Before the Major League Soccer playoffs arrive, one more domestic competition is left on the American soccer calendar: the U.S. Open Cup. This Wednesday, the semifinals will feature FC Cincinnati vs. Inter Miami CF and Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake.
Here is one Leagues Cup top performer from each club you should keep your eyes on.
Brandon Vazquez-FC Cincinnati
It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of Vazquez in Leagues Cup (unless you’re a Nashville SC fan), but in the limited time his club was in the tournament, he was on fire. As one of the few players who matched Lionel Messi in scoring prowess, he scored five goals in just three matches, including a hat trick against LIGA MX powerhouse Chivas de Guadalajara. He didn’t get on the scoresheet in FC Cincinnati’s return to MLS play, so he will be hungry to find the back of the net.
Robert Taylor-Inter Miami CF
Gerardo “Tata” Martino confirmed that Messi would start in the club’s semifinal matchup with FC Cincinnati. So yeah, He’s one to watch. But what about someone else that also had a solid Leagues Cup? Look out for 28-year-old Robert Taylor. Rather than shrink in the face of Messi and friends arriving in Miami, the Finnish journeyman thrived during Leagues Cup 2023, scoring four goals and providing three assists during the title run. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep this form up as Inter Miami adds newer and younger players into the mix.
Christian Arango-Real Salt Lake
Christian Arango was a new addition to the Real Salt Lake roster coming into Leagues Cup 2023 and in his limited time during the tournament, he notched two goals in four matches. In his previous MLS stint with Los Angeles Football Club he scored 30 goals in 51 appearances. Paired with Danny Musovski and Jefferson Savarino, Arango could be a problem.
Corey Baird-Houston Dynamo
Houston probably had the weirdest tournament run of any Leagues Club team, going to penalties in three of their four matches. They never could really get things going in the tournament, but their second-leading scorer and assist man Corey Baird did notch two goals in four matches. He also had a goal and assist in the team’s 5-0 win over Portland on Saturday.