Recapping the First Week of Major League Soccer

Alex Gruber@agruber6Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2013

Recapping the First Week of Major League Soccer

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    Major League Soccer finally kicked off its 2013 season, after a four-month layoff. The league lost David Beckham to Paris Saint-Germain, but life goes on without him. And his team, the Los Angeles Galaxy, are looking to defend two consecutive MLS Cup titles.

    A 19-team league means nine games each match week, with one team getting the weekend off. This weekend saw the New England Revolution have that "honor" as the rest of the league opened their campaigns.

    How did they all fare? Let's have a look.

    Highlights taken from

Philadelphia Union 1-3 Sporting Kansas City

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    The first game of the MLS season saw the Philadelphia Union welcome back star striker Sebastien Le Toux, as well as welcoming Sporting Kansas City. And while it got off to a dream start for the home side, Sporting were just too strong in the end.

    Le Toux picked up a goal just 17 minutes into the match, latching onto a wonderful cross from Keon Daniel and smashing home past Jimmy Nielsen. But the Union missed a couple of great chances to extend their lead, including a Le Toux shot that went wide.

    They were made to pay for their profligacy by Graham Zusi, who pounced on a rebounded effort and did not hesitate in leveling the score before halftime. After a lackluster opening 40 minutes, Sporting were in it to win it.

    And win it they would, and it was Zusi again making the difference. With 25 minutes to play, he USA international delivered a sweet free kick, which found the head of an unmarked Oriol Rosell in the middle of the box and gave his side the lead.

    The midfield maestro was instrumental in getting his side some insurance, after a great run and cross eventually lead to Claudio Bieler thumping home a finish from just inside the area. The former LDU Quito man polished off an excellent debut with his first MLS goal.

    Sporting remain on the road next week as they take on Toronto FC, while the Union will travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids.

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Toronto FC

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    British Columbia played host to an all-Canadian matchup Saturday as the Vancouver Whitecaps hosted Toronto FC. The hosts eked out a win, but it didn't look good early for them.

    In the sixth minute, Toronto's Robert Earnshaw forced a good save from Whitecaps keeper Joe Cannon, but it was an incident in the buildup that was more worrying. Veteran defender Jay DeMerit landed awkwardly after going up for a header, and he had to leave the game with a leg injury.

    The Whitecaps had the better of attacking affairs through most of the game, and they could have gone ahead after 50 minutes after an Alain Rochat free kick was well saved by Toronto's Joe Bendik.

    Not 10 minutes later, the home side would have their goal. New signing Daigo Kobayashi received an excellent ball from Y.P. Lee and laid off for Ghanaian youngster Gershon Koffie, who dispatched confidently to Bendik's left.

    The lead could have grown with the Whitecaps getting a couple more good looks, but the scoreline held at 1-0. They'll remain at home next week as the Columbus Crew visit Canada, while Toronto head home to await Sporting Kansas City.

Houston Dynamo 2-0 D.C. United

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    Reigning Eastern Conference champion Houston Dynamo started their 2013 campaign with a win over D.C. United, but it wasn't easy. A penalty miss and great work from United keeper Bill Hamid kept things interesting throughout.

    The penalty mentioned above came in the 40th under controversial circumstances, as Chris Korb's foul on Ricardo Clark looked to have occurred outside the area. Nonetheless, former MLS MVP Brad Davis stepped up to the spot, but he delivered a poor effort that was easily saved by Hamid.

    This mistake was nearly capitalized on barely a minute later, but Chris Pontius' free kick clanged off the crossbar and over. With time still to go in the half, Houston almost took the lead, but Korb cleared a Will Bruin header off the line before Hamid produced another wonderful save off the rebound.

    The Dynamo fought long and hard in search of a goal, and would find it in the 80th minute thanks to one of their opponents. United defender James Riley headed into his own net off a corner, spoiling what had been a solid defensive display from his side.

    Clark added a late second for Houston, who must now gear up for a CONCACAF Champions League match against Mexican giants Santos Laguna on Tuesday. United head back home to take on Real Salt Lake next weekend.

FC Dallas 1-0 Colorado Rapids

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    The Colorado Rapids showed off their new uniforms to represent their home state, but they slumped to a road loss to FC Dallas. Backup keeper Steward Ceus made a huge gaffe in the opening stages of the match, leading to the only goal.

    The Rapids had gotten off to a decent starts, stringing together a couple decent chances early on. But in the 11th minute, Dallas midfielder David Ferreira launched a hopeful ball towards the area. Ceus charged out and tried to clear, but missed horribly.

    Brazilian midfielder Jackson stole in behind him and comfortably slotted into the unguarded net to get the home crowd going. He then sent the fans into raptures with a wonderful 30-yard blast just seven minutes later, but it was on the wrong side of the corner of the net.

    Atiba Harris could have equalized near the hour mark for the Rapids, but he didn't quite have enough bend on his strike from outside the area. In the end, Jackson's early goal was enough for the home side to pick up the three points.

    Dallas will now travel to southern California to take on Chivas USA, while the Rapids will open their home campaign against the Philadelphia Union.

