Daily Kickoff - 4.25.24
What you need to know

Crew take lead in Champions Cup semis vs. Monterrey

Goals from Cucho Hernández and Jacen Russell-Rowe have the Columbus Crew sporting a 2-1 aggregate lead in their Concacaf Champions Cup semifinal series with CF Monterrey following Wednesday's Leg 1 at Lower.com Field. With a spot in the tournament final on June 2 on the line, Columbus will look to close the series out when they head to Estadio BBVA for the second leg on May 1.

MLS NEXT adds eight new clubs for 2024-25 season

MLS NEXT will welcome eight clubs for the 2024-25 season, with the newcomers all beginning play in the fall of 2024. Two clubs – AC River and Hoosier Premier Academy – will provide a full-player pathway, competing in all age groups of MLS NEXT competition from U13 to U19.

Vancouver sign Bovalina from Adelaide United

Vancouver Whitecaps FC have acquired wingback Giuseppe Bovalina from A-League side Adelaide United FC. The 19-year-old Australian defender is under contract through the 2026 MLS season with club options spanning from 2027-28.

Toronto acquire Etienne Jr. from Atlanta

Toronto FC have acquired winger Derrick Etienne Jr. from Atlanta United. In exchange for the 27-year-old Haitian international, Atlanta receive $200,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money (GAM) and up to an additional $175,000 in GAM if certain performance metrics are met.

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The Crew are on the verge

Uhhh, are they going to do this?

Last night, the Columbus Crew outplayed CF Monterrey on their way to a deserved 2-1 win thanks to goals from Cucho Hernández and Jacen Russell-Rowe.

Now, we aren’t going to pretend like this should have been a rout, but it could have been. That’s how good the Crew were on the night. Rayados had their chances in transition, but Columbus had the kind of opportunities that make you wonder if they have a 3-0 lead on Earth II instead of the 2-1 lead they earned on this timeline.

Did we mention they did this to Monterrey? It’s Monterrey’s first loss in this competition in five years. That one came after they were already up 3-0 on Atlanta United after the first leg. It’s their first genuine loss since they bombed out of the old format’s group stage in the 2016-17 edition of the competition. Remember, that’s the only time they’ve been in this competition and haven’t won it since its introduction in 2008.

The bottom line is that even if it’s only one leg, beating Monterrey in this kind of setting is one of the most impressive wins in MLS history. And it’s not a team from LA or New York or Atlanta or Seattle pulling it off. It’s a team in the equivalent of an MLS mid-major market.

I feel like every other week we’re taking a moment here at The Daily Kickoff to stop and appreciate what Columbus have put together as an organization, but they keep making it worth the time. The work president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has done to build a top-tier roster and pair it with head coach Wilfried Nancy’s game model is remarkable. Nancy taking nearly every player that’s come through Columbus and finding a way to make them an effective piece of the puzzle is why he’s going to win Coach of the Year one of these days. And the organization as a whole seems to be successful in almost everything they do. There’s a reason they’ve won two of the last four MLS Cups.

All that being said, the job’s not done. They still have to go down to Nuevo León and hold onto a one-goal lead that could evaporate instantly and entirely thanks to the away goal Rayados scored last night. But if the Crew can pull off back-to-back series wins against Tigres and Monterrey, they’ll have engineered an all-time great Concacaf run whether or not they win the final.

If they do win it all… well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But let’s say 2022 Seattle’s reign as the best-ever “MLS in Concacaf performance” is in a little danger. Again, we’ll fight about that when the time comes.

The fact we’re even discussing a Columbus Crew Concacaf Champions Cup title – and 2025 FIFA Club World Cup berth – as a genuine possibility is wild. It’s not surprising, though. This is just what the Crew do these days. At this point, do you really expect them to do anything but go down to Monterrey and finish this off?

And Other Things

Toronto reach quarterfinals of Canadian Championship: Toronto FC eased into the 2024 Canadian Championship quarterfinals on Tuesday night, crushing Preliminary Round opponent Simcoe County Rovers FC by a 5-0 score at BMO Field.

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