The weekend has finally come. Major League Soccer kicked off its 27th season, and the action lived up to the months of hype. LA Galaxy, Austin FC, and the Columbus Crew were just a few of the teams that owned the weekend by winning their respective matches. The world even got to see the start of a new franchise in the MLS.
The defending champions, NYCFC woke up from their championship season to a defeat at the hands of Javier Hernández and the Galaxy at the death. The defending Western Conference champions, Portland Timbers, rescued a point on their home turf against the new-look New England Revolution. Carlos Vela netted a hat trick against the Rapids to lead LAFC to a 3-0 win on Saturday afternoon.
The beginning of a new chapter in Major League Soccer began for Charlotte FC who kicked off the franchise's first match against DC United on Saturday evening. While the Queen City lost their first match as a franchise 3-nil at the hands of the Red and Black, a lot of positives can be taken from the defeat. Charlotte was denied the first goal of the match due to an unfortunate offside call and was extremely unlucky to give up all three of the goals. The Queen City had more shots on target and more of the ball than DC United, but are still looking for their first goal in franchise history. A cruel loss for a team that showed that they have a personality in just their first competitive match together.
After the defeat to DC United, Charlotte FC manager Miguel Ramírez stated, "I feel proud and happy when I see my team able to compete, later the results are another thing. There are too many factors in a game that you can’t control, even when you are better than the opponent, you can lose the game...But if I have the feeling that they [the team] are competing, and we are able to be in their half and control the tempo. This for me is a success because it is what we can control."
Vela and Hernández showed they can make a difference in a blink of an eye for their respective teams. NYCFC looked to have escaped LA with a point, after missing several opportunities, but Chicharito and his magical feet had something to say about that. Vela only managed to net five goals in 20 matches last season after suffering a hamstring injury. It is Vela's first hat-trick since October 6, 2019, against the Colorado Rapids as well in the last week of the 2019 MLS regular season.
One of the most glaring moments that does stand out is the trouncing Austin FC gave FC Cincinnati at home. The crowd was full of green and black, pushing their team through the first game of the franchise's season with authority. Austin had five shots on target, and four of them found a way past goalkeeper Alec Kann. The Green and Black were aggressive and took the chances that came their way, executing at a high level so far, after netting the least amount of goals in the MLS last season. It is only the second time in franchise history that the club netted four or more goals in a single contest.
The soccer league in the United States continues to grow each season. With Charlotte FC kicking off for the first time this season, other teams like the Sacramento Republic FC and St. Louis FC became a part of the league in 2023. Columbus Crew demonstrated in front of their own fans that they are back after one season out of the MLS playoffs. The Whitecaps did not even execute a shot on target the entire match. Lucas Zelarayán went out in the first contest and showed the league why he received the contract extension that he did. After winning the MLS Cup in 2019, the Crew failed to make the playoffs and ended up in ninth. The proud Columbus fans came out to represent on Saturday, and hope this could be a year for a rebound.
The action starts up again Saturday, March 5, 2022, with the defending Supporters' Shield champions, New England Revolution against Paul Arriola, and FC Dallas in the home opener at Gillette Stadium. The road to the MLS Cup has begun, and each team has the same chance as any other to hoist the trophy just like NYCFC did for the first time in Portland back on December 11, 2021.