I’ve never been one for using slogans or gimmicks to enhance the importance of the start of a football season but I have to admit that this time, MLS got it right.
First Kick 2011 generated a lot of excitement among the MLS fan base and, for the most part, they responded. Don Garber and the MLS brass, as well as the front offices for each club, should be happy with how this season was kicked off.
Toronto FC 2 – Vancouver Whitecaps 4 (Empire Stadium)
This game represented the first time two Canadian clubs faced off in Major League Soccer. Vancouver being the new kids to the block wanted to come out and make a statement. And it only took them 15 minutes. Designated player Eric Hassli capitalized on poor defensive marking by TFC and struck home with his left past TFC keeper Stefan Frei. It only took TFC five minutes to respond via a nice through ball from Maicon Santos to Dwayne DeRosario who made not mistake when he chipped the keeper. Despite enjoying 66% of possession, the Whitecaps exposed the TFC defense in the 26th minute when Terry Dunfield slotted home a beautiful pass from Davide Chumiento. Atiba Harris made the score line 3-1 in the 63rd minute as 5 TFC defenders watched on as he pounced on a loose ball from a corner kick. Eric Hassli got his second career MLS goal in the 72nd minute when he finished off a tic-tac-toe passing playing that spanned 50 yards and the TFC defense was nowhere to be seen (rightfully so in my opinion because the striker was offside on the through ball). Maicon brought the score line back to 4-2 with a wonderful left foot strike from 25 yards (and my vote for goal of the week). A great debut from Vancouver and a weak performance from Toronto FC. “Total Football” was seen in long stretches for TFC but that has to be coupled with defense before the fans see positive results.
Seattle Sounders 0 – NY Red Bulls 1 (Red Bull Arena, New York)
Seattle came into this game with one defeat already and hoped to get the season going with a win on the road in New York. Unfortunately, they were on the road. And unfortunately, they were in New York. The Red Bulls were barely tested in this match and should have gone up in the 7th minute but Henry failed to convert from the spot (also on my fantasy team). It wasn’t until the 70th when 18-year old Juan Agudelo put NY up 1-0. That’s how it would end and Seattle starts the season 0-2-0 without notching any mark on the score sheet.
Columbus Crew 1 – DC United 3 (RFK Memorial Stadium)
Columbus is fortunate to have one of the more passionate supporters groups in the league but going down 3-0 to any team is a tough pill to swallow. Josh Wolff put United into the lead in the 51st minute and Charlie Davies added two of his own in the 63rd (pen.) and 77th (got him on the fantasy team too!). Chris Pontus earned the penalty when he was pulled down by Rev’s defender Sebastian Miranda. The real story in this game was not the score line but the return of Davies from a serious car accident in October of 2009 which kept him out of World Cup 2010 in South Africa. In this crash, he suffered bleeding on the brain, a broken and dislocated left elbow, a ruptured bladder, and broken bones in his nose, forehead, eye socket and right leg.
Chicago Fire 1 – FC Dallas 1 (Pizza Hut Park)
The 2010 MLS Cup runner-up FC Dallas kicked of 2011 at home to the Chicago Fire on Saturday. Diego Chaves put the visitors ahead in the 17th minute but Milton Rodriguez responded for Dallas a minute later to even the score line. Brek Shea sent off in 55th minute for Dallas. Probably not the way the reigning MLS champions wanted to start the 2011 campaign but they have a chance to stay undefeated next week as they host San Jose.
Philadelphia Union 1 – Houston Dynamo 0 (Robertson Stadium)
Houston Dynamo begins the season as new comers to the Eastern Division. Philadelphia was the guest on Matchday 1 and welcomed the Dynamo to the East with a goal in the 5th minute from Danny Califf. Sebastien Le Toux from a throw in rattled it of the crossbar. Houston had a chance to tie in the 68th minute but Dominic Oduro’s shot from 10 yards found its way over the cross-bar of the empty net. Houston produced twice as many shots (14 vs. 7) but managed only three on goal to the Union’s four.
Portland Timbers 1 – Colorado Rapids 3 (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park)
The defending MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids wasted no time in getting back to their winning ways as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the 31st minute (welcome to the MLS Portland). Goals from Jeff Larentowicz (9th min), Omar Cummings (30th min) and Jamie Smith (31st min). Kenny Cooper pulled one back for Portland in the 79th minute. Cooper returned was Portland’s biggest signing prior to their first season. Kenny returns to the MLS from spending the last with Plymouth Argyle (loaned from 1860 Munich).
Sporting Kansas 3 – Chivas USA 2 (Home Depot Center)
Two Chivas defensive errors led to two Sporting KC goals. The first goal resulted from a poor touch from the Chivas defender and SKC striker C.J. Sapong pounced with a neat chip over the defenders outstretched leg and placed a left foot blast short side on the Chivas keeper Zach Thorton. SKC’s second goal came via a cross in which the Chivas defender fanned on the ball resulting in it bouncing to SKC Striker Omar Bravo who chipped the out charging keeper (still have no idea what the keeper was thinking). Chivas pulled one back on a corner kick in the 56th minute when the SKC defender turns from the ball as if it were a charging tiger and it falls to Jimmy Conrad striker who lefts foots home from 5 yards. Omar Bravo scored his second when by tucking home a through ball in the 75th minute. Chivas pull one back in the 84th but it was too little too late.
Real Salt Lake 1 – San Jose Earthquakes 0 (Buck Shaw Stadium)
Sparse crowd in the rain in San Jose for this tilt. First good chance came for SJ in the 21st minute when Chris Wondolowski missed a point-blank header from 4 yards. The reigning scoring champion has to do better than that (and he’s on my fantasy team so I need him to finish!). RSL captain Kyle Beckerman tried his luck from in the 23rd minute from 35 yards only to see it graze the top of the crossbar. Beckerman would not be denied in the 63rd minute with a skipping shot the went off the wet turf, then SJ keeper’s Jon Busch’s fingers, then off the post and ultimately the back of the net.
New England Revolution 1 – LA Galaxy 1 (Home Depot Center)
Sharlie Joseph got the away fans out of their seats early with a goal in the 3rd minute. He climbed over the Galaxy defender to head home his first, and definitely not last, goal of the season past keeper Josh Saunders. This would be the Rev’s only shot on goal for this game. 100% striking average is pretty good. The Galaxy responded with Juninho’s strike in the 39th minute (2nd goal of the season) that NE keeper Matt Reis had little chance to stop. This game should have gone LA’s way but they had two goals called back in the first half. Mike Magee interfered with Reis on a cross from Beckham. Juninho tapped in the loose ball but the ref had already made his decision. Only minutes later Magee was again ruled in fault as he was flagged offside.