Major League Soccer Offseason 2019-20: Zlexit

67YAZ

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The Fire find a RB - Boris Sekulic. He has 2 caps for Slovakia, though he's a naturalized citizen from Serbia. He's played in the top leagues across Serbia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and most recently Poland, all by age 28. He's a tall one, too, at 6'1" and can cover at CB. Here's hoping he can nail down RB. With so much change this offseason, the backline is gonna need to be solid while the team finds its bearings.
 

Titans Bastard

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Titans Bastard

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Everyone knows that Champions League is back today — yes, that's right, CONCACAF Champions League!

It's the first competitive games of 2020 for anyone in MLS. The format continues to be a 16-club knockout tournament. The MLS-related first legs are as follows:

Tuesday
León (MEX) vs. LAFC
Motagua (HON) vs. Atlanta
Wednesday
Saprissa (CRC) vs. Montreal
Thursday
San Carlos (CRC) vs. NYCFC
Olimpia (HON) vs. Seattle


Mexican clubs have won the CONCACAF title in every season dating back to 2006. DC United (1998) and LA Galaxy (2000) won titles back in the day, but they basically hosted mini-tournaments and played all games at home, which IMO significantly discounts their accomplishments.

MLS clubs have reached the final on three occasions since the tournament abandoned a single-site format. RSL (2011), Montreal (2015), and Toronto (2018) all fell at the final hurdle. RSL (who pulled out a first-leg draw in Monterrey, then lost at home) and TFC (who reversed a 2-1 home leg loss, then missed a golden chance to win, then lost in PKs) were particularly hard to swallow.


MLS clubs have been making progress in this tournament, IMO. In the last three seasons in particular, as MLS has provided ways for clubs to increase spending on their rosters, our teams actually have a winning CCL record against many* (all but two specific) Mexican clubs: 8-2-6 (W-D-L) with 23-18 GF-GA.

*The trouble is that Liga MX clubs aren't standing still. The Monterrey giants of CF Monterrey and Tigres UANL have been mostly clobbering MLS clubs. The collective league record against those two in the same time period is 2-1-7 (W-D-L) with 8-24 GF-GA.


Some thoughts:

I have the lowest expectations for Montreal. Canada gets one entry via the Canadian Championship, so often the entry is weak. Montreal weren't that good last year, have a new manager, and haven't reinforced their team all that impressively.

Seattle is in a solid position. They have a lot of continuity in their roster and a relatively soft bracket. They can't face any Mexican teams until the SF in April, so if they get that far they'll be in more of a rhythm. CB is a concern; it's not necessarily a talent issue, but there will be a partnership that's never played together before.

LAFC have so much depth in general, but like Seattle they have CB questions after just selling Walker Zimmerman to Nashville. They still have a ton of talent on the roster, but minor early-season hiccups can be devastating in this tournament. They also face LMX opposition right off the bat. León isn't normally a powerhouse, but they are having a very good season in Mexico right now.

NYCFC: lots of continuity, except they have a new manager. They'd also face Tigres in the QF, which is always scary.

Atlanta: They still feel a little discombobulated. Miles Robinson is injured, so CB is a concern. At least one of their foreign signings won't be cleared to play in time. I think Atlanta will have a good season, but the way their preseason has gone makes it feel like they won't necessarily be close to their best right out of the gate. I'm skeptical of their CCL chances.
 

Titans Bastard

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Great CCL preview from Brian Straus, who thankfully is back after an absence. He's one of the best in the US soccer journalism biz.

 

Titans Bastard

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LAFC and Atlanta are kicking off in 20 minutes. But for now, Portmore United (Jamaica) are up 1-0 on Cruz Azul. I expect a time-wasting masterclass now.
 

DJnVa

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LAFC and Atlanta are kicking off in 20 minutes. But for now, Portmore United (Jamaica) are up 1-0 on Cruz Azul. I expect a time-wasting masterclass now.
Leon strikes first against LAFC, and LAFC nearly equalized a minute later.
 

67YAZ

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Excellent news for the Fire, they have signed a multiyear deal with WGN to get all the non-nationally broadcast games on TV. This is in addition to streaming on ESPN+. This should be a big boost for the Fire's presence locally and provide a nice revenue bump.

This is also good for WGN, which has lost the Cubs, White Sox, and Bulls the past 2 years.
 

67YAZ

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And the Fire check in with a transfer today - 19yo left winger Ignacio Aliseda. He’s been a regular starter in Argentina’s top flight a year now & has a couple U23 caps. He’s being profiled as very technical and fast, which is an exciting addition for this squad. He’s clearly not the proven commodity that Pizarro is, but have to trust that Heitz knows young talent when he sees it.

Edit: Aliseda is also all of 5’5”. He’s going to look like a little kid out there.
 

Titans Bastard

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I forgot that Montreal's game started at 8. They're up 2-0 on Saprissa in Costa Rica.

The Impact are weird — they generally suck, but somehow they often do better than they should in CCL.
 

Titans Bastard

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NYCFC went up 2-0 on the road against San Carlos, but conceded just before halftime. San Carlos' goal should have been ruled offside, but NYCFC just went up 3-1 as Heber completed a hat trick from the penalty spot.
 

Titans Bastard

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NYCFC now up 4-1 via a set piece goal by Alexander Callens.

