Best and Worst from MLS Week 1: Robbie Keane, Chivas USA and More
The worst action in MLS Week 1 featured Robbie Keane, the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United, but what about the best?
Will Bruin is a solid contender after scoring a brace in the first 13 minutes of the Houston Dynamo's 2014 campaign. Kenny Miller followed suit for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the club's 4-1 undressing of the New York Red Bulls. Even his teammate Sebastian Fernandez was worthy of mention after opening his MLS account with vehement force.
But all three won't be featured on the list of best and worst from MLS Week 1.
Read on to find out why.
Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to Squawka. All data collected is licensed from Opta Sports.
Best: Mauro Diaz's Free-Kick
David Ferreira who?
FC Dallas' decision to decline the option of the former MLS MVP (2010) wasn't necessarily a peculiar one. Ferriera—now 34 years of age—only managed to start in 47 percent of the club's 102 matches since 2011. Whatever doubt the move created, however, dissipated with Mauro Diaz's performance in Week 1.
A nuisance in the midfield, the Argentine completed 43 of his 49 attempted passes in Dallas' 3-2 victory over the Montreal Impact. Two key passes, three successful dribbles and a drawn penalty were enough for his Canadian opposition to have a conniption fit on the pitch.
But nothing tops a free-kick stunner.
Nineteen yards. With pace. Bent.
I knew that the wall was too close to the [goal]keeper and if I was able to put it over the wall, it was going to be really hard for the [goal]keeper to react to that one so close. Luckily, I hit it right and the ball went inside.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better strike in Week 1.
Worst: D.C. United Still Stuck in 2013
Apparently, head coach Ben Olsen didn't get the memo.
Following the worst regular season in MLS history—one followed by a complete offseason makeover—D.C. United were expected to turn over a new leaf. The acquisitions of Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke were hailed as the cure for the club's defensive woes. Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola were brought to restore health to an impotent attack.
Instead, the same Black and Red who suffered the worst goal differential in the Eastern Conference last season (minus-37) picked up right where they left off.
Zero goals and a slew of defensive errors plagued United's opener.
It wasn't a just a 3-0 loss at RFK stadium; this bordered on assault.
The Crew strung together 505 intricate passes that allowed them to dominate 57.2 percent of the possession in Week 1. An above-average 40.9 percent of their crosses accurately landed, and five of their nine shots were on target. D.C. only managed to muster one on frame.
It came just a few touches from the center circle.
The defense didn't fare any better, either.
A refurbished back four was unable to handle Columbus' probing attack. The ferocity and deadliness of the Crew's first-touch distribution was delivered with enough pace to leave the United defense bewildered. Perry Kitchen's takedown of Michael Parkhurst inside the area was just the icing on the cake.
According to United's Nick DeLeon, per the club's official website, getting on the same page remains an issue for the Black and Red:
Yeah, we definitely shouldn't lose 3-0, but it is what it is. We have to stay positive. We have a good group of guys with talent. It is a lot of new pieces, so it might take a bit for us to all get together on the same page.
It didn't take much time for Columbus' new pieces to get on the same page, though. The Crew debuted a back line featuring Waylon Francis, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Michael Parkhurst in Week 1. Parkhurst hadn't faced competition on this side of the pond since 2008, and the Costa Rican duo of Francis and Gonzalez made its MLS debut Saturday night. The trio more than held its own en route to a clean sheet.
Fortunately for D.C., two weeks remain before the club either performs or invents the latest excuse.
Best: Late Drama in the Pacific Northwest
MLS's season opener was anything but aesthetically pleasing to the eye. A heated contest between the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City delivered scoreless football and 40 combined fouls for well over 90 minutes.
SKC were responsible for 25 of them.
Looking for a winner, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid turned to the bench and brought on Clint Dempsey in the 57th minute. When that didn't work, Chad Barrett came on in the 78th minute to replace the newly acquired Kenny Cooper. The two substitutions would eventually pay off for Coach Schmid. Dempsey's header off the crossbar in injury time was followed by a weak scissor attempt that only Barrett could clean up.
