Kickoff story - 8.4.23
What you need to know

San Jose Earthquakes sign USMNT forward Hoppe

The San Jose Earthquakes have acquired US men's national team forward Matthew Hoppe on a 12-month loan from Championship side Middlesbrough FC. Hoppe, 22, memorably broke through in late 2020 at German side FC Schalke 04. But he's found minutes hard to come by since playing at Mallorca (Spain), Hibernian (Scotland) and Middlesbrough (England).

LAFC transfer Cifuentes to Rangers FC

LAFC have transferred midfielder José Cifuentes to Scottish powerhouse side Rangers FC. The 24-year-old Ecuadorian international departs the Black & Gold after three-and-a-half seasons, posting 14 goals and 20 assists in 102 regular-season games (78 starts). He was a key part of the club’s MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield double-winning squad last season.

LA Galaxy sign defender Yoshida

The LA Galaxy have acquired a Japan national team all-time great, announcing Thursday they have signed defender Maya Yoshida. Yoshida, 34, is under contract through the 2024 MLS season. The center back was a free agent after last playing for FC Schalke 04 in the German Bundesliga.

FC Dallas sign longtime La Liga midfielder Asier Illarramendi

Asier Illarramendi, after playing in nearly 350 games for Spanish top-flight sides Real Sociedad and Real Madrid, has signed in MLS with FC Dallas. The deal, announced Thursday, was completed just before the Secondary Transfer Window closed Wednesday evening. And it sees Illarramendi sign through the 2023 MLS season with an option for 2024, arriving after being a free agent.

Club León vs. Real Salt Lake Leagues Cup match postponed

The Round of 32 Leagues Cup match between Real Salt Lake and Club León has been postponed to Friday at 9 pm ET due to inclement weather.

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Your Leagues Cup Kickoff

A penalty shootout win for an MLS team over a Liga MX team! A second penalty shootout win for an MLS team over a Liga MX team! A slightly less exciting penalty shootout win for an MLS team over another MLS team!

Let’s Leagues Cup.

The Recap
ATLAS - 2 | NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - 2 (NE win 8:7 on PKs)
M. García (8'), J. Caicedo (11') | G. Bou (30', 79')

What happened?: New England went down two early. But Gustavo Bou’s brace pushed things to a penalty shootout and the Revs advanced. They’ll take on Querétaro on Monday.

So, did we learn anything?: Man, what a week for New England. It seemed like the off-field drama had caught up with them on the field for a moment, but full credit to the team for regrouping and getting back in the game. It’s a huge win for obvious reasons. And they certainly won’t mind drawing Querétaro.

O. Fernandez (31' PK)

What happened?: It just took one goal for the Red Bulls to advance. They’ll face Philadelphia on Monday.

So, did we learn anything?: Both teams still have a long way to go in attack. This one was not beautiful. But at least the Red Bulls are through to the next round and having to worry about making the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs once they leave the tournament instead of just having to worry about making the playoffs now that they’ve left the tournament. Still, it might be totally plausible for the Red Bulls to keep making a run here in the classic “defensive-heavy team gets hot in a tournament” fashion.

PHILADELPHIA UNION - 0 | D.C. UNITED - 0 (PHI win 5-4 on PKs)

What happened?: Not a thing. And then some penalties. Philadelphia won those and advanced to take on the Red Bulls in the Round of 16.

So, did we learn anything?: Don’t think so. But it is kind of exciting we get a New York-Philadelphia game with like 55% pass completion this tournament.

Á. Sepúlveda (74')

What happened?: Ángel Sepúlveda found the net late and Queretaro moved on to the next stage. 

So, did we learn anything?: Nope. Note: Not a Liga MX expert here. But didn’t seem like there was much separating these two coming into last night and it still doesn’t seem like it. Querétaro have a big challenge waiting for them against New England.

CHARLOTTE FC - 0 | CRUZ AZUL - 0 (CLT win 4-3 on PKs)

What happened?: Nothing. And then Charlotte won on penalties thanks to a big performance from goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina. They face Houston in the next round.

