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What you need to know

Columbus Crew sign former LAFC star Rossi

The Columbus Crew have made one of the biggest splashes of the MLS summer transfer window, announcing Wednesday they've brought forward Diego Rossi back to the league. The Uruguay international arrives from Turkish Süper Lig club Fenerbahçe and he will be a Designated Player in Columbus. His deal runs through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027.

Vancouver Whitecaps acquire Laryea from Nottingham Forest

Vancouver Whitecaps FC have brought defender Richie Laryea back to MLS, announcing Wednesday they’ve acquired the Canadian international on loan from English Premier League side Nottingham Forest. Laryea’s deal runs through December 2023, resulting in an MLS return after his previous loan from Nottingham Forest to Toronto FC expired at the end of June.

Portland Timbers acquire Brazilian winger Antony

The Portland Timbers have again utilized the U22 Initiative in the international transfer market, announcing Wednesday they have acquired Brazilian winger Antony from Portuguese side FC Arouca. The 21-year-old is under contract through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027.

Atlanta United sign DP forward Lobzhanidze

Atlanta United have acquired a Designated Player just before the Secondary Transfer Window deadline, announcing Wednesday they have signed forward Saba Lobzhanidze from Turkish Süper Lig club Hatayspor. The 28-year-old Georgian international has signed a contract through the 2026 MLS season.

Your Leagues Cup Kickoff

Another Robert Taylor Moment! A Messi brace! An upset in Houston! And more! Let’s Leagues Cup.

A. Montaño (57') | A. Velasco (48' PK), E. Ansah (75')

What happened?: New Dallas winger Eugene Ansah made the difference as Dallas advanced to the Round of 16. They’ll face Lionel Messi and Inter Miami next.

So, did we learn anything?: This was a bit more like what folks expected Austin to do. Full credit to Dallas for taking care of business and full credit to Mazatlán for a solid performance in this tournament.

PACHUCA - 0 | HOUSTON DYNAMO FC - 0 (HOU wins 5:3 on PKs)

What happened?: Nothing. At least not until PKs. Houston were better from the spot though and advanced to the Round of 16 with an upset win over the lone Liga MX team with a group-stage bye. They’ll take on the winner of Charlotte and Cruz Azul.

So, did we learn anything?: It wasn’t beautiful but it was resilient from Houston. They didn’t flinch against one of last year’s best teams in Liga MX. The Dynamo continue to feel like a team that’s slowly but surely progressing in the right direction. This is one of the best (maybe the best) moments so far in a new era of soccer in Houston.

L. Messi (7', 72'), J. Martínez (51' PK) | C. Araújo (17')

What happened?: Robert Taylor is the best player on the planet, bagging a primary assist and a secondary assist (they don’t count in Leagues Cup but I know what I saw) in a rivalry win for Inter Miami. The Herons have FC Dallas waiting for them in the Round of 16.

So, did we learn anything?: No joke, Taylor’s emergence during Leagues Cup has been genuinely delightful. His pass to Lionel Messi on the first goal was as good as they come. And it helped Inter Miami survive a challenge from the best team they’ve faced so far.

Orlando were certainly up for the fight, but a penalty altered the game state and forced the Lions to chase. That’s a horrific position to be in against the new-look Herons. Inter Miami and Messi have almost instantly convinced folks they have the ability to win this tournament and pull out enough points over their final 12 league games to make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. We’re watching something truly special.

LAFC - 7 | JUÁREZ - 1
R. Hollingshead (31’), C. Vela (33’, 62’), D. Bouanga (52’, 66’, 78’ PK), N. Ordaz (90’) | A. Escoto (47’)

What happened?: LAFC rolled after being off for a while with an MVP-level Dénis Bouanga and a rejuvenated Carlos Vela. The winner of León and RSL is waiting for them in the Round of 16. 

So, did we learn anything?: Oh. Yeah. This is what this team looks like with a little rest.

About tonight

A busy, busy slate of knockout games tonight. Let’s talk it out with help from our World Famous watchability rating meter, The Plusometer ©, a bit so old that I genuinely cannot remember why it’s even called that. Honestly, it doesn’t even really make sense as a name.