Now they're even giving 17 year old Joe Scally a run-out. He's bound for Gladbach when he turns 18 next winter.


...and it's 4-2 now. Not great defending by NYCFC.
 

Titans Bastard

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Scorcher from outside the box by Omar Browne to make it 4-3. Browne was electric for Independiente against Toronto FC in last year's CCL, got signed by Montreal, and mostly sucked in MLS.
 

Titans Bastard

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5-3 in stoppage time. Moralez's PK was saved, but Mitrita scored the rebound.
 

Domer

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Former Revs DP Jerry Bengtson has apparently rediscovered his scoring touch for Olimpia, scoring 39 goals in 62 league appearances.
 

Titans Bastard

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Morris with a nice floated assist to Joao Paulo. 1-0 Sounders over Olimpia early on.
 

Titans Bastard

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It's the 25th minute and there have already been six yellows issued by a ref who is in over his head. Two of them have gone to the managers!

For the Sounders, Arreaga got a nonsense yellow for a routine foul. Frei got a yellow for complaining after he was cleated in the abdomen. The Olimpia player somehow was not sent off for this.
 

ThePrideofShiner

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I didn't follow any of the match, but sucks the Sounders tied. Hopefully those two road goals see them through.
 

Titans Bastard

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If the games ended in the 62nd minute, MLS would have gone 3-1-1 in this round with a 9-3 GF/GA. After the 62nd minute, however, they collectively scored one goal and conceded seven and finished 1-3-1.

Preseason form and especially preseason fitness rear their ugly head once again. Beating Liga MX is an uphill climb as it is...

The good news is that all five MLS clubs were on the road in the first leg. Four of them will be slight to significant favorites. LAFC is probably toast. A two goal deficit and zero road goals is a very tough road to hoe. If Seattle and Montreal both advance, they face each other for a spot in the SF.
 

67YAZ

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Fire fill their third DP slot with...Gaston Gimenez, the same DM who they came very close to signing last month, only to see the deal fall apart as Velez didn't want to let Gimenez go before the end of the season, which led the Fire to an unsuccessful pursuit of another player, and now back to Gimenez. That's all in the past now. Gimenez profile as an excellent fit for Wicky's approach - a stout defensive mid who can play accurate long passes and is willing to dribble at opponents. To play pass-and-possess, the Fire will need to add more imaginative and technical players in the middle of the pitch, but Gimenez should really help the side be more fluid and dynamic in transition right out of the gate.
 

Titans Bastard

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Bob Bradley speaks in favor of abolish homegrown territory rules, the academy mandate, apply training compensation and solidarity payments to local youth clubs, and promotion and relegation.

I'm old enough to remember when Bob was boring. Anyway, I agree with him on all counts except the academy mandate. I think the country is too big to allow top division clubs to just skip having an academy.

 

Titans Bastard

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Fantastic interplay between Pity and Josef to put Atlanta up 1-0 on Motagua. 2-1 on aggregate.
 

Titans Bastard

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Atlanta wins 3-0 (4-1 on agg) and looked much better than the first leg.

Next up: most likely América, in March. That will be a stiff test.
 
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Monbo Jumbo

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Fantastic interplay between Pity and Josef to put Atlanta up 1-0 on Motagua. 2-1 on aggregate.
Pity is going to have a huge year. He is obviously much more comfortable and happy.

But Atlanta is going to need to get their missing pieces (visa issues, Rosetto and Castro) and injuries (Robinson and Bello) on the field or they won't last in this tournament.
 

Titans Bastard

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And now....NYCFC is about to play their second leg against San Carlos in Red Bull Arena. In the past they've gone all the way to Hartford to avoid playing at RBA.
 

Titans Bastard

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NYCFC won 1-0 and advanced 6-3 on aggregate.

Montreal look pretty awful, but are still 0-0 at home against Saprissa. That would put them through on away goals, but it would be deeply not shocking if the Purple Monster scores one late.
 

Titans Bastard

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Oh, man. Alianza of El Salvador clawed back from a two goal deficit against the almighty Tigres UANL to be in a position to advance on away goals. They were denied an all-time CCL upset by a NAHUEL GUZMAN (the Tigres GK!) header with seconds left in stoppage. That's heartbreaking.

It also would have blown a massive hole in one half of the bracket, but alas, NYCFC have to deal with Tigres next round.

View: https://twitter.com/TheChampions/status/1232863263332950023
 

Quintanariffic

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Excellent news for the Fire, they have signed a multiyear deal with WGN to get all the non-nationally broadcast games on TV. This is in addition to streaming on ESPN+. This should be a big boost for the Fire's presence locally and provide a nice revenue bump.

This is also good for WGN, which has lost the Cubs, White Sox, and Bulls the past 2 years.
FWIW, I doubt it will bring in much revenue. Majority of MLS teams average under 10,000 viewers on their local broadcasts. They should be happy just to get the distribution.
 

Domer

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Allocation money for someone who hasn't played a match in 21 months, seems unwise

Can someone please write the tweet so I can read? thx
Pepito#RSL
 

Titans Bastard

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I guess I picked the wrong night to be tired and to go to bed early.

No one in MLS ever came back from a multi-goal first leg deficit against a Liga MX club before. Impressive from LAFC.

The Sounders were supposed to have the easiest path to the SF of anyone. Olimpia and Montreal? What a waste to lose on PKs.