By Mike Rice.
2023 is off to an incredible start in MLS. The new Apple TV deal has given fans the chance to watch all the action, with zero blackouts, and the players stepped up to provide top quality entertainment for everyone watching.
Here are five of the biggest performances in Game week 1.
Jordan Morris gets things back on track in Seattle
Last season had incredible highs with their CCL win, and difficult lows in missing out on the playoffs for the first time in their existence in MLS. The club struggled down the stretch with injuries and fatigue in 2022.
In their opening game of 2023, they got things off to the best possible start in Lumin Field over the Colorado Rapids with a 4-0 win. Morris bagged two of the goals and looked at peak-fitness while causing havoc with the Rapids defence. Pouncing on loose balls and attacking with pace and strength.
Seattle looked at their best, while Colorado did look at their worst. Seattle looked in mid-season mode, capitalising on turnovers and forcing Colorado into errors and Morris was able to claim two goals.
Special mention for João Paulo, back from a year on the sidelines through an injury picked up in the CCL final last year. To return to the field, at home, after that long and put in the performance he did was brilliant to see.
Thiago Almada at the death
Atlanta have been box-office since entering the league, they provide talking points and excitement for fans as well as neutrals with the ups and downs the franchise has gone through. 2022 was like a telenovela, and Garth Lagerwey has been brought in to steady the ship and get it back on track.
They hosted a San Jose Earthquakes side with a lot of optimism coming into this season under new head coach Luchi Gonzalez. Star striker Jeremy Ebobisse gave them a twelfth-minute lead and as the game ticked into stoppage time, they looked set to take three points back to California, until up stepped Thiago Almada.
World Cup winner Almada turned the game on its head with a wonderful solo effort in the 93rd minute before converting a direct free kick in the 99th minute, sending Atlanta into wild celebrations.
Theodore Ku-DiPietro shining for Rooney
DC United looked to be starting the season in familiar fashion, with another defeat, after Mark Anthony Kaye scored an 83rd-minute goal to give Toronto a 2-1 lead in Washington.
Wayne Rooney has given this DC United a massive roster makeover and promised that we will see several young players promoted into the first team and given significant minutes to make an impact. One of those who took his opportunity was Theodore Ku-DiPietro.
The attacking midfielder came on in the 67th minute just after his side has conceded a game levelling penalty from Fedrico Bernadeschi. Ku-DiPietro though was another young player this weekend who didn’t stop believing until the final whistle was blown.
His movement in the box ensured he found space to cross in the 90th minute giving Christain Benteke the assist for a powerful header to bring the game back level. Eight minutes later Ku-DiPietro was at it again, in a more central position he found space to receive a low cross and powered the ball past Sean Johnson to give DC United a much-needed, and a surprising opening day win.
Daniel Gazdag and gang
After receiving his Designated Player contract this off-season, Gazdag ensured that he showed his gratitude in the opening game. You pay your stars, and Gazdag is exactly that in this Philadelphia Union side with big aspirations this season once again.
With two goals and two assists on opening day, Gazdag helped his side dominate a Columbus Crew team, that many thought has it in them to make it tough for Philadelphia.
Putting away both his penalty kicks he was one of many who could have been picked from this team. They start strong in a season where they are looking to dominate in MLS and CCL.
Sergii Kryvstov caps an emotional debut with a goal
A significant night for the Ukranian who had made the move to Inter Miami highlighting one of the key reasons for jumping o the opportunity was bringing his family to safety away from the war going on in his home country.
The defender has been brought in as Damion Lowe’s replacement, as a starter in this back line, and was playing in front of fans for the first time in quite a while. He converted a scruffy goal in the 41st minute from a corner at the back post. It sent fans into pandemonium, including the Ukrainians based in Miami who Kryvstov had arranged for seating for in the stadium.
Inter Miami secured the win and the clean sheet, an impressive start for the club with their new look system in 2023.