On the opening day of the 2016 MLS Season, champions Portland won a rematch of the last year’s final against Columbus 2-1. A significantly-strengthened New York City FC won 4-3 in Chicago on coach Patrick Viera’s debut. The team included David Villa and Andrea Pirlo but was without Frank Lampard. Another team to impress was LA Galaxy and its top stars Roy Keane, Steven Gerrard, Nigel de Jong and Ashley Cole in the 4-1 success against D.C. United.
It was a start with a bang. The first goal of the new Major League Soccer (MLS) season was a quite magnificent dream strike scored by Tommy McNamara for New York City FC. The midfielder ran at the Chicago Fire goal from about 25 metres out, jinked and then curled an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner. Ten minutes into the new MLS season and the league had its first hero who had good reason to feel well-pleased with his day’s work. His New York City FC team excelled on the first day of matches when serving up an unbelievable spectacle in the 4-3 away win against Chicago. The team formed around the top European stars David Villa and Andrea Pirlo enchanted NYCFC fans amongst the approximately 18,000 crowd in Toyota Park and were well worth the win.
New York’s new coach Patrick Viera, World Cup and European Championship winner with France, enjoyed a successful debut even though he was unable to pick Chelsea legend Frank Lampard (calf injury). The Englishman is working hard on his comeback and is targeting the play-off place they missed out on last time around. Alongside the “fantastic” coach Viera, he is well aware of his own obligations and is reminding the two other European imports of theirs. “We have a responsibility towards the young players. We three have achieved a lot in Europe and have basically won pretty much everything there is to win. Now we have to use our experience to support the team. And I think we three have the right kind of personalities. Ahead of us now is a whole season in which we have keep doing the right things and hopefully guide the team to success,” said the 33-year old when talking to the “Eurosport” television channel.
Pirlo has already shown his class on the pitch – and his experience in an amusing moment when Chicago, 4-2 behind at the time, was awarded a penalty. Standing behind the taker David Accam, Pirlo indicated to his goalkeeper Josh Saunders where he thought the spot-kick was going to go. Accam really did plant the ball into the right hand corner where Pirlo thought he would but keeper Saunders did not believe in the Italian and dived to the left. In internet, Pirlo was nevertheless celebrated for his clairvoyant skills.
City rivals New York Bulls however were left with nothing to celebrate. Last year’s top club in the regular season and therefore the recipient of the Supporter’s Shield suffered a big disappointment on the opening day. Watched on by a 21,303 crowd, the favourites lost to2-0 to Toronto FC. Instrumental in winning the game for the Canadians was once again Sebastian Giovinco. The Italian international striker and last season’s leading goal scorer put his side 1-0 up in the 82nd minute before Marco Delgado doubled the score in added time.
Like top-scorer Giovinco, champions Portland Timbers also seemed unfazed upon returning after the break between the old and new seasons. In repeat of the 2015 final, the Timbers once again defeated Columbus Crew 2-1 and enjoyed a perfect start in front of a capacity 21,144 crowd. The players were welcomed by a remarkable 3D choreography performed by the Portland-Fans which, in addition to the championship trophy and a thank-you to the team, also contained a continual changing of colours between green and yellow. Spectators and players alike were fascinated by the display. “A big thanks to the fans. It was one of the best starts ever,” said the highly-impressed English Timbers defender Liam Ridgewill. Despite the show on the terraces and the victory, Portland however had to acknowledge that Columbus had provided the highlights on the pitch as the Argentine Crew striker Federico Higuain scored with an artistic bicycle kick to tie the scores at 1 apiece.
Strengthened by their new signings, Los Angeles Galaxy made it clear on the opening day of the season that they will rivalling the Timbers in the race for the title. After being eliminated last year in the knock-out round by Seattle, the top team kicked off their season in style by crushing D.C. United 4-1 in front of 25,667 spectators. With their renowned European additions Nigel de Jong (Netherlands/31) and Ashley Cole (England/35) in the starting eleven, Los Angeles only encountered problems in the first half. In the second, a perfect performance turned around a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 win. Ireland’s legend Robbie Keane found the target once and the Liverpool institution Steven Gerrard provided an assist. Cole was chosen for the MLS Team of the Week on his debut but took the honour in his stride saying, “Three points are more important.”