I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 22...Happy 22nd MLS season! It’s the time of the year when everyone’s hopes are high and the predictions are outrageous. I’m here to help you sort through the week that was in my “too long, didn’t watch” report.
Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers
-- In the game that got our hopes up for a high scoring opening weekend, the Portland Timbers defeated MLS newcomers, Minnesota United FC, 5-1 at home in Providence Park. Expectations were relatively low for this new side, a little too low in my opinion, but I’m not sure if anyone actually predicted this bad of a blow out. The scoreline was a respectable at the half with only 1-0 in favor of Portland, and only a 2-1 scoreline in the 80th minute. However, Minnesota will do all they can to avoid stoppage time for the remainder of the season. The game was 3-1 at the 90th minute, but by the end of the 3 minutes of stoppage time, the Loons ended the game with a 5-1 loss. Moving forward, I expect MNUFC to continue to congeal and improve, while the Timbers get an easy 3 points to get their season off to a good start.
Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew
-- The Columbus Crew hosted the Chicago Fire in a 1-1 draw at Mapfre Stadium. Columbus had plenty of dangerous opportunities, but Chicago goalkeeper, Jorge Bava, had a great performance making several point blank saves. (hey, Atlanta United FC, are we allowed to say “goalkeeper”? Yes? Okay, thanks.) Parties interested in Dax McCarty’s transition from being the captain of NYRB to Chicago might be interested to know that on the box score he… registered... one foul. Hopefully, for him, he continues to settle in and connect with his new team, and hopefully, for Fire fans, the team’s productivity increases overall. As for Columbus, maintaining their early lead was too tough of a task for the young side.
FC Dallas at LA Galaxy
-- The LA Galaxy fell 2-1 at home at the StubHub Center to western conference powerhouse, FC Dallas. Dallas had a Wednesday night game in Panama for the CONCACAF Champions League, but was still able to beat a rebuilding LA team. Defensive lapses caused the Galaxy to falter and concede 2 goals, and a questionable PK call allowed LA to avoid being shutout. (I’m pretty sure the “PRO” in “PRO referees” somehow stands for “questionable calls,” but I guess we should try to give them a chance to start off the season on the right foot). This game was a good building block (and 3 points) for FC Dallas, who look to continue their upward trend from the last few years, and a good measuring stick for LA to play against one of their tougher opponents to see where they stand as the season begins.
Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake
-- Real Salt Lake drew 0-0 with 2016 MLS cup finalists, Toronto FC, in Rio Tinto Stadium. If a soccer game happened without a goal being scored, does it make a sound? Well. In this case, yeah, it does. Rio Tinto always seems to have a united fan base, not to be confused with DC United’s fan base, or Atlanta United FC’s fan base, or Minnesota United FC’s fan base. The highlight of the game for me is yet another PK save by Nick Rimando among many other saves during the game, as Toronto was a dangerous team throughout. I wouldn’t discount this game as one of “those boring soccer games” that people who don’t watch soccer complain about, but, instead, a fierce battle between 2 MLS playoff contenders that led to a total of 25 shots and 31 fouls.
New England Revolution at Colorado Rapids
-- The Colorado Rapids defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 at home in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, with the goal from Dominique Badji in the 52nd minute. Is it mandatory for broadcasters to mention the elevation in Denver every game? Should I do that here? Anyway. Beside the lone goal in this one, caused by a defensive miscommunication on a Rapids corner kick, the game was a goalkeeper clinic. Both Colorado’s MacMath and New England’s Cropper made some impressive saves to keep their team in the game. I’m hoping that the Revolution’s impressive line up can start working together to start producing more goals this season. As for Colorado, the team knows that home games are a huge advantage for them, so it’s time for them to bear down and focus on winning road games.
Sporting Kansas City at DC United
-- DC United hosted Sporting Kansas City for a 0-0 draw at RFK Stadium. SKC’s goalkeeper, Tim Melia, saved a PK from Marcelo Sarvas, DC United’s… defensive... center midfielder? Hmm. Interesting choice. Continuing on. In the second half, Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer had an impressive save off the line off a corner kick rebound shot, immediately followed by another save by Melia on the opposite post. SKC’s defense is in impressive form for this time of year. DC United has some work to do, but does not to seem to be too far off pace from the rest of the league.
Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo
-- The Houston Dynamo defeated the Seattle Sounders 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The teams with the longest and shortest offseasons, respectively, played an entertaining game full of shots and fun midfield challenges. The Dynamo did some sizeable rebuilding in the offseason, and it paid off with first half goals from Erick Torres and Romell Quioto and a stronger defensive unit. (Sorry, LA). For the Sounders, Clint Dempsey made his triumphant return from a hiatus due to health concerns, scoring in the 58th minute. Even if you’re not a Seattle fan, it’s nice to see a player come back after reports of a scary medical condition. Moving forward, Houston will need to build upon their successes from this game and continue to work as a unit, and Seattle needs to buckle down and regain the composure that helped them be successful last season.
Montreal Impact at San Jose Earthquakes
-- The San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Montreal Impact 1-0 at home in Avaya Stadium. Once you pop, you don’t stop, or your choice of chip pun here. Anibal Godoy scored a pretty looking chip over Montreal’s goalkeeper, Evan Bush. The Impact showed dysfunction in their defense overall for their opening game of the season, including a second half red card to center back Hassoun Camara. San Jose looked dangerous at times, but neither team really showed much that would merit contender status at this point in the season. Luckily for both teams, it is far too early to make those kinds of calls.
New York City FC at Orlando City FC
--Orlando City FC defeated NYCFC 1-0 at home in the shiny new stadium for Orlando. The atmosphere was impressive, even from my sofa in LA, in the first game at their shiny new stadium, fully equipped with a standing room only supporters wall. Who better to score the first goal in the stadium than OCFC’s own Cyle (Canadian Messi) Larin. While it’s easy to talk about the exciting day for Orlando, it is important to talk about the frustrating day for NYCFC. They doubled Orlando’s shot totals, including 7 shots on target, but were unable to produce a goal. NYCFC head coach, Patrick Vieira has his work cut out for him; with such a heavy duty roster, the team shouldn’t be struggling to finish as bad as they are. Hopefully, as the season progresses, OCFC can maintain the high bar they have set for themselves this season, and NYCFC can reach the high bar they set for themselves as a franchise when they came into the league two short years ago.
New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United FC
-- Atlanta United FC lost to the New York Red Bulls 2-1 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. For the team that was picked as the favorite for MLS Cup before even playing an MLS game, Atlanta United FC’s first game in their MLS history left a few things to be desired. I do have to admit, the opening ceremonies were impressive. I appreciate the support that the franchise already has and the sheer volume displayed in the stadium. (Although driving in a gold stake before the game at a temporary stadium seems a little odd…) With such firepower in the roster, many had expected Atlanta to quickly climb to the top of the table, but losing to NYRB may have been a harsh reality check for this new side. It will be exciting to see what this team is really capable of in the upcoming months. NYRB show promise for the upcoming season, as well. Marsch shook up the team in the offseason by trading away team captain, Dax McCarty, and now look to establish a winning culture within the club. This was the marquee match of the opening weekend for me, and it did not disappoint. Two late goals for NYRB, including an own goal for the game winner, sealed Atlanta’s fate for opening weekend.
Philadelphia Union at Vancouver Whitecaps
-- This game happened and also ended 0-0. Okay, okay. We can talk about this one, too. The Vancouver Whitecaps hosted the Philadelphia Union for a 0-0 draw at BC Place. Philadelphia defender Andre Blake had an instinctive save off the line on a corner in the second half to keep the Union even with Vancouver. Also in the second half, Brek Shea and Freddy Montero both subbed in at the same time for the Whitecaps. Both of these players are looking for a shakeup in their MLS careers, and there’s a possibility they can work together to make it happen in Vancouver.
All of this week’s critiques aside, I’m proud of how far MLS has come. Teams that at one time had attendance issues are building up a loud environment full of excited fans. All this sentimental nonsense from me will probably go out the window by Week 2, so I wanted to make sure to get it out of the way now. Thanks for supporting your local league.