Argentina’s Almada strikes late twice as Atlanta win on MLS opening day
Argentine World Cup-winner Thiago Almada scored two brilliant stoppage time goals as Atlanta United beat the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on a pulsating opening day of the Major League Soccer season on Saturday.
There was also late drama in the capital where Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United grabbed a 3-2 win over Toronto with Theodore Ku-DiPietro scoring the winner in the eighth minute of time added on while new boys St.Louis City won on their league debut.
MLS signed a reported $2.5 billion ten-year deal with Apple TV to stream the league from this season and it was Almada, the first active player from the league to be on a World Cup-winning squad, who took top billing.
French-born US international forward Jeremy Ebobisse gave San Jose a 12th-minute lead at Atlanta who then missed a chance to draw level from the penalty spot with Luiz Araujo firing well wide of the target.
But a thundering, long-distance drive from Almada in the third minute of time added on brought Atlanta level and then six minutes later, the 21-year-old, signed from Velez Sarsfield last year, produced a curling free-kick from over 20 yards out to win the game.
Former Leeds United midfielder and Polish international Mateusz Klich scored on his D.C. United debut with a long-range effort in the 13th minute after being given acres of space to advance into.
Toronto’s troubles worsened when they lost Italy international Lorenzo Insigne, reportedly the highest paid player in MLS, to injury in the 34th minute.
But another Italian, former Juventus midfielder Federico Bernardeschi brought Toronto level from the penalty spot in the 66th minute.
It was a curling Bernardeschi free-kick which led to Toronto’s second, the ball coming out off the post and Mark-Anthony Kaye reacting quickest to turn into an unguarded net.
But D.C. drew level in the 90th minute with a header from former Crystal Palace forward Christian Benteke before Ku-Diepietro’s close range finish sent the home crowd wild.
– Dream debut –
MLS’s newest club St.Louis City made a dream debut in the league with a 3-2 win at highly-rated Austin with Brazilian Joao Klauss getting the winner four minutes from the end.
Centre-half Tim Parker opened the scoring with St. Louis’s first ever goal in the league, a thundering header from a corner in the 24th minute.
But Austin levelled just before the break through Argentine Sebastian Driussi and Jon Gallagher put the home side ahead in the 72nd minute.
But former Austin player Jared Stroud levelled after gleefully collecting a woeful back pass from Kipp Peller and drilling home.
Klauss was to be the hero though, bursting down the right before cutting in and beating Austin keeper Brad Stuver with the outside of his foot.
Last season’s beaten finalists Philadelphia Union, tipped by many to lead the way again in the Eastern Conference, got off to a flying start with a 4-1 dismantling of the Columbus Crew.
The Crew took the lead when a low drive from Colombian Cucho Hernandez went in off a slight deflection from home defender Jakob Glesnes.
But two penalites from Hungary international Daniel Gazdag and a brace from Julian Carranza sealed a comfortable victory for Philadelphia.
2021 MLS Cup winners and last season’s Eastern Conference playoff finalists, New York City, fell to a 2-0 defeat to Nashville in Tennessee.
US World Cup defender Walker Zimmerman fired Nashville ahead in the 34th minute and then Hany Mukhtar, the league’s Most Valuable Player last season, came off the bench to set up the second.
The German powered towards the heart of the New York City defence before slipping the ball to Jacob Shaffelburg who made no mistake.
Phil Neville’s Inter Miami beat Montreal 2-0 with Ukrainian defender Serhiy Kryvtsov heading home on his debut before Shanyder Borgelin made sure of the win.
The New York Red Bulls fell to a 1-0 defeat to Orlando City while Cincinnati beat Houston 2-1 and the New England Revolution enjoyed a 1-0 win at Charlotte in front of a crowd of 69,345.
The derby clash between Los Angeles Galaxy and LAFC was postponed due to stormy weather.