MLS IS BACK!
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, the league we love and obsess over is back. With the first kick of Toronto FC versus Columbus Crew SC (#SaveTheCrew) this wacky, complicated, parity filled, league of our choice is back and what a weekend it was.
Gyasi Zardes’ recovery tour continues! As the former Galaxy man netted a goal, Gregg Berhalter may truly be the striker whisperer having had both Kei Kamara and Ola Kamara bump their games up a notch under his tutelage will this continue with Gyasi? It remains to be seen but through the preseason game one it seems that may be the case. For Zardes it must be a relief to have a defined role and not be put out on the wing (where he is serviceable largely due to his workrate and commitment to tracking back) or god forbid at right back.
Saturday night was predictably unpredictable (as we have come to expect from opening week in MLS). To start congratulations to the Houston Dynamo. I was expecting that game to be a close affair as both teams play a similar style and have talent in the attack. A 4-3 scoreline would not have been out of the realm of possibility. Instead, Houston thoroughly dominated Atlanta United en route to a 4-0 win (honestly given the backline and lack of a true #6 in Atlanta we should have seen this coming).
New England who has spent quite a bit on their centerbacks the last two seasons had not one but two centerbacks sent off which lead to the Union coming away with three points on opening weekend, after putting two goals into the back of the net. The questions around the Revolution haven’t been in the attack (with Rowe, Fagundez, Agudelo, Ngyuen) they have had a solid attack for several seasons. Health and stability in the #6 role and their centerbacks, you know the defensive spine of the team, have been the question marks for years. Not a good look when your big money acquisitions at a position of need make rash challenges and get sent off in week one.
If you have watched any lower division soccer over the last few seasons (and I’ll admit I do, shout out to Sacramento Republic and the Tower Bridge Battalion) you would recognize the name Stefano Pinho. The two time NASL MVP came in and snagged a stoppage time equalizer to salvage a point for Orlando against DC (after Yamil Asad scored on a beauty of a free kick). DC should have been able to park the bus and ride this one out particularly after Orlando had centerback Victor “PC” Giro sent of just before the half. A fun quirk with Orlando is that every year they have been in MLS opening weekend has seen a late goal that has leveled the outcome. Welcome to the new Orlando same as the old Orlando.
The last late equalizer (despite a valiant effort by the Loons for the final ten minutes of their match) was FC Dallas getting a bit lucky off an own goal. RSL despite being on the road looked to have the game well in hand with Dallas searching in vain for an equalizer, until the 86th minute.
The surprise debut of LAFC
If you had told me that both MLS Cup finalists would lose opening weekend I would have laughed at you. Thanks Toronto and Seattle for making me look foolish.
Due in large part to having their focus on CONCACAF Champions League, heavy squad rotation, heroic goal keeping from former sounder Tyler Miller, and a beautiful ball from Vela to Rossi for a goal LAFC walk away with their first ever win.
Granted Seattle seems to be going all in on CCL, but still they are the defending western conference champions and playing at Century Link (which has one of the best home advantages in the league). Bob Bradley’s side shrugged it off and ground out a win on the road. Incredible. Welcome to the league LAFC, keep making us all look foolish.