On a night with just three MLS matches on the schedule, it was the league’s newest signing who stepped up to announce himself with a debut to remember.
Teenage midfielder Caden Clark scored the winner in his MLS debut, helping the New York Red Bulls to an important Eastern Conference win against Atlanta United, which unveiled its own new signing in Marcelino Moreno.
Inter Miami pulled itself closer to playoff contention with a second straight win, while the Vancouver Whitecaps gave their own playoff hopes some much-needed life.
Here is a closer look at Saturday night’s MLS action:
Atlanta United 0, Red Bulls 1
Caden Clark enjoyed an MLS debut he and New York Red Bulls fans won’t soon forget, delivering an 18-yard volley winner to lead the Red Bulls to a win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The 17-year-old midfielder, signed earlier on Saturday, stepped up to fire home his first MLS goal after a Red Bulls corner kick was headed out and found Clark at the top of the penalty area, where he volleyed a shot past Brad Guzan.
The Red Bulls nearly added an insurance goal in the 84th minute when Dru Yearwood blasted a shot off the post.
Atlanta United threatened late in the match, but Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara stepped up with a crucial intervention in second-half stoppage time, racing out to intercept a ball in the penalty area that Emerson Hyndman was racing onto. Jon Gallagher nearly followed up with an equalizer but Meara denied the shot too.
The loss spoiled the debut of Atlanta United midfielder and Designated Player signing Marcelino Moreno, who made his first start signing signing for the Five Stripes.
The win snapped a two-match losing streak for the Red Bulls, who moved up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They return to action on Wednesday against first-place Toronto FC in a match that will be played at TFC’s temporary home in East Hartford, Connecticut.
Atlanta United returns home for a Wednesday night clash with suddenly-surging Inter Miami, which is now just one point behind the Five Strips in the Eastern Conference standings.
Man of the Match
Caden Clark enjoyed a dream debut, scoring the winner with a beautiful volley.
Moment of the Match
Clark’s volley is the easy pick, but Ryan Meara’s intervention late in the match to deny a late equalizer was absolutely vital.
Match to Forget
Jurgen Damm was largely invisible on the night for Atlanta United, failing to register a single shot or key pass on the night.
Inter Miami 1, Houston Dynamo 0
Mother Nature stopped the game temporarily and Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Marko Maric stopped plenty of shots.
Nothing was stopping Inter Miami from history, though.
Inter Miami won back-to-back games for the first time thanks to a Lewis Morgan penalty kick in the second half. Morgan scored in the 57th minute, firing low and to the right past the otherwise unbeatable Maric.
The Dynamo goalkeeper was a key figure in the match at Inter Miami CF Stadium that was delayed 47 minutes at the half-hour mark because of a weather delay. He made three big saves in the affair, including a strong-handed stop on a volleyed attempt from Gonzalo Higuain in the 53rd minute.
Inter Miami found a way, however. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was brought down in the penalty area by Aljaz Struna on a corner kick, leading to Morgan’s decisive finish from 12 yards out.
The Dynamo had a good opportunity to equalize in the 70th minute, but Ariel Lassiter’s shot from the right side of the box was blocked well by scrambling Inter Miami goalkeeper McCarthy.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. There is no denying Maric was good in this one, but so too was the returning Inter Miami centerback. Gonzalez Pirez came back into the lineup after a one-game suspension because of yellow card accumulation and contributed on both sides of the ball, helping to post a cleansheet and drawing the penalty that Morgan scored on.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Spot Kick Step Up: Inter Miami had a penalty kick for the second time in four games, but this time it was Morgan and not Higuain that stepped up to take the shot from the spot. The Scotsman made no mistake with it, too, shooting low and to the right to record his team-high fifth goal of the year.
MATCH TO FORGET
Aljaz Struna. The Dynamo centerback was involved in two of the game’s biggest plays, and they were not favorable ones. Struna missed one of his side’s best scoring chances by stabbing a shot wide in the first half, and committed the foul after halftime that led to the decisive penalty.
Whitecaps 2, Real Salt Lake 1
(Martinez OG 71′, Cavallini (75′) – (Kreilach 37′)
The Vancouver Whitecaps may have conceded first against Real Salt Lake, but it didn’t stop them from fighting back to end a four-match losing streak on Saturday night.
A pair of second-half goals helped Marc Dos Santos’ side down RSL, 2-1, at Providence Park, with Lucas Cavallini earning the winner.
Damir Kreilach gave RSL its first lead in a match since Sept. 23rd after putting away a headed pass from Justin Meram. The forward got enough on his shot to beat Evan Bush and hand the visitors a lead going into halftime.
The Whitecaps continued to pressure in the second half and tied things up in the 71st minute though a bit of luck. An own goal from Douglas Martinez kick started a two-goal period for the Whitecaps and eventually handed them all three points.
Canadian international Lucas Cavallini put away a rebound in the 75th minute after after Fredy Montero’s prior effort was saved by Andrew Putna. The Whitecaps would hang on for a massive three points to jump into the final playoff spot in the West.
Man of the Match
Lucas Cavallini: The Canadian forward scored the winning goal for Vancouver and also did a strong job in his hold-up play. He won 12 duels including seven additional aerial battles, but most importantly won the game for Vancouver.
Moment of the Match
Douglas Martinez’s own goal: Real Salt Lake was aiming to snap a two-match losing run, but Martinez’s unfortunate own goal gave the Whitecaps life late in the match. Cavallini eventually scored the winner in quick success for Vancouver.
Match to Forget
Martinez: Despite not being able to do anything about the own goal, Martinez was poor in attack for RSL. He lost 11 of his 17 duels on the night and failed to register a shot on goal from his attacking position.