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The Pitch: MLS Is Back this Week; Welcome Austin FC

April 13, 2021 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release


Welcome Austin FC

MLS welcomes Austin FC as the 2021 MLS expansion club kickoff action this weekend.

MLS' 27th team, led by former MLS star and U.S. Men's National Team stalwart Josh Wolff will be off to a tough start, facing Los Angeles Football Club in their inaugural match, Saturday, April 17 on FOX and FOX Deportes (6 p.m. ET).

Austin will be looking to emulate the success of Major League Soccer's 2020 expansion class, which saw both Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in their inaugural seasons. If they do, it will be in no small part thanks to recent signing Tomás Pochettino. Pochettino is well positioned to make a significant impact from day one for Austin. The 25-year-old had a breakout year in 2020 with Argentinian side, Club Atlético Talleres and as an attacking midfielder, Pochettino is a central pillar in the Club's roster. The club will also be looking to Cecilio Dominguez, the 26-year-old forward coming from Argentina's Independiente and Mexican powerhouse Club America, as well as former NYCFC captain Alex Ring. The first year is never easy for MLS expansion clubs but with 15,500 season tickets sold and another 14,000 fans on the waiting list, we know that Austin is Verde, and they will all be tuned into FOX on Saturday.

South American Newcomers Primed for MLS Debuts

MLS clubs made some major transfer-market moves this the offseason, and the fruits of those record acquisitions will be on full display across the league this opening weekend with the shining introductions of some must-see new young international talents.

Among them will be FC Cincinnati's splashing Young Designated Player signing of 21-year-old Brazilian forward Brenner, who could be the exact solution to the scoring woes that saw FC Cincinnati score the fewest goals among all MLS clubs last year and finish at the bottom of Eastern Conference standings in the last two consecutive seasons. The highly touted youth international, who scored 11 goals in 27 appearances with São Paulo FC last season, is one of the most expensive South American players in league history. Brenner will get his first taste of MLS action when FC Cincinnati face Nashville SC on Saturday, April 17 (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live on ESPN+).

Expansion club Austin FC is raring to make some serious noise during its inaugural season after signing 25-year-old Argentine midfielder Tomás Pochettino - a Boca Juniors U-20 product who has made his presence known on some of the biggest South American stages for Club Atlético Talleres. Pochettino scored seven goals with 10 assists including a goal and two assists in the 2019 CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores, in addition to his three goals and four assists in the 2020-21 Copa Diego Maradona. The midfielder will break into MLS in primetime this Saturday against the reigning Audi Golden Boot Winner in 23-year-old Diego Rossi, when Austin FC take on Concacaf Champions League finalists Los Angeles Football Club at 6 p.m. ET on FOX.

The Future is Now: Rising Stars of Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer is seeing significant results from MLS Academy programs. In 2020, four of the 10 youngest players in league history all made their debuts, and four of the 20 youngest ever to score a goal did so during the season. Heading into 2021 , the number of first-team minutes played by former academy products has doubled in the past five years, 21 percent of MLS first-team players now come from club academies and the average age of players from the academy who sign contracts for MLS clubs is now the youngest ever at 17.1 years old, a decrease of more than two years compared to just five years ago (19.4 years of age average in 2016).

With the 26th season of Major League Soccer kicking off on Friday, we will continue to see rising stars feature across the League as more homegrown talents are poised for a breakout season.

In the opening match of the 2021 MLS season, the Houston Dynamo take on the San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes Academy has made significant headway over the past five seasons, producing seven Homegrown Players in that time. Five of the aforementioned players were 16 years of age or younger at the time of signing, including 14-year-old Emi Ochoa, the league's youngest Homegrown signing ever. Two Homegrown players that could make an immediate impact for the Quakes this season are goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski and forward Cade Cowell.

Toronto FC forward Jayden Nelsen and midfielder Ralph Priso are also on the players to watch list this year. The Canadian internationals may play a role as their team takes on CF Montreal on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET on TSN, CTV, TVA and TVA Sports.

FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids have both been laser focused on developing homegrown talent. From 2009 to present, FC Dallas has signed 31 Homegrown players to the first team roster and has produced dozens more to professional clubs abroad. Paxton Pomykal, Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi and Tanner Tessmann are all homegrowns to watch this season. Meanwhile, since Davy Armstrong signed the first Homegrown contract in Rapids history in 2010, a total of 16 Rapids Academy graduates have signed Homegrown contracts and joined the Rapids first team. Currently, nine Homegrowns on the Rapids first team played in the Rapids Academy, including regular starters Cole Bassett and Sam Vines.

LA Galaxy boasts a pair of MLS homegrowns that have already begun to make their marks on an international stage in Efraín Álvarez and Julian Araujo. The Galaxy will take on Inter Miami CF who signed their first three Academy products this offseason following their inaugural MLS season in 2020. This matchup will kick off at 3 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN Deportes. Media are encouraged to join The Future is Now - Rising Stars of MLS presented by Audi panel discussion this Tuesday afternoon to hear from D.C. United defender Kevin Paredes, FC Dallas forward Jesús Ferreira and Philadelphia Union midfielder Paxten Aaronson.

Kevin Paredes signed with D.C. United as the club's 14th Homegrown Player in January of 2017. In his first season with the club, he made 17 appearances and has also represented the United States at the Youth National Team level. To date, the club has signed 15 homegrowns in club history.

Jesús Ferreira first joined the FC Dallas Academy at the age of eight, when former MLS MVP David Ferreira signed with FC Dallas on loan in February of 2009. Jesús was part of the FC Dallas U-16 Academy team that won the 2015-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Championship and the 2017 Dallas Cup Super Group. He signed with FC Dallas as the 16th Homegrown at 15 years, 329 day old on Nov. 17, 2016. He is the third youngest signing in club history and holds the record for youngest player to score at 16 years, 161 days old.

Paxten Aaronson came up through the Union Youth and Union Academy system, playing five seasons for Union Academy. Following in his brother Brenden's footsteps, Paxten signed with the Union's first team, taking effect this past January. He became the club's 15th Homegrown signing, and at 16 years old at the time of his announcement, he became one of the youngest signings in Union history.

Chicharito's Redemption Starts Sunday

After as season that saw the Mexican International battle injury and struggle to find the back of the net, Chicharito has said that he is 'in debt' to the Galaxy and has worked harder than he has in his life to prepare for the 2021 season.

His opportunity has come. On Sunday, Chicharito and the LA Galaxy lineup against Inter Miami CF, and Mexico teammate Rodolfo Pizarro.

Fans will be eager to see what Chicharito has to offer, supported by Galaxy newcomers Samuel Grandsir and Kévin Cabral and under the direction of new head coach Greg Vanney.

Will Chicharito complete the bounce back? Galaxy fans will watch to find out on Sunday.

Sunday, April 18

3 p.m. ET

ABC, ESPN Deportes

MLS Clubs Take Strong Results From Opening Matches in Concacaf Champions League

Major League Soccer's five participants in the Concacaf Champions League will look to build upon a run of terrific results in the first legs of their round-of-16 series this week - with all five MLS clubs playing host.

MLS teams went 3-0-2 in the five matches away from home - including Philadelphia Union's 1-0 win against Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica (just the fifth time ever the Costa Rican power was defeated at home in CCL play, the second by an MLS side), Atlanta United's defeat of LD Alajuelense in Costa Rica (a club that had not lost in nearly six months), and Columbus Crew SC's 4-0 win vs Réal Estelí in Nicaragua.

The performance bettered that of two years ago, when MLS clubs also won three games in the first leg of the round-of-16 with four clubs reaching the quarterfinals that year.

This week's Concacaf Champions League schedule:

Tuesday, April 13

Atlanta United vs LD Alajuelense (CRC) [1-0 on aggregate] - 6 p.m. ET

Portland Timbers vs. CD Marathon (HON) [2-2 on aggregate] - 8 p.m. ET

Wednesday, April 14

Toronto FC vs. CSD León (MEX) [1-1 on aggregate] - 6 p.m. ET

Philadelphia Union vs. Deportivo Saprissa (CRC) [1-0 on aggregate] - 8 p.m. ET

Thursday, April 15

Columbus Crew SC vs. Réal Estelí FC (NCA) [4-0 on aggregate] - 8 p.m. ET

Atlanta Looks to Defend their Open Cup Title... But First,They Must Qualify

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Qualifying Starts Friday as MLS Kicks Off Regular Season

As MLS teams prepare for the opening weekend of the season, not only will they be playing for integral regular season points, but they will also be competing for a spot in the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

As announced by U.S. Soccer in February, eight U.S.-based MLS teams will qualify for the 2021 tournament. MLS has confirmed that those eight teams will be determined by team performance through the first three weeks of MLS regular season play (April 16 through May 3). The U.S.-based MLS clubs with the highest number of regular season points per game (three points for a win, one point for a tie) at the conclusion of the first three weeks of MLS play will qualify for the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The 2021 U.S. Open Cup winner will earn $300,000 in prize money and a berth in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League. As reigning U.S. Open Cup champion, Atlanta United will this week be looking to earn three points against Orlando City SC in their pursuit to qualify and defend their title.

Week 1: Game Notes

Friday, April 16

Houston Dynamo FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8 p.m. (FS1)

The teams last met during the 2019 regular season, each winning at home that season. The Dynamo won 2-1 on April 13 in Houston, then the Quakes took a 2-0 win June 26 in San Jose.

The Quakes have won once at BBVA Stadium in eight meetings, a 1-0 win in 2015. The Dynamo last won in San Jose in 2016 (the teams reached a draw there in 2018).

The two teams have shared a pitched rivalry since the Earthquakes returned to the league in 2008, after the Dynamo moved to Houston from San Jose in 2006. The Dynamo have won 13 meetings and the Quakes nine, with three draws.

The Dynamo concluded their preseason preparations with a 3-0 defeat by FC Dallas in the finale of the La Copita tournament at BBVA Stadium. It was the Dynamo's first loss in preseason play, after winning their first five matches in advance of the season.

The Quakes ended their preseason schedule with a 3-2 win against Oakland Roots SC on April 9 at PayPal Park, coming from two goals down to score three goals in the final quarter-hour.

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Minnesota United FC, 9:30 p.m.

The teams did not meet during the 2020 regular season, but they did face off in a dramatic Western Conference Final at Lumen Field. MNUFC held a 2-goal lead with a quarter-hour remaining, but Sounders FC stormed back with three goals, capped by a Gustav Svensson goal in stoppage time, for a 3-2 win and a place in 2020 MLS Cup.

Sounders FC are undefeated in six league meetings all-time with MNUFC. Sounders FC won the first four meetings between the teams all-time, with an 11-3 advantage in goals. Seattle has won all three matchups in Seattle.

Sounders FC took a 1-0 win against USL side San Diego Loyal at Lumen Field in their final match of the preseason, the game's only goal coming from Will Bruin. The Sounders had one run-out against MLS competition in the preseason, the first team playing some 75 minutes in a 1-1 result with the Portland Timbers.

Minnesota United concluded their preseason preparations in a 3-2 loss to Orlando City SC in Florida on April 9, their first loss in preseason action. The goals came from Niko Hansen and draft selection Justin McMaster.

Saturday, April 17

CF Montreal vs. Toronto FC, 2 p.m. (CTV, TSN, TVA, TVA Sports)

The teams met four times a season ago, and Toronto FC won three. In the last meeting, Jozy Altidore netted the 88th-minute winner as TFC took a 2-1 win at Stade Saputo. In the previous meeting on Sept. 1 at BMO Field, Rudy Camacho scored the game's only goal as the Impact put an end to TFC's 18-game undefeated streak - one game shy of the all-time MLS record.

