Gamers, groups, storylines to look at


Main League Soccer’s twenty sixth season is about to kick off, with the opening match between the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes on Friday night. 

The Columbus Crew are the defending champions, and everybody will probably be desperate to take the trophy off them. It figures to be a deep discipline of challengers, too, with at the very least half the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals comprised of MLS golf equipment.

What can we count on in 2021?

Key MLS 2021 season storylines

Can the Crew repeat?

MLS hasn’t seen back-to-back champs for the reason that 2011-12 Galaxy. However if you happen to take a look at the additions Columbus made this offseason in including expert winger Kevin Molino and ageless purpose machine Bradley Wright-Phillips, there’s no cause to imagine the Crew can’t do it. Oh, and don’t overlook about MLS Cup MVP Lucas Zelarayán. This group is stacked and has a shiny new stadium to show it in.

Will the Sounders win the West but once more?

Seattle has received the Western Convention every of the previous 5 years apart from 2018, and earned two league titles in that span. Final season’s quest resulted in MLS Cup in Columbus, and star winger Jordan Morris has since been loaned out to Swansea Metropolis. However the core is again for an additional run.

(Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports)

(Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports activities)

Austin FC, welcome to MLS

One of many fastest-growing cities within the U.S. is able to develop into the brand new heart of dialogue in MLS. Matthew McConaughey is co-owner, and a pair of established MLS veterans Josh Wolff and Claudio Reyna are a part of the workers, and the followers are desperate to develop the legend. 

Will Chicharito bounce again?

By Galaxy requirements, final 12 months was an abomination. As if the stress round Javier Hernandez isn’t at all times excessive, this season is all about redemption. Chicharito says he’s in the very best type of his life each bodily and mentally. With a solidified coach like Greg Vanney taking on, the rejuvenated mentality for the Galaxy to return to prominence begins with Chicharito’s success as a frontrunner, and extra importantly as a goalscorer.

What kids will blossom?

MLS academies are churning out expertise that is transferring overseas. Gamers like Bryan Reynolds (AS Roma), Brenden Aaronson (Crimson Bull Salzburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista) and Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) making the leap solely continues to encourage the brand new technology and develop the league. Maintain a detailed eye on the likes of Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Efrain Alvarez (Galaxy), Mauricio Pineda (Fireplace) and Caden Clark (Crimson Bulls).

Can Josef Martínez return to high type?

2018 MVP and Golden Boot winner Josef Martínez has been probably the most thrilling gamers within the league over the previous couple of years. An ACL harm in final season’s opener sidelined Martínez for 2020, however he’s again. Seeing him get high quality minutes and attempting to regain type within the CONCACAF Champions League is a good sight. Now the 27-year-old Venezuelan will get to make up for misplaced time. Atlanta United’s first sport is in opposition to Orlando Metropolis, and everyone knows how a lot Martinez loves scoring in opposition to Orlando.

5 can’t-miss MLS video games on the schedule

Inter Miami vs. LA Galaxy, April 18: 13 months later than anticipated as a result of pandemic, this sport is lastly occurring. The group David Beckham owns vs. the one he helped make historic in MLS. There’s a statue of him exterior of the stadium in California, however this one is all about Inter lastly enjoying a house sport in entrance of followers in South Florida.

LA Galaxy vs. LAFC, Might 8: El Trafico wants no assist advertising itself. Perhaps the odd 2020 season took just a little of the enjoyable from it contemplating the circumstances and what number of occasions the groups noticed one another, however that is totally different. That is in Carson, with some followers within the stands, and eventually the coveted Chicharito vs. Vela matchup we’ve been ready for. Get your popcorn prepared.

Austin FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, June 19: Austin FC’s seven highway video games to kick off their inaugural season are a tough begin. However once they’re lastly capable of play at Q2 Stadium with the barbecue aroma filling the air and feverish supporters rocking verde, it’ll be an absolute spectacle.

FC Cincinnati vs. Columbus Crew, July 7: Talking of latest stadiums, Cincinnati has a reasonably good one it is excited to indicate off. Hell was certainly actual for the Orange and Blue in a tough 2020, together with being outscored by their rivals 7-0 in two losses. However the final time they performed in October, it was a win for FCC. Internet hosting the defending champs in a brand new house provides additional pleasure to this rivalry.

Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew, October 2: Put some respect on the 2020 Supporters’ Protect winners. This matchup of final 12 months’s two finest groups can be occurring on the opening weekend, however operating it again in what will definitely be a cold October night in Pennsylvania with potential playoff implications is one thing to look ahead to.

Former Boca Juniors forward Ramón Ábila, now with Minnesota United, is one of the top newcomers in MLS in 2021. (Photo by MARCELO ENDELLI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Boca Juniors ahead Ramón Ábila, now with Minnesota United, is among the high newcomers in MLS in 2021. (Picture by MARCELO ENDELLI/POOL/AFP through Getty Photographs)

Newcomers to keep watch over

Bobby Wooden (Actual Salt Lake from Hamburger SV): At one level, Wooden was being talked about because the USMNT’s subsequent marquee striker. Issues did not fairly pan out that method, however the hop from the two. Bundesliga to MLS may very well be good for him. He received’t be becoming a member of RSL till July 1, and when he does he figures to be paired with Rubio Rubin, one other ahead who’s been capped by the senior USMNT. An RSL aspect that completed eleventh within the West final season is searching for any little spark, and Wooden may be capable to gentle the hearth.

Brenner (FC Cincinnati from São Paulo): The 21-year-old Brazilian ahead is trying to deliver some joga bonito to a group desperately missing it. He arrived from São Paulo the place he scored 21 objectives in 39 video games throughout all competitions. For context, Cincy as a group scored solely 12 objectives final 12 months. Sufficient mentioned.

Alexandre Pato (Orlando Metropolis from São Paulo): Pato burst on the scene as a teenage phenom for AC Milan a few years in the past. His resume options stops in high leagues around the globe, however the 31-year-old Brazilian was intrigued by enjoying stateside. If he stays wholesome, Pato alongside Nani is usually a severe deal with for followers and the worst nightmare for defenders.

Ramón Ábila (Minnesota United from Boca Juniors): The Loons snagged a loanee Argentine striker who will ship some highlight-reel moments. “Wanchope” scored 34 objectives and added 13 assists in 81 matches for powerhouse Boca Juniors. Extra importantly, he’s reuniting with good friend Emmanuel Reynoso, who he performed with in Argentina, to deliver that South American aptitude up north.

What MLS gamers and coaches are saying

Carlos Vela on chasing MLS Cup (LAFC ahead): “I really feel proper now our group is stronger than different years. So I hope we are able to do nice issues this 12 months and win a trophy.”

Bruce Enviornment (New England Revolution coach): “I give Crew all of the credit score profitable MLS Cup, as do I give credit score to Philadelphia for profitable the Supporters’ Protect, however I feel it’s going to be so much totally different this 12 months.”

Phil Neville (Inter Miami coach): “I do suppose it is among the hardest leagues on this planet to win due to the huge nature, high quality of groups, touring, humidity, totally different time zones.”

Greg Vanney (LA Galaxy coach): “I feel this has the capability to be essentially the most aggressive season out of all of them as groups proceed to outline the place they’re and who they’re going to be on and off the sphere.”

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