By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, March 4, 2016
The 21st season of Major League Soccer kicks off on Sunday, with an opening of the season that will see every team in action across the United States and Canada.
MLSSoccer.com will have live coverage throughout the day, including a special Soccer Sunday: Week 1 Live show that will include host Russ Thaler and numerous guests, including current U.S. National Team Assistant Coach Jason Kreis, MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle and Diego Pinzon, and Fusion’s Kevin Brown.
- RELATED: Coming March 6: Live Soccer Sunday
As the season kicks off, one group of players to watch will be the USL alumni that could make an impact on their team’s fortunes this season. This past offseason alone, 13 USL players have signed MLS contracts, as the partnership between the two leagues continues to grow.
Here are five players to watch for this Sunday.
1. Clint Irwin, Toronto FC (#NYvTFC, 1:30 p.m. ET) – Former Charlotte Eagles goalkeeper Clint Irwin is the new No. 1 for Toronto FC after an offseason trade with the Colorado Rapids, and he’ll get a big test in his first game for the Reds as they visit defending Supporters’ Shield holders the New York Red Bulls in the opening game of the season. Expectations are high for TFC, and Irwin will need to be at his best if his side is to take points in the opening game of the MLS season.
- RELATED: Irwin, Bloom Excited by Reunion in Toronto
2. Kevin Molino, Orlando City SC (#ORLvRSL, 2 p.m. ET) – The two-time USL Most Valuable Player saw his season end abruptly in 2015 thanks to a torn ACL, but the Trinidad & Tobago international appears to have rebounded in strong fashion this preseason while teaming up with Kaka and Cyle Larin. Molino has been a fan favorite for years in Orlando, and would like nothing more than to open his account for the new season against Real Salt Lake.
- RELATED: Orlando’s Molino Accelerating Toward 2016
3. Alvas Powell, Portland Timbers (#PORvCLB, 4:30 p.m. ET/ESPN) – The Jamaican fullback and former Sacramento Republic FC loanee became an integral part of the Timbers in 2015 as he helped the side’s run to the MLS Cup title. In a rematch of that contest against Columbus Crew SC, Powell will be tasked with keeping an eye on Crew SC’s wide threats, which will include MLS Best XI selection Ethan Finlay, as they look to cut off the supply lines to the lethal Kei Kamara.
4. Dom Dwyer, Sporting Kansas City (#SEAvSKC, 7 p.m. ET/FS1) – The former USL Golden Boot winner will look to get his 2016 season off on the right foot for Sporting KC as they visit CenturyLink Field against the Sounders. Dwyer has scored 34 goals in the past two regular seasons, but this year will have to adapt to life without Krisztian Nemeth. Dwyer’s supply of chances shouldn’t be reduced, however, with Brad Davis joining Graham Zusi to provide width on both sides, something the former Orlando City SC loanee usually thrives on.
5. Rob Vincent, D.C. United (#LAvDC, 10 p.m. ET/UniMas) – The 2015 USL All-League First team selection has already made two competitive appearances for United in the CONCACAF Champions League, and could be in line for his first MLS start as D.C. visits LA for a clash between the two clubs that have claimed the most MLS Cup victories. Joined in the expected lineup by former Richmond Kickers loanees Andrew Dykstra, Taylor Kemp and Steve Birnbaum, Vincent could be tasked with containing new Galaxy fullback Ashley Cole as he steps into the national spotlight for the first time.
- RELATED: Vincent Thrilled to Join D.C. from Riverhounds