What you need to know

Sounders begin Club World Cup run tomorrow 

A Major League Soccer team’s first-ever FIFA Club World Cup match arrives Saturday in Morocco, as Seattle Sounders FC encounter Round One winner Al Ahly at 12 p.m. ET. A semifinal berth vs. Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid is on the line. Here’s how to watch and stream.

Atlanta United sign Peru international center back Abram

Atlanta United have finalized a key center back signing before the 2023 MLS season, announcing Thursday they’ve acquired Peru international Luis Abram from Segunda Division side Granada. The 26-year-old defender’s contract runs through the 2026 MLS season. Abram arrives after George Campbell (trade to CF Montréal) and Alan Franco (transfer to Brazil’s São Paulo) both departed this offseason. Atlanta also have US international Miles Robinson returning from a long-term Achilles injury, while Juanjo Purata is another senior-level returner in central defense.

FC Cincinnati sign center back Mosquera on loan from Wolves

FC Cincinnati have added Colombian youth international center back Yerson Mosquera on loan from English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 21-year-old defender’s deal lasts through June 30 and includes an option to extend through the end of the 2023 MLS season. A purchase option wasn't specified.

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Whatever happens at Club World Cup is fine...but also...

BUT ALSO…I know there ain’t none of y’all out there dumb enough to count out Seattle Sounders Football Club at this point. Like, really, if any team can show up as the new kid to the party and find a way to make it through the biggest club in Africa and then the biggest club in…uh…the world (?) and then one of the biggest clubs in South America, it’s Seattle and their unceasing protagonist energy.

I’ll level with y’all, I will. I’ve had moments where I have not perhaps enjoyed Seattle Sounders soccer at times. In particular in times when Raul Ruidiaz sombreros poor Miles Robinson in the box and scores a goal-of-the-year candidate. Those times, I admit, I might have been less than enthused. But I’ve grown to appreciate them over the years. Largely because of their ability to turn situations where they seem to be against the wall into their best moments.

Remember when they beat Austin with just a collection of high school juniors and Ruidiaz? Remember when Minnesota United thought they had a trip to the 2020 MLS Cup locked down? Remember Stefan Frei against Toronto in 2016? Remember that time RSL beat them in a playoff game without taking a shot? I mean, I know that kind of undercuts my point a bit, but that was also really, really funny and I just wanted to bring it up.

You could also see that as a learning experience though! This is a single-elimination scenario here. And no one will know better than Seattle that:

  1. You never count out Seattle Sounders Football Club.
  1. It doesn’t matter how you do it, a win’s a win.

Real quick, let’s lay out the path here. They’re taking on Al Ahly tomorrow and, as we mentioned before, we’re talking about the biggest team in Africa. They took care of business against Auckland City in the first round and, unsurprisingly, are sitting comfortably atop the Egyptian Premier League. This is far from straightforward for Seattle, even if I think you could call them very, very slight favorites. Although, as you probably know from CCL, any possible advantages for the Sounders could potentially be mitigated by the fact that Seattle have yet to play a competitive game in 2023. It’s going to be a massive deal if they get the job done.

If they do win, it’s onto Real Madrid. Real are a soccer team in Spain named after Real Salt Lake. Not a great sign considering Seattle’s recent history against RSL in elimination games, so let’s go ahead and call Real Madrid the favorites here. But we’re not going to count out the Sounders because we’re smarter than that. Let’s give Seattle a win.

At that point though, a win puts them in the final, likely against Flamengo. And anything can happen in a final.

See? Not that farfetched right?

Look, fine, I’ll admit it, we’re talking about an uphill battle here. The last non-UEFA team to win the Club World Cup came in 2012. Before that, 2006. Both teams were from Brazil. In fact, no team from outside Europe or South America has ever won this thing. But no matter what happens, don’t lose sight of how objectively cool this all is.

An MLS team is going up against the sport's biggest clubs. Even if they get stomped, this is an absurd moment for a league that started up just 27 years ago. Hop in a time machine and tell the folks watching the Dallas Burn play at a high school football stadium that an MLS team is one game away from facing Real Madrid in a game with actual stakes.

This isn’t a pivotal moment in the league’s history, but it is the product of a whole bunch of prior ones. Sit back and appreciate it and think about how this might become somewhat normal in the very near future. And then remember that you can never count out Seattle Sounders Football Club.

Other Things

LAFC sign Spanish defender Palencia: LAFC have signed Spanish right back ​​Sergi Palencia through the 2024 MLS season with a 2025 option. The 26-year-old defender was last at Ligue 2 side Saint-Étienne, the same French club DP forward Dénis Bouanga played for before joining the Black & Gold last summer. However, Palencia spent the last several seasons on loan at Leganés, a club in Spain’s second division. A product of FC Barcelona’s academy, Palencia should give LAFC a key option alongside versatile veteran Ryan Hollingshead as the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners enter four competitions this year.

Atlanta United loan Mosquera to Argentina's Defensa y Justicia: Atlanta United have loaned winger Edwin Mosquera to Argentine Primera División side Defensa y Justicia for 2023. Mosquera’s exit comes roughly six months after he signed with Atlanta from Deportivo Independiente Medellín in his native Colombia. Last season, the 21-year-old attacker had two assists in 12 games (one start) for the Five Stripes. Mosquera held a U22 Initiative spot, a roster designation Atlanta have also given forward Erik Lopez and midfielders Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra. Since MLS teams can only have three U22 Initiative players rostered at once, they seemingly would have to move one to be roster compliant ahead of the 2023 season.

Portland Timbers midfielder Ayala out after knee surgery: Portland Timbers midfielder David Ayala is out for approximately two months after undergoing successful surgery on his right knee (arthroscopic debridement). The 20-year-old Argentine is heading into his second MLS season after logging 738 minutes (21 games; eight starts) during his debut campaign. He joined Portland ahead of 2022 from Argentine Primera División side Estudiantes, signing a long-term U22 Initiative deal.

Philadelphia Union re-sign homegrown defender Real: The Philadelphia Union have re-signed homegrown defender Matt Real to a new contract through 2024 with an option for 2025. A veteran of five Major League Soccer seasons, the 23-year-old has 2g/3a in 38 appearances (12 starts). During Philly's historic 2022 campaign that included a club-record 67 points and an MLS Cup trip, Real contributed a goal in 174 minutes of action between the regular season and Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

Real Salt Lake loan homegrown defender Jaziel Orozco to Mexico's Santos Laguna: Real Salt Lake center back Jaziel Orozco has joined Liga MX side Santos Laguna on a season-long loan. RSL's 30th homegrown signing, the 18-year-old Mexican native logged 315 minutes last season with the Claret-and-Cobalt. His main contributions in 2022 were with the club's MLS NEXT Pro affiliate, Real Monarchs, making 39 appearances and earning team Defender of the Year honors.

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Good luck out there. Get to where you need to be.