The scrappy goal symbolized the 93 minutes that preceded it.
The Sounders found their winner en route to a 1-0 victory.
Not to be outdone, however, the Portland Timbers enjoyed some late magic of their own at Providence Park.
Trailing for a majority of the second half, the Timbers fired an onslaught in the direction of the Philadelphia Union. The club's 59.8 percent possession would finally be rewarded on—of all things—a set piece. Gaston Fernandez's match-winner in the 93rd minute didn't just open his MLS account, it helped his club salvage a point at home.
Unfortunately, Root Sports didn't care enough to allow us to see it live.
Worst: Robbie Keane's Missed Penalty Kick
Landon Donovan's quest for illustrious goal No. 135 is a matter of when, not if. With 134 career strikes, the 13-year MLS veteran is on the cusp of making history and usurping Jeff Cunningham as the most prolific goalscorer in league history.
That moment could've come in the dying minutes of the Los Angeles Galaxy's 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake.
After newcomer Rob Friend earned a penalty softer than a mother's touch in the 92nd minute, it was Robbie Keane, not Donovan, who approached the spot. A half-hearted stutter would be denied by Nick Rimando. The clean sheet would be preserved.
History will have to wait at least one more week.
Best: A Reborn Chivas USA
Every dog has its day.
For the club soon to be formerly known as Chivas USA, Sunday is sure to be the first of many for this tormented underdog.
The proverbial punchlines still permeated the StubHub Center in the first 75 minutes of Chivas' 3-2 victory over the Chicago Fire. Attendance figures embarrassingly remained in four figures (8,320). A 2-0 lead evaporated in the span of six minutes. It only took Benji Joya one touch to open his MLS account for crying out loud.
But a towering set-piece header in the 88th minute turned the page on years of MLS purgatory.
Alicia Rodriguez carried the words of match-winning Bobby Burling on MLS's official website:
I think the page is turned. We're not talking about last year, we're not talking about seven years ago, we're talking about this year. It's a new team, a lot of turnover, in the front office as well as the team itself. I'm happy to be a part of it as well, but we're not talking about the past, we're talking about this season.
This season is all Chivas USA will have. An expected rebrand and evisceration of the worst experiment in professional sports will come in the offseason. For the 18 players in uniform, however, that alteration is already taking place.
Worst: New York's Painful Start
D.C. United weren't the only ones to debut a fragmented back line in Week 1. The New York Red Bulls were forced to do the same ahead of their season opener in Vancouver. Newcomers Bobby Convey, Richard Eckersley and Armando were teamed with center-back Ibrahim Sekagya for New York's mortifying 4-1 loss to the Whitecaps.
Fortunately, true leadership exists in the Big Apple.
A lack of cohesion wasn't to blame here. Head coach Mike Petke was, according to Petke himself (h/t to Franco Panizo on MLS's official site):
I got it completely wrong. It comes down to me. That's all. What can I elaborate on? My gameplan, obviously, was wrong. The whole focus was for the first game [during] the whole preseason and the week leading up, and with the result, I got it wrong...My approach to the game, putting players in better spots, analyzing a little better and giving players better information [were things I could've done differently]...What I said to the players is, "Get it out of your head, go home, reflect a little bit, and I will do my best to come up with something better."
The true blame should fall on the shoulders of the Whitecaps. A sensational debut from Sebastian Fernandez was only one of the many bright spots for newly appointed head coach Carl Robinson. A profusion of credit should be aimed in their direction.
That said, there is truth in Coach Petke's statements.
The word "continuity" should have had its own hashtag for the way it was trending for New York during the offseason. Rather than start a back four with zero familiarity in Week 1, Coach Petke would've been better suited relying on a returning player like Kosuke Kimura or Roy Miller instead.
Eduardo Mendez is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and analyst for Opta Sports. Follow him on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics. Follow @Mendez_FC