Saturday's MLS action was the earliest start to an MLS season in league history. For some teams it couldn't come soon enough, while others still appear to be in preseason form.
Now in its 18th season—one more than the original NASL (1968-84)—MLS kicked off with a slate of games highlighted by a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Final.
The Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City each re-established the dominant form reminiscent of the 2012 season. FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps also satisfied their home crowds, starting the 2013 season with less-than-stellar victories.
Here's a detailed look at all of Saturday's action.
Goals: Philadelphia Union—Sebastien Le Toux 17’; Sporting Kansas City—Graham Zusi 41’, Oriol Rosell 66’, Claudio Bieler 83’
Quick Recap: Not even a shaky first half could keep Sporting Kansas City from walking out of PPL Park with a 3-1 victory.
Philadelphia’s dynamic start was neutralized after Zusi’s equalizer in the 41st minute. The high-octane pressure and attack the Union exhibited early were subdued following halftime.
Goals in the second half from Oriol Rosell and Cladio Bieler allowed Sporting to improve to 12-4-2 all-time in season openers (per SKC Gameday).
Man of the Match: Graham Zusi was instrumental in Sporting’s 3-1 victory. The midfielder finished with one goal and two assists.
Le Toux’s Return: Le Toux’s storybook ending took a nightmarish turn in the 22nd minute. After opening the match with a fairytale touch (17’), Le Toux sent a golden chance wide of the net just a few moments later.
Sporting’s dominant possession rendered the Frenchman ineffective in the second half.
Lesson Learned: Sporting displayed why they are considered a prohibitive favorite to win the 2013 MLS Cup. There is an abundance of talent on the roster.
Zusi will be the driving force behind that success. The 26-year-old proved once more why he is deserving of a spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Up Next: Both teams travel on the road next Saturday. The Union visit the Colorado Rapids, while Sporting travel to Toronto FC.
Goals: Vancouver Whitecaps—Gershon Koffie 59’
Quick Recap: Ryan Nelsen’s head coaching debut was spoiled by Gershon Koffie’s emphatic strike in the 59th minute. It was enough to give the Whitecaps a 1-0 victory before a crowd of 21,000 at BC Place Stadium.
Toronto FC controlled the tempo in the first half—possessing the ball 55.2 percent of the time—but were unable to capitalize on an early opportunity off a Kyle Bekker free kick.
Saturday’s win for Vancouver was the first over its Canadian rival since 2011.
Man of the Match: Koffie scored the goal, but Daigo Kobayashi’s first touch presented the Ghanian with the opportunity. Kobayashi displayed the skill and panache Vancouver needed for 76 minutes.
Jay DeMerit’s Injury: Team captain Jay DeMerit was forced to leave early with a reported calf strain (per The Vancouver Sun). Bothered by Achilles tendinitis in recent weeks, DeMerit was admittedly only “80 to 90 percent” healthy (per Sporting News).
He was replaced by newcomer Brad Rusin in the eighth minute.
Fresh Face: Saturday also marked the MLS debut of Nigel Reo-Coker. The former Premier League midfielder was subbed on at halftime.
Lesson Learned: The Whitecaps possess one of the more dynamic attacks in MLS.
Few MLS teams have the speed to defend Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh. The two speedsters, coupled with the vision and soccer acumen of Reo-Coker and Kobayashi, make Vancouver a potential dark horse in the Western Conference.
Up Next: Both teams are in action next Saturday. The Whitecaps host the Columbus Crew, while Toronto FC host Sporting Kansas City in their home opener.
Goals: Houston Dynamo—James Riley (OG) 80’, Ricardo Clark 89’
Quick Recap: New year, same result. DC United fell 2-0 to the defending Eastern Conference champion Houston Dynamo—unable to avenge last year’s playoff loss.
It took the Dynamo 80 minutes, but a James Riley own goal and a scorcher from Ricardo Clark in the closing minutes allowed Houston to continue its dominance over DC.
The Dynamo have now won 10 of their last 16 matches against United, with eight of nine coming at home.
Wild First Half: United were fortunate to finish the first half with 11 men. Chris Korb’s foul on Clark denied a clear scoring opportunity, but only produced a yellow card.
Though the foul was committed outside of the box, referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot. Hamid bailed out his teammate, saving Brad Davis’ poor penalty and the subsequent rebound from Clark.
Korb redeemed himself in the 44th minute, clearing a Will Bruin header off the line, ending a chaotic final five minutes.
Man of the Match: Ricardo Clark drew the penalty, was in the area of the own goal and gave the Dynamo some insurance in the 89th minute.
Still No De Ro: Last year, United were forced to face the Dynamo without their captain Dwayne De Rosario due to injury. This year it was due to suspension.
De Rosario was forced to sit out of Saturday’s match after the MLS Disciplinary Committee suspended him for “violent conduct that endangered the safety of his opponent, Danny Cruz.”
Home Sweet Home: The Dynamo extended their MLS home unbeaten streak to 26—three shy of the record set by Real Salt Lake in 2011.
