Daily Kickoff 3.18.23
What you need to know

Soccer Saturday

It starts at 4 pm ET with Seattle hosting LAFC on FOX and Apple TV, then ends when LA and Vancouver wrap up after a 10:30 pm ET kickoff on Apple TV. It’s gonna be a good day. Check out the full schedule here.

Nashville sign MLS veteran midfielder Gregus

Nashville SC have bolstered their midfield, announcing Friday the signing of Slovakian international Ján Gregus through the 2023 MLS season with a club option for 2024. Gregus, 32, arrives in Nashville with two goals and 24 assists in 90 MLS appearances (74 starts), accrued during stints with Minnesota United FC (2019-21) and the San Jose Earthquakes (2022). Gregus, who has 36 appearances for Slovakia, was a Designated Player for Minnesota after joining from Danish side FC Copenhagen.

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Three Saturday Storylines to Watch

Another big Saturday is on the way. I, for one, enjoy being able to build a whole night out of turning on MLS 360 on the TV and keeping whatever game I have highest on the Watchgridometer on the computer in front of me. Trust me. This is the way.

Anyway, there are a few things in particular to keep in mind as you keep your eye on the rest of the league today. Here are three big ones.

The West’s best

Since LAFC arrived in 2018, it’s been Seattle and LAFC leading the way at the top of the West. Between the two we’re talking three MLS Cup appearances, two Supporters’ Shields, two Concacaf Champions League finals appearances, two MLS Cups, one CCL title and more points than any other Western Conference team by a considerable margin. LAFC are tied for the most points in MLS in that time span, while the Sounders have the fourth-most.

However, in a very MLS turn of events, neither have been all that consistently good recently. In 2021, LAFC missed the playoffs. In 2022, Seattle did the same. We arguably haven’t had a meaningful Seattle-LAFC game since the 2019 Western Conference Final. That feels set to change this year.

It’s probably a little too early to consider this one all that meaningful in MLS terms. LAFC still have a lot of CCL in front of them and we saw last year what a deep CCL run can do to a team, even one as good as Seattle. However, for now, this LAFC team seems like it might be capable of making its way through CCL while still having enough juice down the stretch to make things interesting in MLS. This matchup feels as if it could be more like the prologue to bigger stories down the line. But man, those stories are going to be so, so good. How could you miss the beginning?

Look, whether or not this ends up being a bigger matchup down the line, both teams have looked excellent to start the season. Like, at times, as good as they’ve ever looked. This should be an outstanding game. The best the Western Conference has to offer. You shouldn’t need any more convincing than that.

St. Louis are still doing it

You probably don’t need a reminder and you’re eventually going to get sick of all the St. Louis talk, but my hands are tied here. The new kids keep doing everything right. They’re entering the day as the only team with nine points over the first three games. And the atmosphere at CITYPARK in St. Louis tonight is going to be insane. Again.

It’s been the kind of picture-perfect start you have to appreciate while you can before all the appreciation overwhelms you and everyone starts to talk about how tired they are of hearing how great St. Louis are. It’s coming. Just prepare yourself.

Try and enjoy the special thing that’s happening for now, though. And sit back and enjoy what should be an excellent game tonight as San Jose come to town (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

We’re on record here at The Daily Kickoff, the world’s first and only soccer newsletter (probably), as being all in on the Quakes as a playoff team. They have a balanced and effective roster that seems to be meshing quickly under new manager Luchi Gonzalez. They’re going to be playing good ball throughout the season, and that should be more than enough to earn them a spot in the postseason.

In the short term, it may be enough to make the Quakes the first team to take a point or three from St. Louis. CITY SC will have their hands full tonight and, well, frankly, they can’t keep getting quite so many lucky breaks for the entire season. Maybe. I dunno, my head says they won’t, but my heart kind of feels like they may never lose.

Ok, the season has started now

Looking at you …[ahem] ... LA, Colorado, Sporting KC, Charlotte, CF Montréal, Vancouver, New York, Toronto and any other team you want to throw in here that’s practically face-planted out of the gate to varying degrees of surprise. Seriously, SKC, CF Montréal and Colorado still haven’t even scored yet. SKC and Colorado should especially feel bad about that.

Meanwhile, the Galaxy have looked totally out of sorts and like the roster may not actually be good enough. The Red Bulls have sputtered and seem like they really, really, really need new DP striker Dante Vanzeir to come good now that he’s beginning to work his way into the starting lineup. Charlotte are… frankly a bit of a mess right now. Vancouver are good enough but doing that thing where they refuse to get off to a decent start (again). Toronto haven’t looked up to the challenge and are already dealing with injuries to a roster that seemed thin to begin with.

It’s strange how many teams already feel like they should be considering a move toward the panic button. Things change quickly around here though. Today would be a great day to start that process for each and every one of these teams. The 2023 season has started now and they really should consider playing like it.

Other Things

San Jose goalkeeper Daniel out with knee injury: San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel will miss the next 4-6 weeks after undergoing successful surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, the club announced Friday. Daniel suffered the injury at training on Wednesday, and the expected recovery timeline keeps him out anywhere from mid-March to early April.

United States call in 11 MLS players for FIFA U-20 World Cup prep: Head coach Mikey Varas has named a 19-player roster for a series of friendlies in Marbella, Spain as part of the United States U-20 men’s national team’s final training camp before the FIFA U-20 World Cup is held this May and June in Indonesia.

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Good luck out there. Do not put your hand in a box when someone asks you to do that.