Jay DeMerit and the Vancouver Whitecaps are off to a strong defensive start this season.
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Climbing the Ladder: Shutout streaks to open the season

The season is only two weeks old, but that’s more than enough time for first impressions to be made.

For Houston, Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver, it’s been a bright start with two wins and two shutouts. Starting the season with 180 scoreless minutes may not seem like a lot, but only 16 previous MLS teams have done it in as many years.

Most Minutes without Allowing a Goal to Start a Season
Rank Year Team Mins.
1 2007 New York 421
2 2009 Seattle 350
3 1999 Dallas 344
4 2010 LA 311
5 2010 KC 269
6 1998 Chicago 256
7 2007 Houston 240
8 2011 New York 230
9 1996 Dallas 228
10 2010 New York 227

Of those 16, only four posted a third opening clean sheet, and only the 2007 New York Red Bulls kicked off the season with four in a row. Their shutout streak of 421 minutes remains the longest to begin a season (table at right), although it was mostly all downhill afterwards.

Up 2-0 in the fifth game of the year at winless Real Salt Lake, Chris Klein scored a stunner from outside the box to end the streak. Just 11 minutes later, goalkeeper Ronald Wattereus left the game because of injury (his form wasn’t the same upon his return), and the game ended with two RSL goals in the dying minutes to finish 3-3.

It was the third straight season New York went to Utah and gave away a win at the death, and it was a reminder that maybe that team wasn’t quite as solid defensively as the initial games suggested. Indeed, the Red Bulls finished that year as only the ninth-best defense in a 13-team league.

The 2012 Houston Dynamo, though, probably don’t expect things to go sour. They’re the first team to play their initial two games on the road and record two shutout victories in the process.

Most Minutes without Scoring a Goal to Start a Season
Rank Year Team Mins.
1 2007 Toronto 384
2 1999 KC 357
3 2004 Chicago 327
4 1998 Miami 297
5 2011 Seattle 260
6 2010 D.C. United 243
7 2010 Chivas 227
8 2008 San Jose 223
9 2007 Columbus 188
10 1996 D.C. United 187

Meanwhile, Chivas USA and New England have started the year with two scoreless losses. That’s a dubious feat only 10 previous teams can match, but among them are last year’s Seattle Sounders (table at right), who finished with the league’s best offense and one of the best win/loss records of all time.

There’s also the case of the first MLS Cup champions, D.C. United in 1996, who turned things around and won 14 of 17 in all competitions to end the year, doing the double in the process.

So there’s still plenty of reason to be hopeful, although Chivas fans may be less optimistic since both games were at home. Previously, only the expansion 1998 Miami Fusion played two opening games at home without scoring.

Another expansion team holds the record for most scoreless minutes to start the season. In 2007, one week after Chris Klein had scored against New York, Toronto FC didn’t get their first goal until Danny Dichio netted in the 24th minute of their fifth game, becoming a team hero in the process.

No rookies for Dallas is no surprise

Another season opener has come and gone, and one thing has been consistent since Major League Soccer began: FC Dallas didn’t have a rookie in their starting lineup. Every year for 16 years, that’s been the case for the regular season’s first game. In the meantime, every other 1996 team has started at least four rookies in openers, including the defunct-for-10-years Tampa Bay Mutiny.

Sure, they’ve used rookies as substitutes in openers before. But even that’s been quite rare; Eric Alexander’s appearance in the 2010 opener was the only such case in the past decade. So while first-round SuperDraft pick Matt Hedges was in the 18-man roster against New York on March 11, the North Carolina defender’s lack of an appearance fits in with team history.

No team started more than a single rookie this year, but it’s happened before on numerous occasions. Four teams have even started three rookies in their season opener. They are 2000 Colorado (Adin Brown, Jeff DiMaria, Lance Key), 2003 New York (Ricardo Clark, Jacob LeBlanc, Mike Magee), 2006 Chivas USA (Jonathan Bornstein, Sacha Kljestan, Lawson Vaughn) and 2007 New England Revolution (Adam Cristman, Gary Flood, Wells Thompson).

LA/NY both suffer consecutive losses early in 2012, ending long streaks

A couple weeks ago, this column featured LA and New York’s long streaks without losing consecutive games entering the year. Well, that didn’t last long.

New York’s second straight loss on Saturday was the first time in 55 regular-season games that they lost two in a row, only four short of the record. Earlier in the week, LA ended a similarly impressive streak that encompassed all competitions at 57 games by following the Real Salt Lake loss with one against Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League.

However, the Galaxy did recover to defeat D.C. on Sunday, ensuring that United’s current record of 82 regular-season games without winning consecutively continues.

Check out the latest episode of ExtraTime Radio, featuring Davy Arnaud from the Montreal Impact and David Estrada from the Seattle Sounders