MLS by the Numbers: Carlos Vela’s hat trick, a 16-year-old debuts for New York Red Bulls and red cards galore

The Major League Soccer season is underway! Nashville SC were welcomed to the western conference with a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday while Charlotte FC will want to move on to their upcoming home opener already after the expansion side lost 3-0 to DC United on Saturday. But what else happened over the weekend?

Welcome to MLS By the Numbers, where we’ll go through some key stats to recap the weekend, possible trends around the league, and other things that are fun to talk about. So let’s get counting:

3: Goals scored by LAFC’s Carlos Vela.

It’s amazing what a healthy Vela can do in this league as he dismantled the Rapids scoring a penalty, a goal with a player on his back, and another with an absurd finish from the corner of the box. LAFC’s captain was a force, making my player of the week vote quite easy. If Vela is back to the form that saw him score 34 goals and assist ten more during the 2019 season, it’ll make head coach Steve Cherundolo’s job much easier too. Vela seems to want to extend his stay in LA as his contract is up at the end of June and more games like this will have the team handing him a blank check.

16 and 17: The age for New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United debutants.

While the stories around MLS heading into the season have been about big purchases and sales, it’s important to note how we got there. The MLS youth movement is fast becoming the infrastructure for teams to place big signings on top of, and today’s young debutants are also tomorrow’s big sales. 

Serge Ngoma was signed to a homegrown deal on Feb. 16 after impressing with the Red Bulls 2 team and with the United States youth sides. Less than two weeks after signing that contract, he made his MLS debut. Ngoma scored three goals in the USL Championship last season playing against much older opposition and is with a team known for youth development.

Serge Ngoma’s debut alone would’ve been a great moment for the weekend but Caleb Wiley also came off the bench for Atlanta United and scored an important insurance goal in their win over Sporting Kansas City. It only took 14 minutes for Wiley to hit the back of the net what what could be the first goal of many.

Also, gold stars for Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Toronto FC’s 17-year-old forward who is currently their starting right back heading into the season. To begin the season, he completed 93 percent of his passes and got three interceptions in a solid performance. Another highly rated prospect in the league, Marshall-Rutty is a name to watch on the season.

35: Goals scored, but there can only be one goal of the week.

Yimmi Chara got on his bike and whoo boy

The Timbers got a good draw against the Revolution and Chara’s equalizer was something else.

3: Number of red cards handed out.

First, we check in on Columbus as the Crew were already ahead 2-0 behind goals from Miguel Berry and Derrick Etienne before Jake Nerwinski was dismissed for his second yellow card for tripping Yaw Yeboah. He got an early break in the 53rd minute during a game that was already lost and the Crew went on to score two more goals so I guess this would count as a win-win situation?

Orlando City’s 2-0 victory over CF Montreal Sunday also saw each team receive a red. Romell Quioto was sent off in the 66th minute for violent conduct before Robin Jansson returned the favor picking up a second yellow card in the 81st minute. What’s funny is that it  was Jansson that Quioto pushed for his red card before Jansson got his own for a tactical foul while Orlando was already ahead 2-0 in the match. Never a dull moment. 

89:18: When Chicharito scored his game-winner.

It was a great opener that saw the Los Angeles Galaxy and New York City have chances to win it but Raheem Edwards capped off a great debut for L.A. by finding Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez for the winner.

If the Galaxy want to make the playoffs after missing them last season, they’ll need not only more goals like this but also a continued run of clean sheets. Shutting out New York is a great way to start the season and hopefully, they’ll get more out of Douglas Costa as the year goes on.

And finally …

1: Blaise Matuidi, Inter Miami club ambassador.

From winning the World Cup to attending pub crawls, what a journey it has been for Matuidi. After being signed by Inter Miami he started 41 games over two seasons, but after it was discovered that his salary wasn’t being reported correctly, meaning that Miami was sanctioned by the league for having more Designated Players than they were allowed, a way to get his salary off the roster had to be found. Thus, Miami moved Matuidi to a non-playing role which will now see him enjoy getting paid to live life in Miami without having to step on the field, what a win for Matuidi. After playing for five clubs in his career, it is also funny to see Matuidi now as an ambassador for the one that he has spent the least amount of time with but that’s the David Beckham effect.

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