Kick Off: With MLS opening weekend done and dusted, who impressed and who fell short?
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today:
1. SEATTLE LEAVE IT LATE
They left it very late, but the Seattle Sounders got their new season off to a winning start with a 1-0 win against Sporting Kansas City (watch highlights here). It was Chad Barrett, of all people, who scored the winning goal after some fine work in the build up from Clint Dempsey, as Sporting were left to rue their defensive lapse. For Sounders captain Brad Evans, this is just the start of, hopefully, a huge year, but it’s officially the end of the line for Shalrie Joseph after the club bought out his contract. Will he find a new MLS team?
2. BRUIN FINDS HIS FORM
The Houston Dynamo had promised a new style of soccer heading into this season and they certainly delivered on Saturday night, destroying the New England Revolution, 4-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium (watch highlights here). Will Bruin, looking like a new man, scored two and earned an assist. Afterward, he explained that he never lost faith in himself. While Houston can quite comfortably believe they’ve set the tone for their season, Revolution coach Jay Heaps had a far more blunt appraisal of his own team: “It’s a poor start. It’s just not good enough on all fronts.”
3. DALLAS EDGE THE IMPACT
Having parted ways with Eric Hassli and choosing to re-sign Victor Ulloa prior to the game, FC Dallas and the Montreal Impact battled it out in an entertaining 3-2 victory for FC Dallas (watch highlights here). The Dallas players were quick to praise Mauro Diaz, while the Impact could only lament the “soft goals” they conceded. Montreal may feel they could still do with some reinforcements, and it seems the club could be close to bringing home a Canadian international.
4. SAME AS IT EVER WAS FOR D.C.
Despite all the offseason changes, D.C. United picked up exactly where they left off in 2013, falling to a 3-0 defeat against the Columbus Crew (watch highlights here). Gregg Berhalter may have enjoyed his first MLS victory as Columbus Crew head coach, but he knows there is still a long way to go. It’s an even longer way for United, though, and the team feels it will take a little time to come together. Perhaps that’s something new assistant coach Amos Magee can help them achieve.
5. 'CAPS ROMP PAST RED BULLS
Carl Robinson’s tenure in Vancouver got off to a fantastic start following a 4-1 win against the New York Red Bulls (watch highlights here), and the new head coach believes it was “written in the stars.” The Red Bulls, missing Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, failed to offer much in reply to the Whitecaps new attacking impetus, and head coach Mike Petke took the blame in its entirety. There was some good news for Petke’s team, however, as the day before the game the club signed three new players.
6. POINT APIECE FOR PORTLAND AND PHILLY
The Portland Timbers started their new season with an interesting 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union (watch highlights here). New Argentine striker Gaston Fernandez came to the Timbers' rescue in the dying seconds of the game to earn the point, and Caleb Porter hopes that goal will now unlock the floodgates. His side were also galvanized by the news of Will Johnson’s contract extension. The Union, on the other hand, were obviously disappointed to concede late, but can otherwise be happy with their performance.
7. RIMANDO STANDS ON HIS HEAD
Real Salt Lake earned a 1-0 victory on the road vs. the LA Galaxy (watch highlights here) to ensure that Jeff Cassar’s reign as head coach got off to the right start. Joao Plata scored the goal and RSL got some heroics from Nick Rimando, who saved a penalty and denied Landon Donovan his record-breaking goal. Still, it could have gone differently, and the Galaxy were left to regret what they consider a series of wasted opportunities.
8. CHIVAS USA PUT OUT THE FIRE
The club in its final season as Chivas USA got off on the right foot with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire (watch highlights here). Chivas went 2-0 up before being pegged back to 2-2. That is until Bobby Burling rose to head home a Mauro Rosales corner and secure the victory. The goats looked noticably improved, and as Burling notes, they’re putting 2013 behind them: “We’re not talking about last year, we’re not talking about seven years ago, we’re talking about this year.” The Fire, on the other hand, will be hoping not to repeat some of their defensive errors next time around.
9. RAPIDS NAME NEW COACH
The Colorado Rapids may not have had a game this weekend, but they certainly had some big news to drop as they announced that Pablo Mastroeni has been officially appointed the club's head coach. For many, Mastroeni was always the No. 1 choice, with confusion as to why it was taking so long to announce the inevitable. In the words of Rapids president Tim Hinchey: “We wanted to make a decision for the next 10 years, not just the season.”
10. QUAKES OF THE FUTURE
The San Jose Earthquakes also had the weekend off and, as they prepare for their CONCACAF Champions League encounter on Tuesday, the club added two new defenders from the 2014 Superdraft on Friday. Joe Sofia was a second-round pick for the Quakes while Ryan Neil was a first-round choice for Real Salt Lake, who later opted not to offer the player a contract.
11. CONTINENTAL BENEFIT?
With the opening weekend done and dusted, attention now turns to this week's CCL quarterfinal matchups. As the Quakes get ready to face off against Toluca, one of the Mexican side’s former players believes that MLS teams could, and should, play in the Copa Libertadores. As Fabian Estay believes, “These types of competition have generated the maturity the Mexican player needs.”
12. GOING ON LOAN
There has been no official confirmation on this yet, but it looks like Toronto FC will sign SuperDraft pick Dan Lovitz, with the midfielder set to be loaned to the club's USL PRO affiliate, the Wilmington Hammerheads. TFC aren’t the only Canadian club who’ve finalized some of their affiliate loans, as the Vancouver Whitecaps announced which players will be joining the Charleston Battery to begin the year.
13. PLAYING AWAY
The playoffs are a long way away at this point, but when they do eventually roll around, there will be a new rule to pay attention to. For the first time in MLS history, this season will see the introduction of the away-goals rule. There were also one or two other little tweaks to the rules that you might want to familiarize yourself with.
14. BUILDING IN NEW YORK
When New York City FC enter MLS in 2015, they will not have their own stadium. That’s common knowledge at this point, but with the suggestion that NYCFC could be considering a temporary home outside the five boroughs in Westchester County, what would this mean for both fans and the team? Staying with New York, it seems Bayern Munich aren’t the only ones trying to capitalize on the American market this year, as Argentine giants Boca Juniors are set to open an academy on Long Island.
15. POPULARITY CONTEST
There were some impressive opening-weekend attendance figures for MLS teams, which included a record-setting crowd for the Seattle Sounders. With that in mind, it’s hard to deny that soccer’s popularity continues to rise, a trend which looks set to continue for years to come after some research by ESPN revealed that MLS has now equaled MLB in popularity amongst 12- to 17-year-olds.
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