Chiellini scored LAFC’s opener in a 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers, marking the 38-year-old Italy and Juventus legend’s first goal since coming to MLS last summer. Layer in his lockdown defense and distribution from the back, and it’s easy to see why LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo called Chiellini “a step ahead of everybody else” after the reigning MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield winners received championship rings Saturday afternoon.
The backline also features Austin FC’s Alexander Ring, who ably dropped into center-back duties from his usual midfield spot amid injury troubles – proving vital in a course-correcting 1-0 win over CF Montréal. The fullback spots belong to Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC) and Brandon Bye (New England Revolution) as their sides both started 2023 with six points. Roldan provided two assists in a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake, while Bye had one goal and one assist in a 3-0 home-opening victory against Houston Dynamo FC.
Two of MLS’s top domestic strikers lead the attack: Ferreira and Jeremy Ebobisse (San Jose Earthquakes). Ferreira’s brace paced a 3-1 win over LA Galaxy, opening the US men’s national teamer’s 2023 account after a 2022 Best XI presented by Continental Tire campaign. Ebobisse tallied one goal and one assist in a 2-1 comeback win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC, with his powerful header giving him goals in back-to-back games.
Zelarayán’s brace powered Columbus’ 2-0 win over D.C. United, Löwen’s penalty kick was the game-winner as CITY SC memorably debuted CITYPARK with a 3-1 win over Charlotte FC, and Hebers’ late volley salvaged Chicago’s 1-1 draw vs. New York City FC after he subbed on before halftime. Pizarro grabbed an assist in a big 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, and managed Phil Neville stated postgame “he's playing some of the best football I've seen him play.”
Top coaching honors went to Neville, who’s taking the long view despite beating a preseason MLS Cup presented by Audi favorite in Philadelphia.
Team of the Matchday (4-4-2, left to right): William Yarbrough (COL) - Alex Roldan (SEA), Giorgio Chiellini (LAFC), Alexander Ring (ATX), Brandon Bye (NE) - Lucas Zelarayán (CLB), Eduard Löwen (STL), Fabian Herbers (CHI), Rodolfo Pizarro (MIA) - Jesús Ferreira (DAL), Jeremy Ebobisse (SJ)
Coach: Phil Neville (MIA)
Bench: Sean Johnson (TOR), Sean Nealis (RBNY), Carlos Akapo (SJ), Jean Mota (MIA), Paxton Pomykal (DAL), Dylan Borrero (NE), Kwadwo Opoku (LAFC), Jordan Morris (SEA), Maxi Urruti (ATX)
Audi Goals Drive Progress
MLS Academies have been identified as one of the most important resources for building on-field talent in North America. Through the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative, Audi has committed $1 million per season in an effort to advance academies league-wide, and to drive progress for the sport. For every goal scored in the regular season, Audi will contribute $200 into the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund to directly support each MLS Club Youth Academy.