Like with most competitions between MLS and Liga MX, the Leagues Cup final will be played between two Liga MX sides. The inaugural edition of the Leagues Cup was not taken as serious by MLS sides compared to their Mexican counterparts. The last MLS side, the LA Galaxy, were knocked off at home by Cruz Azul by a score of 2-1. Guillermo Barros Schelotto went with a reserve-heavy lineup against Cruz Azul, and it was ultimately their downfall. The other semifinal matchup saw Club America fall to Tigres in penalties after a 2-2 draw.
Heineken Rivalry Week saw mixed results for a few clubs. The Columbus Crew rebounded from a tough 1-0 road loss to New York City FC to show FC Cincinnati and its fans that Hell is indeed Real. The New York Red Bulls knocked off a suddenly reeling D.C. United 2-1 on the road before dropping by the same score in the Hudson River Derby. Against D.C. United, the Red Bulls struck first in the sixth minute through Kaku. After conceding the tying goal from Ola Kamara, Daniel Royer fired the Red Bulls back into the lead and to victory. In the Hudson River Derby, the Red Bulls struck first again, this time only 10 minutes into the match. The Red Bulls were unable to hold the lead and ultimately saw NYCFC capture the Hudson River Derby. The victory over the Red Bulls saw NYCFC extend its lead over their rivals to six points in the Eastern Conference.
Another week and another record for Josef Martinez. Martinez scored in an MLS record 12th consecutive appearance. Atlanta dominated Orlando City but only needed the Martinez goal to see off Orlando City. That goal marks the 22nd goal of the season for the Venezuelan and keeps Atlanta United at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Out west, the Seattle Sounders captured the Cascadia Cup after a big road win, knocking off the Portland Timbers 2-1. The Sounders started fast and controlled their Cascadia rivals. Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Raul Ruidiaz spearheaded the Sounders dominance in this matchup. The win for Seattle snapped a four-match winless streak. Now sitting in second in the West, the Sounders denied Portland a chance to stay above the playoff line. After other results, the Timbers drop to eighth in the west and out of a playoff spot.
All season, the West has belonged to Los Angeles FC, and its dominance paid off as it has clinched a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs. That league dominance continued with an impressive performance in a 4-0 thrashing of the San Jose Quakes. As we have all becomed accustomed to, it was Carlos Vela who led the way. Vela scored twice, including a leading candidate for MLS Goal of the Year. The destruction of the Quakes gave LAFC solid momentum heading into the last El Traffico of the regular season.
This version of El Traffico did not disappoint and could be the greatest one to date. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has proven throughout his MLS career that he owns LAFC. That stayed true as Ibrahimovic scored twice in the first 15 minutes, including one just after the opening kickoff. Cristian Pavon scored his first goal and added an assist for the visitors. Ten minutes after Ibrahimovic shocked the Banc of California Stadium and LAFC, Latif Blessing drew the hosts even. In the back and forth match, Ibrahimovic and Pavon scored a minute after each other to take a 3-1 lead. Blessing added his second right before the half to give LAFC hope heading into the second half. Like he has all season, Vela stepped up and scored a goal to bring the match level at 3-3. Both clubs would have to be disappointed to not get the full three points against their bitter rival.
Below is the schedule for MLS clubs in action this week.
Atlanta United vs. Minnesota United – 8 p.m. (U.S. Open Cup) (ESPN+)
Montreal Impact vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 8 p.m.
New York Red Bulls cs. Colorado Rapids – 7 p.m.
Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire – 7:30 p.m.
Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United – 7:30 p.m.
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC – 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Union vs. Atlanta United – 7:30 p.m.
FC Dallas vs. FC Cincinnati – 8 p.m.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo – 8:30 p.m.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New York City FC – 10 p.m.
Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake – 10:30 p.m.
San Jose Quakes vs. Orlando City SC – 10:30 p.m.
Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy – 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
Los Angeles FC vs. Minnesota United – 10:30 p.m.
As always, stay tuned to Cincinnati Soccer Talk for all things FC Cincinnati when they head west to face FC Dallas on Saturday night.