Kick Off: Canadian triumphs and the return of the "Goonies"

Here are the Top 15 stories we’re following on the soccer scene today:

1. YEAR OF THE MAPLE LEAF?

With Week 2 done and dusted, who would’ve predicted Canadian dominance in both the East and Western Conferences? Kudos if you did. Belying their quiet optimistism, both Vancouver and Montreal have enjoyed stellar starts to the 2013 campaign, with the Impact sealing a road wins against Seattle and Portland to open up with Cascadia domination. Vancouver could and should have beaten Columbus by a larger margin but the ‘Caps begin 2013 just as they started 2012: on fire. See all the goals from MLS this weekend, with the goal timeline from Saturday and Sunday.

2. TFC TURNING THE CORNER?

It turned out to be a terrific weekend for all three Canadian teams, as Toronto FC also triumphed in the early game on Saturday by defeating Sporting KC 2-1 at the Rogers Centre. Robert Earnshaw scored his first two MLS goals to give Ryan Nelsen his first managerial win. Now, can Toronto build on that?

3. THE GOONIES: PART II

“Hey youuuuuu guys!” We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Trailing the New York Red Bulls with seven minutes left at Buck Shaw, you knew the Quakes weren’t going to lie down. Step up rookie forward Adam Jahn to equalize and then win a last-gasp PK that captain Chris Wondolowski converted. The Goonies have a new hero: “Lenny and Gordo were saying, ‘The new Goonie’s here,'” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. I can feel a sequel coming on…

4. EL CHELÍS’ CHIVAS ON THEIR WAY

What a difference a week makes. Many predicted a long, hard struggle for the Goats this season after an opening day drubbing. But they defeated FC Dallas 3-1 on Sunday, with late goals giving José Luis Sánchez Solá his first win in MLS: “With us down a goal on our own pitch and the time constricted, we raised our heads from the dead.” Juan Agudelo led the way with a sublime equalizer. Oh, and check out the full transcript of Chelís' postgame press conference. The man is certainly quotable.

5. TIME TO PANIC IN THE WINDY CITY?

Opening up 2013 with two straight losses, failing to score a goal and conceding five isn’t ideal. But are Frank Klopas’ Chicago Fire side really heading in a downward spiral? Undoubtedly veteran defender Arne Friedrich has been missed at the back, but Klopas’ comments following the 1-0 loss to New England on Saturday focused on the forward line, and one player in particular: “We took out MacDonald because we needed him more. We needed him to hold the ball better. He had a couple of chances he didn't put away.”

6. RED BULLS LOOK TO BARÇA

Reports out of Spain this morning have Barcelona fitness coach Alberto Altarriba heading to the New York Red Bulls. Altarriba has been responsible for the fitness drills and preparation for Barça’s B squad, which has nurtured many of their homegrown talents such as Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. After giving up late leads in both their opening fixtures, Mike Petke's RBNY could certainly do with some extra stamina. 

7. MILLER TIME

OK, sorry Red Bulls fans to linger on yet another demoralizing late defeat. But Roy Miller just had one of those nights at Buck Shaw on Sunday. Losing his marker for the first goal and giving away a PK on the game-winner was bad enough. But to add insult to injury, Miller encroached into the box on the initial spot kick from Wondolowski that was saved … only for the referee to order a retake due to Miller’s over-eagerness. Wondo scored at the second attempt to send New York home with nothing. The only way is up, Roy.

8. RAPIDS BEMOAN YET ANOTHER BLUNDER AT THE BACK

There’s an old adage in soccer which goes something like this, “If you can’t win, then you shouldn’t lose.” But if Colorado keep on giving soft goals away, that’ll be hugely difficult. After Steward Ceus’ mistake cost them against FC Dallas last week, Matt Pickens misjudged a corner to let Amobi Okugo head home Philly’s opener in the storm-delayed 2-1 defeat to the Union on Sunday.

9. TOP 3 PERFORMERS IN WEEK 2?

San Jose’s newest Goonie, Adam Jahn, and his late-game heroics? Juan Agudelo’s ice-cool finish for Chivas? Or Robert Earnshaw’s double to give Toronto their first win of Ryan Nelsen’s reign against SKC? Vote here for your top three performers in Week 2.

10. SOUNDERS HOPE TO LEAD BY EXAMPLE

This week is a big one for MLS, and three of its teams in particular. The LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders all face the second-leg of their CCL quarterfinals without any room for error. The Sounders are aiming to make history and be the first MLS side to defeat a Mexican outfit in five attempts since the tournament was revamped in ’08. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said: “It would be a great sign for US soccer if we can beat the Mexicans because [in Mexico] it’s just soccer there. It would really hurt them and we want to make this possible.” Meanwhile, Herculez Gomez and Santos are warming up nicely for the visit of Houston.

11. UNITED STATES OF… STOKE?

We all know Stoke City manager Tony Pulis loves a USMNT and MLS star. And it seems as though his affection for American soccer players is growing stronger: “The Americans are a bit like the Australians, they are fantastic sports people. We might add another one next year. Newcastle have done fantastic with French players and we're trying to find a market that suits us." "Fulhamerica" is a thing of the past; all hail the Unites States of Stoke. The English press have finally picked up on Brek Shea’s artistic side, too.

12. GUZAN’S THE MAN

Tim Howard is out injured. OK, cause for concern for the USMNT. But with Brad Guzan in sensational form for Aston Villa, who beat Reading 2-1 on Saturday, there should be no reason for US fans to panic during the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. According to Villa manager Paul Lambert, Guzan’s been “colossal.” So should Guzan start? Or should Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson or Bill Hamid be given an opportunity? Check out how the other American Exports got on this weekend.

13. BECKHAM TOPS ANOTHER LIST

So David Beckham wins yet another title. The former LA star topped soccer’s rich list, with a net worth of over $260 million. The study from Goal.com also revealed that 8 percent of the world’s richest players have played in MLS at one time or another during their career.

14. GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY IN MLS, YES OR NO?

It is time to re-open this debate. This argument will continue to rumble on until the technology is implemented. But with the EPL set to roll it out next season, should MLS follow suit? Yesterday’s Edinburgh derby between Hibernian and Hearts produced yet another compelling example as to why it’s needed. Hibs’ striker Lee Griffiths saw his long-range free kick clearly go over the line, but no goal was given.

15. AND FINALLY…

A game in Switzerland came to a halt this weekend, and resulted in a nasty injury for one player. And no, it wasn’t because of a bad tackle or some fan violence. Watch this video as a speedy Marten caused havoc in the game between FC Thun and FC Zürich and nearly cost a player his finger. I say sign him up. The Marten’s certainly quick, agile and has an impressive bite in the tackle….

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