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Late strikes, debut wins, and golazos all feature in 2020 MLS opening day

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Major League Soccer got its 2020 season under way on Saturday, and there were plenty of exciting storylines and moments to dot the Leap Day landscape.

[ MORE: Everything goes wrong for Liverpool ]

Most notably, Nashville S.C. got a rude welcome to the league as the debutants were dropped 2-1 at home against Atlanta United. Ezequiel Barco struck just nine minutes in on an exquisite Atlanta counter-attack, delivering a low right-footed shot inside the far post. USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman responded just before the half-hour mark, writing himself into the Nashville S.C. record books with the club’s first-ever goal. He rose high to meet a free-kick into the box, and while his header went basically nowhere, he was able to get a foot to it and poke the ball in for the equalizer.

Nashville would be happy to go into halftime level with one of the best teams in the league, but Emerson Hyndman made sure the visitors would enter the break on top, fizzing a blistering volley in for a deserved lead before the break.

Nashville was up for the challenge and had plenty of chances, but each opportunity seemed just a whisker away from being converted. David Accam nearly got to a 53rd minute Dominique Badji cross but his slide was inches away. With 12 minutes to go, Randall Leal smacked the post with a vicious shot.

Unfortunately, while Atlanta held onto the three points, they may have lost far more as talismanic playmaker Josef Martinez went down in a heap in the 67th minute, immediately pointing to his knee. Replays showed he twisted it awkwardly avoiding a challenge, and while the Colombian tried to come back on, he eventually needed to be stretchered off the field.

Elsewhere, the LA Galaxy went ahead early on the road in Houston on a Cristian Pavon golazo, but they were held from there in a 1-1 draw. Houston actually held the lion’s share of possession – 59% worth of it – but only managed to put two of its 15 shots on target.

The Pavon goal was brilliantly worked, coming straight from goalkeeper Dave Bingham who blasted the ball down to Pavon, and the Argentine did the rest, delivering a fabulous curler past Marko Maric.

Houston was able to eventually earn a point, breaching the Galaxy defense in the 54th minute via Mauro Manotas who took a wonderful through-ball from Zarek Valentin and blasted a right-footed effort through a charging Dave Bingham.

Chicharito‘s debut saw the Mexican international take just one shot, coming from outside the box and missing the target. After the match, Chicharito said scoring early may have actually been a detriment. “Football is ironic sometimes, the worst thing was scoring a goal so early because after that I think we let them play, build their confidence and then the game became equal.” Joe Corona had chances for the visitors past the hour mark, but otherwise neither side threatened much.

USMNT defender Jonathan Lewis gave the Colorado Rapids a dramatic 2-1 victory on the road at D.C. United with a 92nd minute winner. Russell Canouse and Kei Kamara had cancelled each other out past the hour mark, but Lewis was on hand at the far post to tap in a scrappy winner late. Colorado may have missed the playoffs last season, but Robin Fraser has them off to a fast start.

Thierry Henry picked up a win in his first match in charge as the Montreal Impact topped the New England Revolution in Canada 2-1. Max Urruti won it in the 80th minute with an absurd goal, chipping Matt Turner with a bonkers poke on a long ball from Saphir Taider.

Teal Bunbury had given New England the early lead 13 minutes in, volleying home a cross from deep onto the right flank to put the visitors up, but Romell Quioto cancelled that out before halftime with a set-piece header. It seemed like Wilfried Zahibo had put New England up with 17 minutes to go, but after a video review it was chalked off for offside. Then Urruti delivered a stunner to seal Henry’s first victory as Impact boss.

The San Jose Earthquakes snatched a late 2-2 draw with finalists Toronto FC thanks to a 95th minute equalizer from Oswaldo Alanis. The 30-year-old Mexican ripped in an absurd free-kick from a tight angle to salvage the draw, the final of two great goals for San Jose. Toronto had worked a 2-0 lead by the 51st minute on relatively cheap goals from Alejandro Pozuelo and Richie Laryea, with Pozuelo’s coming from the penalty spot. Andres Rios got one back for San Jose in the 53rd minute, just two minutes after Toronto doubled its lead, and while the hosts held 63% possession throughout, it took until deep in stoppage time until Alanis found his moment.

Full MLS results

D.C. United 1-2 Colorado Rapids
Montreal Impact 2-1 New England Revolution
Houston Dynamo 1-1 LA Galaxy
San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Toronto FC
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Orlando City SC 0-0 Real Salt Lake
Nashville SC 1-2 Atlanta United

Montreal star Piatti ‘welcomed’ by San Lorenzo president

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One of the best players in Major League Soccer’s history is going home.

