Benny Ball has a trophy in Houston, Tigres wins Campeones Cup, and more: Starting Lineup, Sept 28
by Jason Longshore
1- Ben Olsen has orchestrated quite the turnaround for the Houston Dynamo. In addition to chasing a top 4 finish in the Western Conference, the Dynamo went to Ft. Lauderdale and won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final over Inter Miami 2-1. Houston outshot a depleted Miami side (no Lionel Messi or Jordi Alba) 18-1 in the first half in one of the most lopsided 45 minutes you might ever see. Griffin Dorsey opened the scoring with a rocket, Amine Bassi added a second from the penalty spot. However, a third goal was brought back on a narrow offside decision and that kept the door open for Miami and they pulled one back late through Josef Martinez. Time ran out and the Dynamo celebrated their second Open Cup title. Houston are very deserved champions who never trailed in the competition, this is an impressive team that will cause the Western Conference some problems in the postseason.
2- Olsen became the third manager in the MLS era to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with multiple teams. He won the tournament in 2013 with DC United. Oscar Pareja completed that double last year, first winning with FC Dallas in 2016 before taking the trophy last year with Orlando. The legendary Sigi Schmid won the trophy with the LA Galaxy in 2001 and multiple times with the Seattle Sounders.
After three woeful years for the Dynamo, the work Olsen has done in 2023 deserves recognition. He would earn my vote as MLS Coach of the Year and should be a finalist at least.
3- Tigres won a penalty shootout to claim the Campeones Cup at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles over the hosts. LAFC has now been shutout 4 times in their last 5 matches in all competitions, with three straight scoreless draws in the last week. Both teams saw red cards in the second half, Diego Palacios for LAFC in the 63rd minute and Rafael Carioca for Tigres in the 85th minute.
The visitors dominated possession, but LAFC had opportunities to win it. Denis Bouanga had a late goal called back for, according to LAFC manager Steve Cherundolo, “the ball moving before the free-kick” being taken by Giorgio Chiellini. Cherundolo went on to defend his team, saying: ”There’s nothing we’re doing wrong, there’s actually a hell of a lot of things we’re doing right, we’re in finals and we deserve to be there. It’s only a matter of time before we start winning them." Cherundolo also complained about referee Drew Fischer, saying, "Sure enough, Drew and his crew came out tonight big and decided the game, which is a shame for fans and players because we didn’t deserve that.”
4- Two MLS matches were played last night, and both ended in draws. Vancouver came back on the road to earn a 2-2 draw in Colorado. Alan Velasco's golazo leveled the score for Dallas in Philadelphia late in the first half and it looked like Paul Arriola had found the winner late in the second half. However, VAR sent the replay down to referee Fotis Bazakos for review and he apparently had no choice but to rule for a handball. The ball deflected off the hip of a defender into the arm of Arriola, which was by his side as he was going to ground.
If Arriola is a defender or anywhere else on the field, I don't think this gets called as a handball but per the Laws of the Game it's a different conversation if the player immediately scores a goal after the contact. The handball rule is such a mess right now and this is the type of play that drives you crazy. I'm begging IFAB and FIFA to simplify this rule and make it easier to define what a handball is.
5- The USMNT U23 team will begin its preparation for the 2024 Olympics in earnest in the upcoming October international window with two matches in Phoenix against Mexico and Japan. The game with Mexico will be on October 11 at 10pm Eastern and the match with Japan will be six days later on the 17th at 10:30pm Eastern.
6- Players in the top two divisions in Uruguay have been on strike since September 7 after suggested reforms from the players were voted down. The reforms included raising the minimum salary for players in the second division. Uruguayan national team players have now released a joint statement in support of the domestic players on strike. We'll see if it affects the next World Cup qualifier versus Colombia on October 12.
7- Milan had to comeback after conceding first to lowly Cagliari, but ended up winning yesterday's Serie A match 3-1. Christian Pulisic played a vital role in the first and third goals, assisting on Ruben Loftus-Cheek's goal to complete the scoring. With Inter losing later in the day at home to Sassuolo, the two eternal rivals are level at the top of the table on 15 points with Inter sitting in first due to superior goal differential.
8- Milan legend and former manager Gennaro Gattuso has taken over the reins at Marseille. Marcelino stepped down after just a few matches amid tensions between the club and its supporters. Marseille is currently in eighth place in Ligue 1 after a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of PSG.
9- Mauricio Pochettino is hoping that Chelsea's win over Brighton in the Carabao Cup can provide his Blues some momentum. Nicolas Jackson's goal was all Chelsea needed to advance in the tournament, it's the first win in four matches in all competitions. Fulham is the next opponent as Chelsea heads back into the Premier League schedule this weekend, trying to climb up from its current position of 14th place.
10- This is a very special day in Atlanta soccer history as on this date in 1968, the Atlanta Chiefs won the North American Soccer League championship in front of over 15,000 fans at Atlanta Stadium. They defeated the San Diego Toros 3-0 in the second leg of the NASL Championship series on goals from Peter McParland, Kaizer Motaung, and Delroy Scott. It was estimated that about 8,000 kids and adults were playing some form of organized soccer in the region at this time, and probably 98% of those were directly due to the existence and outreach of the Chiefs.
(Keep an eye out for more on this today...)
11- Born on this day in 1982, St. Vincent has gone on to win three Grammy Awards and she is known as one of the most talented guitarists of the 21st century. This is my favorite of her releases, and it's your Song of the Day: