While we didn’t see the goal explosions of the first two rounds, round three of the Leagues Cup provided plenty of action and standouts.
🥉Thiago Almada (Atlanta United)
It’s fair to question just how bad Atlanta United would be without Thiago Almada. Gonzalo Pineda’s men often look lost on the field as was the case against Cruz Azul, and the dynamic Argentine did all he could to will his team into the knockout rounds. Unfortunately, not even Almada’s magic could complete the miracle.
A 1-1 draw and loss on penalties sent Atlanta crashing out of the inaugural Leagues Cup in only the group stage. Once again, Thiago Almada was the bright spot against a dismal performance.
The attacking midfielder instigated almost every dangerous Atlanta attack, even dropping deeper than usual to unlock forward teammates. Unfortunately, those teammates couldn’t do much and Almada would score the lone goal for Atlanta in the 75th minute. Almada collected a loose ball from Edwin Mosquera and sent it into the bottom right, a clutch equalizer late in the game.
Almada would go on to convert his penalty kick in the shootout, continuing to keep the team alive on his back.
All over the pitch the entire night, Almada was unlucky to not have notched a few assists.
🥈Cucho Hernández (Columbus Crew)
Lucas Zelarayán may be gone but the Crew still have Cucho Hernández. And last night may have been the first episode of The Cucho Show.
Cucho has been among the leagues most productive forwards since arriving in Columbus during the summer of 2022. A knee injury had briefly interrupted Cucho’s first full season back in March but since his return, he has been a man possessed with 11 goal contributions in 14 appearances.
Now with running mate and Crew focal point Lucas Zelarayán heading to Saudi Arabia, Cucho looks to have taken to the offensive burden for himself.
The Colombian led the 4-1 rout of Club América, scoring twice and assisting Steven Moreira’s 93rd-minute goal.
🥇Germán Berterame (Monterrey)
The first member outside of MLS to make The Podium, Monterrey striker Germán Berterame, takes the honor.
A career performance for Berterame, the Argentine finished with three goals and an assist as Monterrey defeated the Seattle Sounders 4-2.
What looks like a comfortable win for Rayados was anything but. Monterrey found themselves down 2-0 in the 30th minute when Berterame took over.
Berterame made his way unmarked into the box and fired a shot which was saved by Stefan Cleveland. Unfortunately for Seattle, it was Berterame who collected the rebound and fired it home for 2-1.
Just before halftime, Héctor Moreno drew a penalty on Albert Rusnák, which Berterame calmly converted to equalize.
Berterame’s heroics would continue into the second half where he found Jordi Cortizo for a stunner to make it 3-2 before putting the game out of reach with his third goal in the 63rd minute.
Honorable Mentions: John Tolkin (NYR), Steven Moreira (CLB), Riqui Puig (LA), Aitor García (JUA)