22MLS_TheDailyKickoff-4x5 (2)
The Recap

NYCFC 3-0 Inter Miami

Gabriel Pereira, Maxi Moralez and Heber all found the net in the second half as NYCFC cruised to their fifth-straight playoff win. They’ll face CF Montréal Sunday at 1 pm ET (ESPN / ESPN3 in US; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada).

FC Dallas 1(5)-1(4) Minnesota United

FC Dallas advanced to the Conference Semifinals after a 5-4 win on penalties highlighted by Alan Velasco’s ruthless winning Panenka.

Bebelo Reynoso opened the scoring in the 53rd minute with his first and only goal of this postseason. It looked for a moment like he might be shaping up to carry the Loons through the playoffs again, but Facundo Quignon found the net in the 64th minute to tie things up. From there, both teams held on just long enough for penalties and Velasco’s eventual winner.

They’ll travel to face Austin FC (!!) at 8 pm ET Sunday (SPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVA Sports in Canada).

What you need to know

Conference Semifinals set

Round One is over. Onto the Conference Semifinals. Here’s how the bracket looks now.

Charlotte, Portland announce year-end roster moves

Charlotte FC and Portland Timbers FC became the latest clubs to announce their end-of-year roster moves. See the complete list of moves here.

MLSPA releases updated 2022 player salaries guide

The MLS Players Association (MLSPA) released its updated Salary Guide Monday morning, featuring salary information for all MLS players under contract as of Sept. 2, 2022 – including big-name summer transfer arrivals like Lorenzo Insigne, Christian Benteke and Gareth Bale.

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Assorted thoughts from the Round One that was

We’re somehow already through Round One of the playoffs. And we don’t have much time to breathe. The Conference Semifinals start up on Thursday with Philadelphia-Cincinnati and LAFC-Galaxy on FS1 and FOX Deportes. So let’s take a quick look back at the Round One that was before we look forward.

A big win for aesthetics (and the regular season)

There’s nothing wrong with being defense-oriented. It’s an especially effective way to win soccer games in a league like MLS where nearly everything is decided on the margins. Limiting risk can pay off in a major way. Plus conventional wisdom suggests that kind of high floor approach can be an effective way to make your way through a single-elimination soccer tournament. 

The conventional wisdom might need to be reassessed. By the end of Saturday night, the four teams most likely to make their way through the playoffs via mud wrestling, were all eliminated. New York Red Bulls, Nashville SC, Real Salt Lake and Orlando City are all good teams in their own right. But none of them would be described by the casual soccer fan as “objectively entertaining.” 

We can chalk this weekend up as a big win for attack-minded soccer. We can also chalk it up as a big weekend for chalk. Only one lower seed advanced and few folks were surprised to see it be FC Cincinnati. They’ve played great ball all year with a handful of bad luck and individual errors slowing them down in the standings. 

It’s an encouraging thing to see for those of us who want to see fast-paced, high-scoring games. And it’s an encouraging thing to see for those of us (maybe just me?) who think the playoffs are too big in every major North American sport. Did I laugh when seventh-seeded RSL beat second-seeded Seattle last season and then nearly did the same to Austin over the weekend? Yes. Did I think “Wow, RSL really deserved this opportunity by finishing nine points below Austin in a 34-game season?” Not really. 

I just want the regular season to matter. And fortunately this weekend, it seems like it did. The argument for single-elimination playoffs in the first place was home teams would have a statistically significant advantage in a way they didn’t when the league did two-legged ties. That hadn’t quite come good over the first three years of single elimination, especially in Round One. But this weekend it did. Let’s call it a win for winners actively trying to win.

That does kind of make much analysis tough though…

What more is there to say when the teams we’ve been writing the most about all year came out and at least got the job done. Now, some of them looked a little sharper than others. But we know who these teams are at this point. And we know we can expect every remaining team to come out and try to control the game. Whether or not that will actually happen for those teams kind of feels like a toss-up. This is going to be a blast.

Blessed out West

Hey, did I mention we’re getting a playoff Texas Derby and a playoff El Trafico in the Western Conference? What could we have possibly done to be so lucky?

I mostly just wanted to mention we’ve been blessed in God’s sight, but also Austin might have had the most interesting result out of anyone in the West. It kind of seems like their toughest round might have been the first one. That’s not to say Dallas and the LAs are bad teams. Obviously, they’re excellent. But I wasn’t picking RSL to beat Austin because RSL are better at soccer. I picked RSL to beat Austin because [gestures at exactly what happened and the fact Austin probably would have lost if it weren’t for a top-five dumbest red card in MLS history].

Full credit to the Verde & Black, they survived. And now they have to be feeling really, really good about their chances to make something special happen. Stylistically, there aren’t any teams left in the West that set up as well as RSL did to make life difficult.

And one more thing…

I talked a lot about Talles Magno’s absence affecting the NYCFC attack in the lead up to their 3-0 win against Inter Miami. Well. Talles Magno didn’t play and NYCFC looked just fine. More than that actually. They looked outright scary.

Now, did Inter Miami’s center backs put forward a masterclass in defending? No. But NYCFC looked a lot like the group that powered their way to MLS Cup last season.

I saw some folks smarter than me mention Magno’s absence might be a blessing in disguise and I don’t know if I’m ready to agree with that outright. He’s clearly not a true No 9 and had only been placed there out of necessity in the first place. But there’s no denying NYCFC didn’t need him for this one. With or without Magno, Montréal are going to have their hands full. The Pigeons were playing well down the stretch of the regular season and didn’t miss a beat in Round One. In fact, they looked scarier than they have for months. All you have to do is get hot at the right time, right?

All hail the big taco

Did y’all see the big taco? For those of you missed it, there was this guy at the FC Dallas game and he had a really big taco. The big taco probably changed everything for FC Dallas, to be honest. I don’t know if Alan Velasco hits that Panenka quite as cleanly without the big taco. They should probably just go ahead and make the big taco the mascot except, I dunno, I guess that guy probably ate all of the big taco. Either way, we woke up yesterday without the big taco and today we woke up with the big taco in our lives. So hey, maybe everything isn’t all bad?

And other things

DC United sign Loudoun United goalkeeper Zamudio: D.C. United have signed goalkeeper Luis Zamudio through 2024 with an option in 2025. The 24-year-old Las Vegas native joins from their USL Championship affiliate, Loudoun United FC. During the 2022 campaign, he had seven shutouts and 103 saves across 27 starts in the second division.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Go big or go grab a knife and fork like a coward.