MLS 2016 Opening Day: Running diary
The 2016 MLS season is finally underway.
Three months after the Portland Timbers lifted the 2015 MLS Cup trophy, all 20 teams were back in action to kick off the new campaign Sunday, and the Timbers picked up exactly where they left off–a 2-1 win over Columbus.
Some of the league's biggest names missed out on opening day due to injury (Kaká, Jozy Altidore, Frank Lampard), but it's important to remember that every MLS season is a marathon run to the playoffs, so for some managers, better safe than sorry for their teams' long-term interests.
To bone up on each of the league's 20 teams, listen to our latest podcast:
And for our season predictions, read here.
Here are the 10 results from the season's opening day:
TORONTO FC 2, NEW YORK RED BULLS 0
Despite Jozy Altidore (hamstring) missing out on facing his first professional club, TFC made an early statement in its first of eight straight road games to kick off the season (BMO Field is undergoing renovations). Sebastian Giovinco, who earlier had hit the post, scored from the penalty spot in the 82nd minute before setting up Marky Delgado for the stoppage-time clincher.
NEW YORK CITY FC 4, CHICAGO FIRE 3
It might not have been the prettiest game, but Patrick Vieira's NYCFC outlasted Veljko Paunovic's Chicago Fire in the coaching debut for both men. Tommy McNamara opened the scoring with a beautiful curler, while Tony Taylor, Khiry Shelton and Mix Diskerud also scored. Razvan Cocis, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike scored for the hosts, but it was Diskerud's one-time volley off McNamara's cross the sealed the victory and the three points.
ORLANDO CITY 2, REAL SALT LAKE 2
Orlando City brought bedlam to the 60,000+ at the Citrus Bowl with a pair of goals in stoppage time to salvage a point. Both teams were reduced to 10 men by halftime, and RSL had gotten two goals from Joao Plata (one on a penalty) to seemingly take control and seize three points on the road. Reigning Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter scored at the death, though, and Orlando maintained its reputation as a team that goes down to the wire.
HOUSTON DYNAMO 3, NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION 3.
A revamped Houston side settled for a draw at this goalfest at BBVA Compass Stadium, with Daigo Kobayashi's stoppage-time finish rescuing the point for New England. Dynamo newcomers Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger both scored in their club debuts after New England's Diego Fagundez opened the scoring with a gorgeous long-range shot. Charlie Davies tallied as well to bring New England even at 2-2, but Giles Barnes put Houston ahead–temporarily–finishing from the edge of the box after a great dummy run by Oscar Boniek Garcia.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES 1, COLORADO RAPIDS 0
David Bingham out-dueled Zac MacMath in goal, and Chris Wondolowski kicked off his quest for a seventh straight double-digit goal season with his tally in the opening minute of the second half to lift the Quakes.
FC DALLAS 2, PHILADELPHIA UNION 0
Playmaker Mauro Diaz picked up where he left off last season, with a pair of assists in FCD's victory. First he set up Fabian Castillo on a first-half counterattack, and he helped cap the win by setting up new addition Maxi Urruti. Castillo exited on a stretcher, which is cause for worry for FCD.
PORTLAND TIMBERS 2, COLUMBUS CREW SC 1
The Timbers won by the same scoreline that netted them the 2015 MLS Cup, with Fanendo Adi's 79th-minute winner the difference. As he did in December's title game, Diego Valeri opened the scoring for Portland (this time off a free kick, not by pressuring the goalkeeper, though he almost scored that way again), only for fellow Argentine Federico Higuain to equalize with a sensational bicycle kick. The Timbers started the day by unveiling their championship banner and a tifo to match.
MONTREAL IMPACT 3, VANCOUVER WHITECAPS 2
The Didier Drogba-less Impact took all three points on the road, with Ignacio Piatti turning in a masterclass. The Argentine star scored twice and assisted on another, dazzling at BC Place. Defenders Jordan Harvey and Kendall Waston scored in the loss for Vancouver.