The teams first met during group play in the MLS is Back Tournament as 20-year-old Ayo Akinola scored a hat trick - the third-youngest player in MLS history to score three goals in a game - leading Toronto FC to a 4-3 on July 16. Then on Aug. 28 at Stade Saputo, Alejandro Pozuelo converted a penalty kick for the game's only goal in TFC's win.

TFC has won five of the last six league meetings, over the last two seasons. The Impact win last year ended a four-game TFC winning streak in the series.

The teams also met in the final of the Canadian Championship in 2019 - the seventh time in the last eight years they met in the tournament - the Impact winning the title in a penalty shootout after each team won 1-0 at home, the Impact on Sept. 18 in Montréal, and TFC on Sept. 25 in Toronto. It was the second time the Impact defeated TFC for the Canadian crown, also in 2014; TFC defeated Montréal for the second of their three titles in a row in 2017.

CF Montréal opened their Florida sojourn with a 2-0 loss to Tormenta FC of USL League One in their first preparatory match of the preseason on April 11.

Toronto FC began their competitive schedule with a 1-1 draw with CSD León of Mexico in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie in the Concacaf Champions League on April 7. The return match is set for Wednesday in Osceola, Fla.

Orlando City SC vs. Atlanta United, 3 p.m. (UniMás)

The teams met four times a season ago, and Orlando City came away with points from all four. Orlando City SC won for the first time in 10 meetings in all competitions between the clubs with a 3-1 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 29, then claimed a 4-1 win Oct. 28 at Exploria Stadium. In between, the teams played to a pair of draws, a 1-1 draw Sept. 5 at Exploria Stadium, and a goalless result Oct. 7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In the first eight league meetings between the teams over three seasons, Atlanta United had not lost to their neighbor to the south, with six wins and two draws. The OCSC win in the first meeting last year snapped a five-game ATLUTD winning streak in the series.

Orlando City SC ended their preseason preparations with a 3-2 win in a scrimmage vs. Minnesota United FC on April 9. Earlier in their preseason calendar, they defeated FC Cincinnati 1-0 in a rain-shortened affair, and drew 2-2 with Chicago Fire FC.

Atlanta United claimed an impressive victory to start their Concacaf Champions League campaign, defeating LD Alajuelense of Costa Rica 1-0 in Alajuela on April 6. Ezequiel Barco scored the game's only goal; ATLUTD will carry the one-goal advantage into the second leg of the round-of-16 tie at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga. on April 13.

Los Angeles Football Club vs. Austin FC, 5:30 p.m. (FOX)

The teams are meeting for the first time in their histories. They have two more regular season meetings scheduled this season, both in Austin, on July 7 and Sept. 15.

LAFC ended their preseason plans with a 3-3 draw with the New England Revolution at Banc of California Stadium on April 10. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi each scored, before Eddie Segura netted a late equalizer. In their preseason opener on April 3, LAFC drew 2-2 with the Revolution.

Austin FC ended their inaugural preseason on a high note with a 5-1 win against San Antonio FC of the USL in the finale of the La Copita tournament at St. David's Performance Center in Austin. Cecilio Dominguez netted a pair of goals, while Tomás Pochettino also added one directly from a free kick. Austin FC lost their La Copita opener 3-2 to Houston Dynamo FC.

D.C. United vs. New York City FC, 8 p.m.

The teams met twice during the 2020 regular season. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi netted a pair of goals as NYCFC took a 4-1 win Oct. 7 at Yankee Stadium; the teams also reached a goalless draw at Audi Field on Sept. 6. NYCFC have a four-game undefeated streak alive in the series.

NYCFC has come away with points from their last two trips to Audi Field. NYCFC's win at Audi Field on April 21, 2019 was just the second by the road team in the series; D.C. United has never won at Yankee Stadium (two draws in six visits all-time).

D.C. United finished off their preseason preparations with a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls on April 10 at Red Bull Arena, the United goal coming from Erik Sorga. D.C. posted a 1-2-2 record in their preseason campaign, 0-1-2 vs. MLS opposition.

NYCFC concluded their preseason schedule with a 4-0 win vs. USL Championship side Hartford Athletic at the Etihad City Football Academy on April 10. Jesús Medina netted a pair of goals for NYCFC, who won four times in five preseason matches.

FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids, 8 p.m.

The teams met once during the 2020 season. Santiago Mosquera netted a hat trick as FC Dallas collected a 4-1 win Sept. 16 at Toyota Stadium.

FC Dallas have won the last two meetings at Toyota Stadium, undefeated in their last five home meetings in the series (with two draws). The Rapids' last win there came in 2016.

The Rapids have won the last two meetings in Commerce City, their first home wins in the series since 2013, a five-game home winless run; the teams had reached four consecutive 1-1 draws there.

FC Dallas ended the preseason as La Copita champions, following their 3-0 win against Houston Dynamo FC in their preparatory finale at BBVA Stadium on Saturday. Franco Jara, Ryan Hollingshead and Jesús Ferreira all netted goals for FCD, who also defeated USL side San Antonio FC 5-0, and recorded a shootout victory vs. Austin FC.

The Rapids completed their preseason preparations with a 1-0 win against USL side Phoenix Rising FC on April 11 in the Visit Tucson Sun Cup, the game's lone goal coming from Michael Barrios. The Rapids reached a 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy leading into the match, after dropping a 3-0 decision to Real Salt Lake in Tucson, their first defeat in the preseason.

New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8 p.m.

The teams did not meet during the 2020 season. Their last meeting came April 14, 2019, a 2-2 draw at Children's Mercy Park.

The Red Bulls won the last meeting between the teams at Red Bull Arena, a 3-2 victory July 14, 2018, their first win vs. Sporting since 2014, ending a three-game winless run in the series. Sporting have come away with points on four of their last six visits to Red Bull Arena since 2012, winning three.

Sporting won the previous meeting between the teams in Kansas City, a 2-0 victory on May 3, 2017, which ended a five-game winless streak for Sporting in the series on their home ground, their first win in Kansas City since 2011.

The Red Bulls concluded their preseason with a 1-1 draw with D.C. United on April 10 at Red Bull Arena, the lone goal coming from Daniel Royer on a penalty kick.

Sporting concluded their preseason match schedule on April 3, with a 1-0 win vs. the LA Galaxy. SKC finished with a 2-1-1 record, going 1-1-1 vs. MLS competition. Wilson Harris led Sporting with 4 goals in 4 games, while Gianluca Busio had two.

Chicago Fire FC vs. New England Revolution, 8:30 p.m.

The teams met twice during the 2020 season. They reached a 1-1 draw in the second week of the season, March 7 at Gillette Stadium, then the Revolution got a pair of goals from Teal Bunbury for a 2-1 win Sept. 6 at Soldier Field. The Revolution have two wins, with a draw, in the last three meetings.

The Revolution win in the last meeting ended a nine-game home undefeated streak for the Fire in the series. The Fire had a seven-game undefeated streak overall in the series (5-0-2) ended in the Revolution's win in 2019 to start their current streak.

Fire FC ended their preseason preparations in a 3-2 defeat by Vancouver Whitecaps FC at SeatGeek Stadium on April 10, with Robert Berić netting his second goal of the preseason. The Fire concluded their match schedule with a 3-2-1 record, including wins vs. NYCFC and Philadelphia Union.

The Revolution concluded their preseason schedule with a 3-3 draw with Los Angeles Football Club at Banc of California Stadium on April 10. The Revs ended with a 2-1-2 preseason record in matches vs. LA Galaxy, LAFC and LA Galaxy II.

