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Week 1 MLS recap: 41 goals, 3 reds, snow and the next big thing

Recapping Week 1 of the 2019 MLS season. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Major League Soccer didn’t disappoint in its first week back. 

Forty-one goals, three red cards, one snow game, a return of one of the top Americans playing in the league and the debut of the next big phenom highlighted the 12-game slate Saturday and Sunday. 

Seattle was one of the biggest winners of the weekend, receiving two goals from Jordan Morris in his return from injury, but credit has to be given to Toronto FC, Minnesota United and Montreal for opening the season with road victories. 

One of the biggest losers of the weekend was Atlanta United, the only team not to score in Week 1. But let’s not get too worried about the Five Stripes yet. After all, they lost 4-0 to Houston in Week 1 2018 and went on to lift the MLS Cup. 

Here’s a look at some of the best, worst and just flat out odd highlights from Week 1 in MLS. 

Goals of the Week 

Leonardo Bertone, FC Cincinnati 

If you didn’t know who Leonardo Bertone was entering the MLS season, well now you do. Bertone etched himself into the FC Cincinnati record book with this stunning strike to open the team’s MLS account.

Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders

In his first game back from an ACL tear, Jordan Morris scored twice for the Sounders. His second came on a quick counter that was run by Victor Rodriguez, who delivered a nice pass through the box to Morris. 

Andre Shinyashiki, Colorado Rapids

Andre Shinyashiki’s first professional game is going to be one he’ll remember for a long time. He pocketed an equalizer for the Rapids to earn a 3-3 draw down a man at home against Portland. 

Golden Boot watch (all-eyes-on-Gold-Cup edition) 

Michael Bradley and Jordan Morris, two likely participants for the United States men’s national team at the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, scored twice for their teams Saturday.

Bradley’s two-goal performance was his first since March 14, 2009, when he was playing in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach.

Morris’ last brace before Saturday came on Sept. 25, 2016 against the LA Galaxy. 

It’s an unlikely pairing to see atop the Golden Boot standings after Week 1, and even if they fall down the standings, which Bradley definitely will, we need to keep a close eye on both players with the Gold Cup on the horizon.

Also, D.C. United’s Paul Arriola scored Sunday as the highlight of a terrific performance. Let’s hope Gregg Berhalter was watching. 

Players of the Week (you-need-to-pay-more-attention-to-these-guys edition) 

Bradley and Morris stood out because of their USMNT stature, but they weren’t the only attackers who turned in impressive performances in Week 1. 

A few players who deserve more attention on the national stage picked up where they left off in 2018. 

Minnesota United’s Darwin Quintero, who had 11 goals and 15 assists for the Loons in 2018, played a role in all three Minnesota goals against Vancouver. 

Quintero isn’t the first MLS star you mention in the discussion of the league’s best players, but he’s been a consistent threat up top since joining MLS. 

And there’s the league’s most underrated player, Ignacio Piatti, who while you were watching Morris and Co. thrash FC Cincinnati scored his 64th goal in an Impact jersey. 

Piatti’s teammate, Saphir Taider, contributed a goal and an assist in the win over San Jose, and Real Salt Lake’s Albert Rusnak scored and dished out five key passes down in Houston. 

Bizarre Stats of the Week 

Atlanta United has lost 17 regular-season games in three years. Ben Olsen’s D.C. United is responsible for five of those defeats. Yes, we’re still double and triple checking that to make sure it’s true, because it doesn’t make sense. 

There were five draws Saturday, three of them ended 1-1. There would’ve been a fourth if LAFC didn’t score a dramatic late game-winner against Sporting Kansas City Sunday night.

Sporting KC had five yellow cards in the first half of its loss to LAFC, and Roger Espinoza was handed his ninth red card in MLS play. He’s one away from Jamison Olave’s league record. 

Both Los Angeles teams won 2-1 after being down 1-0. LAFC and the LA Galaxy both scored twice in the second half to win their respective home openers. 

It’s Efrain Alvarez time

Finally.

After the Galaxy’s reluctance to bring Efrain Alvarez into the first team last season, the 16-year-old phenom came off the bench Saturday and produced an assist on the Galaxy’s equalizer. 

If Alvarez lives up to the hype during the 2019 season, he’ll follow Alphonso Davies and Tyler Adams out of MLS as young players making big-money moves. Also, #PlayYourKids.

Francisco Calvo appreciation section

Francisco Calvo has been the symbol of Minnesota’s defensive struggles, so we figured he needs his own section for how well he performed against Vancouver. 

The Costa Rican produced a strong game in his new full back role, and it was highlighted by a goal in the 66th minute. 

Milestone watch

While we wait on Chris Wondolowski to tie Landon Donovan atop the MLS all-time scoring chart, another league veteran hit a milestone Sunday. 

LAFC’s Jordan Harvey became the 40th player in MLS history to appear in 300 games. 

Harvey, Kei Kamara, Wondolowski, Dax McCarty, Dominic Oduro, Ricardo Clark, Drew Moor, Jeff Larentowicz, Chad Marshall and Kyle Beckerman are the active members of the 300-game club.

Larentowicz is in line to be the third player to hit 400 games played if he appears in eight games for Atlanta United in 2019. 

Looking Ahead

The New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo kick off the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals at home Tuesday. Sporting Kansas City and Atlanta United are on the road Wednesday. 

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