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What you need to know

Inter Miami CF clinch Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs spot

Inter Miami CF have booked an Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs spot, reaching the Eastern Conference’s seven-team field via a late-season, four-game winning streak. The Herons punched their ticket Wednesday night, beating in-state rivals Orlando City SC 4-1 at DRV PNK Stadium, alleviating some pressure heading into Decision Day on Sunday.

Portland Timbers part ways with Wilkinson and Golub

Portland president of soccer Gavin Wilkinson and president of business Mike Golub, have been relieved of their duties. Wilkinson and Golub held dual-roles with Portland Thorns FC in the NWSL, and the decisions come after US Soccer on Monday released the full findings and recommendations of Sally Q. Yates’ independent investigation into allegations of past abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer. General counsel Heather Davis has been named interim president of Peregrine Sports, overseeing business operations for both the Timbers and Thorns, after owner Merritt Paulson announced Tuesday he’d step aside on Thorns-related decision-making.

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The Recap

CHARLOTTE FC (2) VS. COLUMBUS CREW (2)

What Happened

Lucas Zelarayan scored a Goal of the Year contender from midfield and Luis Diaz made it 2-0 in favor of the Crew a few moments into the second half. But Daniel Rios found the net four minutes later hand Andre Shinyashiki scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to earn a draw for Charlotte.

What It Means

We’ll talk about it more, but, for one: Yikes Columbus. The Crew will need a draw on Decision Day against Columbus to make it into the playoffs thanks to their inability to hold a lead.

For Charlotte, it was a noble effort but they came up just short. I don’t think anyone expected them to get this close though. It’s been a weird one, but I think you have to call their first season a success.

INTER MIAMI (4) VS. ORLANDO CITY (1)

What Happened

Orlando got boat-raced from the first minute. Leo Campana chipped Pedro Gallese at the very start of the game and Inter Miami cruised from there. A brace from Gonzalo Higuain and a goal from Ariel Lassiter powered Miami’s rout of the Lions.

What It Means

Inter Miami are in! I have no idea how we got here, but the Herons got the job done. And they did it in style on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Orlando have a lot of work to do now. They’ll need a win over Columbus on Decision Day or a draw plus a Cincinnati loss to D.C. United. I’d…I’d go ahead and try to win.

(Brief) assorted takes from the midweek that was

First and foremost, how could you not love that? More entirely random confluences of events that give us de facto playoff games on a regular season Wednesday night, please and thanks. Just stellar work from the universe there. 

But besides learning that MLS is the favored son of the higher powers that decide universal coincidences related to entertainment in soccer leagues (nice gig if you can get it), we also learned a few things about all four teams last night. 

No matter how it happened, Inter Miami cleared the bar

It’s weird to be in a place where you should probably praise a team for overcoming adversity when they inflicted the adversity on themselves. It’s like a coworker walking in and saying “I did it! I drove to work with my eyes closed!” Good…good job man? You could have just done it the same way everyone else did though? 

However, considering the change in leadership and personnel from the initial group that steered Inter Miami’s initial season off a cliff, I think it’s completely fair to praise folks like head coach Phil Neville and sporting director Chris Henderson for going above and beyond cleaning up a mess they didn’t make. 

Remember, at the start of the year, it felt totally fair to call this a second inaugural season for Inter Miami. The list of players brought in and sent out was comically long. Just a quick count here…I count 46 this season, 37 of those made before the season even started. For them to come together, find consistency in midfield, find a gem like Leo Campana, lose that gem to injury and have their much-maligned DP signing come to life at the perfect time to lead them to a playoff appearance is a heckuva accomplishment. And that’s just the extremely abbreviated version of the 2022 season for the Herons. 

Now, it kind of feels like they aren’t done. They’re playing well right now. And Gonzalo Higuain has become a force. If Campana can be back in time for the playoffs after picking up an injury last night, you feel even better about their chances to make some noise. 

Either way, just getting here is success that no one really saw coming.

And I guess we can say the same about Charlotte

It sure seemed like 2022 would go a whole lot worse for The Crown. Miguel Angel Ramirez’s infamous “We’re screwed” line turned out to not be quite as accurate as it seemed at times. Even when Ramirez got relieved of his coaching duties midway through the season. 

They’ve got some work to do in Charlotte before they’re able to make a year two jump like Austin and other expansion teams have. But they’ve given themselves a solid foundation to build on. Both on the field and in the stands. They turned Bank of America Stadium into one of the best environments in the league this year, and it translated to double-digit home wins.

Columbus has the yips

I jokingly but also not jokingly asked yesterday if the game starting at 16 minutes would keep Columbus from collapsing late. The answer was decidedly “no.” They’ve got the yips at this point. And that’s not the kind of thing that just corrects itself come playoff time. If they even get there. 

Orlando has to find their grinder again

The Lions came out flat in the biggest regular season game of the year. There’s no way around it. Leo Campana just sped past a jogging Rodrigo Schlegel on the first goal and that set the tone for the game. I’ve been pretty consistent this year in my assessment of Orlando as a team that isn’t exactly playing great ball but understands how to grind out wins in any way they can. But is there a chance that’s kind of gone by the wayside after their emotional US Open Cup win?

I guess. Or maybe they’re just regressing back to what the underlying numbers have suggested about them all season. Either way, they’ll need to find a way to grind out three points on Sunday. Might I suggest letting Columbus take the lead?

Other Things
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New York Red Bulls sign Tolkin to long-term contract extension: The New York Red Bulls have signed homegrown defender John Tolkin to a new four-year MLS contract through 2027 with an option for an additional year in 2028. Tolkin, 20, has become a mainstay at left back for RBNY the last two seasons. He has two goals and five assists in 58 games (52 starts) during that span, plus is second in MLS in interceptions (70) this season.

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Good luck out there. Find something to celebrate.