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