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Expected Goals: Upcoming Milestones on Opening Weekend

February 22, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

LAFC Looks to Stay Perfect to Start Season

The Los Angeles Football Club has represented the Western Conference in MLS Cup presented by Audi in each of the last two seasons and will look to kick off their quest to MLS Cup with a victory on opening weekend. Since joining MLS in 2018, LAFC has never dropped a season-opening match, winning each of their first six season-openers. Behind the reigning Golden Boot presented by Audi winner Dénis Bouanga and World Cup-winning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, making his debut in black and gold, the club will look to make league history this weekend.

With a win against Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV / FOX), LAFC would become the first team in MLS history to win seven consecutive season-opening games, breaking a tie with FC Dallas (six consecutive wins, 2012-17).

History on the Horizon for Atlanta's Dax McCarty

Now with his sixth different MLS club, midfielder Dax McCarty is set to make his Atlanta United debut on Saturday after arriving with the club via free agency this winter. McCarty has appeared in 466 career regular-season games - the third-most in MLS history - and sits within striking distance of Kyle Beckerman (498 games) for the second-most games played in league history. As Atlanta kicks off the 2024 season, the veteran will be looking to join Beckerman in the MLS record books.

With an appearance against the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon (2 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV), McCarty would become the third player in MLS history to see action in 19 different seasons, joining Beckerman (21 seasons) and Nick Rimando (20 seasons).

Head Coaches Looking to Start Hot

A strong start goes a long way towards a successful season and all 29 clubs will be looking to sprint out of the gate in 2024. Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes and Orlando City SC head coach Óscar Pareja are no strangers to starting strong, as they are two of only five head coaches in MLS history to record at least seven victories in season openers.

With an Orlando City win against CF Montréal (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV) and a Sporting Kansas City win against Houston Dynamo FC (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV), Pareja and Vermes can tie Bruce Arena (eight) for the third-most season-opening victories by a head coach in MLS history.

Additionally, Orlando City is unbeaten in their last nine season-opening matches dating back to 2015, the longest active streak in MLS and the fourth-longest streak in league history. Real Salt Lake holds the record 14 consecutive season-opening games without a loss, a streak that came to an end against Inter Miami CF on Wednesday evening.

Darlington the Dependable

The reigning MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew have a luxury in midfield with MLS icon Darlington Nagbe. Last season, Nagbe became the 10th player in league history to win four MLS Cups as he pulled the strings for the best attack in MLS. He has become one of the most reliable players in the league and his games played streak speaks volumes to that.

Nagbe has seen action in 101 consecutive regular-season matches, a streak that dates back to May 1, 2021 with Columbus. By playing in the season opener, Nagbe would pass Philadelphia's Jakob Glesnes for the third-longest appearance streak by an outfield player in league history. He would also sit just one shy of Bobby Boswell (103 from 2013-16) for the second-longest stretch by a non-goalkeeper in MLS annals.

Stars Look to Start the Season Strong

When the MLS season starts and the lights come on, star players tend to show up in their club's opening match of the season. Over the last two years, no one has been better at that than Austin FC's Sebastián Driussi , who has scored or assisted in each of Austin's last two opening matches of a season. The dynamic Argentine playmaker is the only active MLS player to score in each of the last two season-openers, with Los Verdes scoring seven goals across both matches. Driussi, who Austin head coach Josh Wolff this week called "the best player in the league", will look to keep his strong form to start a season when Austin hosts Minnesota United FC this Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass on Apple TV).

On the opposite side of Driussi will be a familiar name to MLS fans, but with a new club - Minnesota's Caden Clark. The 20-year-old Medina, Minn. native joined the Loons on loan from Red Bull Leipzig this offseason after previously starring with the New York Red Bulls from 2021-22. In those respective season openers, Clark added a goal and an assist. He will look to make it three straight season openers with a goal contribution as he makes his debut for his hometown club.

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