The opening weekend of the 2023 MLS season did not disappoint, with goals and drama aplenty across Saturday and Sunday.
A total of 35 goals were scored from the 12 matches played and that does not include Monday night's clash between Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City or the 'El Trafico' derby involving LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC, which was postponed due to some unprecedented adverse weather conditions in California.
There were some big wins for the likes of Seattle Sounders, who triumphed 4-0 over Colorado Rapids, and last season's beaten MLS Cup finalists Philadelphia Union, who were 4-1 victors against Columbus Crew, but which players stood out across the opening weekend?
|Where||United States and Canada|
|When||25th February - 21st October 2023- 21st October 2023 25th February - 21st October 2023|
|How to watch||Apple TV|
|Odds||Los Angeles FC 9/2, Philadelphia Union 11/2, New York City FC 10/1, LA Galaxy 12/1, Inter Miami CF 12/1|
St. Louis City SC became the 29th team in the MLS when they joined as an expansion side ahead of the 2023 season and their first match as part of the league was certainly memorable, as they claimed a 3-2 road victory at Austin FC.
Defender Tim Parker had the honour of scoring St Louis' first goal in the division to put the newbies in front, but Austin responded with a goal in each half to turn the game on its head.
A bizarre Jared Stroud goal brought the visitors back level with 12 minutes remaining before, with the contest seemingly heading towards a draw, Brazilian forward Joao Klauss had the honour of winning the match for St Louis on his own MLS debut.
Klauss could be a key figure for St Louis across the season, with the 25-year-old having joined the team with a reputation for scoring goals from his time in Europe with the likes of HJK Helsinki, LASK and Standard Liege.
The composure he showed to seal the win certainly underlined those goalscoring credentials and Klauss is 66/1 to finish the year as the MLS' leading scorer, while St Louis are 50/1 to be crowned champions in their rookie season.
MLS: Five international players to watch
Hungary international Daniel Gazdag enjoyed a standout first full season in the MLS during 2022, as he scored 24 goals to help Philadelphia Union come within touching distance of being crowned champions for the first time.
Gazdag scored in the Union's penalty-shootout defeat to Los Angeles FC in last season's MLS Cup final, but both he and his team appear to have gotten over the heartbreak of that loss quickly after they opened the new campaign by comprehensively disposing of Columbus Crew.
Philadelphia's No.10 was crucial to that success, scoring two and laying on the other two for strike partner Julian Carranza and he already appears determined to beat his tally of 32 goal involvements from the 2022 regular season.
The 26-year-old should certainly be there or thereabouts in the leading scorer race, provided he stays fit, and he can be backed at 10/1 to finish as the Top Goalscorer in the MLS this season.
It has been a whirlwind few months for Atlanta United attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, who received a late call up to Argentina's victorious World Cup squad and became the first active MLS player to win the global showpiece.
That international success came off the back of a stellar first season with Atlanta, but it looks like Almada may be going up a level for 2023, as he struck two goals in second-half stoppage time to hand the Five Stripes a dramatic 2-1 victory over San Jose Earthquakes at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Almada's first strike was a stunning long-range effort, while his second was an effortlessly-brilliant free kick that his international team-mate Lionel Messi would have been proud of.
At just 21, Atlanta may struggle to keep hold of Almada for the long term, but if the former Velez Sarsfield player can keep performing at the same level, Gonzalo Pineda's side may become increasingly good value at 16/1 to lift the MLS Cup in the To Win Outright market.