SPORTING KC 1, SEATTLE SOUNDERS 0
Center back Nuno Coelho capped a 30-pass sequence in the 73rd minute by scoring on a speculative long-range shot, which bounced under a diving Stefan Frei, as Sporting KC took three points at a raucous CenturyLink Field. Seattle right back Oniel Fisher was sent off for a two-footed lunge at Connor Hallisey at the end of the first half, and the visitors took advantage. On the other end, Tim Melia robbed Clint Dempsey of another would-be free kick golazo midway through the first half and Jordan Morris, on his MLS debut, missed a ninth-minute opportunity on the breakaway for Seattle's two best chances.
LA GALAXY 4, D.C. UNITED 1
The Galaxy looked rusty, tired and uninterested over the first half, with Lamar Neagle putting D.C. ahead in the fifth minute. Enter Mike Magee. The halftime substitute and 2013 league MVP scored twice, assisted on another goal and drew a penalty that led to yet another, and the Galaxy rolled to their first three points.
Mike Magee marks LA Galaxy return with two goals, assist, drawn PK
When Mike Magee last played for the LA Galaxy he made a habit of scoring clutch goals. He marked his return to the club much in the same way.
Magee scored twice, assisted on a goal and drew a penalty that set up a fourth, helping the Galaxy to a come-from-behind 4-1 win over D.C. United to cap MLS's opening day.
Magee's close-range lob gave the Galaxy a 2-1 lead over D.C., capping a comeback from an early deficit. Sebastian Lletget served a perfect cross for the unmarked Magee, who took two touches–one to settle, one to chip–and dispatched the ball in the far corner of the net in the 64th minute. Magee, who entered as a halftime substitute for Giovani Dos Santos, also assisted on the Galaxy's equalizer, with his corner kick being headed home by center back Daniel Steres 10 minutes earlier.
D.C. had taken the lead on a fifth-minute goal by Lamar Neagle, following a midfield turnover by Steven Gerrard.
After leaving LA in 2013 and going on to win the league MVP honors with his hometown Chicago Fire that season, Magee suffered through an injury-plagued 2014 and 2015, returning to the Galaxy as a free agent. It sure didn't take a whole lot of time to re-acclimate. Watch his first goal below:
Magee wasn't done there, either. He drew a penalty in the 81st minute after being played through by Ashley Cole and getting tripped by goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. Robbie Keane converted the ensuing spot kick to give the Galaxy a 3-1 lead. And when Keane was taken down just outside the area in the 87th, it was Magee who headed home Gerrard's free kick to put the result to bed.
Did Andrea Pirlo call the spot on an opponent's kick again?
Andrea Pirlo has mastered a number of skills in soccer, and one of them appears to be calling his opponents' shots and exactly where they're going to go.
For a second time in his brief stint in MLS, Pirlo appeared to point directly to where an opposing player was going to dispatch a kick, doing so on David Accam's penalty in NYCFC's season-opening 4-3 win over the Chicago Fire. Last July, it was Pirlo pointing low and to the post to tell goalkeeper Josh Saunders that Kaka would try to put a free kick there–which he promptly did.
On Sunday, Pirlo, standing just a few yards behind the penalty taker, pointed high and to the right, precisely to where Accam scored. Saunders didn't take his advice, diving the wrong way. NYCFC walked away with the three points regardless.
Nobody under the New York Yankees umbrella has called the shot that prolifically since Babe Ruth.
[H/T NYCFC Nation]
Watch: Federico Higuain nets sensational bicycle kick vs. Portland
With Columbus Crew SC trailing the Portland Timbers in a rematch of the 2015 MLS Cup, Federico Higuain turned to the spectacular to bring last season's runner-up back on level ground.
With his back to goal, Higuain delivered a phenomenal bicycle kick from close range in the 68th minute to negate Diego Valeri's opener. Unfortunately for Higuain, the score didn't last for long, as Fanendo Adi restored Portland's lead 11 minutes later. That doesn't take away anything from Higuain's effort, for which he flicked the ball to himself off a cut-back cross from Ethan Finlay and instinctively hit an overhead kick goalbound with his back to the target.
Watch: Montreal's Ignacio Piatti dazzles vs. Vancouver
The Montreal Impact didn't have Didier Drogba vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place, but they did have Ignacio Piatti.
Piatti put on a show out west, scoring a tremendous goal, nearly setting up another with a dazzling dribble, assisting on Dominic Oduro's strike and then finishing off the 'Caps in the 3-1 win for the Impact.
Piatti, who had nine goals and eight assists a season ago, opened the scoring by weaving through Whitecaps defenders, remaining patient and picking his spot to beat David Ousted.
Piatti set up Harry Shipp for what nearly became Montreal's second goal, showing off his skilled footwork before nutmegging a defender and splitting two with his pass to Shipp:
Piatti did get his assist, which made it 2-0 at the time before Jordan Harvey pulled one back for Vancouver:
Piatti capped his day with an 88th-minute tally from a tight angle, with Oduro returning the favor:
Drogba won't play on artificial turf, at least to start the season, meaning he'll miss four of the Impact's first five matches. With Piatti playing like he did Sunday, Montreal might be just fine without him.
Watch: Portland Timbers unveil championship banner, tifo
The Portland Timbers's supporters packed Providence Park to pay homage to their 2015 MLS Cup champions, and it's no surprise that they brought their A Game.
With the MLS Cup runner-up Columbus Crew looking on from the opposing sideline, the rowdy Timbers Army celebrated in style, unfurling a tifo that read "You always remember your first" after the club unveiled its 2015 championship banner:
Columbus, meanwhile, unveiled something new too: The club's new secondary uniform:
Orlando City scores twice in stoppage time to tie Real Salt Lake
Orlando City’s penchant for late drama has carried over to the club’s second season, which kicked off Sunday with an improbable tie against visiting Real Salt Lake. Trailing by two in second-half stoppage time and playing without injured captain Kaká, Orlando pulled even on goals by 2015 rookie of the year Cyle Larin and then a 95th-minute strike by Adrian Winter.
Both teams played the second half with 10 men thanks to first-half red cards and RSL, which got two goals from Joao Plata, was unable to tighten up and see the game out. Larin ended Nick Rimando’s shutout bid with a deft redirection of a cross from Brek Shea.
Winter’s equalizer came off a pass over the back four. Larin shielded RSL defender Jámison Olave and took an awkward touch on the ball while Winter outran Aaron Maund before roofing a shot with the last kick of the game.
FC Dallas: Fabian Castillo scores, team celebrates in style
Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo hooked up for what figures to be the first of many times this season, with the two attacking dynamos combining for FC Dallas's opening goal against the Philadelphia Union.
Castillo, who had nine goals and nine assists last season, finished off a clinical sequence, with Diaz, who had eight goals and 10 assists in 2015, teeing him up down the center of the field on a lethal counterattack:
Even better than the goal? The team row-your-boat celebration:
Watch: Diego Fagundez scores on long-range blast
Diego Fagundez didn't waste any time in conjuring up a sensational goal to kick off his season.
The New England Revolution's 21-year-old attacking star, who had 13 goals in 2013 but 11 combined in the last two seasons, unleashed a rocket from long range to open the scoring in the Revs' road match vs. the Houston Dynamo in just the third minute.
Fagundez took a header down off his chest, put in on his right foot and fired away from about 25 yards:
Ref bonanza in Orlando City vs. RSL: Red cards, PK, disallowed goal
Orlando City and Real Salt Lake opened their MLS 2016 campaigns at the Citrus Bowl, where the referees played as big a role as the players in the opening 45 minutes.
A pair of players were sent off, Orlando–playing without the injured Kaká–had a goal controversially allowed and RSL wound up taking the lead on a penalty in an eventful first half.
Cyle Larin, who scored 17 goals to set an MLS rookie record in 2016, had a goal disallowed for offside, with the referee judging Brek Shea to have touched a ball through the area with Larin in an offside position.
That accompanied a pair of yellow-card challenges to RSL fullback Demar Phillips, who was sent off in the 20th minute. Orlando City's man advantage didn't last long. Darwin Ceren was sent off with a straight red for a shoulder to the face of Javier Morales.
Not like the man advantage was even all that fruitful. It was RSL that struck first with Seb Hines taking down Yura Movsisyan in the area and gifting a penalty to Joao Plata.
Hines also got away with this:
All in all, a busy afternoon for the officiating crew.
Watch: Tommy McNamara scores MLS's first goal of the season
NYCFC's Tommy McNamara opened the scoring for the 2016 MLS season, and he did so in spectacular fashion.
McNamara curled a right-footed beauty into the upper right-hand corner of the goal to put NYCFC up 1-0 over the Chicago Fire with the league's opening tally. McNamara, a cult hero of sorts who had five goals and three assists for NYCFC last season while returning from a torn ACL, scored 10 minutes into his 2016.
It was negated soon after by Razvan Cocis, bringing Chicago even at 1-1, only for Tony Taylor to restore NYCFC's edge and Khiry Shelton to add another in an action-filled first half (the Fire's defense, meanwhile, will want to burn the game film).
Watch McNamara's golazo, which kicked it all off:
Watch: Giovinco burns a pair, tries to chip from center circle
Never change, Sebastian Giovinco.
The league's reigning MVP tried to open his 2016 account in sensational fashion, burning a pair of New York Red Bulls before attempting an audacious chip from the center circle on Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
Robles recovered in time, and Giovinco was denied. Nevertheless, it was still brilliant to watch:
MLS Word Association: targeted allocation, discovery, more
Major League Soccer could probably use its own dictionary for its wide array of idiosyncratic terms and mechanisms. Targeted allocation money. General allocation money. Transparency. Blind draw. Discovery. Re-entry draft. SuperDraft. The list goes on.
And while the league has these mechanisms and tools in place for its own reasons, they certainly can yield some puzzled looks and cause frustration among fans, media and MLS personnel alike.
So SI's Grant Wahl took the time to play a game of word association with some of MLS's top figures to get their thoughts and reactions to some of the league-specific terms. Watch their responses in the video above.
And for the rest of our series of interview questions for MLS coaches and executives as the 2016 season nears, watch the following:
- Which players deserve more of the MLS spotlight?
- What is the ideal playoff format for MLS?
- Can promotion-relegation work in American soccer?
- Will MLS really be one of the world's best leagues by 2022?
- What's a lost art in the way soccer is played today?
- What are you most proud of in MLS's 20 years?
- What one soccer law would you change?
- Which city should receive an MLS expansion team?
- Should MLS implement instant replay, and to what extent?
Which players deserve more of the MLS spotlight?
We all know about the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Clint Dempsey, Kaká, Robbie Keane–players who are accomplished, continue to excel and command a bunch of attention, from fans, opposing teams and media alike.
But players frequently fly under the radar across all leagues, and that doesn't mean they aren't more deserving of the spotlight. SI's Grant Wahl asked a number of MLS coaches executives to weigh in with their opinions on which players across the league should command more of everyone's focus with the 2016 season openers looming on the horizon.
Watch the video above for their full responses, which include some names familiar to U.S. men's national team fans.
And for the rest of our series of interview questions for MLS coaches and executives watch the following:
What's the best MLS playoff format?
The new MLS season is days away, and 20 teams will kick off the long road to the playoffs, where 12 will contend for MLS Cup.
There is plenty of consternation about the MLS playoffs. Is the current format the best one to showcase a season's worth of work? Do the top seeds get rewarded enough for their accomplishment over the course of 34 games? Do too many teams make the postseason?
SI's Grant Wahl polled a number of coaches on what they think could be tweaked or whether they think the current system is fine as is, with the New York Red Bulls' Jesse Marsch suggesting something that would certainly give the top seeds a decided advantage. Watch his and the rest of his colleagues' responses in the video above.
Watch the rest of our series of interview questions for MLS coaches and executives:
Should MLS implement video replay?
The implementation of instant replay in leagues and competition around the world is a hot-button issue, with a wider use becoming prevalent, especially when it comes to goal-line technology.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has been outspoken about the league's willingness to be a guinea pig for video replay on the club level and even insinuated that third-tier USL may experiment with some replay this year. As for how league coaches and executives feel about it, though, there is a balance. At what point does the game lose all of its rhythm? To what extent should replay be used? Should more than goal-line calls be subject to video replay?
SI's Grant Wahl asked a number of high-profile MLS officials their thoughts, and their responses can be seen in the video above.
For our series of wide-ranging responses from league executives and coaches regarding issues about and related to MLS, watch the following video interviews as the countdown to Sunday's 2016 season openers continues: