MLS Is Back: Five storylines from the opening weekend

Share

Inter Miami and Real Salt Lake might have officially kicked off the 2024 Major League Soccer season last Wednesday night, but the new campaign truly got going with a full card of fixtures over Saturday and Sunday. Here are five of the biggest storylines from the weekend in MLS.


By Graham Ruthven, MLS Expert


LA Galaxy set the template for playing against Messi and Inter Miami

Inter Miami might have left Carson with a 1-1 draw, but Lionel Messi and co. had to work hard for their point against the LA Galaxy. Greg Vanney set up his team to sit deep behind the ball and then countered at speed into space when they had the opportunity. Had it not been for some wayward finishing (including a missed penalty by Riqui Puig), the Galaxy would have been out of sight.

As it was, the connection between Messi and Jordi Alba allowed Inter Miami to snatch something in stoppage time, but other teams will have seen how the LA Galaxy were able to frustrate and stifle the most talented group of players in the league. Vanney has set the template for playing against Messi and Inter Miami.

Columbus Crew look the same by doing something different

Wilfried Nancy not only turned the Columbus Crew into MLS Cup winners last season, but the league’s most entertaining team – and they are still that team on the basis of Saturday’s season-opening win over Atlanta United. Quick ball circulation, counter-pressing, co-ordinated sequences of attacking play…all the same hallmarks of Nancy-ball were there.

Remarkably, Columbus didn’t win a single league match by a 1-0 scoreline last season, so they have already achieved something new this term. Nancy has kept the bulk of his MLS Cup-winning squad together for the 2024 campaign and on this showing they will be a formidable force once again. 

Dean Smith gets off to a winning start by making Charlotte FC solid

Charlotte FC might have made the play-offs last season, but their first two seasons in MLS have been messy. From botched Designated Player signings to the hiring and firing of Miguel Ángel Ramírez in 2022 and Christian Lattanzio in 2023, Dean Smith has been appointed to give them a clearer direction – and the early signs are positive.

Saturday’s home win over New York City FC established Charlotte FC as a more difficult team to play against. They made it hard for the visitors to create through the middle – NYCFC finished with an Expected Goals (xG) of just 0.50. Adilson Malanda nudged the game winner over the line from close range to ultimately secure all three points, but Charlotte FC’s first win of 2024 was due to their defensive strength.

Christian Benteke the player who could mask DC United’s issues

DC United have some big questions to answer in 2024. The arrival of Ally Mackay and Troy Lesesne has given the club some fresh leadership, but an uninspiring off-season has left the roster in a vulnerable position. Christian Benteke, however, is the player who could mask a lot of the issues at Audi Field.

Benteke bagged a hat trick in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the New England Revolution. DC United were given a helping hand by Giacomo Vrioni who was mindlessly shown two yellow cards just 25 minutes in, but the hosts were rewarded for their consistent desire to send balls towards Benteke who highlighted his status as one of the best target-men in the league.

Phil Neville backs up his big talk with a big result for Portland

Phil Neville has spoken a lot about resetting the culture and entering a “new era” since taking over the Portland Timbers. The former England defender said similar things during his time at Inter Miami, but ultimately failed to translate this into anything meaningful on the pitch. A resounding 4-1 win over Colorado on Saturday, however, saw Neville back up his big talk with a big result.

The Timbers were impressive. Eryk Williamson thrived in the number 10 role in his first match back after an ACL injury and scored the opening goal after a late run into the box. Brazilian winger Antony was electric throughout and notched twice. Portland played an eye-catching attacking game that set an encouraging precedent for Neville in the Pacific Northwest.


(Images from IMAGO)


You can follow every match from MLS live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

MLS Is Back: Five storylines from the opening weekend

Inter Miami and Real Salt Lake might have officially kicked off the 2024 Major League Soccer season last Wednesday night, but the new campaign truly got going with a full card of fixtures over Saturday and Sunday. Here are five of the biggest storylines from the weekend in MLS.


By Graham Ruthven, MLS Expert


LA Galaxy set the template for playing against Messi and Inter Miami

Inter Miami might have left Carson with a 1-1 draw, but Lionel Messi and co. had to work hard for their point against the LA Galaxy. Greg Vanney set up his team to sit deep behind the ball and then countered at speed into space when they had the opportunity. Had it not been for some wayward finishing (including a missed penalty by Riqui Puig), the Galaxy would have been out of sight.

As it was, the connection between Messi and Jordi Alba allowed Inter Miami to snatch something in stoppage time, but other teams will have seen how the LA Galaxy were able to frustrate and stifle the most talented group of players in the league. Vanney has set the template for playing against Messi and Inter Miami.

Columbus Crew look the same by doing something different

Wilfried Nancy not only turned the Columbus Crew into MLS Cup winners last season, but the league’s most entertaining team – and they are still that team on the basis of Saturday’s season-opening win over Atlanta United. Quick ball circulation, counter-pressing, co-ordinated sequences of attacking play…all the same hallmarks of Nancy-ball were there.

Remarkably, Columbus didn’t win a single league match by a 1-0 scoreline last season, so they have already achieved something new this term. Nancy has kept the bulk of his MLS Cup-winning squad together for the 2024 campaign and on this showing they will be a formidable force once again. 

Dean Smith gets off to a winning start by making Charlotte FC solid

Charlotte FC might have made the play-offs last season, but their first two seasons in MLS have been messy. From botched Designated Player signings to the hiring and firing of Miguel Ángel Ramírez in 2022 and Christian Lattanzio in 2023, Dean Smith has been appointed to give them a clearer direction – and the early signs are positive.

Saturday’s home win over New York City FC established Charlotte FC as a more difficult team to play against. They made it hard for the visitors to create through the middle – NYCFC finished with an Expected Goals (xG) of just 0.50. Adilson Malanda nudged the game winner over the line from close range to ultimately secure all three points, but Charlotte FC’s first win of 2024 was due to their defensive strength.

Christian Benteke the player who could mask DC United’s issues

DC United have some big questions to answer in 2024. The arrival of Ally Mackay and Troy Lesesne has given the club some fresh leadership, but an uninspiring off-season has left the roster in a vulnerable position. Christian Benteke, however, is the player who could mask a lot of the issues at Audi Field.

Benteke bagged a hat trick in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the New England Revolution. DC United were given a helping hand by Giacomo Vrioni who was mindlessly shown two yellow cards just 25 minutes in, but the hosts were rewarded for their consistent desire to send balls towards Benteke who highlighted his status as one of the best target-men in the league.

Phil Neville backs up his big talk with a big result for Portland

Phil Neville has spoken a lot about resetting the culture and entering a “new era” since taking over the Portland Timbers. The former England defender said similar things during his time at Inter Miami, but ultimately failed to translate this into anything meaningful on the pitch. A resounding 4-1 win over Colorado on Saturday, however, saw Neville back up his big talk with a big result.

The Timbers were impressive. Eryk Williamson thrived in the number 10 role in his first match back after an ACL injury and scored the opening goal after a late run into the box. Brazilian winger Antony was electric throughout and notched twice. Portland played an eye-catching attacking game that set an encouraging precedent for Neville in the Pacific Northwest.


(Images from IMAGO)


You can follow every match from MLS live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including shot maps, xG, and player ratings. Download the free app here.