MLS's opening weekend took center stage Sunday with a massive clash on ESPN between the league's most decorated club, LA Galaxy, and reigning Cup champion NYCFC. The match served as a debut for Brazilian star Douglas Costa, but it was Javier "Chicharito" Hernández who stole the show with a 90th minute winner.
It looked like the chance was gone when Sacha Kljestan lost possession on the edge of New York's area — Chicharito had his head in his hands at that moment — but the ball quickly came back to the Mexican legend and he diced one defender to the floor before blasting a finish beyond Sean Johnson.
The clean sheet is also massive news for LA. After surrendering over 50 goals in a season only once during the club's first 21 years of existence, the Galaxy's godawful defense has done just that in four of the past five years.
The only season they avoided it was the one time they made the playoffs over that span, so manager Greg Vanney needs to get the backline figured out if the Galaxy's going to get back to competing for MLS Cups.
But attack rules everything in the City of Stars, and everyone was at Dignity Health Sports Park to watch the team's three attacking Designated Players — Chicharito, Costa and Kévin Cabral — take the pitch together for the first time.
Costa's 2021 season with Grêmio ended in early December, but he wasn't officially signed by the Galaxy until Feb. 10, and the 31-year-old clearly needs time to regain top fitness (he was Vanney's first substitution in the 67th minute). Still, it was a promising start for the Brazilian — especially if Cabral can get it figured out in the final third.
In the opening 45, Costa attempted two similar shots by cutting in from the right wing and taking left-footed cracks from audacious distances and angles.
Knockin' on the door ✨@DouglasCosta x #LAvNYC pic.twitter.com/AqYNLCNND4
He then turned provider in the 34th minute by teeing up Cabral for a shot.
Getting closer to ⚡️@DouglasCosta x @KvinCabral x #LAvNYC pic.twitter.com/EJByiQbC6a
Costa could've had his first MLS goal in the 41st when the Galaxy had a three-on-one with Cabral in possession out wide and Chicharito and Costa storming upfield alongside him, but the Frenchman's delivery to the unmarked Brazilian at the far post was just out of reach.
Costa was also booked for his third foul of the first half, and he shared a smile with the referee and Maxi Moralez for his transgressions.
Our #⃣ ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/PsbbQIcZ41
The Galaxy return to action next Saturday for Charlotte FC's home opener at Bank of America Stadium.