So, did we learn anything?: Cruz Azul haven’t been at their best lately, but this is still a huge win for Charlotte. And you almost definitely could consider it an upset depending on your prior views on how MLS teams were supposed to fare against Liga MX sides. You might be reconsidering those views a bit right now though. The only Liga MX team still standing on the right side of the Leagues Cup bracket is Querétaro. Obviously, that could have been a lot different if MLS didn’t win all three penalty shootouts versus Liga MX sides so far, but it’s way more fun to think that there’s something about MLS that makes its teams slightly better at something completely random.

MLS v Liga MX since 2016, updated through tonight (pre-Leon v RSL):

6-24-7, -40 goal differential vs Tigres, Monterrey & Club America

28-24-15, +19 GD vs all other Liga MX sides

About tonight

Chicago Fire FC vs. Club América | 8 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free, FS1, UniMás
Plusometer score: 31/50

I’m not sure I buy what went down in Columbus the other night. Yeah, the Crew are outstanding. But I’m going to guess Club América getting boat raced had as much to do with the low stakes of the game as anything. Chicago are going to need to play one of the best games of their collective lives here. Which means the entertainment value is honestly pretty high. An upset here would really, really sound alarm bells throughout the Liga MX universe. Like, full-on panic mode. I highly doubt it happens, but you never know.

FC Cincinnati vs. Nashville SC | 8 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free
Plusometer score: 38/50

An MLS vs. MLS matchup doesn’t carry the same level of intrigue, but this is an excellent matchup under any circumstances. That being said, Nashville haven’t been at their best lately. When these two met back on July 15, Cincy cruised to a 3-1 win.

Columbus Crew vs. Minnesota United FC | 8 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free
Plusometer score: 33/50

The Crew played one of their best games ever the other night, steamrolling Club América, 4-1. Minnesota will have to be sharp here. The good news though is Emanuel Reynoso is doing Emanuel Reynoso things and the Loons are always dangerous when he’s hot.

Toluca FC vs. Sporting Kansas City | 9 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass
Plusometer score: 32/50

Toluca passed through the group stage with ease, scoring four goals in wins over Colorado and Nashville. Sporting KC made it through the group stage by taking down Chivas. Toluca seem scary, but I don’t think they can overlook SKC here.

Club León vs. Real Salt Lake | 9 pm ET 

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass, FS1, UniMás
Plusometer score: 42/50*

(*Let’s try this again…)

Your game of the night is… a somewhat hesitant game of the night. RSL didn’t have the juice to keep up with Monterrey. Now they have to bounce back against the reigning CCL champs. It’s a heckuva litmus test. But we’re refusing to believe RSL’s hot streak is over for good after one loss. They have the talent and depth to compete with León. Winning might require a little more than competing, but they at least have enough in them to hang around. If they’re well and truly up for it, we could see one of the best games of the tournament.

CF Monterrey vs. Portland Timbers | 10 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass, UniMas, FS1
Plusometer score: 36/50

I think Monterrey are going to win the whole thing. Which is exactly why it’s going to be hilarious when Portland go full Portland here and somehow take this to penalties or win 1-0 with a shot disparity of like 27-2 in favor of Rayados.

Tigres UANL vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | 10:30 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass
Plusometer score: 30/50

Tigres are favorites here. Heavy favorites even. But Brian White and Ryan Gauld may (I mean this genuinely) have something to say about that. No Liga MX team feels safe right now.

Other Things
  • LA Galaxy acquire midfielder Cerrillo from FC Dallas: The LA Galaxy continue to canvas the MLS trade market for midseason additions, announcing Thursday afternoon they have acquired midfielder Edwin Cerrillo from FC Dallas. In exchange for Cerrillo, Dallas receive up to $600,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) which breaks down as $200k that's guaranteed and $400k that's conditional. Dallas also retain a sell-on percentage in the 22-year-old homegrown.
  • Minnesota United acquire Gregus in trade with Nashville SC: Minnesota United FC have arranged a reunion with Ján Gregus, announcing Thursday they have acquired the Slovakian international midfielder in a trade with Nashville SC. In exchange for Gregus, the Loons have sent Nashville $75,000 in 2024 General Allocation Money (GAM) and their natural second-round pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas.
  • Canada defender Adekugbe returns to Vancouver Whitecaps: Vancouver Whitecaps FC have brought homegrown defender Sam Adekugbe back to the club, announcing Thursday morning he has joined from Turkish top-flight side Hatayspor. Adekugbe's deal runs through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027.
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Good luck out there. Become ungovernable.