Atlas vs. New England Revolution | 8 p.m. ET 

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free
Plusometer score: 33/50

This one still seems set to be one of the knockout round’s best games. But we have to acknowledge that it’s a strange moment for New England. Bruce Arena has been placed on administrative leave pending a review into allegations that he made insensitive and inappropriate remarks and will not be with the team. Meanwhile, star goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic is reportedly frustrated with the New England front office for rejecting transfer bids from teams in Europe. Atlas were already going to be tough to handle, even for a good team like the Revs. Now there’s no telling how New England will respond.

New York Red Bulls vs. NYCFC | 8 p.m. ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free
Plusometer score: 39/50

A bonus Hudson River Derby! For free! And with a spot in the Round of 16 on the line. We’re truly blessed today.

Anyway, the Red Bulls will continue doing the whole "will they won’t they" thing with their underlying numbers while NYCFC will continue to live life with an actual striker available. That whole “having a striker” deal went pretty well for NYCFC in their last game. U22 forward Monsef Bakrar scored in his first start for the club in a 5-0 rout over Toronto FC. Now we’ll potentially get to see how his presence changes things for NYCFC against the Red Bulls’ press.

Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United | 8 p.m. ET 

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free
Plusometer score: 30/50

The Union feel like they might be something close to favorites on their side of the bracket right now. If they continue winning they’ll avoid the biggest of the big bads in Liga MX (Monterrey, América, Tigres, León) until the final. They won’t even have to deal with a team like Inter Miami or Cruz Azul until the semifinal. Things set up really nicely.

Which means it's a perfect time for D.C. United to inexplicably swoop in and ruin all of that against a team that excessively bullied them last season. I don’t make the rules, I just tell folks what they are.

Be a little surprised if D.C. pull off the upset tonight. But don’t be too surprised.

Pumas vs. Queretaro | 8 p.m. ET | 8 p.m. ET 

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass
Plusometer score: 25/50

As we’ve noted many times over the past few weeks: Not a Liga MX expert. Many would say I’m not even a newsletter expert. But at least I know when to admit it.

So, yeah, no idea what’s going to happen here but definitely could be kind of fun. The winner takes on the winner of Atlas-New England.

Charlotte FC vs. Cruz Azul | 8:30 p.m. ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free, FS1, UniMas
Plusometer score: 29/50

Just so everyone knows, this one is in Dallas for some reason. Feels like someone looked around and asked for the best way to throw 22 guys into a heat index of 115 degrees for 90 minutes and found a perfect solution. Feels odd but both teams will be dealing with the same conditions. We’ll see who breaks first. But the opportunity for Charlotte to pull off the upset will definitely be there if they can hold out long enough for Karol Swiderski to find the net.

Club León vs. Real Salt Lake | 10:30 p.m. ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass, FS1, UniMás
Plusometer score: 42/50

Your game of the night is …a somewhat hesitant game of the night. RSL didn’t have the juice to keep up with Monterrey. Now they have to bounce back against the reigning CCL champs. It’s a heckuva litmus test. But we’re refusing to believe RSL’s hot streak is over for good after one loss. They have the talent and depth to compete with León. Winning might require a little more than competing, but they at least have enough in them to hang around. If they’re well and truly up for it, we could see one of the best games of the tournament.

Other things

Philadelphia Union acquire Israeli striker Baribo: The Philadelphia Union have enhanced their attack, announcing Wednesday they have acquired Israeli international striker Tai Baribo from Australian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger AC. The 25-year-old is under contract through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. Baribo arrives after scoring 37 goals in 73 games across all competitions for Wolfsberger. He’s also struck three times in 11 matches for Israel since making his national team debut in March 2022.

Atlanta United acquire Portuguese forward Silva: Atlanta United have added another forward to their high-octane attack, announcing Wednesday they have acquired Xande Silva on loan from French since Dijon FCO. The 26-year-old former Portuguese youth international arrives through the 2023 MLS season with a purchase option.

Charlotte FC acquire defender Uronen from French club: Charlotte FC have acquired left back Jere Uronen from French side Stade Brestois 29. The 29-year-old Finland international defender is under contract through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026.

Vancouver Whitecaps defender Veselinović signs contract extension: Vancouver Whitecaps FC have signed center back Ranko Veselinović to a contract extension through the 2026 MLS season, with an option for 2027. The 24-year-old Serbian international is in his fourth season with Vancouver after arriving on loan from Serbian SuperLiga club FK Vojvodina in Feb. 2020 before making a permanent move later that year.

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Good luck out there. Make someone else look good.