MLS opens 2023 season in dramatic fashion: 5 takeaways

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It had to take something really special to outshine the expansion of the St. Louis City SC who won their first Major League Soccer match on the opening day of the 2023 season.

It was provided by a 2022 World Cup winner.

Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada, who helped Lionel Messi’s Argentina to the sport’s ultimate prize in Qatar two months ago, scored two spectacular stoppage-time goals to stun the San Jose Earthquakes in Saturday’s curtain raiser in front of nearly 68,000 fans in Georgia.

Twenty-two of the league’s now 29 clubs were in action on Saturday. Two more games remain on the Week 1 slate: Sunday night’s Seattle Sounders-Colorado Rapids tilt (8 p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Deportes and AppleTV) and Portland-Timbers-Sporting Kansas City on Monday, a match that was postponed 48 hours due to bad weather in the west.

Here’s a recap of Saturday’s action:

An impressive six minutes from Almada

In December, the 21-year-old became the first active MLS player to win the World Cup. On Saturday, as his side lost 1-0 to the Quakes after more than 90 minutes inside a packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Almada proved he was no mere passenger on Messi’s rocket.

His first goal came almost out of nowhere, a long-range bomb who kissed the bottom of the crossbar. When Almada lined up to take a free-kick from about 25 yards in the 98th minute, there was a sense that more magic was afoot. Was:

Almada’s opening day performance was a statement of intent. After taking time to settle in during his first season in the United States, he looks determined to become one of MLS’s leading players in his second campaign en route to a European transfer next January , one that could break the current record of $26 million set by Miguel Almiron’s move to Newcastle in 2019.

St. Louis starts with a win

It didn’t matter that MLS’ newest team looked destined to lose this game when Austin FC’s Jon Gallagher put the hosts up 2-1 late in Texas. Central defender Journeyman St.’s first-half header. Louis Tim Parker had already made history for the rookies, giving them both the club’s opening goal and an improbable 20-minute lead against an opponent who finished second in the Western Conference to eventual MLS Cup champions LAFC . season

Jared Stroud then leveled for the visitors and star Brazilian striker João Klauss put City ahead with a header at the far post with just four minutes remaining.

St. Louis held on to claim a triumphant debut ahead of what promises to be a cracking home game against Charlotte next week.

Nashville Tapas NYCFC in opener

USA World Cup center Walker Zimmerman scored the first goal of the 2023 campaign in Nashville’s 2-0 afternoon win over New York City FC:

The Pigeons lost goalkeeper and starting captain Sean Johnson, a teammate of Zimmerman’s with the USMNT in Qatar, but struggled mostly on offense in Tennessee, with just two shots on goal.

Canadian winger Jacob Shaffelburg put the result beyond doubt when he doubled the hosts’ lead with 10 minutes remaining:

Toronto loses Insigne and advances to DC United

TFC missed the playoffs in 2022, their first season under veteran coach Bob Bradley. The Reds still entered this year with plenty of justified optimism; After arriving midway through last season, Italian internationals Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne have been there since the start of this year and now fully understand the unique challenge MLS presents.

However, Bradley’s plans for the first part of 2023 went out the window almost immediately as he was forced to take the former Napoli striker off in the first half after Insigne went down with a hamstring injury. leg without contact Bernardeschi canceled out the hosts’ early lead from the penalty spot, and TFC looked to have clinched all three points when Mark-Anthony Kaye made it 2-1 with just seven minutes remaining.

DC had other ideas, getting stoppage-time goals from Christian Benteke and Theodore Ku-DePietro to stun their guests and claim all three points.

No Traffic, no problem

The marquee game of the weekend was supposed to pit MLS Cup champions LAFC against rivals LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl, but bad weather prevented that as well. [It’s been rescheduled for July 4.] Do not care. There was no shortage of drama on Saturday, as evidenced by the words and videos above. But that wasn’t all.

Last season’s runners-up, the Philadelphia Union, gave the Columbus Crew a drink, dropping their first test under new coach Wilfried Nancy 4-1. The New England Revolution and Minnesota United both won 1-0 on the roadin Charlotte and Dallas respectively.

Finally, on Saturday night north of the border, Real Salt Lake also pulled off a comeback win in Vancouver, surviving a first-half hit from Javain Brown before getting two in the second from Justen Glad and Damir Kreilach.

If Opening Day was any indication, the 2023 MLS season will not disappoint.

Doug McIntyre is a football writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a writer for ESPN and Yahoo Sports, and has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at several FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @By Doug McIntyre.

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