Kick Off: Timbers-Red Bulls thriller highlights opening weekend
OK, maybe every game in Major League Soccer should just be played at JELD-WEN Field.
That was an all-too-familiar sentiment circulating around the internet on Sunday night after the Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls played to a wild 3-3 draw in the best game of opening weekend. Check out all the highlights and a full match recap here.
Portland recovered from 3-1 down to storm back in the second half and stole a point, thanks to an inspired display from new Argentine DP Diego Valeri. Two costly first half errors from new defender Mikaël Silvestre handed Fabián Espíndola his first goals for New York, but the Timbers Army had something to cheer about in the end.
But Thierry Henry wasn’t in a jovial mood after New York’s struggles to get to PDX.
“We didn’t prepare anything because we were at the airport on Friday [and] on Saturday, too, trying to come here," the Red Bulls captain said. "We didn’t prepare the game how we should’ve prepared the game and you could see the last 30 minutes, everyone ran out of steam.”
While Caleb Porter was pleased with his new side in the pulsating tie in front of the Timbers Army. Porter’s former Akron star, Darlington Nagbe, made the difference in the second half, with his old college coach sparking him into life.
“Sometimes with Darlington you have to give him a kick in the ass,” Porter said. “In a positive way, you know, pump him up.”
Let’s zip around the league and recap what was a frenetic and exhilarating first slate of games. The 2013 season kicked off on Saturday at PPL Park, as Sporting KC recovered from an early Sébastien Le Toux goal to dismantle the Union 3-1.
Graham Zusi was again the catalyst for Sporting, with a goal and an assist, as Philadelphia head coach John Hackworth branded his teams display as “unacceptable.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Vancouver won the battle between the two Canadian sides at BC Place, in a narrow 1-0 victory over Toronto FC.
Ryan Nelsen’s first game in charge of the Reds was going well until Gershon Koffie fired in the games only goal on the hour mark.
“We’ve played away from home and delivered a very good account of ourselves and had some very good chances,” Nelsen said. “This team will only get better.”
It was a case of déjà vu for D.C. United as they lost to Houston at BBVA, just like they did during the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship first leg. Two late goals from the Dynamo did the damage, with an own-goal and a Ricardo Clark strike enough to extend Houston’s unbeaten run at home to 26 games, just three off RSL’s MLS record of 29.
Houston’s Texas rivals FC Dallas got off to a winning start, as the Colorado Rapids handed them all three-points on a platter at FC Dallas Stadium.
Rapids backup ‘keeper Steward Ceus won’t want to see this again, as his howler cost Colorado the game in a 1-0 defeat. Coming in for the injured Matt Pickens, Ceus rushed out to clear a long ball only to completely miss it and Jackson rolled in the game-winner for FCD.
That was a shocking mistake, but even more shocking was the result up in Seattle on Saturday night, as the Montreal Impact pulled off a surprise 1-0 win to silence the 38,000-plus crowd at CenturyLink.
Captain Davy Arnaud delivered the goods with a sublime finish as new head coach Marco Schällibaum celebrated victory in his first game in charge: "I tip my hat to the team tonight, as we played a really good side and we did very well defensively. Not many teams win here."
There was one important onlooker in Seattle who had plenty to say to the press. MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke to the media, singling out Montreal for special praise.
“I don’t think Joey Saputo gets enough credit for what he’s done as a first-year team in Major League Soccer,” Garber said. “They built a terrific building, they’ve got a good, strong brand, their team is competitive. One of the reasons I came to this game was not just to see the 45,000-odd people, but to pay my respects to Joey Saputo."
Garber also spoke at lengths about Chivas USA, after Saturday saw them go down 3-0 to a lively Columbus Crew outfit, in front of a low crowd in LA. The Commissioner was mindful of that.
“It hasn’t turned out quite the way we had hoped,” Garber said. “I have not seen a final report on what the attendance is down there, but certainly if it doesn’t grow beyond what I’ve heard their ticket sales have been, I would be concerned about that."
Garber expounded on the topic a bit more with the LA-area media on Sunday night, preaching patience for the local supporters but also admitting the league has begun to assist Chivas USA in their efforts to sell tickets and increase brand awareness.
Soccer America chipped in with this piece about Chivas’ attendance figures, too.
Getting back to Garber, he also spoke about attracting young European players to MLS, expansion, CCL, TV ratings and much more. Read the best snippets from the interview here.
Staying in LA, the LA Galaxy handed out a thumping of their own. They downed the Chicago Fire 4-0, with Mike Magee scoring his first-ever hat trick and Robbie Keane finishing the rout acrobatically.