Nashville SC vs. FC Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m.

The teams are meeting for the first time in their histories. They have two more meetings scheduled in 2020 regular season, July 24 at Nissan Stadium, and Oct. 27 in Cincinnati.

Nashville SC ended their preseason schedule with two wins in two matches vs. USL competition, a 4-0 win vs. Louisville City FC on March 20, and a 1-0 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on March 31.

FC Cincinnati concluded their preseason preparations with a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the USL on April 10. Draft signee Calvin Harris netted the lone FCC goal.

Sunday, April 18

Inter Miami CF vs. LA Galaxy, 3 p.m. (ABC)

The teams are meeting for the first time in their histories. This is their only meeting scheduled in the 2021 season.

Inter Miami concluded their preseason preparations with an intrasquad scrimmage at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on April 11.

The Galaxy finished off their preseason preparations with a 1-0 win vs. Real Salt Lake in the finale of the Visit Tucson Sun Cup, Victor Vázquez netting the game's only goal. The Galaxy had earlier suffered reversals to Sporting KC and the New England Revolution in Tucson, having earlier knocked off the Revolution at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union, 5:30 p.m. (FS1)

The teams met twice a season ago, and Crew SC won the pair, both in Columbus. Lucas Zelarayán scored the game's only goal in the 55th minute for a Crew SC win on Sept. 2, then Krisztian Németh netted the late game-winner for the 2-1 win Crew victory Nov. 1. The second game was first time since 2016 there was not a shutout in the game, snapping an eight-game streak.

Crew SC are undefeated in the last six meetings between the teams at home with five wins; the Union goal in the second meeting last year was their first in the last 521 minutes played in Columbus. The Union are undefeated in the last four meetings in Chester; they have a 270-minute shutout streak alive in home games.

Crew SC kicked off their competitive campaign with a convincing victory, defeating CD Réal Estelí 4-0 in the first leg of their round-of-16 Concacaf Champions League series in Nicaragua. Gyasi Zardes scored a pair of goals as the Crew took a four-goal lead by halftime. The return leg is set for April 15 at Historic Crew Stadium.

The Union gained an impressive result in the first competitive international match in the club's history, defeating Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica 1-0 in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League tie in San José on April 7. The game's only goal came from Kacper Przybylko in the 34th minute. The return match will be played at Subaru Park on April 14.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. (TSN)

The teams met twice a season ago and the Timbers won both by the game's only goal, both at Providence Park. Felipe Mora scored the game's only goal after just five minutes and the Timbers held out for the win Sept. 27 in a Whitecaps FC home game, then Yimmi Chará scored the only marker on the hour Nov. 1 in a Timbers home game.

The Timbers have won the last three meetings after a three-game Whitecaps FC winning streak in the series, after the Timbers won the prior three matchups. Whitecaps FC have won seven times in 26 all-time MLS meetings between the teams, all coming in the past 18 meetings.

The teams first met on May 16, 1975, in the old North American Soccer League, with the Timbers winning 2-0 at Empire Stadium in Vancouver. The teams have met 96 times in all, across a number of competitions - the Whitecaps hold a 40-38-18 advantage in the all-time record between the clubs. The teams met twice in the NASL playoffs, in 1978 and 1980, with each team advancing on one occasion.

Whitecaps FC closed out their preseason preparations with a 3-2 win against Chicago Fire FC at SeatGeek Stadium on April 10, their only match vs. MLS competition in the preseason. Lucas Cavallini netted a pair of goals, including a masterful direct free kick.

The Timbers started off their Concacaf Champions League campaign on a good note, gaining a 2-2 draw with CD Marathón of Honduras in San Pedro Sula on April 6. Felipe Mora netted a goal for the Timbers, while a Diego Valeri free kick that came off the woodwork was ruled an own goal. The second leg in the round-of-16 tie is set for Tuesday night at Providence Park.


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Major League Soccer Stories from April 13, 2021


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