Kickoff 8.10.23
What you need to know

Inter Miami vs. Charlotte rescheduled

Lionel Messi's first match in the 2023 MLS regular season will have to wait. That outcome stems from Inter Miami CF and Charlotte FC announcing their original Aug. 20 contest at DRV PNK Stadium has been postponed to a to-be-announced date. Since both Miami and Charlotte have advanced to the 2023 Leagues Cup quarterfinals, one of the two clubs will be playing on Aug. 19 in either the Leagues Cup Final or Third Place match.

Leagues Cup quarterfinals tomorrow

All four quarterfinal games kick off tomorrow night. The full schedule is excellent of course but the nightcap is one of the most exciting games… in the history of Concacaf? LAFC hosts Monterrey at the Rose Bowl at 10:30 pm ET.

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Your Leagues Cup Kickoff

It got quiet around here all of a sudden, huh? No games today, no transfer news on the way, just a genuine off day. I hate it. It’s like the sound machine/fan/podcast combo you use to fall asleep has been taken away and all you can do is lay there with your own thoughts. Horrifying. Let’s move along quickly before we get so still that we start remembering interactions from high school. Ooh, look over here, more Leagues Cup content and not that time you unsuccessfully asked out Caroline Bennett.

Making the case for every Leagues Cup quarterfinal team

We’ve officially reached “Anything can happen!” territory in a knockout tournament. All you need is a solid enough defense and a few breaks and, boom, look at that: You’ve won four penalty shootouts, and everyone thinks you’re the best team on the continent. In some way, all eight teams left are capable of winning this thing. Some are more capable than others of course, but all are capable. Let’s lay out the case for each team as your future Leagues Cup champion.

The Union have been here before. Kind of. Their last two major knockout tournaments have seen them run through everyone but LAFC. They came agonizingly close in last year’s MLS Cup and a little less close in the CCL semifinal, but they know what it takes to make a deep run in a tournament like this. And maybe they’ve learned a few lessons along the way about how to deal with a team like LAFC. Of course, they’ll likely have to deal with something new in the semifinal…

They’ll be favored in the quarterfinal against Querétaro. If they advance, it’s likely they’ll face Lionel Messi and Inter Miami with a spot in the final on the line. There’s nothing easy about that. The thing is – and really make sure not to strain anything here as we stretch a bit – the Union feel uniquely situated to make life difficult for Inter Miami. Their physicality and ability to hit in transition could cause issues for the Herons.

Of course, if they get past Miami (or Charlotte), they’ll probably be facing a boss fight against LAFC or Monterrey, but hey, we’re in anything can happen territory, remember?

It really is remarkable that Querétaro are still hanging around. They’re one of two Liga MX teams left. One earned the most points of any team over the course of the Apertura and Clausura last season. One earned the 17th most points out of 18 teams. I’ll let you guess which one Querétaro is. It’s not just that they were bad last year though. They’ve also had some serious issues with just making sure their players are paid on time. There’s really no reason they should have advanced as far as they have.

Which is exactly why they can totally win this thing. Don’t think about it too much. Just let things run their course.

Can they keep doing this? Will they keep finding ways to win despite their shortcomings? Is scoring from distance every other game with a Deus Ex Messi-na free kick that saves the match sustainable? All fair questions.

In response, I present a stat from “The xG Philosophy”: In 2012/13, Lionel Messi achieved a Goals/Expected Goals ratio of 2.39. This level of clinical finishing is only likely to occur once in every 1.6 million individual player seasons. 

Now, I don’t know if the math actually checks out here. But it’s way cooler if it does. The legend has become the story so we’re printing the legend. Lionel Messi is a one-in-1.6-million-level finisher. He will continue to score routinely from impossible angles and distances, and you will have to sit there and be helplessly impressed by it. Of course, all of this is sustainable. And there’s a sense of fate to everything the Herons do right now. It’s hard to imagine it stopping.

Then again, it feels like Monterrey or LAFC may have something to say about that, but for now, it’s hard to imagine it stopping.

Look, Houston straight-up kicked the ball into their own net to give Charlotte the win the other night. Never count out that kind of ability to roll a nat 20 on a confusion spell.

I mean if they can make it through whatever happened against Club América, they can make it through anything right? Of course, it’s not just that the universe seemed to be on their side in that one. They went toe-to-toe with the biggest club on the continent and looked like an equal.

New DP forward Sam Surridge made a solid first impression by the way. It feels like his inclusion in the lineup could be the kind of extra boost that pushes the Coyotes forward over the next couple of games. We know that Nashville will be solid defensively. A shot in the arm in attack could go a long way. Surridge could be that player.

They likely won’t dominate their opponents on the way to a trophy, but they can absolutely set themselves up to be in a position to keep things close and catch a break or two. That’s all it takes.

This all feels a lot like the Loon’s 2020 playoff run. They were minutes away from MLS Cup that year, thanks in large part to Bebelo Reynoso going supernova hot. Well, guess who has a tournament-best six assists?

What might be different from 2020, though, is the fact that the supporting cast seems to be stepping up in a major way. Reynoso has the lead in assists during the tournament but Bongokuhle Hlongwane is tied at the top in the goal-scoring column with seven so far. They have two players on tremendous heaters, and they seem to have luck on their side in penalty shootouts. That’s a very, very good formula to continue a surprise run to a title.

Good teams are good. Do y’all really need me to go in-depth here?

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.