What you need to know

Columbus Crew transfer Zelarayán to Saudi Pro League

Lucas Zelarayán, one of Major League Soccer's premier playmakers, has been transferred from the Columbus Crew to Al Fateh of the Saudi Pro League for an undisclosed fee. The deal, announced Monday, ends a three-and-a-half-year stay for Zelarayán in Columbus after joining in December 2019 from Liga MX side Tigres UANL. He ultimately tallied 38 goals and 30 assists in 97 regular-season matches for the Crew.

Columbus Crew acquire Camacho from CF Montréal

The Columbus Crew have acquired center back Rudy Camacho from CF Montréal in exchange for $400,000 in General Allocation Money. The funds break down as $200k in 2023 and $200k in 2024. The 32-year-old Frenchman will reunite with Columbus head coach Wilfried Nancy, who took over last December after spending over a decade with Montréal, including two seasons as head coach.

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Your Leagues Cup Kickoff

A huge upset for an MLS side over a giant of Liga MX! Another huge upset for an MLS side over a giant of Liga MX! Fun night! Let’s talk it out.

K. Álvarez (29') | C. Hernández (41', 69' PK), C. Ramírez (81'), S. Moreira (90+3')

What happened?: América took a first-half lead and it became fair to wonder if the Crew had the firepower to get back in the game without Lucas Zelarayán. Wellllllllll, seems like they had enough and more. Cucho’s brace led the way in a remarkable win. They’ll face Minnesota United in the knockout round.

So, did we learn anything?: We’ll sit down together and talk more about Lucas Zelarayán’s shocking departure soon. For now, it seems like a risk on the Crew’s end when they clearly have the kind of team that can make a run in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Especially now that Julian Gressel has arrived (and already picked up an assist like 10 minutes into his debut). That being said, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s see what the Crew pull off over the next couple of days before the window closes. If they end up being the mystery team attached to Diego Rossi or something then I’ll be far less worried about their choice to capitalize on the chance to move on from a great, but aging player coming to the end of his contract.

Anyway, holy dear God they didn’t even need him to thump América! Yeah, the stakes were pretty much non-existent last night with both teams already onto the knockout round. But, holy smokes, the Crew boat raced the biggest team on the continent. I’m a firm believer that there is an incredibly small group of managers who truly affect their teams for the better by a significant margin. I’m beginning to believe year by year Wilfried Nancy might just be one of those managers.

CLUB PUEBLA - 1 | CHICAGO FIRE FC - 1 (PUE win 10:9 on PKs)
B. Angulo (74') | X. Shaqiri (79')

What happened?: Chicago didn’t have to do much to advance last night, but Xherdan Shaqiri went ahead and made sure they won their group anyway.

So, did we learn anything?: Yet another data point that suggests Chicago may genuinely have the juice to be a playoff team once we get back into the regular season. I’ve been hurt before, so I’m still skeptical. But they’re playing well. They’ll need to keep playing well as they take on Club América in the knockout round.

Pedro Raul (45'), É. López (76'), J. Angulo (90+3'), V. Huerta (90+7' PK) | D. Rubio (90+1' PK)

What happened?: Toluca rolled. The Rapids are eliminated.

So, did we learn anything?: The Rapids technically allowed the same amount of goals to Toluca as Nashville did. In a way, you can say they’re just as good defensively. Hang the banner.

J. Russell (27')

What happened?: SKC couldn’t let Columbus have all the fun, right? Johnny Russell made the difference as Sporting kept Chivas quiet to send one of the biggest clubs in Mexico home early. Sporting will take on a red-hot Toluca side in the knockout round.

So, did we learn anything?: It only ended 1-0, but this was a suffocating win for Sporting KC. They did their typical thing where they pile on shots, but, more impressively, they kept Chivas’ attack remarkably quiet. El Rebaño created just 0.14 xG on seven shots.

Ranking the knockout round matchups

To be clear: All of these are going to rule. Some are just going to rule more than others.

16. LAFC vs. FC Juárez

Tough draw for Juárez here. They’ll need to put together something remarkable. Or maybe LAFC will just come out flat and make this way more interesting than it should be.

15. Pumas UNAM vs. Querétaro FC

Anytime you can see two teams who collected the 16th and 17th-most points in an 18-team league last season go head to head, you gotta make sure you clear your schedule to see it.

