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MLS Opening Weekend Preview: Union host Crew, St Louis CITY SC visits Austin FC, and more


The 2023 MLS opening weekend is finally upon us and Saturday’s loaded schedule is headlined by an Eastern Conference clash at Subaru Park.

Defending Eastern Conference champions Philadelphia Union are at home on Saturday to welcome Wilfried Nancy and the Columbus Crew to town. Jim Curtin’s squad have high aspirations to run the table in MLS this season and with few departures in the winter, confidence will be high at Subaru Park.

Daniel Gazdag and Lucas Zelarayan headline the countless playmakers on display while Andre Blake and Eloy Room are two of the league’s top goalkeepers.

Elsewhere, St Louis CITY SC begins life in MLS on Saturday night against Austin FC. Saturday’s schedule gets underway with an afternoon showdown between Nashville SC and New York City FC. Sunday’s lone match takes place at Lumen Field as the Seattle Sounders welcome the Colorado Rapids to town.

Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s MLS action:

Union vs. Crew

Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Apple TV

Defending Eastern Conference champions Philadelphia Union will look to make Subaru Park a fortress again in 2023, starting with Saturday’s opening night showdown against the Columbus Crew.

Jim Curtin’s squad quest to capture a first-ever MLS Cup ended in agonizing fashion against LAFC, but there is plenty of optimism surrounding the squad to return to the league final. Daniel Gazdag led the team with 22 goals last regular season while Julian Carranza added 14 and Mikael Uhre totaled 13. Joaquin Torres joins a dynamic attacking unit while Andres Perea and Damion Lowe elsewhere in the squad.

Wilfried Nancy takes over for Caleb Porter in Columbus as the Crew try to rebound from a disappointing 2022. Luckily for the Frenchman, he has a nice 1-2 attacking punch with Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez coming off a 19-goal, 15-assist haul last season. Christian Ramirez returns to MLS after joining from Aberdeen while Jimmy Medranda adds depth to a backline that bid farewell to Jonathan Mensah.

Austin FC vs. St Louis CITY SC

Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Apple TV

St Louis CITY SC will have strong aspirations to begin its life in MLS with a bang at Q2 Stadium on Saturday night.

Bradley Carnell’s squad squares off with Austin FC, seeking to hit the ground running on opening night. Carnell’s squad features a good mix of domestic and European based players with several top international players overall. Roman Burki brings several years of experience in goal while Tomas Ostrak, Rasmus Alm, and Joao Klauss were also brought in from abroad. Aziel Jackson is a domestic player to watch after excelling in MLS NEXT Pro last year with Minnesota United 2.

Austin FC took a major step forward in Year No. 2 and will be fighting to capture at least one trophy in 2023. Josh Wolff still has MVP candidate Sebastian Driussi (22 goals, seven assists in 2022), to call on while Gyasi Zardes, Will Bruin, and Adam Lundqvist have all joined the club from other MLS destinations. Hector Jimenez and Julio Cascante will be strong options to lead the backline once again.

Nashville SC vs. NYCFC

Saturday, 4:30 p.m., FOX

Nashville SC heads back to the Eastern Conference in 2023 with hopes of taking another big step this season.

Gary Smith’s squad welcomes NYCFC to Geodis Park on Saturday in the first of two head-to-head meetings this season. Reigning MVP Hany Mukhtar (23 goals, 11 assists in 2022) once again is the star man for Nashville SC while U.S. men’s national team defender Walker Zimmerman is key on the back end. Fafa Picault’s arrival should give Nashville SC some added flare in the final third, as he joins Mukhtar and C.J. Sapong against NYCFC’s defense.

NYCFC bid farewell to several club legends this winter with Maxi Moralez, Sean Johnson, and Alexander Callens all leaving for new destinations. Nick Cushing still has several key players to call on starting this weekend, but overall could find it tough to replace Moralez, Johnson, and Callens immediately. Gabriel Pereira and Talles Magno combined for 15 goals and 14 assists in 2022 and will be the go-to attackers starting Week 1.

Sounders vs. Rapids

Sunday, 8 p.m. Fox Sports 1

The final match of the weekend comes from Lumen Field as the Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids both seek a return to the playoffs in 2023.

Brian Schmetzer’s squad are three weeks removed from their painful elimination at the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco, where a 1-0 loss to Al Ahly condemned the Sounders to a early trip home. The Sounders still have plenty key veterans to call on this year with Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, Albert Rusnak, and Nicolas Lodeiro all set to play big roles once again. Heber’s arrival from NYCFC should give the Sounders an added boost in the final third after notching eight goals in 2022.

A poor start to the season could mean a short reign for head coach Robin Fraser as the Rapids seek an impressive Week 1 result. Gyasi Zardes’ departure was the biggest loss in the squad, but Diego Rubio remains the go-to attacker for the Rapids following a 16-goal haul in 2022. Keegan Rosenberry, Lalas Abubakar, and Danny Wilson headline a veteran-led backline that will try and give William Yarbrough little to do in goal.

Here is the rest of the Opening Weekend MLS Schedule:

Saturday (all times ET)

Atlanta United vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 7:30 p.m.

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls – 7:30 p.m.

D.C. United vs. Toronto FC – 7:30 p.m.

Charlotte FC vs. New Englands Revolution – 7:30 p.m.

Inter Miami vs. CF Montreal – 7:30 p.m.

FC Cincinnati vs. Houston Dynamo – 7:30 p.m.

FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United – 8:30 p.m.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake – 10:30 p.m.

Monday (Rescheduled due to snow)

Portland Timbers vs. Sporting KC – 10 p.m.


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