Daily KO - Benteke
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Orlando City are set to take on Tigres

Orlando City SC are off to the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16, winning 3-1 Tuesday evening at Inter&Co Stadium against Canadian Premier League side Cavalry FC to clinch a 6-1 aggregate victory in their Round One series. With the win, Orlando have set up a rematch of last year's Round of 16 series against Liga MX power Tigres UANL. Now they'll host Leg 1 on March 5 before traveling to Estadio Universitario on March 12 to determine who reaches the quarterfinals.

Philadelphia survived a scare

The Philadelphia Union advanced in the Concacaf Champions Cup on Tuesday evening, overcoming a late red card to punch their Round-of-16 ticket with a wild 3-3 draw at Subaru Park that delivered a 6-5 Round One aggregate victory over Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa. The series victory sets Philadelphia up with a Round-of-16 showdown against Liga MX side Pachuca, which begins with a Leg 1 opener at Subaru Park on March 5. Leg 2 is set for March 12 at Estadio Hidalgo in Mexico.

Houston Dynamo overcome St. Louis CITY

Houston Dynamo FC downed St. Louis CITY SC by a 1-0 scoreline on Tuesday evening at Shell Energy Stadium, reaching the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16 in the process. The Leg 2 result, secured by Erik Sviatchenko's second-half goal, gave Houston an advantage on the away goals tiebreaker after a 2-2 series deadlock. Previously, they lost 2-1 at St. Louis in Leg 1 – but Sebastian Kowalczyk's strike at CITYPARK proved pivotal.

CCC continues

FC Cincinnati host Cavalier FC at 7 pm ET and Nashville SC welcome Moca FC and 9:15 pm ET. Cincy has 2-0 lead after leg one. Nashville is up 3-0.

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Which MLS is Back stars will keep rising?

A few folks had standout performances in the first week of the MLS season. Now, it’s policy around here at The Daily Kickoff to not react strongly to anything MLS until about each team’s 34th game or so. But it’s Wednesday, I’m kind of generally tired all the time, and I need to find some way to feel alive. So I’m gonna go ahead and overreact to some things. Here are a few players who are undoubtedly set to build on excellent starts to the season.

Bogusz’s role as LAFC’s starting No. 9 against Seattle came as a bit of surprise. Then again, LAFC didn’t have a clear starter at the position heading into the year. They could have thrown anyone in there and it would have been a little bit of a surprise. 

Anyway, Bogusz embraced the opportunity. His curling dagger of a goal off the inside post sealed a huge opening-day win against Seattle. He also gave Seattle plenty to handle dropping back and helping out as a false nine. It seems like he claimed the starting job and could be set to help lead one of the most dangerous front lines in the league.

Yeah, this kind of feels like cheating. But let’s talk about how good Benteke could be week over week. He’s been close to great during his time in MLS, but hasn’t quite been among the league’s elite tier when it comes to production. This could be the year that changes. An opening match hat trick obviously helps, but this D.C. United team under new manager Troy Lesesne is structured to give Benteke plenty of service from the wing.

The read on D.C. right now is they’re going to be more Philadelphia than Red Bulls in how they press and operate in transition moments. That could lead to a whole lot of opportunities where defenders are working to get their bearings while simultaneously trying to keep up with Benteke’s immense physical skill set as D.C. goes direct. Even if D.C. isn’t outstanding this year overall, Benteke’s numbers could be.

I’m grouping these three together in the “First Impressions Made By DPs” category. All three put in performances that made you realize instantly we’re dealing with genuine DP-caliber talents. Forsberg powered the Red Bulls attack in what should have been a win over Nashville. De la Vega looked impossibly confident in a short appearance with Seattle. And Paintsil looked like a bonafide DP winger, something the Galaxy have been looking and failing to find for…it feels like possibly since they invented DPs, but don’t double check me on that. 

These three teams needed these players to be elite. Through one game, they’ve shown flashes of being everything their teams hoped for. But…yeah, that’s just one game, isn’t it? Still, we’re optimistic.

Sealy’s game-winner against San Jose didn’t earn him a big dumb hat, but it did catch our eye. The 20-year-old had been receiving acclaim throughout Dallas’ preseason, and he didn’t exactly temper the hype in his first match. In Dallas’ reworked game model at a club known for playing the kids, he seems to be on track for a breakout year.

Gutierrez added to this week’s impressive collection of stunning goals from distance that nestled into the top corner. It was a remarkable way to start the year for a player who's quietly been among the league’s best youngsters the last two seasons. In 2022, he added two goals and seven assists across 20 starts. In 2023, he started 28 games, scoring twice and adding nine assists. If he keeps trending the way he’s trending, he could be one of the league’s most notable young stars by the time the next 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list comes around. If he’s good enough to guide Chicago into a playoff chase, he just might top it.

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Good luck out there. Glory to the big dumb hat.