Kick Off: Jermain Defoe helps open new era for Toronto FC with a bang
Here are the top 15 soccer stories we’re following today.
1. A NEW ERA FOR TORONTO FC?
New-look Toronto FC got their season off to a winning start Satuday with a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field (watch highlights here), and the hero in his his first MLS game was one of their new signings. English striker Jermain Defoe scored a pair of goals before the first half was through, and TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen wasn’t surprised by his new striker's performance. On the Sounders' side, head coach Sigi Schmid was left to lament his team’s defensive errors, just another issue for Schmid to consider as he continues arguably his most important year in Seattle.
2. IS BMO FIELD EXPANSION SET TO GO?
It was revealed on Friday that Toronto FC could be on the verge of yet another new player signing, and this time it look as though they’ll be bringing home a Canadian international in the form of Issey Nakajima-Farran. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke has other things on his mind as well, though, as it seems he has his mind made up when it comes to the future of BMO Field, and that means a $120 million upgrade.
3. ALL SQUARE AT RED BULL ARENA
Despite a first-half goal from Thierry Henry that prompted another unique celebration, the Colorado Rapids came away from their encounter with the defending Suporters' Shield champion New York Red Bulls with a 1-1 draw (watch highlights here) thanks to a somewhat dubious penalty decision. In spite of this, RBNY head coach Mike Petke refused to blame the referee, instead suggesting, “At times we lacked creativity and imagination.” Conversely, Rapids boss Pablo Mastroeni was pleased with his team’s performance during their opening game. Still, regardless of the result at RBA, there were some Red Bulls fans who will have been enjoying themselves no matter what.
4. THE GOONIES DO IT AGAIN
The San Jose Earthquakes hosted Real Salt Lake on Saturday and, once again, that “never say die” attitude was on display as the Quakes grabbed an injury-time equalizer to ensure a 3-3 draw (watch highlights here). While Real Salt Lake were unsurprisingly unhappy to give up two-goal lead, for the Earthquakes it was Victor Bernardez to the rescue this time.
5. DYNAMO’S PERFECT START CONTINUES
The Houston Dynamo maintained their perfect start to the season Saturday with a 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact (watch highlights here). Not only are the Dynamo the only team to bag six points so far, they’ve also yet to concede a goal: “It’s a testament to this team knowing we can play pretty and knowing we can get results," said midfielder Brad Davis. While the result marked another loss for the Montreal Impact, the team can at least take heart from an improved defensive display.
6. SPORTING KC STILL WINLESS
The defending MLS Cup champions are still winless after two games this season after a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas on Saturday (watch highlights here). Defender Aurelien Collin’s put his side ahead in the 81st minute but, for the second consecutive week, SKC conceded a goal in stoppage time. It’s a fact that Sporting head coach Peter Vermes labelled “unacceptable,” insisting, “I’m not happy and the guys know it. It’s not who we are.” FCD head coach Oscar Pareja, however, was full of praise for the character shown by his side.
7. SURPRISE STARTER FOR PHILADELPHIA
The Philadelphia Union beat the New England Revolution 1-0 on Saturday to secure an important win in their home opener on Saturday (watch highlights here). Sebastien Le Toux scored the goal from a Leo Fernandes assist and it seems to have been fate, as the attacking midfielder was a literal last minute addition to the starting lineup. While the Union's game was notable for the player who made the team, New England’s was conspicuous by who didn’t, with Jose Goncalves missing in action.
8. ANOTHER POINT FOR PORTLAND
The Portland Timbers gave up an early penalty but fought back to earn a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire on Sunday (watch highlights here). The Timbers pushed hard for a winner and, while it wasn’t to be, head coach Caleb Porter was still full of praise for Gaston Fernandez, scoring his second goal in two games. For the Fire on the other hand, the result helped validate both their game plan and new-look starting lineup.
9. CHIVAS USA DIG DEEP AGAINST WHITECAPS
The Vancouver Whitecaps had to fight harder than expected to salvage a 1-1 draw on the road Sunday against Chivas USA (watch highlights here), especially since Chivas played most of the game down a man. By ‘Caps head coach Carl Robinson’s own admission his team didn’t perform for each other, but Chivas captain Dan Kennedy believes that if the Goats can keep this up they can be a playoff team. With a bright future ahead for LA’s second team, is now the time to start supporting Chivas USA?
10. THE WEEKEND IN 60 SECONDS
Maybe you watched every game in MLS this weekend, but you certainly missed a few things. MLSsoccer.com's Simon Borg has you covered with his look back at all the strange sightings in Week 2 of the regular season, inlcuding a low blow from Clint Dempsey and a botched Tifo display in Kansas City.
11. WATCHING THE CCL OPPONENTS
With the second legs of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals this week, there was no rest for MLS’ Mexican opposition. Two of the teams still alive in the tournament actually faced off, with Club Tijuana edged out by Cruz Azul in a 2-1 defeat. Tijuana, however, rested key players ahead of Tuesday's match against the LA Galaxy. Toluca, meanwhile, lie in wait for the San Jose Earthquakes after they secured a 2-0 win over Camilo Sanvezzo’s Querétaro.
12. LIFE OF RILEY
After joining the Galaxy this winter, James Riley has been busy getting accustomed to yet another new club. Following his side's 1-0 midweek victory over Club Tijuana, Riley spoke to Soccerly (who recently partnered with NBC Sports) about his previous experience in the CCL with the Seattle Sounders, as well as what he expects to see in the Western Conference this season.
13. HERRERA CONFIDENT IN MEXICO
While Carlos Vela may be in self-imposed exile and Javier Hernandez finds himself a permanent bench-warmer in Manchester, Miguel Herrera is confident that Mexico can negotiate their tricky World Cup group without any of their star names. Meanwhile, with so many potential US world Cup strikers scoring at the weekend, Herculez Gomez needs a fresh start pretty quickly if he wants to be considered for a spot on the team.
14. AWAY GOALS
For the first time in MLS history, this year will see the playoffs incorporate the away-goals rule. While this is something that a number of fans have been requesting for sometime now, an equal number are yet to be swayed by the idea and, as SI.com's Brian Straus suggests, the new format could cancel out the advantage of being a higher-seeded team.
15. GOT AMBITION?
On Friday, SI.com’s Grant Wahl released this year’s edition of his annual Ambition Rankings for MLS teams, a non-scientific study into, seemingly, which teams want it more. Unsurprisingly, Toronto FC were at the top of the list, but some of the other rankings may shock you a little bit. It certainly leaves plenty to discuss and, combing through the figures it seems there was plenty to talk about when it comes to MLS’ spending on development.
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