Daily Kickoff - 2.29.24
What you need to know

Nashville book Champions Cup date with Messi, Miami

It's on to the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16 for Nashville SC after dispatching Moca FC 7-0 on aggregate following a 4-0 second-leg victory Wednesday night at GEODIS Park. Nashville, who won 3-0 in the opening leg last week in the Dominican Republic, will next face Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF. It’s a rematch of last year’s Leagues Cup final, won by the Herons on penalty kicks.

Cincinnati to face Vazquez, Monterrey in Champions Cup

FC Cincinnati comfortably booked a berth in the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16 Wednesday night at TQL Stadium, advancing 6-0 on aggregate over Cavalier FC following their 4-0 home victory. Cincy, who won the first leg 2-0 in Jamaica last week, will now face Monterrey and their former striker Brandon Vazquez.

New England carry 1-0 Champions Cup lead

The New England Revolution take a 1-0 lead into tonight’s second leg against Panamanian side CA Independiente. Kickoff is set for 8:15 pm ET.

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Checking in on new head coaches after one week

Nine teams have new head coaches. That means nine teams are in a state of flux different from the rest of MLS. Even if they can’t fix everything (or much of anything if you believe the research), it’s always intriguing to check in on a team that’s changing.

Here’s how the MLS teams with new head coaches are faring one week into a new era.

Troy Lesesne - D.C. United

So far, so good! Now, the question is whether that’s because of Troy Lesesne or because of Giacomo Vrioni’s mind-numbing first-half red card. Either way, a 3-1 win over New England in game one is a great first step. And we did get a decent sense of how Lesesne wants his teams to play after last year’s run at the New York Red Bulls. There’s still plenty of pressing and direct passing, but it seems to be a Diet Red Bull approach rather than a carbon copy.

The good news is we’ve seen plenty of teams in MLS adopt this model and immediately raise their floor. D.C. United’s best season by the underlying numbers in a long, long time came when Hernán Losada put forward a similar approach. The big difference is Lesesne has Christian Benteke leading the attack. Sometimes the most simplified approach is the smartest approach. “Get the ball back then kick it near the goal to the guy who can outjump the goalkeeper despite the goalkeeper being able to use his hands” is a sledgehammer of a tactic rather than a surgical knife, but it’s going to do a lot of damage regardless of aesthetic.

Laurent Courtois - CF Montréal

Montréal looked sharp for a few minutes against Orlando. Then they lost their grasp on the game and couldn’t really get it back. Full credit though – they didn’t capitulate and earned a road point from Courtois’ first match in charge. It didn’t quite look like the hyper-possession-based game model that had been rumored, but it’s only game one. We still have a lot to learn about this group (and Courtois) as they integrate several new pieces in attack like attacking midfielder Dominic Iankov and forward Matías Cóccaro.

Cameron Knowles & Eric Ramsay - Minnesota United FC

Cameron Knowles went out in his first game as interim manager and earned a win despite the team missing Emanuel Reynoso and Bongi Hlongwane. The Loons were the only team to earn a win on the road in the first week of the season.

Knowles’ time as Minnesota’s second interim manager of the year is coming to an end soon, though. The Loons finally have their second full-time manager. Eric Ramsay will arrive shortly from Manchester United. When he gets here, he’ll be the youngest head coach in the league.

The 32-year-old has never held a head coaching position. There’s definitely some risk involved in new chief soccer officer Khaled El-Ahmad’s first major decision. Frankly, I love to see it. It’s at least way more interesting than recycling the same few managers who have already struggled elsewhere. We’ll see how Ramsay approaches things when he takes charge, but he’s certainly in a great situation. This roster doesn’t need too much guidance to win games.

Caleb Porter - New England Revolution

Welp. The start of New England’s MLS season could have gone better. Porter may immediately be forced to deal with some tough decisions regarding the team’s starting striker after Giacomo Vrioni’s bizarre second yellow this weekend. It already felt like Vrioni had plenty to prove this year. This weekend didn’t help paint him in the best light. Maybe he and New England get back on track tonight in CCC and the team will recover this weekend in MLS.

Beyond that, there’s not a ton to say. Everyone should be familiar with Porter at this point.

Sandro Schwarz - New York Red Bulls

Yep, that’s a Red Bulls team. The Red Bulls did Red Bulls things against Nashville. It’s not entirely clear why they need a manager sometimes, to be honest. But hey, maybe we’ll see some tweaks throughout the season that make the team a little more effective here and there. The big advantage Schwarz has over previous managers is Emil Forsberg looked like the real deal last weekend.

Dean Smith - Charlotte FC

Yep, that’s a Dean Smith team. And that’s great news for Charlotte. They did a nice job limiting chances against New York City FC in a 1-0 win over the weekend and got their season off to an excellent start. Smith’s game model should at least make them tough to beat week over week. What they do with their two open DP spots will determine whether “tough to beat” means “losing close” or “actually winning.”

Chris Armas - Colorado Rapids

So… that could have gone better. But, hey, I don’t expect Colorado to give up four goals on 0.4 expected goals (xG) every week.

Phil Neville - Portland Timbers

Couldn’t have gone better! But, hey, I don’t expect Portland to put up four goals on 0.4 expected goals (xG) every week.

John Herdman - Toronto FC

Herdman and Toronto visited the reigning Supporters’ Shield winners (FC Cincinnati) and came out relatively unscathed. A 0-0 draw isn’t usually much to write home about, but it feels like a remarkable outcome for a Toronto side that hasn’t earned many points (or shutouts) over the last year. They can give Herdman partial credit for that result, too.

He set the team up in a back three with new (old?) addition Richie Laryea at left wingback and Federico Bernardeschi at right wingback. That setup, plus a standout performance from new central midfielder Deybi Flores, helped keep Cincy pretty quiet. The Reds looked up for the fight in this one, and that’s an improvement.

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Good luck out there. Make sure folks are taken care of.