As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.
27 – goals scored during the opening week of the 2011 season
All 18 teams took the field during opening week in 2011 – a stretch of 10 games that featured 27 goals, including the No. 8,000 in league history, and the introduction of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers to MLS.
Roughly one year later, another new team will make their first appearance in MLS, as the Montreal Impact travel to Vancouver's BC Place (above) to fire an early salvo in what is now a three-way battle for Canadian domination. The Whitecaps had a similar fixture last season, a 4-2 victory at home against Toronto FC, that started the season brightly before the summer and fall pushed them all the way down the table. While the 'Caps look to repeat history and improve on a largely disappointing 2011 season, Jesse Marsch and Montreal will hope to start their first go-round in the top flight on the right foot.
For their part, Toronto scuffled along early on, but seem to have righted the ship with the additions of Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, and open their sixth campaign with an enormous CONCACAF Champions League home-and-away tie with the LA Galaxy. They will be one of three teams – Seattle and Chicago are the others – to beg out of opening weekend, left to focus on their continental commitments.
Another interesting opening day tidbit boils down the the fixtures themselves. Following an offseason that saw the schedule become unbalanced between the Eastern and Western Conferences, six out of eight matches will cross divisional lines. Only LA against RSL and SKC's visit to D.C. United will be conference showdowns, leaving some rivalries to smolder for awhile longer.
Finally, March 10 will mark the beginning of the longest MLS season to date. For nine months, 19 teams will seperate themselves, then pare themselves down until a champion is determined on Dec. 1 in the first MLS Cup to be played under the new venue format. The hardest part now is just waiting for the action to begin.
From March 10-12, MLS teams will play eight games in the span of 72 hours as the 2012 season gets underway. GET TICKETS!