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What you need to know

Noonan named MLS Coach of the Year

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan has been named the 2023 Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year. Under Noonan’s direction, the Eastern Conference club won their first Supporters’ Shield, completing their turnaround from three straight last-place finishes (2019-21) upon joining MLS to being the league’s top regular-season team.

D.C. United hire Mackay as general manager & chief soccer officer

D.C. United have hired Ally Mackay as their new general manager and chief soccer officer. Mackay joins the Black-and-Red after spending the past five seasons as Nashville SC’s assistant general manager. At age 37, the Scotland native is the youngest executive across MLS in his role.

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Mission Impossible: Western Conference Semifinals edition

Dear reader, yesterday you were tasked with a simple mission: Sabotage each Eastern Conference Semifinals team’s playoff hopes without letting them know your intentions are nefarious. Just a reminder, this mission is critical. Our efforts to ruin things via the referees in Operation cointelPRO came up well short. It all comes down to you. We’re counting on you. And, fortunately, so are the four remaining teams. They’ll be calling shortly to get your input. 

Houston Dynamo FC: Isn’t giving the ball to Héctor Herrera a little too obvious?

When Houston come calling, we’d recommend finding a way to ensure their minor struggles to find the net become struggles against SKC. There’s not some secret strategy they could have been deploying this whole time to consistently put the ball into the back of the net with ease. But they could convince themselves there is. At least for one game. 

In this case, we think it’s time to find someone else to get the ball to besides Héctor Herrera. We here at The Daily Kickoff have talked about Herrera’s high usage rate before. No one had a higher percentage of their team’s touches in the final two-thirds of the pitch this season. If we know that, Sporting KC definitely know that. They’re going to try and slow him down. So, what if Houston just use him as a decoy? Instead of working to get on the ball, tell him to work on dragging defenders out of position. 

Our theory here is that Houston will eventually realize they should just let their most effective connecting piece go to work and maybe even have him on the ball more than normal. But, at that point, it might be too late. If the other folks in the Dynamo attack can’t get it done, SKC could jump ahead early. And Houston aren’t typically a team built for a comeback. All you have to do is convince them to throw a curveball when their fastball would probably do just fine.

Sporting KC: You’re going to have to scrap everything with a starter injured

Sporting KC will be without starting left back Logan Ndenbe after Ndenbe somehow played pretty much an entire half on a torn ACL. Audi MLS Cup Playoffs adrenaline is a heckuva thing, huh?

Anyway, your job will be to convince SKC that this is cause for change.  I mean, they’re already set to make at least one change, but without a starter it might be possible to convince them to take a slightly more pragmatic and defensive approach overall. You’ve got to make up for it somehow, right? Plus, they’re on the road. Road games are scary. Might as well take fewer chances and see if you can ride out the storm. 

Keep SKC from trusting their attack to get the job done. Keep them from attempting to ride their current momentum to an early lead against a team that doesn’t have a ton of firepower. Make sure they alter their approach without Ndenbe a little too much. They aren’t going to abandon the 4-3-3 or anything, but they might be talked into being uncomfortably risk-averse. If you can do that, then you’ve likely made Sporting’s night much more difficult.

Seattle Sounders: The Legacy Game

This is a tough one. Brian Schmetzer isn’t typically one to overthink things. It’s a large part of why Seattle have been so successful in these kinds of situations. Get your best players out there, don’t make major tweaks and trust that your group is just as good or better than the opponent’s. 

But maybe, just maybe, we can attack this with an appeal to his emotional side. This could be the final game in Seattle for Raúl Ruidíaz and Nico Lodeiro. Those are two club legends. They’ve had their injury issues this year, sure, but are Seattle really going to leave that kind of experience on the bench in a major game? 

It’s a long shot, but it just might be a pitch that can work. Jordan Morris has been a nightmare to handle at striker with his movement pulling defenders around and Seattle have been solid (as always) in midfield. Opting for the “get your most experienced players in for the big game” angle likely isn’t the move here against one of the league’s most dynamic teams. 

LAFC: Let Nouhou cook

Ok, fine, this isn’t really about tactics or game model or anything, we just think it’d be funny. We need you to convince LAFC to push as high up the pitch as possible on the wings and vacate the wide areas where Nouhou is liable to carry the ball forward when given the opportunity. 

Will that actually cause LAFC to lose? We don’t know. Nouhou in attack is the soccer equivalent of determining outcomes with a 20-sided die. Could something amazing happen? Sure. Could something catastrophic happen? Also, sure. Look, what’s the point of sabotaging things if you can’t have a little fun with it? Besides, anything short of “keep Dénis Bouanga on the bench” probably won’t be enough to slow down LAFC anyway. Seattle will have to do all the work there. Somehow.

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Good luck out there. Just a little while longer now.