Climbing the Ladder: Successful stadium openers

Climbing the Ladder: Livestrong Sporting Park

Photo Credit: 
Sporting Kansas City

One of the most anticipated games of the 2011 regular season has finally arrived, as Sporting Kansas City open their brand new soccer-specific stadium on Thursday night.

When Sporting host the Chicago Fire at Livestrong Sporting Park (10 pm ET; ESPN2/TSN2), it will be the 11th such stadium opening in Major League Soccer (including Portland's JELD-WEN Field, which was reconfigured for soccer only). Anything less than a win will be a disappointment for the home side.

Previous soccer-specific stadium openers

 

Date

Stadium

Home

Score

Away

1

5/15/1999

Columbus Crew Stadium

Columbus

2-0

New England

2

6/7/2003

Home Depot Center

LA Galaxy

2-0

Colorado

3

8/6/2005

Pizza Hut Park

FC Dallas

2-2

New York

4

6/11/2006

Toyota Park

Chicago

3-3

New England

5

4/7/2007

Dick's Sporting Goods Park

Colorado

2-1

D.C. United

6

4/28/2007

BMO Field

Toronto FC

0-1

Kansas City

7

10/9/2008

Rio Tinto Stadium

Real Salt Lake

1-1

New York

8

3/27/2010

Red Bull Arena

New York

1-0

Chicago

9

6/27/2010

PPL Park

Philadelphia

3-1

Seattle

10

4/14/2011

JELD-WEN Field

Portland

4-2

Chicago

Unsurprisingly, the home teams have done well with a 6-1-3 record. Only Toronto FC lost, falling to Kansas City on an 81st-minute Eddie Johnson goal. The Fire, who open Sporting's new stadium on Thursday, have already lost in the Red Bull Arena opener, plus they lost in Portland earlier this year in the Timbers’ first MLS home game.

If that’s not enough to concern Chicago, there’s also Sporting's superb record in season home openers: 11-2-2. The 11 wins are tied with New England for the most in league history. However, the Revolution have five losses to go along with those wins.

If the Fire fall behind, then they’d do well to remember their own experience at Toyota Park back in 2006. When Calen Carr scored to put them up 3-1 in the 91st minute, it seemed like the three points were a certainty. That’s before New England’s Steve Ralston and Andy Dorman netted in the 93rd and 94th minutes to spoil the occasion in one of the most dramatic finishes ever. That game was played under a smaller capacity — though it was the first game there, it wasn’t the official “grand opening.”

New York also came back from a 2-0 deficit against FC Dallas in the Pizza Hut Park opener on the back of two Youri Djorkaeff goals, the second of which was a beautifully placed shot from outside the box that eluded the goalkeeper, Jeff Cassar. Seven of the nine games have featured a goal in the opening half, so be on the lookout for an early goal on Thursday.

Jakovic’s defending has been penalized often

           WATCH: Jakovic pulls down Cooper
Get Microsoft Silverlight

D.C. United defender Dejan Jakovic just suffered a hamstring injury while playing for Canada in a pre-Gold Cup friendly, and he’ll miss a month or more of action. It’s an unlucky break for the player and his team, but at least he won’t be able to add to his league lead in penalties conceded.

The Canadian was whistled for a hand ball in the opening week against Columbus, then for two fouls in the box in May: one on Seattle’s Fredy Montero and the other on Portland’s Kenny Cooper (which led to all that drama with Bill Hamid). That’s a total of three penalties; no other player this season has conceded more than one. Interestingly, DC have gone on to win all three of those games, so it hasn’t hurt them in the standings.

Last year, the only player to concede as many was Seattle’s Jeff Parke with three. In the last five seasons, the highest single season total goes to Danny O’Rourke for Columbus in 2008. He gave away four penalty kicks — all in the Crew’s first 13 games as he adjusted to a new role on the back line.

DC’s Chris Pontius and Vancouver’s Camilo both have earned two penalties, tops so far in 2011. Last year, league MVP David Ferreira of FC Dallas led MLS with four.

Most games in a season series between two MLS teams

Columbus host Real Salt Lake on Wednesday in the third of four meetings between the teams this season, after the Utah squad was victorious in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series between the two clubs. If the chips fall the right way, there’s a small chance they could also meet in the playoffs twice and the US Open Cup for a maximum of seven games between them in a single calendar year.

That many games between two teams seems highly unusual now, but before expansion led to a more balanced schedule, seven games in a season series happened quite a number of times — 20 times, to be exact. Most of those occurred before the change to the current playoff format in 2003, and it’s been five years since the last seven-game series. Chicago-New England and D.C. United-New York both met seven times in 2006.

The record for the most games in one season for a single matchup is eight, between Colorado and Dallas in 2002. They met four times in the regular season, three times in the playoffs and in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup. Though Dallas had the better overall record in those games, the Rapids had the last laugh, advancing in the playoffs in Carlos Valderrama’s final season.