Ignacio Piatti has left the Montreal Impact to sign with San Lorenzo, the Argentine club of former Newcastle center back Fabricio Coloccini and ex-Sunderland man Santiago Vergini.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Piatti was far and away the Impact’s top player, scoring 66 times with 29 assists in 135 matches. He scored 50 of those goals between 2016-18.

However, the 35-year-old missed all but 11 matches last season with knee injuries.

San Lorenzo sits 12th in the Argentine Superliga, nine points back of the lead on a congested table. Piatti won the Copa Libertadores with Santo before moving to MLS.

The 2020 MLS season is going to test new Montreal boss Thierry Henry, who does have attacking talent through Bojan Krkic, Saphir Taider, and others. But Piatti is a powerful part of the Impact’s run in MLS.

Main takeaways from MLS contract deadline day

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Major League Soccer saw a lot of big names in the news as “Contract Deadline Day” played out across the U.S. and Canada.

— The New York Red Bulls watched two all-timers walk out the door, as Bradley Wright-Phillips did not get a new contract and the club declined its option on Luis Robles (STORY).

— Not a player move, but Austin FC announced the hiring of former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to the same position.

[ MORE: PST’s talk 1v1 with Reyna earlier this season ]

— Toronto FC is yet to reach a deal to keep Michael Bradley in town, but remains in contract talks with its captain. The same is true for Nicolas Benezet, while Drew Moor is out-of-contract.

— And that’s also what’s happening in Portland with Diego Valeri, the longtime star in talks with the team despite not having his option picked up.

Chicago Fire announced a new branding initiative, changing its logo from a classic crest to something else and dropping the SC for an FC. Like Columbus before them, everyone will still call them the fire and ignore the SC, FC, or whatever see. It’s what happens when you take a formal nickname.

The club also cut ties with playmakers Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai.

— Minnesota United remains in talks to bring back Reading loanee and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Vito Mannone, and that means longtime backstop Bobby Shuttleworth will hit the open market.

— Orlando declined its option on Dillon Powers, and also let the clock run out on the contract of one-time megastar Sacha Kljestan.

— Real Salt Lake did not reach an agreement with Kyle Beckerman on a new deal, though MLSSoccer.com thinks he’s still in the mix.

— New England is letting Juan Agudelo walk into free agency.

— Atlanta United exercised the contract option for Julian Gressel, but he’s being badly underpaid and the club needs to find salary room for a proper new deal.

— Thierry Henry is keeping his two brightest attacker, with Ignacio Piatti getting another year at the club and Saphir Taider seeing his loan from Bologna made permanent.

— The Philadelphia Union did not exercise their option on Marco Fabian, and are letting Haris Medunjanin leave without a new deal.

— Roman Torres did not see his option exercised by the Sounders, and Kim Kee-hee is also leaving the club.

— Sporting KC waves goodbye to Seth Sinovic, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber, and Gedion Zelalem.

MLS early wrap: Sporting KC throttles Montreal; Revs, Fire win

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An early slate of Saturday matches which started with a one-goal snoozer ramped up to include an absolute onslaught of goals as Major League Soccer continued its match week following Friday’s Pozuelo show in Ontario.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the PL? ]


Sporting KC 7-1 Montreal Impact

Krisztian Nemeth scored a hat trick as Sporting KC completely dominated visiting Montreal at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday.

Johnny Russell scored two goals and added an assist, Felipe Gutierrez posted a goal and an assist, and Gerso Fernandes had a pair of assists in a win which puts the team at 2-1-1 on the young season.

Sixteen-year-old Gianluca Busio used the club’s sixth marker to record his second career MLS goal and first of the season. Saphir Taider struck in the 89th minute for Montreal’s only goal.

It was just… too… good from Peter Vermes’ men. The energy was enough even when the passes were a bit off, as Gerso showed this frightening burst of speed before putting the ball in the path of a sliding Nemeth for the game’s second goal.

New England Revolution 2-1 Minnesota United

Brad Friedel‘s Revs finally have a win, and it came after the ex-Blackburn goalkeeper called out his men for a lackluster performance in its third-straight loss last week.

Carles Gil, to no one’s surprise, was at the heart of the victory. Gil now has three goals and an assist through five MLS appearances after setting up Jalil Anibaba for the opener.

Brandon Bye scored New England’s other goal, while Darwin Quintero converted a penalty kick for the Loons’ marker.

Chicago Fire 1-0 New York Red Bulls

Chicago put just one shot on target in its first win of the season, and it wasn’t its goal; Tim Parker’s own goal was the only marker of a poor match in Bridgeview.

2019 MLS Eastern Conference Preview

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Red Bulls, Atlanta, and everyone else?

In any other league, you’d take a peek at how 2018 went and expect much of the same; Throw some league legends leaving the East — David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco — and you’d consider whether some records might be broken by the returning Top Two.

