Kickoff 9.14.22
What you need to know

Campeones Cup tonight

NYCFC take on reigning Liga MX Campeón de Campeones, Atlas, in the 2022 Campeones Cup. Coverage is set to begin at 7:30 pm ET on Univision and ESPN2.

Four MLS games tonight

Highlights include Orlando City hosting Atlanta United at 6 pm ET, Austin welcoming RSL at 9:15 pm ET and Vancouver facing the LA Galaxy at 10 pm ET. See the full schedule here.

USMNT roster drop

Gregg Berhalter has announced his 26-man roster for the US men's national team's upcoming September friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia — their final tune-ups before heading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Who's in and who's out? Find out here.

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The Recap

CF MONTRÉAL VS CHICAGO FIRE

What happened: Montréal went up early thanks to a Kei Kamara brace in the first 30 minutes, but Xherdan Shaqiri did his best the rest of the way to make things interesting with a brace of his own. Ultimately, Zachary Brault-Guillard made the difference (again), with a goal in the 44th minute.

What it means: It means, as always, that Montréal are really good. They’ve clinched a home playoff game all but wrapped up second place in the East. Meanwhile Chicago’s already dim playoff hopes got even dimmer.

INTER MIAMI CF VS. COLUMBUS CREW

What happened: Gonzalo Higuain outscored Cucho Hernandez two goals to one, with his 82nd-minute goal separating the two teams and giving Inter Miami a massive lift in the playoff race. It was a night worth sticking around for in Miami, even if a lightning delay made the evening a little longer.

What it means: Maybe, like, everything. At least when it comes to the final few spots in the East. Inter Miami picked up a huge six-point swing here and are now just two points below the seventh-place Crew as both teams head into their final four games. The Crew’s loss also provided a bit of relief for Orlando and Cincy right above them. But no one can breathe easily yet.

MINNESOTA UNITED VS. LAFC

What happened: It probably should have ended with a higher score than 1-1, but LAFC and Minnesota United played a frenetic and highly entertaining game that featured goals from Brent Kallman and Carlos Vela. Vela’s in particular was a stunner.

What it means: Well, for one, it means LAFC still have no idea what their best XI is right now. The lineup they trotted out…well, it kind of looked like one of those Team of the Week graphics where none of the positions actually make any sense, but you wanted to squeeze in four forwards somehow because they’re what generate clicks. It almost kind of worked? But also LAFC only generated about a goal worth of xG and it never really looked cohesive.

All that is to say the draw gives the Philadelphia Union the upper hand in the Supporters’ Shield race. The Union and LAFC each have three games remaining and Philly have a two-point advantage.

It also puts Minnesota United into the fifth spot in the West with three games to go. They would drop to sixth tonight if RSL pick up a win over Austin. They’re also just one point out of a home playoff spot. The West is proving to be far more chaotic than the East in the end. In part because…

HOUSTON DYNAMO VS. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

What happened: Yikes, New England. The (former) last place team in the West rode the new manager bounce to a 3-1 win thanks to a goal from Darwin Quintero and a brace from Fafà Picault.

What it means: First off: Yikes, New England. We said yesterday they couldn’t lose this one. You have to pick up points no matter what against a team sitting at the bottom of the table and playing their second game since firing their manager. Like, at least get a draw. I know we’ve talked about them not being as healthy as they should be, but this was pretty inexcusable.

The Revs are feeling thankful Columbus lost at least. They’re three points back of seventh-place Columbus, who have a game in hand. But the Revs just lost their easiest remaining game.

SPORTING KC VS. D.C UNITED

What happened: Khiry Shelton, Robert Voloder and Daniel Sallói all scored for SKC.

What it means: Do you think they’d display the Wooden Spoon at one of the Smithsonians? Like as a bit? Yes, there is an actual Wooden Spoon you get. I’ve seen it and it’s awesome.

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A new trophy just might be enough to get NYCFC back on track

Just a few short words on the Campeones Cup tonight before we get out of here for the morning.

I don’t think I need to rehash just how bad things are for NYCFC. But I’m going to do it anyway because I love mess.

NYCFC have lost seven of their last 10. They’ve taken exactly five points over their last 10 games. Ten games in MLS is a lot of games. We’re going all the way back to July 30 here. They’ve been anemic in attack and, even worse, wholly self-defeating defensively. They’ve slipped into a habit of giving up soft goals and simply can’t figure out how to score consistently. They’ve even tried to start putting Talles Magno, one of the best wingers in the league through the first 20 games of the season, into a false nine position. None of it is working right now for the reigning MLS champions.

Which is why tonight comes at a perfect time. I know most folks haven’t warmed up to the idea of Campeones Cup being a must-have trophy that defines a club or anything, but it’s still a trophy. One where you genuinely have to be excellent to earn it. It matters. And any team who wins it should celebrate it as such. Even if MLS Cup 2021 feels like a long, long time ago now for NYCFC.

But that’s the good news. Trophies have cleansing properties. Even in a miserable stretch for NYCFC, there’s something special about injecting yourself into the kind of game that carries a little weight, has a little more production value, and just might end with you lifting a trophy as some confetti cannons go off. If any team could use that kind of confidence boost right now, it’s the Pigeons.

Because we know there’s a great team somewhere in there. Not just a good one, a great one. Yes, even without Taty Castellanos. Let’s not forget, this group led the league in just about every major metric midway through the year. They were ruthless. Just totally pulverizing teams. So good that they could do something like, I dunno, lose seven of their last 10 and still be in a home playoff spot.

This could be a turning point. Or, I guess they could continue this tailspin even more. Either way, there are consequences tonight.

Other Things

Toronto FC sign homegrown forward Mbongue: Toronto FC have signed forward Hugo Mbongue to a homegrown contract through 2025 with an option for 2026. Mbongue, 18, signed an MLS NEXT Pro contract with Toronto FC II in May 2022. Since joining the Young Reds, Mbongue has scored four goals while tallying five assists in 14 appearances (11 starts) during the league’s inaugural season.

The Reading Rainbow
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Full Time

Good luck out there. Try someone else’s job for a bit, see how you like it.