MLS in 2018 was filled with incredible moments from team accomplishments to outstanding individual performances. In no particular order, here are the top eight MLS moments of the year.
Zlatan Breaks 500 Goals
When the LA Galaxy signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the entire league expected ridiculous moments, on the field and off. And fans got exactly what they expected. After signing for the Galaxy, Ibra took out an entire page advertisement in the LA Times just to say you’re welcome.
Zlatan proved to be worth the hype, single-handedly almost bringing an objectively terrible LA Galaxy team to the playoffs. He scored goals just for fun, putting up an incredible stat of .92 goals per 90 minutes played. Some of these goals were just out of this world, most notably his first MLS goal.
But the goal that makes the list was one he scored in a 5-3 loss to Toronto FC. The crazy karate-esque finish was his 500th professional goal of all time. An incredible feat for such a legend of a player.
Josef Martinez Breaks Single-Season Scoring Record
In the same vein, this season saw goalscoring history. Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez broke the MLS single-season scoring record. In the Five Stripes’ 2-1 win over Orlando City, Martinez’ game-winning goal was his 28th goal of the season, breaking the three-way tie of Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski, and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Eventually, Martinez would go on to score 31 goals during the regular season and four more in the playoffs, putting him at 35 total. This broke another Roy Lassiter’s record goal-tally, who scored a total of 33 goals in 1996.
Bradley Wright-Phillips Scores 100
2018 was quite a year for Major League Soccer forwards. The New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips has made himself a club and league legend over the years and cemented himself even more so in 2018. Twice he has been the MLS Golden Boot winner and with his goal in New York’s 1-0 victory over rivals DC United, he became the fastest player to reach 100 league goals.
It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but the celebration against your league rivals is one to remember.
Clint Dempsey Retires
United States Men’s National Team legend and Seattle Sounder retired this past summer after 15 years of professional soccer. Though 2018 was a year to forget for him on the field, he will always be remembered for his accomplishments with the USMNT, in England, and in MLS. (We also can’t forget about his rapping career)
Deuce’s performances in England helped pave the way for more young Americans to make the move. Putting his Fulham and Tottenham time aside, he had an illustrious career back home with the Sounders during his last five years in the league. With Seattle, Dempsey was part of the record-breaking 2014 side that won the Supporter’s Shield and the US Open Cup, helped push Seattle to their MLS Cup victory in 2016 (though he missed the last part of the season with a heart murmur), and played an important role in Seattle’s MLS Cup appearance the following season.
It is hard to imagine the United States producing a player that is quite like Dempsey any time soon.
Alphonso Davies Signs for Bayern Munich
One of the most promising teenagers in MLS and for Canadian Men’s National Team, officially signed for Bayern Munich. The 18-year-old signed for a reported $13.5 million, breaking the MLS transfer record fee.
This signing is different than Zack Steffen’s with Manchester City. It seems like Bayern have big plans for Davies down the road and plan to make him a part of their first team.
Even though we probably won’t see Davies playing with Bayern’s in the Bundesliga for a while, the 18-year-old has a lot of potential and a player we can all keep our eyes on.
Concacaf Champions League
An MLS side has never won the CONCACAF Champions League under its current format. But Toronto FC almost did in 2018.
Toronto ran away with the league in 2017, being the first MLS side to win the domestic treble, and had high hopes on winning the CCL. After playing through a grueling knockout round which saw them take out Club America and tournament favorites Liga MX side Tigres, Toronto met with Chivas in the final.
Toronto lost the home leg 1-2 but a hard-fought comeback in Guadalajara forced the final into penalties. However, Chivas were crowned champions in the end, winning 4-2 in penality kicks.
Though it was heartbreak for TFC (and the league), and began the disaster of their 2018 season, coming this close to winning the CCL was a big step for Major League Soccer.
Wayne Rooney vs. Orlando City
One of the single most unbelievable plays of 2018. DC United, tied with Orlando 2-2, were pushing hard for all three points — in their push for the playoffs. In the 96th minute, goalkeeper David Ousted went up for the corner, leaving his own goal wide open. Orlando was able to clear the corner and went to put the ball in the empty net.
Then Wayne Rooney happened:
That’s how you prove your critics wrong.
Portland vs. Seattle Western Conference Semi-Final Leg 2
This was arguably one of the best playoff games in MLS history. Portland traveled to Seattle for leg two of the Western Conference semi-final holding a 2-1 aggregate score. Due to the away goals rule, all the Sounders had to do was win 1-0 to move on to the conference finals. It quickly turned into a nail-biter for both sides. Goals were not absent in this thriller that was pushed to extra time. The Timbers advancing in penalties would continue on to win the Western Conference.
This match will only help fuel the best rivalry in MLS.