But this is Major League Soccer, where no power is permanent. Here’s a quick way to keep you up to speed, in reverse order of 2018 finish.


FC Cincinnati — Manager Alan Koch brings a deep midfield and defense into MLS, hoping that Emmanuel Ledesma and Fanendo Adi can combine to get enough goals to surprise the league.

Star player: Ledesma. Yes, that Ledesma. He’s a wizard, but moving from USL to MLS will take some acclimation.

Realistic expectation: Miss the playoffs but use a rowdy stadium and signs of progress to scare plenty of people along the way.


Orlando City SC — This team is going to look massively different, as former Burnley player James O’Connor gets a full season to do what worked for him as a USL manager at Louisville City.

Star player: Nani. It’s difficult to imagine him not having an incredible amount of success in attack.

Realistic expectation: Find consistency and chemistry, challenge for a playoff spot.


Bastian Schweinsteiger  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Chicago Fire — Possibly adding Nicolas Gaitan to a crew of creators which includes Djordje Mihailovic should give Veljko Paunovic a chance to succeed, but can the Fire defend their own area?

Star player: Bastian Schweinsteiger. Whenever he plays, Chicago is simply the best version of itself.

Realistic expectation: Compete for a playoff spot, but likely fall just short.


Toronto FC — An absolute mess made more remarkable by the fact that arguably the same unit destroyed MLS in 2017. A healthy Jozy Altidore may be more important than many thought, but he’s not quite healthy now, is he?

Star player: Jonathan Osorio. Yes, really. Until we know that Jonathan Pozuelo is coming through the door or that Altidore’s fit enough to dominate, count on the hometown midfielder to continue as a leader after a 10-goal season.

Realistic expectation: Altidore stays healthy, Terrence Boyd feasts off his rebounds, and Toronto gets back into the Top Six.


New England Revolution — The are a lot of ifs for Brad Friedel‘s men, who have to hope that Edgar Castillo’s resurgent 2018 was not a one-off, and that Carles Gil is ready to bring consistent performances from Spain.

Star player: Gil. It’s going to have to be.

Realistic expectation: The opposite of last season; A slow start will eventually turn into some young pieces finding positive roles.


Montreal Impact — Remi Garde turned the Quebecois side into a good group of competitors down the stretch, and will hope either Orji Okwonkwo or Maxi Urruti finds the form to feast on the wizardry of Saphir Taider and Ignacio Piatti.

Star player: Piatti. He’s among the most overlooked superstars in MLS history.

Realistic expectation: A playoff spot and hopes for lightning in a MLS Cup Playoffs bottle.


Philadelphia Union — This is by far Philly’s best chance to make a run in its history, from Andre Blake at the back to new playmaker Marco Fabian.

Star player: Fabian. Will he be patient enough with the Union to allow them to gel? Because he’s got the gifts to dominate the East.

Realistic expectation: A home first round playoff game.


Caleb Porter (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Columbus Crew SC — Caleb Porter’s back in Ohio, hoping to burnish his reputation by producing more consistent success than the brutal highs and lows of his tenure in Portland. Remember: Gregg Berhalter consistently out-performed the club’s budget.

Star player: Gyasi Zardes. Forget your USMNT impression of him; In MLS, he just scores goals.

Realistic expectation: A fight for the final playoff spot.


DC United — Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta get a full season together, and DC fans will rightly be dreaming of the postseason.

Star player: Acosta. Rooney’s a star and an engine, but Acosta’s the one who nearly had Paris Saint-Germain on his shirt this winter.

Realistic expectation: Multiple home playoff games.


New York City FC — Dome Torrent has not yet replicated Patrick Vieira’s success and lost David Villa to Vissel Kobe; Will an offseason of preparation and Alexandru Mitrita and Keaton Parks be the right additions to keep up playoff spirit?

Star player: Maxi Moralez. At his best, he’s MVP caliber good.

Realistic expectation: A home playoff game.


Atlanta United — There are questions here; Miguel Almiron is already showing the Premier League how fortunate Atlanta was to have a player of his elite quality, and Frank De Boer is implementing a season quite different than Tata Martino. But Atlanta won it all in Year Two, and has a gifted squad.

Star player: Josef Martinez. It’s reasonable to think the answer will be Pity Martinez by the end of the season, but you’re not the star player when the MLS single season goal record holder is returning for another season and committed to Georgia.

Realistic expectation: Compete for the Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.


New York Red Bulls — The only question here is not how good Tyler Adams was, rather how difficult it will be to find someone to do what he did so well at a functional level. RBNY should again be one of the best teams in the league.

Star player: Kaku. A playmaker of the highest order.

Realistic expectation: Compete for every bit of hardware they want while blooding the next wave of Red Bulls through their prolific set-up.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra … Kaku! (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)