Perhaps the biggest story of the just completed Major League Soccer off-season was the influx of Liga MX stars to the league.
Chicarito replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the Los Angeles Galaxy, joining fellow Mexican international Jonathan Dos Santos. David Beckham lured Rodolfo Pizzaro to Inter Miami. Kansas City broke the bank on Alan Pulido. The trio joined Carlos Vela in what looked like an El Tri takeover of the U.S. and Canadian league.
The Yanks are Coming
But in MLS week one, American players reminded observers that they may not be the spent force that some have suspected. USMNT eligible players scored 11 of the 35 goals — or almost one third of all goals scored — in league play.
USMNT supporters will be especially pleased to note that three of those tallies came from players included in coach Jason Kreis’ U23 provisional roster that will begin CONCACAF Olympic qualification play on March 20 versus Costa Rica.
Full national team mainstays Jordan Morris and Walker Zimmerman also rang the bell for Seattle and Nashville respectively. Morris’ brace earning the attacker MLS Player of the Week honors.
Of the potential Olympians, Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis scored an added time game winner as the Rapids broke DC United hearts.
Kyle Duncan notched two assists to go with his goal in a Man of the Match performance when his New York Red Bulls topped FC Cincinnati.
And FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal shook off the rust from a long injury spell on the sidelines to score a stylish goal in Dallas’ 2-0 win over Philadelphia. Dallas started seven Americans and sub in Pomykal, while the Union fielded seven Yanks, including substitute Anthony Fontana.
Of the six remaining USMNT eligible goal scorers, Atlanta’s Emerson Hyndman and New England’s Teal Bunbury have won full national team caps. DC’s Russell Canouse has been called into senior camp but did not play. Jake Nerwinski (Vancouver) and Eric Hurtado (Kansas City) are uncapped.
MLS Team of the Week
And the goalscorers were not alone in repping the red, white, and blue in style. Morris was joined by Duncan and Minnesota’s Ethan Finlay on the MLS Team of the Week, making it three of a diverse 11 that featured players from a total of eight nations.
After week one, Duncan and Finlay are joined by Seattle and USMNT regular Christian Roldan atop the Assist Leaderboard, each with a pair. Seven more Americans chipped in with helpers over the season’s opening weekend. This lists includes MNT aspirant Djordie Mihalovic, Chicago, U23 candidate FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, who earned his first full national team cap in a February 1 friendly versus Costa Rica, and L.A. Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham.
Tessman Picks FC Dallas Over Gridiron
One of the more intriguing USMNT prospects to find his way onto the scoresheet in week one was 18 year-old FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessman, a Homegrown Signing who went 90 minutes for Dallas on Saturday just two days after signing with the club. Oh, and Tessman turned down the opportunity to kick for college football superpower Clemson in order to pursue his career in the beautiful game. Quite a week for the young man.
Zimmerman Makes History
Several of the goals from USMNT eligible players stood out for a variety of reasons. When USMNT central defender Walker Zimmer pounced on a loose ball to fire his shot past Atlanta and USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan, Zimmerman claimed the first goal in Nashville SC history.
Zimmerman’s 28th minute strike leveled the match, but nine minutes later Emerson Hyndman scored what would turn out to be the winner for Atlanta with a goal of the week candidate when he took a ball off of his chest and finished to the top corner of the Nashville net.
Lewis Nets Winner
And finally, DC United fullback Russell Canouse got the ball rolling when he headed home the first goal of the MLS season only to be upstaged when Jonathan Lewis reprised his super-sub role, volleying home a rebound in the 92nd minute to seal a 2-1 win over DC for the Rapids.