MLS' Best and Worst from Opening Weekend
MLS' opening weekend provided its viewership with a beautiful brand of soccer, coupled with farcical gaffes. Oddly enough, the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers managed to do the same in only 90 minutes.
The Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy flexed their formidable muscle this past weekend. Both teams proclaimed their rightful dominance of MLS.
But not every star shined bright in the first weekend of league action. Some teams lacked a star to begin with.
With a multitude of storylines to cover, here are the best and worst moments of opening weekend.
Best: The Houston Dynamo's Dominant Form
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The rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final did not disappoint. It did not alter its result, either.
The Houston Dynamo resoundingly defeated DC United 2-0 Saturday night in what was hyped as the opening weekend’s marquee match.
United were fortunate to not walk into the locker rooms at the half down a man and a goal.
Chris Korb’s foul on Ricardo Clark—a mistimed tackle denying a clear scoring opportunity in the 38th minute—was worthy of a straight red. Bill Hamid’s subsequent save on the penalty salvaged what was a disappointing first half for DC.
But Houston proved to be too much for United. The Dynamo outshot DC 17-7. United did not record an official shot on target.
As a result, Houston extended its home unbeaten streak to 26 and won its 10th match against DC all time.
Worst: The Seattle Sounders' Scoreless Effort
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The Seattle Sounders followed a disappointing end to the 2012 season—a trophy-less year for Rave Green—with a disappointing start to the 2013 campaign.
The 1-0 loss at the hands of the Montreal Impact was the second opening-day loss in team history. It was a scoreless effort highlighted by a pair of thundering strikes off woodwork.
From just outside the six-yard box, Johnson was unable to connect.
The Sounders were dominant in terms of possession (59 percent) and attempts on goal (15), but were still unable to break down a compacted Montreal defense.
The ball was unforgiving Saturday night for Seattle, but head coach Sigi Schmid does not sound too concerned (via The Seattle Times):
“This team will bounce back. There’s enough quality in that locker room, there’s enough pride in that locker room.”
Look for Seattle to use Saturday’s loss as a much-needed wake-up call ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Best: The Defending Champions and Mike Magee’s Hat Trick
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No David Beckham. No Landon Donovan. No problem.
The Los Angeles Galaxy began the defense of their fourth MLS championship with an authoritative 4-0 victory over the Chicago Fire.
Mike Magee shined brighter than the four MLS Cups in attendance before the match. The 28-year-old midfielder recorded three goals Sunday afternoon, each more beautiful than the last.
There is no question as to who will be named the MLS Player of the Week.
But Magee’s performance aside, the Galaxy’s victory was a complete one.
Los Angeles recorded 10 shots on target to Chicago’s one. Robbie Keane added an assist and an exclamation point in the 80th minute.
That said, the Galaxy's performance Sunday does not signify the end of an era. Landon Donovan’s services will be welcomed when he returns to the team later this month.
But Magee’s performance signifies that the Galaxy’s championships are attributed to more than the trio of designated players.
The Galaxy are a team loaded with talent, the defending champion and still the squad to beat in MLS.
Worst: Everything That Is Chivas USA
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There’s “new and improved,” and then there is Chivas USA.
The offseason overhaul of its roster led to a horde of fresh faces in uniform for Saturday’s embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew. In total, there were seven Chivas USA starters making their MLS debut.
It showed. Chivas managed to record more yellow cards (five) than shots on target (two).
On hand to watch what felt like an exhibition for Columbus was a “fervent” crowd of 7,121.
It was more than the four people that saw Corinthians defeat Millionarios at Pacaembu Stadium last week. But the ambiance surrounding the Home Depot Center Saturday night was no different.
There was very little excitement on the field from Chivas. There was even less in the stands.
Owner Jorge Vergara yearned for a new identity in the offseason. After last night's performance, he might want to reconsider it.
Best: Federico Higuain’s Goal
Federico Higuain continued his ascendancy over MLS competition in the Columbus Crew’s 3-0 defeat of Chivas USA Saturday night.
Don’t expect a sophomore slump from the Argentine. The 2012 Newcomer of the Year is looking to upgrade his hardware in 2013.
After a scoreless first half, Higuain led the charge for the Crew following halftime, connecting on a screamer from well outside the box in the 51st minute.
It was reminiscent of the strikes that have categorized Gareth Bale’s recent form.
The goal marked Higuain's sixth career goal for Columbus in only 14 games played.
Look for the Argentine to continue his dominance in Vancouver next week as the Crew take on the Whitecaps.
Worst: Steward Ceus' Costly Gaffe
The Colorado Rapids opened the 2013 season with a disappointing 1-0 loss at FC Dallas Stadium.
The Rapids out-shot, out-possessed and outplayed FC Dallas for a majority of Saturday’s match. But one error proved to be costly.
It is a sentiment Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja echoed following the match (via the team's official website):
"I thought we were the best team on the field from the first minute to 90 full minutes. But we made a mistake and we paid for it."
Rapids goalkeeper Steward Ceus made his third career start in place of the injured Matt Pickens (swollen muscle) Saturday night. Ceus started Colorado’s final two matches in 2012, posting two clean sheets with four saves.
His fortunes reversed at FC Dallas stadium.
After misjudging a long ball from David Ferreira, Ceus allowed Jackson to score the easiest goal of his career. It proved to be insurmountable.
Despite his gaffe, Ceus rebounded and finished the night with five total saves. But without an equalizer, Ceus’ blunder is increasingly culpable.
Best: Sporting Kansas City's Comeback
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Sporting Kansas City erased an early 1-0 deficit before a crowd of 18,160 Saturday afternoon.
Sporting looked shaken and rattled in the opening minutes of the match, unable to handle the dynamic trio of Sebastien Le Toux, Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan.
Philadelphia's high-octane pressure and attack culminated in a beautiful touch for Le Toux. The Frenchman scored in the 17th minute of his triumphant return.
But it was all downhill from there.
Sporting finished with a lion’s share of the possession and answered in a forcible fashion. Goals from Graham Zusi (41’), Oriol Rosell (66’) and Claudio Bieler (83’) completed the comeback.
It was Sporting's first victory at PPL Park (per SKC Gameday).
Zusi, who finished with one goal and two assists, posted one of the best individual performances of opening weekend.
Cleverness and panache emanated from the 26-year-old midfielder, whose skill will be required if Sporting hopes to make strides in 2013.
Worst and Best: Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls
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If you’re following the pattern, another “worst” slide is in order. But the Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls put on a show Sunday night worth appreciating.
Worst: Mikael Silvestre and Donovan Ricketts provided the blunder of the week, opening the door for Fabian Espindola’s first goal in a Red Bulls uniform.
Jamison Olave followed suit with an own goal in the 83rd minute.
Best: Spectacular performances from Diego Valeri (one goal on six shots) and Espindola (two goals on three shots) elevated Sunday night’s matchup to majestic proportions.
In total, there were six goals, 31 attempts on goal and 20,674 fanatics performing their own rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
For 90 minutes, Portland vs. New York was everything MLS wanted to market.