Kickoff - 8.9.23
What you need to know

Moralez returns to NYCFC

New York City FC have reacquired a club legend, announcing Tuesday they have signed Maxi Moralez after he recently left Argentine top-flight side Racing Club. The free-agent move brings Moralez back to the Cityzens after eight months away, inking a contract through the 2024 MLS season. Moralez previously spent 2017-22 with NYCFC, establishing a reputation as one of the best No. 10s in MLS history while memorably helping the club lift their first-ever trophy (MLS Cup 2021). He initially departed in late December to rejoin his boyhood team.

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Your Leagues Cup Recap

A penalty shootout! A penalty shootout! Another penalty shootout! Actually, that penalty shootout isn’t over yet, oops! The end of that penalty shootout! We told you last night could be special. It outperformed expectations. Let’s talk it out.

CLUB AMÉRICA - 2 | NASHVILLE SC - 2 (NSH win 6:5 on PKs)
D. Valdés (78'), J. Quiñones (90+4' PK) | W. Zimmerman (61'), S. Surridge (90+9')

What happened?: Club América won on penalties after multiple stoppage-time goals – including a last-touch equalizer from new Nashville DP striker Sam Surridge on his debut – and will move on to the quarterfinals. Anyway, I’m going to go let my dog out for one second, be right back…

Ok, I’m back and ready to talk more about América in the quarterfi--actually…ok…Nashville are celebrating like they’ve won. Seems odd. But I guess we all approach grief in our own differe--WAIT. WHAT? 

Alright, so I absolutely missed all of it because I, like many of you perhaps, thought the game had ended. However, the best I can gather is that Nashville had their final penalty of the shootout saved to end the game. But, while América celebrated, they checked the penalty again and realized the América goalkeeper came off his line early. Once they cleared some fans off the field and explained the situation, Nashville converted the penalty they originally missed, América missed the next attempt and then Nashville won the game despite having originally lost the game. Then a bunch more fans and projectiles came on the field. This is like a top-five moment in Concacaf history and I’m pretty sure 90% of the folks who watched the game missed it. It’s perfect and I’ll forever cherish my extreme confusion after the fact.

So, did we learn anything?: Life is a beautiful tapestry full of everchanging colors and the moments that remind us we’re alive are made of the brightest hues.

N. Harriel (68') | E. Manoel (4')

What happened?: A typical Union-Red Bulls game. Elias Manoel scored early, Nathan Harriel scored a little later, both teams completed under 70% of their passes, and it ended 1-1. Andre Blake and the crossbar saved a couple of Red Bull penalties and that was that. The Union will face Queretaro with a spot in the semifinals on the line.

So, did we learn anything?: I’m not sure I’ve ever learned less from a game. 

Ok, maybe that’s not fair. There is probably something to be said about Philadelphia having been in these kinds of moments before and being able to see out results in a professional way. But, also, they got kind of lucky. So. Yeah, probably didn’t learn anything. Except that Jim Curtin is sick and tired of being sick and tired about New York. 

“For a team to be in 21st place and talk and run their mouths as much as they do on the field, to be beat here 11 times in a row by us is something that – yeah, I’m giving bulletin-board material, but I’ve had enough of it,” Curtin said post-game.

CD TOLUCA - 2 | MINNESOTA UNITED FC - 2 (MIN win 4:2 on PKs)
V. Huerta (66'), T. Volpi (75' PK) | J. Rosales (13'), B. Hlongwane (32')

What happened?: The Loons took an early two-goal lead thanks to Joseph Rosales (via an assist from Emanuel Reynoso of course) and Bongokuhle Hlongwane (we’ve been telling you). The comparisons to Minnesota’s 2020 playoff run started to feel apt at that point. Then we remembered how the 2020 playoff run ended and maybe so did Minnesota. Toluca got back in the game with a couple of late goals and Minnesota went down to 10 men. But, this time, the Loons held on and were able to move on via penalties. Nashville are waiting for them in the quarterfinals.

So, did we learn anything?: This Minnesota side is a blast right now. It’s not just Reynoso either. The group as a whole is getting the job done. And Hlongwane is cementing himself as one of the most effective wingers in the league. The Loons are one of the best stories of the tournament.

S. Canales (90+7' PK)

What happened?: After a tense 90 minutes, a clumsy foul in the box sent Sergio Canales to the spot and he converted the penalty. Monterrey will take on LAFC in the quarterfinals. 

So, did we learn anything?: This ended up being a bit cagier than we hoped, but Monterrey were the better side on the night and throughout the tournament so far.

D. Bouanga (52', 56'), N. Ordaz (62'), F. Krastev (84')

What happened?: Dénis Bouanga scored a stunning transition goal to put LAFC on the board. Then, a few minutes later, Bouanga just kind of…casually…took the ball from RSL and scored? Like…I think RSL’s controller died? It was extremely weird. Anyway, Bounga and LAFC are pretty good at this. 

So, did we learn anything?: If you’re keeping track, that’s a +10 goal differential for LAFC over their first two games back from a two-week break. Seems like they just really needed a nap to be terrifying again. Their upcoming matchup with Monterrey will be the biggest game of the tournament so far. Whoever comes out alive might be the favorite to win it all.

And Other Things

Charlotte FC waive defender Mora: Charlotte FC have waived veteran defender Joseph Mora. Selected in the 2021 MLS Expansion Draft ahead of Charlotte's inaugural 2022 campaign, the 30-year-old Costa Rican left back departs after making 27 regular-season appearances (20 starts) for the Crown. He was limited to just 190 total minutes this year.

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Good luck out there. It ain’t over till it’s over (but double-check, just to be sure).