Hey MLS fans. I will be covering the 20th season of Major League Soccer for you. Each week I’ll highlight my top three matches. Think of it as a written Match of the Day. My goal each week will be to help you connect with the league I have come to love.
Seattle Sounders 3 – 0 New England Revolution
Coming in to this weekend, the Seattle Sounders were preseason favorites to win MLS Cup. The New England Revolution were wanting to show that their late season form in 2014 was not a fluke and that they should be season long contenders for the Supporters Shield.
Led by US National Team captain Clint Dempsey, the Sounders won their opening match against the Revolution three goals to nil. The first came from a penalty kick in the 25th minute. Dempsey drew the penalty after dancing over the ball & being brought down in the area by returning New England striker Juan Agudelo. Dempsey sent the Revolution keeper Bobby Shuttleworth the wrong way & the Sounders didn’t look back.
The lone save that Sounders keeper Stefan Frei had to make came in the 39th minute. An errant pass out of the back by Brad Evans could have cost Seattle the shutout as it landed at Kelyn Rowe’s boots. A fantastic strike from 30-yards dipped down to the corner, but Frei pushed it wide with his fingertips. Two minutes later, Obafemi Martins got his head on a well placed cross from their new right back Tyrone Mears to make it 2-0 Sounders.
This all leads us to the moment of the weekend. Seattle’s combination play from Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey & Marco Pappa led to the prettiest goal this weekend in MLS & not the last to come this year. The trio of Sounders played the ball between themselves in a six-pass sequence that beat five defenders and side-stepped Shuttleworth to tap it in from inside the 6-yard area.
New England is sure to bounce back, especially with the major absences of US internationals Lee Nguyen & Jermaine Jones. Jones is recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery and Nguyen didn’t travel because of a groin strain. Both were key pieces to their MLS Cup run in 2014.
Next match-ups: Seattle host San Jose Earthquakes & New England are away to New York City FC
Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 3 Toronto FC
If you believe it is possible to win the offseason then Toronto FC were your league champions. TFC brought in Designated Players Jozy Alidore and Sebastian Giovinco to help the Canadian franchise reach the playoffs for the first time. However, it would be the Whitecaps’ biggest offseason signing Octavio Rivero, that would make an impact on the game first.
Early in the 8th minute, Rivero should have put the Caps up after he whiffed on a perfectly placed ball inside the 6-yard area. Not to be discouraged, the Uruguayan continued on and scored the first goal for Vancouver eleven minutes later. A simple ball over the top from center back Pa Modou Kah put Rivero one-v-one with Joe Bendik, whom he calmly slid it past.
Not to be outdone, the previously mentioned DP signings from Toronto got on the scoresheet as Giovinco brilliantly slipped Jozy Altidore in to beat the keeper. Kakuta Manneh could have put the Whitecaps up just after the Alidore goal, but struck the ball straight to the keeper. Both sides would be level at halftime.
Scoring resumed in the second half off a Robbie Findley finish into the top of the net. The former Real Salt Lake player opened his TFC scoring account with an easy tap-in thanks to a hard byline run from winger Justin Morrow.
Late in the match, Vancouver gave the lead and the game to Toronto. A Pa Modou Kah foul inside the goal area on Altidore led to his second goal of the game, this time from the penalty spot.
Next match-ups: Vancouver is away to Chicago & Toronto is away to Columbus
Orlando City SC 1 – 1 New York City FC
The two new MLS expansion teams, Orlando & New York City, both feature lineups that could make it to the playoffs. Both goals were special for each club as their first competitive goals as MLS franchises. However on the night, neither side were convincing enough to make you think that one side ‘lost’ or ‘won’ the tie.
Neither New York City nor Orlando looked all that put together in the first half. The teams seemed nervous and cagey for most of the half. A lot of pressure was placed on both expansion teams coming into this season. Not to mention their opening match was in front of over 62,000 in attendance.
The first pivotal moment in the match occurred after 76 minutes. A darting run by David Villa set up a curling effort by Mix Diskerud at the top of the 18-yard area that put NYCFC up 1-0.
Longtime Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin found himself sent off after a studs up challenge on Villa. After missing a tackle in midfield the 3-time All-Star center back scrambled to clear a ball but caught the Spanish forward in the shin.
The last moment was almost meant to be for Kaka. In stoppage time the Brazilian midfielder took a free kick that deflected off NYCFC’s Jeb Brovsky and bounced into the back of the net.
Next up: Orlando City is away to Houston & New York City hosts New England
This was a great start to the MLS season and an exciting time to follow soccer in America. 2015 is going to be like a high-speed steel roller coaster you’ve never experienced before. Grab on to your nearest MLS team and hang on with me.
Also check out the MLS Goal of the Week nominations below, which includes the Pappa/Dempsey/Martins goal, my favorite moment of the weekend: