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MLS Week 1: Three Things to Watch

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MLS kicks off Saturday, with plenty of action upcoming

SOCCER: OCT 21 MLS - New York City FC at DC United Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to a new segment on DSS. I’ll be taking a look at different storylines in MLS, and writing about them. One article will lead into a match week, like this one, while another will look back in retrospect.

MLS: FORWARD25
The 25th anniversary MLS logo.
Tony Behar-USA TODAY Sports

The Opener

Finally, after a dreary off-season with a few rays of sunshine here and there, the 2020 MLS season will kick off on February 29th. The opening match is DC United versus the Colorado Rapids at Audi Field (1 ET, ESPN+). On paper this may seem like an underwhelming match, but it could be intriguing in more ways than one.

To start with, both of these outfits have made significant additions this off-season. First, DC United signed Designated Player Edison Flores, Julian Gressel, and Yamil Asad. Recognize those last two names? I’m just glad tear stains don’t transfer through the Internet. Anyway, those three will likely take up 3 of the 4 attacking positions in the starting 11, joining Norwegian striker Ola Kamara. That attack looks dangerous, but we’ll see how it clicks. In the defensive third, no change was needed: last season DC conceded the second least number of goals in MLS.

On the other hand, Colorado added centerbacks Lalas Abubakar and Austin Trusty to shore up a defense that conceded 63 goals last season, despite having the now retired Tim Howard in goal. The Rapids also acquired Danish number 10 Younes Namli from FC Krasnodar in Russia. Namli joins an already entertaining attack that features Nicolas Benezet, Andre Shinyashiki, Kei Kamara, and Diego Rubio. Namli could be what Colorado needs to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. But no matter what, the Rapids seem like a fun team to watch.

Based on their postseason moves, both of these teams are aiming high this season, and where better to start then an opening day win? I think this match will be a close game, as both sides look similar on paper. It will still make for a good watch, despite the lack of big names (unless you’re an avid fan of the “See Where They Are Now - Ft. Julian Gressel and Yamil Asad” show).

Los Angeles Galaxy Introduce Javier Chicharito Hernandez
Chicharito at his LA Galaxy introduction press conference.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Chicharito’s Debut

Ready for some goals? Javier “Chicharito” Hernández is expected to make his MLS debut when the Galaxy travel to BBVA Stadium and the Houston Dynamo (3:30 ET, Univision).

Although the Mexican is clearly Zlatan’s replacement, Chicharito will hope to have his own impact. He comes to MLS after a poor spell at Sevilla, but he should do much more damage here: (1), MLS defenses are much weaker than their European counterparts (obviously), and (2), he will receive service from Aleksandar Katai and Cristian Pavon, two very talented wingers. That should make the Galaxy into yet another goal machine, but on both sides of the field, as the backline remains in doubt, especially at center back. LA has a strong midfield, with Joe Corona, Jonathan Dos Santos, and Sebastian Lletget. Those three will do more to back up the attack than protect the defense, however.

And although Chicharito may be reason enough to watch this one, don’t overlook Houston. The Dynamo brought in Tab Ramos as head coach this offseason, and signed playmaker Darwin Quintero from Minnesota. The Colombian will join Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis in a fearsome attack. But like, the Galaxy, Houston’s defense is questionable, and conceded the 3rd most goals in the West last season.

Expect goals.

Lucas Cavallini vs Alan Pulido

This past off-season has seen an exodus of Liga MX players to MLS, and two such forwards meet at BC Place when the Vancouver Whitecaps take on Sporting Kansas City (10:30 ET, ESPN+). Neither of these teams made the playoffs last season, and Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver) and Alan Pulido (SKC) are a significant part of plans to change that.

United States v Canada - CONCACAF Nations League
Lucas Cavallini scoring for Canada against the US in October 2019.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

First, Lucas Cavallini notched 29 goals and 5 assists in 75 appearances for Puebla, but is also a regular contributor on the Canadian national team. Scoring, although definitely not Vancouver’s only problem, was a major one: the Whitecaps scored 37 goals, the fewest in the West. A lack of service is an issue, though, with no prove my wingers or attacking midfielders on Vancouver’s roster. That won’t stop Cavallini from scoring, but only impede.

Chivas v Veracruz - Torneo Apertura 2019 Liga MX
Pulido celebrating scoring vs Veracruz in 2019.
Photo by Oscar Meza/Jam Media/Getty Images

Alan Pulido comes to MLS after winning the Liga MX Golden Boot with 12 goals in the Apertura. And like Cavalini, Pulido comes to a team that struggled with putting the ball into the back of the net in 2019. Sporting Kansas City tallied the third fewest goals in the West and had a center midfielder leading the team charts with a mere 12 goals. Johnny Russel and Gerso Fernandes, SKC’s wingers, will be itching to play with a quality striker, and should things workout, Kansas could have a strong season.

If you can stay up for it, this should be an action packed game. Recent history backs that up, as this match-up has seen 16 goals and 3 red cards in the last four meetings.

There’s plenty of action Sunday, as well, with five matches taking place then. The big game then is Miami’s debut at LAFC, with Rodolfo Pizzaro vs Carlos Vela looking like an interesting showdown.

Enjoy this new season of MLS!