The Daily KO - SEA v LAFC
What you need to know

Lesesne not returning as New York Red Bulls coach, Hamlett out

The New York Red Bulls have moved on from head coach Troy Lesesne, announcing Tuesday they've opted not to renew his contract for the 2024 MLS season. Lesesne's exit was announced shortly after RBNY confirmed they mutually parted ways with longtime sporting director Denis Hamlett, who leaves after nearly a decade at the club. An extensive search for a new sporting director is ongoing.

Chicago extend contract of sporting director Heitz

Chicago Fire FC have extended the contracts of sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer. For the front-office executives, the 2024 MLS campaign will mark their fifth season in leadership roles for Chicago. They both originally joined the club in December 2019.

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Long-time readers of The Daily Kickoff will be familiar with our Watchgridometer. It’s not really appropriate for the playoffs because we don’t need to sort through the games by which ones are “must-watch.” You’re reading The Daily Kickoff brought to you by You’re going to watch all the playoff games. 

That said, a key element of the Watchgridometer, our Watchability Meter, still has a role to play. Here’s every Semifinals matchup ranked by entertainment potential.*

*Based on a playoff-level grading scale.

4. Orlando City SC vs. Columbus Crew
: MLS Season Pass | Nov. 25, 5:30 pm ET

Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer: 9/10 | Chances created: 5/10 | Narrative: 6/10 | Aesthetics: 8/10 | Totally subjective bonus points: 5/10

Total Watchability Score: 33/50

Here’s the thing. I know we’ve spent a ton of time hyping up Wilfried Nancy’s Columbus team as this paragon of aesthetically pleasing soccer hellbent on displaying the beauty of their craft more than they care about winning or whatever. They’re a fun team. I get it. But I fully believe Oscar Pareja would love nothing more than to drag Columbus down into the mud and see if they can win a no-holds-barred scrap in the muck.

Orlando have their moments of pretty soccer too, but this game doesn’t really call for that. They’re going to be pragmatic and close up shop if they have to. That’s going to be a tough switch for Columbus after playing an Atlanta United side who got used to playing games that we can politely call “open.” There’s a chance this one ends up being something close to ugly in comparison.

Then again, it’s Orlando at home in a single-elimination playoff game. It seems like anything can happen. We’ve already seen one of the games of the regular season between these two teams when Orlando came back from a multiple-goal deficit to earn a late winner. It feels like this one might have the lowest floor, but the highest ceiling.

3. Houston Dynamo FC vs. Sporting KC
: MLS Season Pass,_ FS1, FOX Deportes | Nov. 26, 7 pm ET 

Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer: 8/10 | Chances created: 9/10 | Narrative: 6/10 | Aesthetics: 5/10 | Totally subjective bonus points: 6/10

Total Watchability Score: 34/50

There just isn’t a world where this one ends 0-0. Or even 1-0. Or even 1-1. There’s too much attacking talent on SKC’s side and too much-attacking cohesion on Houston’s. Neither team plays stellar defense. From a pure “We like goals and we don’t care who knows!” perspective, this could be the best game of the bunch.

But this game is lacking that feeling of high stakes the others have. Both teams lean towards just being happy to be here rather than having everything on the line. SKC won the big in-state(ish) matchup with St. Louis already and should be ecstatic to be here after their miserable start to the season. Houston are way ahead of schedule already after winning the US Open Cup and hosting two playoff games. The rest of the group have more of a “this is our year and we have to capitalize and if we don’t I will do something drastic” kind of vibe.

2. FC Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia Union
: MLS Season Pass | Nov. 25, 8 pm ET

Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer: 9/10 | Chances created: 5/10 | Narrative: 9/10 | Aesthetics: 10/10 | Totally subjective bonus points: 8/10

Total Watchability Score: 41/50

Hey, speaking of that vibe. FC Cincinnati are trying to stick the landing on a perfect season. Philadelphia are trying to finally earn a tournament trophy before anxiety about a closing championship window sets in. This will be tense.

It’s also going to be an all-out Royal Rumble of a game. Yeah, it likely won’t have the goals of some of the other games. But it will be played at a high level and it will be remarkably physical. This isn’t a match for the weak. That should make it a great watch, even if it’s far from the “prettiest” game of the bunch. Art is subjective, right? Daily Kickoff readers should be able to find this one beautiful.

1. Seattle Sounders FC vs. LAFC
: MLS Season Pass | Nov. 26. 9:30 pm ET

Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer: 9/10 | Chances created: 5/10 | Narrative: 10/10 | Aesthetics: 10/10 | Totally subjective bonus points: 8/10

Total Watchability Score: 42/50

The stakes! The narrative!

Yeah, Seattle could absolutely find a way to turn this into a 1-0 slog as LAFC try to figure out over and over again to get anyone but Denis Bouanga to make an impact. But that doesn’t change the fact we’re talking about the two most successful Western Conference teams of the last half-decade or so. Plus, there’s still some bad blood here. Especially on LAFC’s side. Seattle knocked LAFC out of the playoffs in back-to-back years. Including in 2019 after LAFC set an MLS points record.

The bottom line, though, is when you have two clubs this big go head-to-head with this much talent and this much of a sense both teams might be very different the next time they meet, you have to weigh it properly. This is the marquee matchup of the semifinals. And if LAFC can open the game up just a little, it should live up to expectations.

Other Things

Chicago Fire FC sign Gutiérrez to U22 Initiative deal: Chicago Fire FC have signed homegrown midfielder Brian Gutiérrez to a long-term contract extension that makes him a U22 Initiative player. The US youth international’s new deal runs through the 2028 MLS season, rewarding his rise since turning pro in March 2020.

Chattanooga FC join MLS NEXT Pro for 2024 season: MLS NEXT Pro on Tuesday announced the addition of Chattanooga FC as an independent club for the league's third season in 2024. Founded in 2009, Chattanooga FC most recently participated in the National Independent Soccer Association (third division), where they've competed the past three seasons. Pending sanctioning approval by the US Soccer Federation, they're set to become the league's second active independent team, joining Carolina Core FC and 27 MLS-affiliated clubs.

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Good luck out there. Appreciate the duality of humanity.