Seattle Sounders 0-1 Montreal Impact

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    In the upset of the week, the much-fancied Seattle Sounders suffered a stunning home defeat to the Montreal Impact. The "rave green" fans were in full effect as usual, but were silenced by a moment of top work from the visitors.

    The Sounders were well in the driver's seat in the early going, having plenty of opportunities to open the scoring but taking advantage of none. And their poor finishing would prove costly as the game passed the half-hour mark.

    Impact captain Davy Arnaud latched onto a delightful through ball from teammate Felipe, took a touch, and delivered a sublime lofted finish over Michael Gspurning. Arnaud had been pretty much unmarked in the buildup, and worked some magic to put his side in front.

    The MLS veteran very nearly made it two for his side, as a wicked header eluded Gspurning but found the crossbar instead of the roof of the net. Seattle's best chance to equalize came less than two minutes later as a Brad Evans effort hit the woodwork as well.

    The Sounders will now travel south of the border to take on Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League. Montreal will be back in the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers next week.

Chivas USA 0-3 Columbus Crew

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    The Home Depot Center played host to two matches this weekend, the first of which saw Chivas USA slump to a 3-0 defeat to the Columbus Crew. And it was a familiar name that took the headlines in this one.

    The same day as his brother Gonzalo's side vanquished Barcelona across the Atlantic, 2012 MLS Newcomer of the Year Federico Higuain picked up where he left off for the Crew. Wearing the captain's armband, the Argentine lashed home off the post early in the second half.

    Josh Williams sealed matters late on with an excellent volley off a corner kick, while Dominic Oduro added a third in stoppage time just for good measure. All in all, it was a pretty convincing win and a good home result for the Crew.

    The victors will head up north to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps next, while Chivas will remain at home as FC Dallas come calling.

Los Angeles Galaxy 4-0 Chicago Fire

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    The second game in Carson this weekend kicked off Sunday's action as MLS Cup holders Los Angeles Galaxy gave the Chicago Fire a rude welcome with a thumping victory. Minus David Beckham and Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane was named captain of the squad.

    But it would be Mike Magee stealing the show for the home squad in a performance we're used to seeing from him in the playoffs. The veteran netted three times in a fantastic performance alongside his Irish partner.

    It took a while, but after a few missed opportunities, the 38th minute saw Magee lash a volley that glanced off a defender on its way in. Half an hour later (in game time), Keane found his strike mate with an excellent pass, and Magee unleashed a sweet curler.

    The hat-trick was completed in the 74th minute as Magee chested down a rebound and struck a looping half-volley across his body and in. Keane added a fourth for good measure with a nice sideways volley and his usual tumbling celebration.

    The Galaxy resume their CONCACAF Champions League campaign on the road against Costa Rican side Herediano Thursday. The Fire will look to bounce back at home against the New England Revolution at the weekend.

Portland Timbers 3-3 New York Red Bulls

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    The Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls played out an intriguing affair on Sunday, with the home side coming from two goals down to salvage a 3-3 draw. The biggest stars in the game were new acquisitions on either side.

    The Red Bulls' Fabian Espindola, acquired in a trade with Real Salt Lake, scored twice in the first half before Jamison Olave, who came in the same trade, made it three before the break. Portland's new designated player Diego Valeri scored a sensational equalizer after Espindola's first.

    The second half was all Timbers, and it took 10 minutes for Valeri to force a good save from Jose Robles, but Darlington Nagbe was on hand to stuff home the rebound. The comeback was well and truly on then.

    The equalizer came with seven minutes left, and was deserved but unlucky for the Red Bulls. Nagbe unleashed a powerful effort that was well-saved, and the rebound found Jose Valencia. The Colombian crossed into the middle, and Jamison Olave accidentally guided it home.

    Ryan Johnson nearly gave the home side all three points with a sublime overhead kick in stoppage time, but the draw would suffice. The Timbers get another home game next, as the Montreal Impact visit. The Red Bulls will travel down south to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.

San Jose Earthquakes 0-2 Real Salt Lake

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    Speaking of the Quakes, the reigning Supporters' Shield winners hosted Real Salt Lake in their respective season openers. The visitors left it late, but scored twice inside the final 20 minutes to snatch three big early points.

    The Quakes had tons of opportunities to open the scoring themselves, but star striker Chris Wondolowski missed a series of chances. The best one came off a 15th-minute corner, as a well-struck half-volley took a couple of deflections and a save from Nick Rimando to hit the underside of the bar and stay out.

    The home side were made to pay for not converting by Alvaro Saborio. With Fabian Espindola gone, the Costa Rican will have to carry the load for Salt Lake, and he showed he can do just that in this one.

    He opened the scoring in the 71st minute, getting on the end of a lofted ball from Ecuadorian winger Joao Plata and smashing home from the top of the box. He then put the game to rest with a left-footed effort across the face of goal, zipping past Quakes keeper Jon Busch.

    The 2009 MLS Cup winners are back on the road next week to take on D.C. United, while the Quakes remain at home as the Red Bulls come calling.