Eric Wynalda reminisces about first MLS game, his first league goal

EDITOR'S NOTE: To mark the anniversary of Major League Soccer's first-ever game between the San Jose Clash and D.C. United on April 6, 1996, MLS YouTube, Twitter and Facebook channels will air the game at 4 pm ET this Monday. A part of MLS Classics: Remix, the enhanced broadcast will feature alternative commentary from MLS legends Eric Wynalda and Jeff Agoos, as well as current D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid and MLSsoccer.com's David Gass. You can also now follow the @MLSin96 Instagram account, which will chronicle the entirety of the inaugural MLS season in “real-time” throughout 2020.


This was no ordinary game. For Eric Wynalda, that was evident in the buildup to the inaugural MLS match between his San Jose Clash and D.C. United.

“There was just a lot going on behind the scenes,” he told SJEarthquakes.com. “For me, there was an interest from the German media, which were monitoring the buildup to the game. They had microphones in the bus, in the pre-game meeting. I was just trying my best to get as much attention to the game as possible. There was such an overwhelming interest from overseas and Europe.”

Wynalda said the established US men’s national team standouts, like himself, Marcelo Balboa, John Doyle and Tab Ramos, were asked to do multiple interviews before the game on April 6, 1996. He said the added attention made his teammates nervous, but credited midfielder Michael Emenalo as a calming influence.

Wynalda thought he squandered the best chance to break the scoreless stalemate around the 70th minute.

And then came that magical moment just before full time.

“This actually has a story behind it. When we had our preseason down in San Diego, all of the teams were down there. We actually played D.C. United in a scrimmage in early March,” Wynalda said. “There was a time where I broke in on the left side and I cut inside on Causey and I tried to take him near post and I missed. We both kind of glanced at each other and laughed. He said something along the lines of 'Don't try that on me. You're not going near post on me.’”

Wynalda said he was especially proud of that 87th-minute goal “because it was exactly what I was trying to do,” starting with his tangle with Jeff Agoos.

“I was trying to bate him. I was trying to meg him and I knew that as tired as I was, that was the only way to beat him was to go through him,” Wynalda said. “Once the ball went through his legs, there was just a half second where everything clicks in and goes into slow motion. You rely on your training, your ability to calm your nerves and just focus on what you're trying to do.”

Read more of Wynalda’s recollections from that match by clicking here.

Topics: