What you need to know

Leagues Cup semifinals set

Philadelphia will host Inter Miami and Monterrey will take on Nashville. Games are set for Tuesday. You can check out the full schedule here. And remember, the top three teams in the tournament get a spot in the Concacaf Champions Cup (FKA CCL).

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Your Leagues Cup Kickoff

The semifinals are set. The four teams remaining are one win away from a CCC spot and two wins away from a Leagues Cup title (and a whole bunch of cash). Before we get there though, we have to talk about last night.

The Recap
J. Martínez (12' PK), R. Taylor (32'), A. Malanda (78' OG), L. Messi (86')

What happened?: Inter Miami earned an early penalty and they were off and running from there. Not close. 

So, did we learn anything: Just another moment of reassurance that what we’re seeing in Miami is very real and very sustainable. Charlotte were never in this. Not even remotely. They had an objectively good run to get to this point, but they didn’t have a chance in this one. Miami’s biggest challenge yet is waiting for them in Philly now.

S. Moore (39'), T. Bunbury (44'), A. Muyl (50'), S. Surridge (53'), H. Mukhtar (59')

What happened?: A 34th-minute red card opened the floodgates for Nashville. They didn’t even need the DPs to get involved in the scoring until things were virtually wrapped up.

So, did we learn anything: Nashville’s gradual shift toward a team that isn’t simply about grinding out 1-0 wins has reached a new level during this tournament. They’ve scored 13 times in five games so far and new DP forward Sam Surridge already has two goals in limited minutes. They look confident on the ball and the “Hany’s down there somewhere” game model seems to be slowly evaporating. It’s a great sign for their final stretch of games and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. It’s a decent sign for their chances against Monterrey, but no one should feel confident for any reason against Rayados right now. 

Meanwhile, a solid run from the Loons comes to an end. They’ll return to MLS below the playoff line, but Bebelo Reynoso and Bongokuhle Hlongwane’s performances in this tournament should have them feeling good about their chances to get over the finish line.

J. Bueno (10'), C. Donovan (90+11') | Á. Sepúlveda (65')

What happened?: Querétaro put up a heckuva fight and Ángel Sepúlveda’s 65th-minute goal featured an outstanding finish, but the Union were too much to handle in the end. Like the very, very end. After both teams spent most of the game trying to out-Dark Arts each other, Querétaro went a step too far and earned a 90+7’ red card. That opened the window just enough for the Union and Chris Donovan to find a late winner with 101 minutes on the board. 

So, did we learn anything: This whole game was a bar fight and it was wonderful to watch. Pure Concacaf. The Union handle themselves so well in those situations, though. Even when they were without all three DPs at the end of this one, they were still pushing for a goal and brushing off (almost) every attempt from Querétaro to fluster them. 

Now they’ll get a chance to turn a game against Lionel Messi into a glorified rugby match and, honestly, I feel like this is the climax of a movie montage. They’ve pretty much been training their entire lives to be incredibly frustrating to this one person in particular. They’re at least going to try. This is the biggest possible boss battle and I can’t wait.

D. Bouanga (2' PK), M. Bogusz (42') | S. Canales (68' PK), S. Palencia (80' OG), R. Funes Mori (88')

What happened?: LAFC immediately earned a penalty to take an early lead, then capitalized later in the first half on a transition moment to go up 2-0. It seemed like things were relatively under control at this point. But Monterrey earned a penalty in the second half, forced an own goal and then sent home a rebound to complete a furious and remarkable second-half comeback.

So, did we learn anything: First off: Oof, LAFC. Second, what a dang comeback. Monterrey have been the best team in this competition and I don’t know if anyone can stop them. The first bit of adversity they’ve faced this whole time and they responded by brute forcing their way through the barricade that showed up in front of them. It’s an extremely impressive win and the kind of performance indicative of the tournament’s (and the continent’s) best team.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Be careful what you wish for.