Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo each kicked off the brand new 2021 MLS season with wins, with Sounders midfielder Joao Paulo even scoring an early contender for goal of the season.
Sounders went all the way to the MLS Cup final in 2020, their fourth appearance in the championship game in the last five years. They were beaten by Columbus Crew but have already started the new campaign as if they mean to make up for that this year.
Minnesota United, themselves pretty well fancied to do well this season, were the visitors to the re-named Lumen Field in Seattle and were resoundingly beaten.
It was a goal-less first half, b Paulo got the ball rolling soon after the half-time interval with a thumping volley from well outside the penalty area. It was the Brazilian’s first MLS appearance since his loan from Botafogo in 2020 became a permanent transfer in January. He took a touch to control the ball as it fell to him and then sent it flying into the top corner without it touching the turf.
Raul Ruidiaz, who had missed from the penalty spot in the first half, scored the second and third for the Sounders in quick succession midway through the half, before the returning Fredy Montero marked his second debut with a goal to make it 4-0.
Robin Lod hit the post for Minnesota in the first half, while they were also denied by a crucial goal-line clearance from Cristian Roldan when the score-line was only 1-0.
2006 and 2007 champions Houston Dynamo were the other team that was victorious on opening night. They finished bottom of the Western Conference last season so it was important to get this year off to a positive start in their game at home against San Jose Earthquakes.
Houston scored goals through home-grown star Memo Rodriguez and debutant Maxi Urruti, who was traded from CF Montreal during the off-season. The home team were more dominant and Rodriguez had a chance to double his and Dynamo’s tally before the interval but hit the bar.
Paul Marie pulled one back for San Jose with a curling long range effort to rival Joao Paulo’s volley in Seattle, while the Earthquakes could even have won tied the score towards the end when club legend Chris Wondolowski somehow missed an open goal from only a few yards out.
MLS opening weekend continues on Saturday when CF Montreal vs Toronto FC, LA FC vs Austin FC and Orlando City vs Atlanta United are among the top matches on offer. Plenty of eyes will also be Inter Miami vs LA Galaxy a day later on Sunday.
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