The start of the 2020 MLS season was headlined by debuts for players, coaches and one new team.
Not all were able to enjoy success on their first day in MLS though, with Nashville SC falling to Atlanta United in front of 60,000 fans.
Emerson Hyndman’s stunning volley won it for the Five Stripes, with Nashville SC turning in an admirable performance at Nissan Stadium.
Thierry Henry’s official MLS coaching debut went much better, with his Montreal Impact riding a Maxi Urruti winner to a triumph over New England.
Javier Hernandez’s MLS debut was a forgettable one, as his LA Galaxy settled for a draw against the Houston Dynamo in Tab Ramos’ first match in charge.
It was a much more memorable MLS debut for Oswaldo Alanis, with the Mexican defender delivering a stunning stoppage-time equalizer to help the San Jose Earthquakes salvage a draw against Toronto FC.
The Colorado Rapids opened the season with a dramatic stoppage-time winner on the road against D.C. United. They conceded the first goal, but got the winner in the 92nd minute just before the final whistle.
Elsewhere, FC Dallas took down the Union and Orlando City battled RSL to a scoreless draw.
Sporting Kansas City closed out Saturday’s MLS action with a resounding 3-1 win on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Here’s a full rundown of the opening day of the 2020 season:
Nashville SC 1, ATLANTA UNITED 2
(28′ Zimmerman)-(9′ Barco, 37′ Hyndman)
In the historic, first-ever match in Nashville, Atlanta United served the MLS newcomers their first loss.
Franco Escobar found Ezequiel Barco on the counter in the ninth minute, but Nashville responded when Walker Zimmerman finished off a corner from Hany Mukhtar in the 28th.
Ultimately, Emerson Hyndman would have the final say in the first half when he punished the Nashville backline after a failed clearance.
The first action of note in the second half would be Atlanta’s star-striker Josef Martinez get taken off the field on a stretcher shortly after calling for a substitute. Randall Leal took a threatening shot in the 78th minute that hit the bar after making Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan miss, but the teams would go on to settle for the 2-1 line.
D.C United 1, RAPIDS 2
(Canouse 60′)-(Kamara 67′. Lewis 90+2′)
The Rapids opened 2020 in thrilling fashion thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Jonathan Lewis. An 85th-minute sub, Lewis pounced on a loose ball at the end of a mad scramble in the D.C. penalty area. The goal came with nearly the last kick of the match, and helped the Rapids to the victory despite conceding the opening goal.
After a scoreless first half, D.C. United broke the deadlock on a corner that found the head of Russell Canouse right before the hour mark. This came just a couple minutes after Steve Birnbaum had the best chance of the game when he smacked a header off the crossbar from just outside the six-yard box. Colorado didn’t allow the hosts to enjoy the lead for long. Kei Kamara opened his 2020 account when he rose to head home a long-distance cross from Jack Price.
Prior to the goals, the goalkeepers were the stars as both Bill Hamid and Clint Irwin made their fair share of nice saves. There were also a couple near misses on both sides before the Birnbaum crossbar.
The Rapids take the win into their home opener next Saturday night against Orlando City while D.C. remain at home to take on Inter Miami earlier that afternoon.
IMPACT 2, Revolution 1
(Quioto 37′, Urruti 80′)-(Bunbury 13′)
A late winner by Maximiliano Urruti helped the Impact open their regular season with a victory in Thierry Henry’s first MLS match in charge of the Impact.
Teal Bunbury opened the scoring off a well-worked corner early in the first half, volleying home past a helpless Clément Diop. The Impact would respond through a set-piece of their own right before half-time, as new signing Romell Quioto nodded home unmarked at the back post.
With just under twenty minutes to play, substitute Wilfried Zahibo fired the Revolution ahead from another set-piece, but it was later overturned by referee Chris Penso after consulting VAR.
Just when the game seemed destined for a draw, Urruti pounced on a long ball from Saphir Taïder and caught Matt Turner off his line. His lob handed the Impact their first three points of the season and kicked off the Thierry Henry era on the right foot.
The Impact will now turn their attention to FC Dallas while Bruce Arena’s men take on the new-look Chicago Fire next.
Houston Dynamo 1, LA Galaxy 1
(Manotas 54′)-(Pavon 13′)
Chicharito made his much anticipated MLS debut in front of a packed house at BBVA Stadium in Houston, but the Mexican star was rather quiet in his first game with the LA Galaxy as they drew with the Dynamo.
Cristian Pavon scored the opener in this one with a fantastic individual effort in the 13th minute. He cut inside, dribbled to the top of the box and launched a beautiful curling shot into the top corner of the net for an electric first goal of the season.
Despite that early goal going against them, the Dynamo were often the better of the two sides and they were rewarded for their efforts in the 54th minute. Mauro Manotas tied the game when the Galaxy defense lost track of him on the right side of the Dynamo attack, allowing him to slot one home inside the near post.
The Galaxy will wonder how they didn’t go in front in the 66th minute. Pavon led a break against a scrambled Dynamo defense before picking out Joe Corona, who got back-to-back shots cleared off the line by Houston defenders. They also had a couple other chances as momentum swung their way in the final 20 minutes, but they couldn’t put any of them away.
The Galaxy have their home opener next Saturday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps while the Dynamo are on the road at Sporting Kansas City.
Earthquakes 2 vs. Toronto FC 2
(Rios 54′, Alanis 90′ +5) – (Pozuelo 40′ PK, Laryea 51′)
Welcome to Major League Soccer Oswaldo Alanis.
With the San Jose Earthquakes down 2-1 to Toronto FC in the final seconds of the match, Alanis scored a golazo of a free kick, curving it past Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westburg to the far corner of the net to save the point for San Jose, their first home opening point in the Matias Almeyda era.
Cristian Espinoza, who didn’t have his strongest match, drew the foul towards the corner against Reds midfielder Tusbasa Endoh, which set up Alanis’ golazo.
Toronto scored their opening goal off of a penalty kick by Alejandro Pozuelo in the 40th minute. The penalty kick came off of a Toronto corner where it appeared as if Andy Rios took down Jozy Altidore in the box. The Reds doubled their lead in the 51st minute off of a goal by Richie Laryea, who beat Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel Vega to the near post.
San Jose responded immediately as Rios slid and deflected a cross by Westberg to the far post, putting San Jose within one at 2-1 in the 54th minute.
San Jose stays home next week as they’ll host Minnesota United while Toronto FC travels back to host New York City FC at BMO Field.
FC DALLAS 2, Union 0
(Ondrasek 61′, Pomykal 90+1′)
FC Dallas picked up their first three points of 2020 with a 2-0 home win over the Philadelphia Union.
In a game which didn’t feature many offensive chances, it was Luchi Gonzalez’s side who made the most of theirs. Michael Barrios had the best chance for either team in the opening 45 minutes, being denied by Andre Blake from close-range.
Zdenek Ondrasek broke the deadlock in the 61st minute after catching the Jamaican sleeping from outside of the box. The striker’s low effort beat a diving Blake and found the bottom-left corner for his first goal of the season.
Mark McKenzie was denied by Jesse Gonzalez later in the half while Alejandro Bedoya was also left frustrated by the young goalkeeper.
Paxton Pomykal came off the bench for his first action this calendar year and iced the result. He drove across the box and hit a low shot into the right corner, giving the Western Conference side an important home victory.
The Union travel to LAFC on Matchday 2 while FC Dallas hosts the Montreal Impact.
Orlando City 0, Real Salt Lake 0
Defense and goalkeeping stole the show in this match as Orlando City and Real Salt Lake both failed to find the back of the net.
Attacking play was hard to come by throughout this match. The two sides combined for only five shots in the first 60 minutes of the game. To be fair, a couple of Orlando’s were quality opportunities that didn’t miss by much.
The Lions did turn up the pressure in the closing 20 minutes, beginning with a great chance from Chris Mueller in the 73rd that saw him put a shot right into Zac MacMath from point blank range. Mueller nearly missed again in the 83rd minute when he pounced on a loose ball about 20 yards out, but his shot went just over the bar.
Real Salt Lake continued to lack attacking options, even after bringing on offensive players Corey Baird, Justin Meram and Giuseppe Rossi. None of them were able to do much with their limited time on the pitch and neither were any of RSL’s starters. They totaled only five shots on the night and held onto the draw thanks to strong defensive work from their back line and excellent goalkeeping by MacMath.
Both these sides are in action next Saturday. Orlando will travel to Colorado to face the Rapids and RSL has their home opener against the New York Red Bulls.
Vancouver Whitecaps 1, SPORTING KC 3
(Nerwinski 28′) – (Pulido 17′, Kinda 39′, Hurtado 90+4′)
Three different players scored goals to help Sporting KC earn all three points on the road with a comfortable victory at BC Place.
Sporting KC opened the scoring in the 17th minute when the Whitecaps failed to clear an SKC free kick from the penalty area and Roberto Puncec’s header found Alan Pulido, who hit a perfect header past Maxime Crepeau.
The Whitecaps equalized in the 28th minute when Jake Nerwinski bundled home a David Milinkovic cross after Malinkovic beat Graham Zusi down the left side.
Gadi Kinda gave Sporting KC the lead in the 38th minute when he latched onto a Luis Martins pass and stroked a perfect left-footed shot from 16 yards out.
Erik Hurtado added an insurance goal late in second-half stoppage time when he latched onto a Gerso Fernandes pass and scored against his former club.
Sporting Kansas City returns home to play its home opener on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, while the Vancouver Whitecaps travel to California for a road match against the LA Galaxy.