The first week of MLS’s 25th season has come and gone. The soccer wasn’t always stellar or even good some of the time, but I’m glad MLS is back. Here’s a rundown on some of the action.
Up and Down Goalscoring Week
Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched Serie A until after I had fully transitioned back to MLS mode. That made the differences between Atalanta’s nine goal thriller vs Lecce (Watch the highlights, or at least Atalanta’s fifth goal. It’s absolutely beautiful) and MLS matches this weekend even more pronounced.
First, Week 1 saw a hefty number of fantastic strikes (6 by my count), but also had relatively few goals in total. The goals per game rate was 2.69, well under last season’s average of 3.1, as well as 2019’s opening week sum of 3.4 a game.
This could be due to a range of factors, but I suspect the number of new offensive acquisitions from outside the league is the main reason. Edison Flores, Chicharito, Lucas Cavalinni, and Rodolfo Pizarro are a number of examples, and none have scored yet. All new players take time to adapt to their teammates and MLS defenses, and Chicharito even admitted so.
So, if like me, you were a bit disappointed at the lack of high scoring, or even entertaining games, don’t worry. A few weeks from now we should be seeing more contributions from newcomers, and in turn goals, goals, goals!
Expansion Teams Lose, But Hang With Some of the League’s Best
Nashville SC nor Inter Miami CF couldn’t pick up results in their first ever MLS matches, but they weren’t humiliated, either.
In front of almost 60,000 fans, Nashville lost 2-1 to Atlanta United, but played well, especially in defense. Nashville allowed Atlanta very little going forward, as shown by the visitor’s .24 expected goals. Walker Zimmerman and Dave Romney mostly kept Josef Martinez out of the game, while the host’s deep positioning caused Atlanta to rarely get the ball in promising positions in the final third. Nashville wasn’t exactly dangerous either (.82 xg), but that was expected considering the roster available.
On the other hand, Miami took on last season’s Supporters Shield winners LAFC, and only a Carlos Vela golazo could separate them. Like Nashville, Miami was solid defensively, and allowed LA few quality chances, despite conceding 21 shots. The Miami attack showed potential, but the Rodolfo Pizarro led outfit was unable to create “should have scored chances,” and instead forced LA’s keeper, Kenneth Vermeer, into somewhat simple saves.
In conclusion, Nashville and Miami don’t look out of place in MLS, unlike Minnesota and Cincinnati in the past. Still, both lack offensive elements needed to be one of the better sides, although that could easily change if players like Hany Mukhtar or Rodolfo Pizarro begin to light it up in the league.
A Look at Some Notable Games
Although there weren’t too many goals in Week 1, there were some (un)interesting games.
First, the Rapids picked up a surprising 2-1 road win against DC via a stoppage time winner. Colorado was the better side throughout 90 minutes, but did get a bit lucky on the game winner after a goalmouth scramble. Also, for some mysterious reason known only to Ben Olsen, Julian Gressel started at attacking mid, and safe to say things did not go well. For the sake of Gressel, let’s all hope he’s back at winger next week, and that Peruvian Edison Flores moves centrally.
Orlando vs Real Salt Lake earns the accolade of worst match of the week. Not only did things end scoreless, but they had good reason for doing so. The two sides combined for a whopping 3 shots on target, out of 14 total (9 for Orlando). Furthermore, Orlando’s expected goals was a mere .91, but most importantly, RSL tallied a xg of 0.16, which could be in contention for least ever. If you know of anything less, please let me know so I will avoid that game for the rest of eternity.
Finally, the Chicago Fire didn’t look like the mess it could have been vs the Seattle Sounders. Although the Fire did lose, it took a Jordan Morris goal in the 92nd minute to give Seattle a 2-1 victory. Chicago was able to at the least look like the peer of Seattle. Iit was an added bonus for the Windy City to see new DP striker Robert Beric get on the scoresheet on his debut. Nonetheless, the Fire can’t revert to trends seen frequently last year: getting very close to earning results before either failing to finish chances or conceding late goals, like against Seattle. Still, progress is being made before the Soldier Field opener three weeks from now, and there’s hope in Chicago. But their logo is still ugly.
One last thing. I hear Orlando is shopping Dom Dwyer and that some soccer team is looking for a striker.
(Runs for cover)