With the return of the 2019 MLS season following a two-week break, the league is back in the spotlight.
But, with both conferences’ table-toppers Philadelphia Union and LAFC yet to return to action, the time for reflection on past exploits is still upon us. So, why don’t we revisit some of the league’s greatest-ever introductions?
Here are six of the best debuts in MLS history.
Jermain Defoe – Toronto FC
He may have only lasted one season in MLS, but Jermain Defoe’s impact at Toronto FC was, if not Kawhi Leonard-esque – they finished dead last in the conference after all – still faillingunder the bracket of ‘impressive’.
The Englishman, who after leaving Tottenham in February 2014 would return to the Premier League a year later with Sunderland, notched 11 goals and two assists in 19 MLS appearances. But, his crowning moment came in the first of those 19 games, when he bagged a classy brace inside just 23 minutes of action. Typical.
Charlie Davis – D.C. United
There’s not much more you can ask for on your MLS debut than a brace, but Charlie Davis’ double felt different. Because sometimes football can take a back seat.
Yes, both his 62nd-minute penalty and 76th-minute rounding of the keeper against Columbus Crew were extremely well taken, but the fact that they came in his first appearance since a near life-ending car accident a year prior, well, that makes it more special than most.
Brian McBride – Columbus Crew
Sure, doing it on your own debut is impressive enough, but when you combine that with the first game of your club’s history, you’re entering hallowed turf.
But that’s what soon-to-be Fulham legend Brian McBride accomplished when he picked up two goals and an assist in Columbus Crew’s first ever fixture back in 1996. After pouncing on a defensive mistake from D.C. United to slot in his side’s second goal with a wonderfully calm finish into the top corner, McBride turned provider with a cushioned header for the Crew’s third.
However, McBride saved his best moment in the 4-0 thumping for last, controlling a lumped ball from the keeper with his head before volleying it past the opposition keeper. Coast to coast.
Alejandro Pozuelo – Toronto FC
After making the move to Toronto from KRC Genk in March of this year, Alejandro Pozuelo, of Swansea City quasi-fame, didn’t take long to get up and running in MLS.
No, it took him just 29 minutes to find forward Jozy Altidore with a gloriously disguised reverse ball to contribute his first assist. But he was determined for that not to be the headline-maker, so when a penalty opportunity cropped up in the 58th minute, he stepped up and Panenka’d the bloody thing.
And yet, that still wouldn’t be his best highlight, let alone his best chip, for just under 20 minutes later he found himself with the ball at his feet in the box with a bit of space, so obviously he had to dink it over the keeper with an outrageously high trajectory. Obviously.
Fredy Montero – Seattle Sounders
It seems like yesterday that a fresh-faced 21-year-old Fredy Montero was scoring Seattle Sounders’ first-ever goal in MLS history, but it’s over 10 years ago at this point. The now 31-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps striker wasted no time in getting Seattle off the mark, with an arrowed strike in the 10th minute of that first game against New York Red Bulls.
Less than 15 minutes later he put Brad Evans through with an exceptional pass, with Evans slotting it through the goalkeeper’s legs to make it two. The fairytale was complete when Montero broke free in front of goal once more with 15 minutes to go, faking out the keeper with a feint before curling it into the right corner. Lovely stuff.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – LA Galaxy
Who else? Seriously, who else could take centre stage on their MLS debut quite like Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Who else could conjure a greater narrative? It wasn’t enough that his first encounter with the Galaxy was against newly created crosstown rivals LAFC, no, they had to go 3-0 down first, didn’t they?
And then, at 3-1, with less than 20 minutes to go, they had to bring on Zlatan, and watch the Lion make mincemeat of his fellow professionals/sheep. A minute after his introduction Chris Pontius had grabbed Galaxy’s second, and then, in the blink of an eye, Ibra thwacked in one of the most iconic goals of his career, and that’s saying something. The 40-something-yard half-volley sailed over Tyler Miller in goal, and suddenly El Trafico were back level.
But a three-goal comeback for just one point isn’t the Swede’s style. No, he had to get all three, and he did that just as the clock had ticked over into the 90th minute, sneaking his head onto a probing ball just before the covering defender and keeper could get there to glance in the winner. Pandemonium.