Defense optional? MLS returns with a bang, setting new goals record
Major League Soccer kicked off its 21st season on Sunday, with all 20 teams in action on the same opening day for the first time, and the occasion lived up to the league’s substantial hype machine with a record-setting flood of goals.
A whopping 36 goals were scored across the 10 games, demolishing the previous record of 27 goals in one opening weekend, set back in 2001 when MLS was scarcely recognizable compared to what it is today.
At any level of play, new seasons often begin cautiously, with teams more focused on defensive principles than attacking intent as they work towards full speed and sharpness. But that wasn’t the case on Sunday, with open, end-to-end play the norm and ample chances created – and yes, quite a few examples of shoddy defending as well. You can watch all 36 strikes in one place here:
Dubbing the league a “defenseless wonderland,” SB Nation columnist Kevin McCauley suggested that this may not be an outlier, but in fact a new normal for MLS, with league leadership — who are desperate to improve its generally dismal television ratings — having opened up substantial new avenues for funding the acquisition of attacking talent from overseas over the past year or two. Correspondingly, there seems to be much less interest in spending big bucks on elite defenders, who are generally less likely to inspire more fans to buy tickets or watch games on TV.
All that said, American and Canadian players like Mike Magee, Cyle Larin, Tommy McNamara and Mix Diskerud netted some of the day’s prettiest finishes and in many cases far outshined big-name millionnaire teammates.
Perhaps most surprisingly, however, was that the scoring was not just plentiful, but of high caliber. Several of the opening-day goals have already been earmarked as potential Goal of the Year candidates, especially Federico Higuain’s jaw-dropping bicycle kick:
And Ignacio Piatti‘s solo dribble and finish for the Montreal Impact:
And New England Revolution Homegrown Diego Fagundez‘s vicious half-volley from distance:
Is MLS on its way to becoming a run-and-gun, defense-optional league? Would that make you more interested in watching more of its games? Which goal stuck out most in your view? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.