Lesson Learned: The Dynamo proved that last year was no fluke. Though United had their chances, Houston was clearly the better side.
The Dynamo possessed the ball 58 percent of the time and had 17 attempts on goal (six on target). DC did not officially record a shot on target on seven attempts.
Up Next: United host Real Salt Lake next Saturday, while the Dynamo host Santos Laguna in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday night.
Goals: FC Dallas—Jackson 11’
Quick Recap: Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Steward Ceus is in desperate need of a “do over.” His poor assessment of a David Ferreira pass proved to be costly, leading to an easy goal for FC Dallas’ Jackson.
It was the only goal scored before a crowd of 18,705. FC Dallas would defeat the Rapids 1-0 in its home opener.
Colorado had the lion’s share of the possession (62.5 percent), but solid defending from Dallas kept the Rapids off the scoreboard.
Man of the Match: Matt Hedges and George John did the bulk of the defending for Dallas on Saturday. The defensive duo share the award.
Matt Pickens Injury: Ceus started in place of the injured Matt Pickens on Saturday. Pickens was suffering from a swollen muscle between his right knee and ankle the last two weeks.
Kenny Cooper’s Return: Scoring 18 goals wasn’t enough to keep Kenny Cooper in New York, but it was enough to warrant a return to Dallas. Cooper, however, finished scoreless on the night with only two shot attempts.
Fresh Faces: Saturday marked the MLS debut for rookies Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers. The two connected on an early scoring opportunity in the 14th minute.
Lesson Learned: The Rapids jettisoned their leading scorers from the last four seasons in Connor Casey, Omar Cummings and Jeff Larentowicz.
With a new nucleus of attackers, it will take time for the team’s attack to take shape and produce results.
Up Next: The Rapids travel to Philadelphia next Saturday to take on the Union, while Dallas visits Chivas USA next Sunday.
Goals: Montreal Impact—Davy Arnaud 35’
Quick Recap: The Montreal Impact walked out of CenturyLink Field Saturday with three points after a shocking 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders.
A right-footed shot just outside the box from team captain Davy Arnaud proved to be the game-winner for Montreal. Despite more shots (15 to nine) and more possession (59 to 41 percent), the Sounders were unable to find an equalizer on the night.
Credit is due to Montreal's defense. Of Seattle's 15 shots, only three were on target.
Woodwork for Seattle: Eddie Johnson was unable to bury Seattle’s best chance of the night. His strike from point-blank range in the 81st minute bounced off the woodwork. Not to be outdone, Brad Evans struck the right post in the 66th minute from just outside the box.
Man of the Match: Davy Arnaud had his own encounter with cross bar as well. His bouncing header in 64th minute nearly gave the Impact a 2-0 lead, but his game-winner should suffice.
Montreal Undefeated: The Sounders are yet to defeat the Impact. Though, it should be noted that this is only the second all-time matchup between the two—the first a 4-1 victory for Montreal last April.
Road Warriors: Montreal only won two matches on the road in all of 2012. The Impact now have 17 more chances to match that output in 2013.
Andy Rose Injury: The Sounders lost midfielder Andy Rose in the 62nd minute with an elbow contusion.
Lesson Learned: Many considered Seattle to be best the Western Conference has to offer. After tonight’s result, there will be reservations about the team moving forward.
That said, it is only one match. With Obafemi Martins reportedly on the verge of joining the team (per Sporting News), Seattle won’t find itself with too many scoreless efforts this season.
Up Next: The Sounders will look to rebound against Tigres in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday. Montreal visits the Portland Timbers next Saturday.
Goals: Columbus Crew—Federico Higuain 51’, Josh Williams 88’, Dominic Oduro (90’ plus 4’)
Quick Recap: In front of a blistering crowd of 7,121, the Columbus Crew defeated Chivas USA 3-0.
After a scoreless first half, Columbus followed halftime with a second-half onslaught. Federico Higuain’s screamer in the 51st minute was enough to secure three points for the Crew. Josh Williams and Dominic Oduro added some insurance in the closing minutes of the match.
Man of the Match: Federico Higuain picked up where he left off last season. Repeat performances like the one tonight will allow the Argentinian to trade in his 2012 Newcomer of the Year award for a 2013 MLS MVP.
Reality Check: Chivas USA were undefeated in the preseason. But there are no UC Irvine’s, Gangwon FC’s or Santa Clarita Storm remaining on its schedule. Chivas will continue to struggle against actual MLS competition.
Dan Kennedy: The scoreline read 3-0. But if not for Dan Kennedy’s heroics in net (4 saves), the result could have been worse for Chivas.
Lesson Learned: If there is any team that can return to the playoffs after missing out last year, it’s the Crew.
A full season for the dynamic pairing of Higuain and Jairo Arrieta is as vital as any offseason acquisition. The two hooked up in the 51st minute, starting the 2013 campaign at a scorching pace.
Up Next: The Crew will continue its road trip next Saturday in Vancouver. Chivas USA and its fanbase will look to post a better showing at home next Sunday against FC Dallas.
Follow Eduardo on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC