The Daily KO - Messi and Martinez
What you need to know

Happy transfer deadline day

The window closes at midnight tonight. There’s still time for your favorite team to save their season.

Join The Daily Kickoff’s Leagues Cup Bracket group

We’ve started a bracket challenge group for the knockout round. Pick the winners of each game and see if you can outlast the other 23 Daily Kickoff readers and yours truly. Winner gets… actually, I have no idea yet. Maybe a signed photo (by me) of Tom Bogert? We’ll figure this out. Anyway, follow the link here to join the group and make your picks.

Inter Miami sign Argentine center back Avilés

Inter Miami CF have signed center back Tomás Avilés from top-flight side Racing Club. Avilés, 19, is under contract through the 2026 MLS season with options for 2027-28. He is the club’s third U22 Initiative acquisition this summer, following in the footsteps of compatriot Facundo Farías (forward) arriving from Colón and rising Paraguayan international Diego Gómez (midfielder), joining from Club Libertad.

Fagundez joins LA Galaxy from Austin FC in trade for Rodríguez

The LA Galaxy have acquired midfielder Diego Fagundez from Austin FC in exchange for midfielder Memo Rodríguez. The Western Conference clubs also have exchanged General Allocation Money (GAM) that sees Austin get up to $900,000 for Fagundez – breaking down as $300k that’s guaranteed and $600k that’s conditional. LA, meanwhile, could receive $150k in conditional GAM based on Rodríguez’s performance.

NYCFC acquire forward Fernández from Vélez Sarsfield

New York City FC have acquired forward Julián Fernández from Argentine top-flight side Vélez Sarsfield. Fernández, 19, is under contract through the 2027 MLS season with an option for 2028. He’ll occupy a U22 Initiative roster spot for the Cityzens.

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Your Leagues Cup Kickoff

The knockout round begins tonight with four games. We’re here to talk it out with help from our world-famous watchability meter, The Plusometer ©. The closer to 50, the more likely it is the game will be entertaining.

What about tonight?

Inter Miami vs. Orlando City | 8 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass
Plusometer score: 49/50

We try not to give 50s out. It’s just a rule. But man, it was tempting here.

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami take on Orlando City tonight in a rivalry match that will feel exponentially bigger tonight than it ever has. It’s not just Messi and friends making the difference, though. It’s the fact that it’s a knockout round, loser-goes-home matchup between two teams with a genuine chance to make a deep run in this tournament.

The Lions have been playing some of the best ball in the league as of late and Duncan McGuire can’t stop scoring. They’re balanced, they’re dangerous, and they’ll be the biggest test for Inter Miami in this tournament so far. Orlando are good and have a bit of tape on how the Herons want to try and approach things. Not in a “stop Messi” sense. If someone had figured out the “stop Messi” tactic in the last 18 years, they would have run it by now. It’s more in a “how can we exploit the weaknesses elsewhere on a team that still has plenty of weaknesses” sense.

This one should be special. And, uh, “Florida.” Very Florida. It could be a flashpoint for one of the most exciting rivalries in the league.

Mazatlán vs. FC Dallas | 9 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - Free
Plusometer score: 25/50

It’s not a rivalry game but it is rivalry-game adjacent. It’s practically a win over Austin if FC Dallas can cruise past Mazatlán here in a way that Austin couldn’t.

On paper, they should do just that. Mazatlán were one of the big surprises of the group stage. They took down Austin 3-1 then beat Juárez in a penalty shootout to win their group. That’s impressive considering the fact they had fewer points than any other Liga MX team over the course of the Apertura and Clausura last season. I mean, they had seven whole points in 17 games over the Clausura. They were an underdog, to put it lightly. And they’ll be an underdog again tonight.

That didn’t mean a whole lot in the group stage. Maybe Mazatlán have a few more surprises left in them.

Pachuca vs. Houston Dynamo FC | 9 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass
Plusometer score: 32/50

Pachuca were Apertura champions last season. Over the course of the Apertura and Clausura they compiled more points than every team except Monterrey and América. They’re the real deal and the Dynamo are going to need to be at their best tonight. Or at least something close to it.

They can put it together, though. It’s been a bit of a slow burn the last few years for Houston as they reshape their first team and their infrastructure as a whole, but they’re starting to see dividends. They’ve been hovering around “playoff quality” for a while this season and were unlucky not to get a couple of wins in the group stage. They nearly blew a 2-0 lead to a good Santos Laguna side but still got the job done in penalties to advance to the knockout stage. This shouldn’t be easy for Pachuca.

LAFC vs. Juárez | 10:30 pm ET

WATCH ON: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass
Plusometer score: 28/50

LAFC should win. By a lot. But let’s envision the world where Juárez pull off the biggest upset of the tournament so far. It’s not that hard to get there, to be honest. All it’s going to take is LAFC coming out flat after a couple of weeks off. It’s plausible. Although, let’s be real, the more likely outcome is that they finally look rested after a hellacious stretch where they played a game every 3.5 days for like two months.

Still, it just takes some bad luck and a bad penalty shootout to suddenly find yourself out of this thing. For LAFC, that would feel a bit catastrophic. They’re one of the few teams that should really believe they have a chance to win this thing.

Of course, if they win, it’s possible Club Leon will be waiting for them on the other side. And if they’re looking for a little revenge, this is their chance.

Other Things

Atlanta United sign forward Thiaré: Atlanta United have signed Senegalese forward Jamal Thiaré. The 30-year-old, who was a free agent after last playing in France for Ligue 2 side Le Havre, is under contract through the 2024 MLS season.

Houston Dynamo acquire Polish midfielder Kowalczyk: Houston Dynamo FC have acquired midfielder Sebastian Kowalczyk from Polish top-flight side Pogoń Szczecin. The 24-year-old Poland native is under contract through the 2024 MLS season with options for 2025-26, arriving just before the MLS Secondary Transfer Window closes on Aug. 2.

Timbers acquire Acosta from Colorado Rapids: The Portland Timbers have added to their midfield, announcing Tuesday they have acquired Bryan Acosta from the Colorado Rapids. In exchange for the Honduran international, Colorado will receive $150,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money (GAM) before the Secondary Transfer Window closes. An additional $175,000 in 2024 GAM awaits the Rapids if certain performance metrics and roster-based criteria are met.

St. Louis CITY acquire defender Markanich from Colorado Rapids: St. Louis CITY SC have acquired left back Anthony Markanich from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for their natural first-round pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas, as well as up to $150,000 in General Allocation Money, both Western Conference clubs announced Tuesday.

Real Salt Lake retain Ojeda after loan from Nottingham Forest: Real Salt Lake have permanently acquired midfielder Braian Ojeda from English Premier League side Nottingham Forest. The Paraguayan international was on loan to RSL since August 2022 and is under contract through the 2025 MLS season with options for 2026-27. He is rostered via the U22 Initiative, as are winger Andrés Gómez and midfielder Nelson Palacio.

Charlotte FC, Shinyashiki mutually terminate contract: Charlotte FC and striker Andre Shinyashiki have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. The 26-year-old Brazil native, acquired in May 2022 from the Colorado Rapids, scored seven goals and added an assist in 28 games across all competitions for the Crown. However, he made just five appearances (two starts) this season before cutting ties with Charlotte in order to sign with Azerbaijan Premier League side Netfçi PFK.

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