14. Mazatlán FC vs. FC Dallas

Dallas are favored here, but, uh, hey, Austin were too. Either Mazatlán are about to go on a Cinderella run or Dallas handle their business here and get to rub it in Austin’s face.

13. Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United

This is a pretty decent MLS game on a normal night. The Union looked awfully frightening in the group stage though. And they have a history of really laying into D.C. United.

12. Charlotte FC vs. Cruz Azul

Cruz Azul couldn’t keep Lionel Messi off the board and then snuck into the knockout round after being outplayed by Atlanta. Charlotte will have a real chance at an upset here.

11. CF Pachuca vs. Houston Dynamo FC

Pachuca are the favorites here for sure, but Houston have a giant-killer quality to them that makes them a team to keep an eye on during the knockout round. If they randomly show up and run Pachuca off the field, don’t be too surprised. Don’t be too surprised if they get thumped either. Basically, don’t be surprised at whatever happens, this team is still pretty inconsistent.

10. Atlas FC vs. New England Revolution

The Revs looked great in the group stage and Atlas were totally unbothered by NYCFC and Toronto. Expect this one to be really well played.

9. Columbus Crew vs. Minnesota United

The Crew just mollywhopped América. I’d be very scared if I were Minnesota United. But still, we get to see Bebelo Reynoso take on one of the best teams in the league. Something special could happen here.

8. Chicago Fire FC vs. Club América

If the Crew could do it, why not Chicago? Well… lots of reasons, actually. Either way, Chicago have been playing well and they’ll either get an América side reeling from what happened in Columbus or an América side that’s ticked off and ready to put seven up on the board. There’s entertainment down both roads here.

7. Tigres UANL vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The Whitecaps feel like they could have something for Tigres here. Tigres were good, but not great in the group stage. Vancouver can beat anyone when they’re at their best. The ‘Caps should at least have the juice to make this interesting.

6. CD Toluca vs. Sporting KC

Toluca had as good a group stage as anyone in this tournament. They put up four on a great Nashville defense and then put up four more on a slightly less great Colorado defense. Eight goals in two games is excellent, though. They’re hot and SKC are going to have their hands full. Sporting did just take down Chivas in what was basically a knockout game though…

5. FC Cincinnati vs. Nashville SC

Two of the East’s best and most knockout round-prepared teams are set to go head-to-head here. Nashville have been far from their best lately, but still have the ability to make life tough on any team if they put together the kind of defensive performance we know they’re capable of.

4. CF Monterrey vs. Portland Timbers

I personally don’t think the Timbers can pull off a win against what might be the best team in this competition. But then again, I feel like I’ve said that so many times and then there they are, doing exactly that. Portland winning this game with like two shots on target compared to Monterrey’s 24 shots would be (hilariously) on brand.

3. Club León vs. Real Salt Lake

RSL’s first big test against one of Liga MX’s best didn’t go so well. Now they’ll see how they measure up to the reigning CCL champs. This competition continues to be a fascinating litmus test for a team that may have enough to make an MLS Cup run down the line or may be finding out where their ceiling actually is.

2. New York Red Bulls vs. NYCFC

It won’t have the same quality as some of these other games, but we’ve been delivered a bonus Hudson River Derby in the knockout stage of a competition. This is a blessing and we should appreciate it as such.

1. Inter Miami CF vs. Orlando City SC

Messi vs. Orlando City. There was already bad blood here between the two Florida teams, and that should only ratchet up now. This may be the best team Messi has faced so far and the first time he goes up against a goal scorer of equal quality like Duncan McGuire. Throw in the fact Orlando fans allegedly threw purple paint over a Messi mural in Miami recently and there will be some heat here. Just stay safe down there, everyone. No one needs to see a(nother) rumble in a Publix parking lot.

Other things

New York Red Bulls sign Colombian defender Mina: The New York Red Bulls have acquired Colombian youth international defender Juan José Mina from Deportivo Cali. Mina, 19, is under contract through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027. Capped 10 times by Colombia's U-20 national team, Mina arrives with two assists in 26 appearances for Deportivo Cali. The right back is the younger brother of longtime Everton center back and Colombia starter Yerry Mina.

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