop Forbes’ list of most valuable MLS franchises

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Atlanta United came up just short of the Supporters’ Shield, but it’s off-the-field success is No. 1 with a bullet.

Giving high marks to attendance and merchandise sales, Forbes places the Five Stripes atop its list of the most valuable franchises in Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

United sits first, with a valuation of $330 million. Both Atlanta and the second place Galaxy have valuations ahead of the two-least valuable teams combined (Columbus and Colorado). And the Five Stripes are worth twice the individual values of those teams and Vancouver. Full list here, from Forbes.com:

“Last season, average home-game attendance was 48,200, and this year the team is drawing over 50,000 fans per game. In just two seasons Atlanta has already laid claim to the league’s eight best-attended games ever, and nine of the top eleven.”

The margins are fine, relatively speaking, with Atlanta’s advantage over second place LA Galaxy by $10 million. Seattle is third at $310m, with newcomers LAFC at $305m, and Toronto FC at $290m.

Lagerwey staying in Seattle after GM vote

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Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey will stay in his position for four more years after the club’s alliance members voted to keep him in the role.

The Sounders’ have an Alliance Council that can vote its general manager in or out of the job after a set period of time in the position.

[ MORE: Surgery for Mendy ]

Lagerwey, the ex-Real Salt Lake executive, has been in his role as Seattle’s GM since 2015, and led the team to two MLS Cup Finals, winning one.

The club demands 40 percent of alliance members to vote in order for the decision to be valid and only 37.2 percent did so, but the 87.2 percent of voters in favor or retention sent “a clear message” of approval.

The 45-year-old former MLS goalkeeper certainly had the right things to say in discussing his club’s disappointing end to the season. Seattle went on another late season red-hot run, but fell to its rivals in the playoffs.

“You can’t lose to Portland and call the season a success,” Lagerwey said. “You can’t be the only favorite to be knocked out and call it a success. Performance in the playoffs matters.”

Sure, but Lagerwey was able to pull the strings to fix the season, adding Raul Ruidiaz after forward Jordan Morris was lost for the season. He’s a future Soccer Hall of Famer, and Seattle is right to largely acknowledge that with his vote.