With just one game left to play before Matchday 1 is completely behind us, let’s take stock of an extremely eventful first few games of the 2023 MLS season. What better way to do that than by compiling a list of the week’s winners and losers from all around the league?
Winner: The city of St. Louis
For the first time since Los Angeles FC did it in 2018, an expansion team won their first-ever Major League Soccer game and it’s safe to say that everyone outside of Austin city limits was happy for them.
St. Louis fought back from 2-1 down to beat the highly-esteemed Austin FC, with striker Joao Klauss nabbing the game winner in the 86th minute to cap off a historic night.
Loser: Passing the ball to your teammates… somehow?
I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched the replay of Austin FC’s Kipp Keller just handing a breakaway to former teammate Jared Stroud instead of passing back to his keeper. It defies all logic. It looked like when you’re playing your little brother in FIFA and the game decides to throw him an easy goal to make him feel better. Stroud wasn’t pressing him and Keller had all the time in the world, delivering one of the most painful brain farts in recent sports history.
Winner: New threads
These new jerseys are just, wow. Hats off to the creative teams around the league that clearly received some strongly worded memos from Apple to quit with the drab and uninspired kits. Nearly every jersey on display — not counting the horrendous kit clash going on between Inter Miami and CF Montreal — has been a breath of fresh air and a great take on each club’s look and the city they represent. With all that being said, take a bow, Nashville SC, because your Man in Black kit is a work of art. On behalf of every Johnny Cash fan out there, thank you.
Loser: Lorenzo Insigne’s left leg
Insigne was labeled as the savior of Toronto FC’s string of disappointing seasons. From the moment he stepped foot on this side of the Atlantic, he became one of — if not the — most talented player in the league. For the second time since his arrival, however, he has been forced out of the game with a non-contact lower-body injury, this time after just 34 minutes. This has become an increasingly worrisome trend for the Italian international who will miss time due to lower-body ailments for the tenth time since September 2021.
Winner: Thiago Almada’s right foot
It has been discussed, dissected, and rebroadcast an infinite amount of times, but nobody seems to get sick of the two nicest goals from Matchday 1. Someone should check on the crossbar at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, because after taking a shot like Almada’s — our first goal of the year contender — it might still be shaking.
Loser: Scheduling Department
This will most likely only be a problem in the first few weeks and as fixture congestion and other competitions shake up the MLS schedule, people will hardly notice, but Opening Day was a real bummer for Chicago Fire fans. It’s bad enough that their playoff hopes are slim to none this year, but they were the only team left off the schedule and will have their season opener next weekend at home against New York City FC.
Winner: MLS Season Pass
Besides multiple issues with the Miami and Montreal broadcast, Opening Day for Apple’s MLS Season Pass was a rousing success. Lots of talent from plenty of MLS markets have been brought in, and the content available to every team is nothing short of extensive. It’s an exceptional start, but they just have to give Canada a little more love. Also, stop gatekeeping the highlights and put them on YouTube. That’s a ridiculous thing to withhold from fans.
A decent amount of snow was dropped on Los Angeles over the weekend, forcing the league to postpone El Tráfico — the derby between LAFC and LA Galaxy — until July 4. In a sport where pitch quality is as important as anything else, it is ridiculous that every MLS stadium (this game was supposed to be played at the Rose Bowl, home of the UCLA Bruins football team) does not have measures in place to deal with snowfall, it should be a compulsory requirement. We live in a world where climate change means that snow can fall anywhere, virtually any time and teams should face consequences if their facilities are not suitable to host games when there’s snow out or if they have no suitable alternatives.