Which MLS newcomer made the biggest impact in his 2016 debut?
With the first week of the MLS season in the books, this edition of MLS Talking Points takes a look at some newcomers. We asked MLS writers Doug McIntyre, Jeff Carlisle, Jason Davis and Graham Parker which new player in the league they believe had the best debut in Week 1.
New Sporting Kansas City defender Nuno Coelho officially introduced himself to MLS by scoring the winner in an impressive road victory against 10-man Seattle.
So what if the Portuguese center-back's looping blast should have been saved by Sounders keeper Stefan Frei, who instead allowed the ball to squirm between his body and the soggy CenturyLink field surface? Chances are you would have gotten to know the 30-year-old Coelho anyway this season.
When Coelho (pronounced KWAY-yoh) was signed by Sporting in January, it wasn't for his offense. The club had lacked a physically imposing central defender to pair with U.S. national team veteran Matt Besler after Aurelien Collin left for Orlando City before last season. So while SKC will take the occasional goal -- Coehlho, who arrived after a decade-long career in Belgium, Greece and Portuguese powers Sporting and Braga, nearly added a second but sent his 82nd-minute header just wide -- you can be sure coach Peter Vermes was happier that he helped limit the hosts to just two shots in the shutout win.
The red card shown to Sounder Oniel Fisher just before halftime affected the result, no question. But it was still a promising debut for a player who will continue to make a name for himself as the season goes on.
-- Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN)
San Jose Earthquakes manager Dominic Kinnear has certain expectations for his outside midfielders. Not only are they expected to get into the attack, but they're also counted on to put in a shift defensively.
Granted, that's probably the bare minimum one might expect out of a wide player, but considering the Quakes didn't always get that out of the likes of Sanna Nyassi (offensively) or designated player Matias Perez-Garcia (defensively) last season, the fact that new signing Alberto Quintero delivered on both sides of the ball counted as a positive in the season-opening 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids last weekend.
Quintero's biggest contribution was his seeing-eye cross that looped over Colorado defender Axel Sjoberg and allowed Chris Wondolowski to head home for the game's only goal just moments into the second half. On a team that isn't always adept at keeping the ball, such moments of brilliance hold even more value.
Quintero also found more success linking up with his teammates as the game went on before exiting in the 76th minute. Not bad for a player who just signed with the club on Feb. 24.
Perez-Garcia was suspended for last weekend's match due to a red card he picked up in the last game of 2015, so he'll be available for this weekend's match against the Portland Timbers, but so long as Quintero continues to provide two-way performances, he'll likely be in the lineup.
-- Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle)
Sure, it was because of an injury to winter signing Jelle Van Damme that 25-year-old Daniel Steres found himself in the starting lineup of the LA Galaxy's 2016 season opener, but that doesn't take away from the performance of a player who has spent the better part of four years working to get his shot at the highest level of U.S. soccer.
That Steres chipped in with a goal in LA's 4-1 win over D.C. United (a goal that brought the Galaxy level and started their push to the win) was only a surprise because it was his first start on the big stage. Steres actually has a well-earned reputation, built during his time in the United Soccer League, for scoring goals.
Van Damme will soon return to fitness, and we can expect Steres to take up a spot on Bruce Arena's bench. Steres will represent solid depth at a position where such a thing is a luxury few MLS teams enjoy. The Galaxy can now turn to Steres when the need arises, confident he can handle the job because when he was asked, he didn't look out of place.
In fact, Steres stood out as a bright spot for a team that struggled in the first half. His strong debut serves as an example of what the MLS-USL partnership can provide when properly utilized. The Galaxy have already proven that they know how to make their Galaxy II team count as a place for players to develop; Steres is the latest example.
-- Jason Davis (@davisjsn)
It might seem a little strange to be talking about a defender who finished on the wrong side of a 2-0 loss as having had a good game, but Gideon Baah stepped seamlessly into the New York Red Bulls' back line against Toronto. He looked assured on the ball, calm under pressure and at times showed the kind of quick feet you might have expected from a player 20 or 30 yards farther up the field.
It's the nature of the position he plays, center-back, that the latter trait won't always work out. In the 11th minute of his debut, Baah executed a neat stepover to keep the ball away from Sebastian Giovinco on the halfway line. A Ghanaian foot wrong, an Italian foot right and Baah could have been left sprawling as the reigning MLS MVP had a free run on goal. But that didn't happen. Nor did Baah put a foot wrong for the rest of the game.
When ESPN FC spoke to Dax McCarty after the game and asked if there were any positives in the defeat, Baah was the first name he mentioned. Red Bulls fans grumbling about the departure of Matt Miazga might rest a little easier this week.
-- Graham Parker (@KidWeil)