Magee stepped up to show LA’s fans and the rest of the league that they’re still a big threat without David Beckham and Landon Donovan. And boss Bruce Arena was in awe of Magee’s display, well, once he got going anyway.
“I don't think his first 30 minutes were as good as I'd like to see, [but] I don't want to get on the wrong side of Magee,” Arena said. “Because he could get me fired, I guess, at this point.”
Staying in Cali for the final game of the weekend, defending Supporters’ Shield champs San Jose suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a new look RSL side.
Frank Yallop’s men were wasteful in front of goal as Chris Wondolowski and Mike Fucito both spurned numerous chances. But Álvaro Saborío didn’t follow suit, as he put on a clinical master class to seal all three points for RSL.
Hopping over the Californian border to Mexico, Tab Ramos’ US U-20 side suffered extra time defeat in the CONCACAF U-20 final on Sunday night.
With their ticket already punched for the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey, Ramos’ men went for the title. After a bright start his side struggled with injures and fatigue, as Mexico eventually ran out 3-1 winners in front of a partisan home crowd of 40,000 in Puebla.
Regardless, Ramos was delighted with his youngster’s achievements.
“I have to give the players a lot of credit because it was their first time playing in this situation like this and I think they respond incredibly,” Ramos said. “They played a great game and I’m very proud of that.”
Some lingering transfer rumors came true over the weekend, with Robert Earnshaw joining, and then starting up front for Toronto FC. And many expected Obafemi Martins to be a Sounder by now. But according to this Nigerian outlet, his deal has hit a snag.
“There's a little delay but I'm optimistic everything will be resolved soon," Martins told BBC Sport. "It is only a minor misunderstanding. Hopefully we can sort it out by Monday.”
Martins came off the bench in Levante’s 2-2 derby tie with Valencia at the weekend.
As that saga rolls on, another long-standing story came to an end in Seattle on Saturday. German DP Christian Tiffert has left the Sounders.
“This was not an issue of Christian not performing or not being a good teammate,” Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer said. “It was a just a situational thing with the cap and where we thought we needed to invest big Designated Player dollars.”
While there are plenty of moves in Seattle, the ownership group in Columbus doesn’t intend to depart.
Previously the Hunt family and MLS were thought to be looking for a new buyer. But that’s not the case, according to this piece in the Columbus Dispatch.
“Our desire is to continue to control the club,” Clark Hunt said. “The league has certain rules regarding the minimum ownership that you have to have to control a franchise, and certainly we’ll plan to stay above the minimum.”
Hunt went on to confirm that the Hunt Sports Group is looking for new local investors, to help the Crew grow stronger for the future.
On to stadium news, where Home Depot will no longer serve as the name sponsor for the Galaxy's home facility in Carson, Calif. The folks at StubHub are set to take that mantle in June.
While undoubtedly David Beckham made MLS stronger, as well as the future of soccer in the US, he is now set with a new task to do exactly the same in China. On Monday morning, Beckham was announced as a global ambassador for Chinese football.
"I am honored to have been asked to play such an important role at this special time in Chinese football history," the former LA Galaxy star said. "I'm excited by the prospect of promoting the world's greatest game to Chinese sports fans as I've seen first hand the growing interest in football there,"
His role will involve attending league matches in China and visiting clubs to help promote the game to children.
It’s the city many have earmarked for an MLS expansion franchise ever since the Fusion departed in 2001. Miami.
And reports reached fever pitch on Sunday that MIA could be the site of MLS’ next expansion franchise. SI.com’s Grant Wahl reported Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been contacted by the league with a view to setting up an MLS franchise, and to see if he could include plans for a soccer team in the redevelopment of Sun Life Stadium.
Believe what you will, but the battle for MLS’ next expansion side could be an all-out Floridian brawl with Orlando eager to be ahead of their neighbors to the South.
In Holland a USMNT star continuing to make waves is Jozy Altidore. The AZ Alkmaar striker set a new record for most goals scored by a US player in Europe, with his 24th goal of the season on Sunday. Altidore’s incredible strike rate means he surpasses Clint Dempsey’s record haul with Fulham in the EPL last season. Congrats, Jozy.
You can watch other American Exports in action this afternoon, as Brad Guzan and Eric Lichaj’s Aston Villa take on Manchester City at 3 pm ET. (Live on ESPN2)
And finally, this Argentine policeman clearly wasn’t impressed with Belgrano defender Gastón Turus. So he hit him in the face with a truncheon … wait, what? (Skip to 0:35 seconds in the video and watch No. 25 in the white jersey.)
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