Wild card picks, college tournaments underway, and more: Starting Lineup, October 25
by Jason Longshore
1- The MLS Cup Playoffs start tonight with the wild card round. The NY Red Bulls host Charlotte and Sporting Kansas City hosts San Jose. You can watch both games on Apple TV's MLS Season Pass.
2- Charlotte comes into tonight unbeaten in their last four games, three of them wins. They earned 9 results on the road in 17 games (4 wins, 5 draws) this season. Both games between these two teams finished in draws in 2023, including a 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena in June. Red Bulls have won their last three in a row and have only lost one of their last seven. At home, they were 7-5-5 this season, one of their worst home records since moving into Red Bull Arena. Charlotte is a pretty significant underdog in this one, but it feels like much more of a toss-up to me. Kerwin Vargas is the potential game-changer for Charlotte, but the game will most likely turn on how the visitors deal with the Red Bulls' press. Expecting a tight one in New Jersey tonight, but I think the visitors get it done and advance.
3- Out West, it's the zombie Sporting KC hosting San Jose at 9:30pm. At home, SKC has dominated the Quakes over the years with only one loss in their last 20 matches plus advancing three times in knockout games, including the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs in penalties. Sporting became the first time in MLS history to reach the postseason after gaining less than five points in their first ten matches of the season, they were 0-7-3 through ten games this year and the questions were flying about Peter Vermes' job. Getting players back from injury and getting Alan Pulido banging in goals has definitely helped. For San Jose, it's year one for Luchi Gonzalez and a good first step. They were only beaten once in their last eight games, also only winning one of those and drawing six times. They've turned into a difficult team to beat, perhaps we're in for a long night? Expecting penalties and Kansas City squeaking into the next round.
4- Jose Mourinho's Roma was fined by Serie A for their tactics in using the ballboys to slow the game down after taking a 1-0 lead. An extra two minutes was added to stoppage time in the match. Mourinho was also sent off for mocking the Monza bench with a crying gesture. Never change Jose, you master of the dark arts and shenanigans.
5- Manchester United was in must-win territory in Europe, and they narrowly achieved that win 1-0 over FC Copenhagen at Old Trafford. Erik ten Hag needed a goal from Harry Maguire and a late penalty save from Andre Onana to earn the three points in the Champions League.
6- In other Champions League results, Harry Kane helped Bayern to their 16th straight group stage win, 3-1 over Galatasaray. Alexis Sanchez scored in Inter's 2-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg. Jude Bellingham scored again for Real Madrid to lead them to a 2-1 win over Braga. Giacomo Raspadori scored the only goal of the match to help Napoli defeat Union Berlin.
7- Last night in Macon, Mercer's women defeated a gritty Citadel squad 1-0 in the first round of the SoCon Tournament. Lena Dykes' goal from a Kendall Cook corner was the difference, although the Bears dominated the match in terms of shots and corners. They'll advance to the quarterfinals to face East Tennessee State in Johnson City on Friday.
8- Kennesaw State's women start their ASUN Tournament journey today in Fort Myers, Florida as they face Austin Peay. The Owls faced them a few weeks ago on the road and earned a 0-0 draw, but come into the tournament on the back of a big conference win in the regular season finale over Queens University of Charlotte.
9- I'll be on the call for Clayton State's men today at 5pm as they host USC-Aiken in a Peach Belt Conference match in Morrow. The Lakers hit a bit of a rough patch with back-to-back losses, but go back to the top of the conference with a win today.
10- Speaking of that matchup, it was on this date in 2000 that Clayton State set a new record for wins in a season by defeating USC-Aiken 3-0. The 2000 edition of the Lakers went on to finish 18-3-1 and earning a NCAA Tournament bid.
11- For your Song of the Day, we'll go back to 1986. I was playing my second season of youth soccer, was super pumped after the World Cup in the summer, and would listen to this song before games with my friend Antonio. It was my first soccer-related song and it's still awesome. The album it came from went to #1 on this day in 1986, enjoy!