Daily Kickoff - 1.26.23
What you need to know

Portland Timbers name Davis as CEO

The Portland Timbers have named Heather Davis as their chief executive officer. Davis will oversee all business and operational aspects of the Portland Timbers, Portland Thorns FC and Providence Park.

Philadelphia Union acquire Lowe from Inter Miami in trade

The Philadelphia Union have acquired Jamaican international defender Damion Lowe in a trade with Inter Miami CF. To land the 29-year-old, Philadelphia sent Miami $225,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM), a natural first-round pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft and the Priority Homegrown Rights for Inter Miami II forward Shanyder Borgelin. Philadelphia will, however, retain a percentage of any future transfer over Borgelin.

Philadelphia Union acquire Torres from CF Montréal

The Philadelphia Union have acquired Argentine attacking midfielder Joaquín Torres in a trade with CF Montréal. The 25-year-old joins Philly in exchange for up to $800,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM). 

Brandon Vazquez nets in debut but USMNT fall to Serbia

Brandon Vazquez scored in his senior-team debut but the US men's national team fell 2-1 to Serbia in an international friendly at LAFC's BMO Stadium on Wednesday evening.

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Let's be honest about where Philly are going

Normally we’re quick to remind you around here that progress isn’t linear. Unless, of course, you’re the Philadelphia Union.

Yeah, they picked up a Supporters’ Shield title in 2020, but they’ve been creeping closer and closer to MLS Cup for the last few years. If the trend continues, well, I have to imagine the next logical step from “losing in a penalty shootout that only happened because of a 128th-minute header from Gareth Bale that just so happened to be the last goal of his club career” has to be an MLS Cup win. Then again, I guess we’re in unprecedented territory there.

What if that means they’re about to skip a step in that line? They didn’t quite grab MLS Cup. But they’re still going to get a chance at the Concacaf Champions League. And, I mean, not to jinx anything or end up on a “HOT MLS TAKES EXPOSED” Twitter account a couple of months from now, but it kind of feels like the Union might just be the favorites.

That’s a big claim, I know. However, as far as MLS teams go, they should be the most prepared to make a run. There’s an absurd level of continuity here. Every single starter is returning at this point. Kai Wagner is still around, all three DP spots are locked in and the team that came one point and one goal away from winning a double is unchanged. They’re assuredly itching to make up for missing out on a pair of trophies. In a competition like CCL, where one of the major roadblocks for MLS teams has been the fact the competition starts at the very beginning of the season, it doesn’t feel like the Union will need much to shake the rust off. Especially considering how their tactical identity is remarkably consistent.

Meanwhile, LAFC are also shockingly unchanged. Bale is gone and so are Latif Blessing, Sebas Mendez and Franco Escobar, among others. But CCL itself isn’t predicated on the quality of your depth pieces beyond the starting XI. Their starting lineup from MLS Cup 2022 could look a lot like their starting lineup on opening day of 2023. Just add Aaron Long and subtract the injured Maxime Crepeau.

Even still, I think I’d give the (very slight) edge to the Union early in the season and the edge to Andre Blake over two legs of a potential and outright likely all-MLS semifinal. That’s bold on my part, but take a look at the CCL bracket right quick. The only Liga MX team competing with LAFC and Philly is Atlas, who finished next to last in Liga MX’s Apertura (17 of 18 teams).

The Union’s bar for themselves should be the CCL final. If they get there though, what happens to their MLS Cup hopes? We saw what happened to Seattle Souders FC last year and plenty of other MLS teams who made deep CCL runs in years past. It’s tough to make it through CCL and come out unscathed on the MLS side. Your success post-CCL will depend on your injury luck and your depth.

The good news for Philly fans is the Union have quietly been adding solid pieces to fill out the depth chart behind their set-in-stone XI. They traded for midfielder Andres Perea (from Orlando City SC) earlier this offseason and picked up center back Damion Lowe (from Inter Miami CF) yesterday. Then early Thursday morning, CF Montréal attacker Joaquin Torres formally arrived in a trade. It hurts a bit, of course, that they lost striker Cory Burke (to New York Red Bulls in free agency) and midfielder Paxten Aaronson (transfer to Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt) this offseason, but they should be relatively prepared to stay afloat long enough to potentially recover in time for an MLS Cup run.

The Union’s CCL participation does open a window in the East though. They’re clearly the best team in the Conference, but it’s tough to call them the favorite to finish at the top of the Conference. Folks like Lowe and Perea and a seemingly endless collection of academy kids have a big task waiting for them this season. All considered though, I don’t think anyone in Philadelphia will be too worried about their chances of a Round One bye in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs if they’re holding the continent’s biggest trophy. That’s not a given. But it’s not a long shot either.

Other Things

Schlegel signs contract extension for Orlando City: Orlando City SC have signed defender Rodrigo Schlegel to a new contract that runs through 2024 with options for 2025 and 2026. The 25-year-old Argentine center back first joined Orlando ahead of the 2020 campaign on loan from Racing Club in the Argentine Primera División. He signed a permanent deal with the Lions before the following season.

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