Kickoff 6.5.23

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What you need to know

Club León win Concacaf Champions League

Club León won last night’s second leg 1-0 to take a 3-1 aggregate win in the Concacaf Champions League Final. LAFC have fallen short in the final for the second time in club history.

Assorted thoughts and questions from the weekend that was

A full Saturday slate plus a CCL Final. There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s talk it out.

Club León were perfect

Just want to take a moment to give Club León their well-deserved flowers. LAFC are excellent. Club León didn’t care. They put together a picture-perfect series, other than one late misstep at the end of the first leg. Even with the pressure of that late Dénis Bouanga goal in leg one, they came to LA, took a couple of glancing blows and controlled the rest of the game. I’m not sure we’re truly talking about the single best team on the continent by a number of criteria, but no one could have better handled the tournament scenarios they faced. Their win in the Final didn’t have the cinematic feel of their comeback win over Tigres, but that’s exactly what made it so impressive.

All that said, I don’t think anyone needs to panic about an “MLS HASN’T CLOSED THE GAP!!!” narrative from this Final – small sample size for the current crop of teams and all that. Now is not the time to tear it all down and restructure how MLS teams are allowed to construct rosters in the pursuit of becoming the best top-to-bottom league in Concacaf.

If you can keep your star striker for one more window, do that

We haven’t really talked about Chicho Arango much because we haven’t had to. It didn’t really cross my mind until last night that “Hey, it sure would be nice to have a game-changing No. 9 on the field right now.” I’m not saying it would have changed everything against an ultra-professional Club León team, but you never know. Seems like a better option than not having Arango out there. 

It’s generally been totally fine that Arango left LAFC. Without doing a roster rules deep dive on a Monday morning, we’ll just say there were contract demands they couldn’t meet. Plus, they’ve been racking up points in MLS despite CCL play and, in theory, could eventually bring in a Young DP striker this summer. But, man, the fact they didn’t get another true striker in after Arango’s departure feels, in hindsight, like something worth questioning. Even if it only really became noticeable during this series. CCL and Club World Cup berth is the ultimate goal, right? You might as well go all in.

LAFC, of course, will be totally fine. Heck, they’ll probably be right back in this same spot this time next year. But if there’s a real “what if” here around LAFC not utilizing their full allotment of DPs with a possible continental title on the line, if there’s anything to wonder about beyond “If I were LAFC, I would have played better,” I think it’s that.

Or, to maybe reframe it, considering we don’t know how much cap space they actually have, LAFC potentially not possessing the ability to have their full allotment of DPs due to the salary rules is something to consider as MLS teams prepare to go into Leagues Cup.


I thought I was going to have room for all the MLS things I wanted to talk about and then talked y’all’s ear off about the CCL Final and MLS roster rules. Oops. Let’s move quickly.

  • Emanuel Reynoso is back and it’s time to buy a whole bunch of Minnesota stock if you have the (fake) capital. Reynoso returned midway through the second half of a 1-0 game, and they immediately began to create the kinds of chances they hadn’t put together all game against Toronto. Eventually, they found the equalizer. Thing is, they already had some of the best underlying numbers in the league without Reynoso. If he can reintegrate somewhat seamlessly and Minnesota can carry the lessons they’ve learned without him forward, the Loons are a surefire playoff team.
  • I’m just frowning a lot watching NYCFC and New England play lately. There’s clearly talent, and there’s clearly something wrong. New England are dealing with injuries of course, so they get a bit more of a pass. NYCFC have been relatively stable, and they still have two whole points out of 21. Things just seem kind of broken right now. I frowned a lot during these teams’ 0-0 draw this weekend.
  • Lol, Cincy got another one-goal win at home. They've done that eight times this year.
  • Lol, St. Louis beat another team by two goals or more. They’ve done that seven times this year.
  • Hany Mukhtar is going to win a second-straight MVP award, huh? Or, at least it seems a lot like it right now. After torching Dallas for a game-winner on Saturday, he has 10 goals and seven assists on the season. His 17 goal contributions are the most in the league.
  • Seattle are another team where it’s just a lot of frowning and watching and frowning some more right now. They’ve been struggling for about the last 10 games. Seattle only have two wins in that span. It’s probably not that much of a coincidence though Cristian Roldan has been out for…about 10 games. He came off the bench against Portland this weekend and should be good to return to the starting lineup soon. Seattle should be fine. Probably.
  • Is the CCL hangover dead? The Union haven’t missed a beat since dropping out of CCL. Along with Cincy and Nashville, they’re one of three teams to hit the 30-point mark on the season. They clobbered CF Montréal this weekend and are starting to fire on all cylinders. The big question now is if LAFC will find the post-CCL transition just as easy.
Other Things

USA bounced from U-20 World Cup: The United States have suffered a familiar fate at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, losing a fourth straight quarterfinal via a 2-0 decision Sunday against Uruguay.

Ex-LA Galaxy star retires from professional soccer: Zlatan Ibrahimović has retired from professional soccer.

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Good luck out there. Even if you can’t do everything perfectly, do at least one thing really well.