WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- US Open Cup returns: The 2023 US Open Cup has reached the Round of 16. Fourteen Major League Soccer teams remain in contention. Four games are on the docket tonight, including an Open Cup El Trafico. Take a look at the full schedule here.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AS THE US OPEN CUP TAKES THINGS UP A LEVEL
The US Open Cup is back and I think we've officially crossed the threshold into the excuse-free zone. (Well, unless you're LAFC I guess, but we'll talk about that in a second.) It's the Round of 16, and 14 MLS teams are four wins away from a Concacaf Champions League spot. For the large majority of those 14 teams, this is their best shot.
Remember, next year's expanded CCL will feature the two teams that finish first in their conference, the two next highest point earning teams in the overall standings, the MLS Cup winner, the top three teams in Leagues Cup and, of course, the US Open Cup winner. The rest of that stuff sounds kind of hard. It'll be much easier to just go ahead and win the next four games.
Here's what to keep an eye on tonight as eight of those 14 teams try and get three games away from CCL.
Inter Miami vs. Nashville SC - 7:30 p.m. ET | CBS Sports Golazo Network
Feel familiar? We just saw this matchup in Nashville on Wednesday and the Coyotes came out on top 2-1 thanks to goals from Fafà Picault and Lukas MacNaughton. A late goal from Dixon Arroyo made the final scoreline seem a lot closer than the match actually was. Nashville were in total control. In fact, they didn't allow a shot until the 59th minute.
So. Yeah. If you want something to keep an eye on, I'd probably say "do Inter Miami have a shot through the first 60 minutes?" feels relatively critical. Nashville totally and completely had the Herons' number a week ago and it will be interesting to see how much being at home and maybe some rotated lineups will actively change things.
New York Red Bulls vs. FC Cincinnati - 7:30 p.m. ET | B/R App, B/R Football YouTube
Unless you're new around here, you'll probably know that we're pretty high on the Red Bulls at The Daily Kickoff because the underlying numbers are high on the Red Bulls. They just don't allow chances. And that sets a floor where scoring once should generally be enough for them to grab a point or three in the league.
Is scoring once going to be enough against the Supporters' Shield leaders though? If Lucho Acosta and Brandon Vazquez are set to go in this one, New York will have a heckuva task keeping their opponent quiet. It's not exactly like Cincy are uncomfortable in close games, either. No one has more one-goal wins this season.
Houston Dynamo FC vs. Minnesota United - 8:30 p.m. ET | B/R App, B/R Football YouTube
I'm wondering who provides a breakthrough in this one and I'm coming up empty. Bongokuhle Hlongwane maybe? He's Minnesota's leading scorer on the year with four goals. Amine Bassi has five goals for Houston, but four of them are via penalty. The Dynamo's leading non-penalty goal scorer is Héctor Herrera with two goals. Someone's gotta break a deadlock between two teams who likely see this as their only route to CCL. And there aren't match winners scattered all over the place. It feels like one goal will probably be enough in this one. But… from where?
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy - 10:30 p.m. ET | CBS Sports Golazo Network
What did we do in our meager, fragile lives to deserve an extra dose of El Trafico? Sure, the gap between these two teams has never been and maybe never will be again quite so wide, but that's what makes it exciting, right? The Galaxy have an opportunity to take one of LAFC's… like… five opportunities for a CCL berth. That's kind of fun, right?
It's at least a chance for the Galaxy to swipe one of LAFC's chances at cementing themselves as the best MLS team of all time. If the Galaxy are the ones to take an LAFC quintuple off the table, that's some kind of consolation prize, isn't it?
Ok, yeah, I'm stretching here. But it does feel like LAFC should be up for this one and the rest of their US Open Cup games because it feels like a heavily rotated group could still get them to the final. There's genuine potential for an unprecedented amount of trophies here. For the Galaxy, it might be their only shot at a trophy this year. Plus, they could really, really use some good news. This could easily turn into another classic installation in this series. How'd we get so lucky?
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Good luck out there. Have the right people there with you on the field.