- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On March 21, 2011
- 3 Comments
- 2011 Week 1, Charlie Davies, MLS Weekend Recaps, What We Learned
I’ve been watching Major League Soccer since the league started back in 1996 and this may be the first time since that opening week that the league had such an amazing First Kick. While some games didn’t have as much meaning to some folks as others did, I will say there was a certain electric feel to this weekend in MLS.
Just look at each of the games on Saturday, from the Vancouver-Toronto game, to Dallas-Chicago and DC-Columbus. Some matchups weren’t sexy but in the end the First Kick for 2011 was something special.
1. Davies gets emotional. This was something that was great to see. As I mentioned earlier in my post on the newcomers taking over, Davies had one special opening night in MLS. You would have expected rust or some form of it in his first competitive league match in nearly two years but he didn’t have any of that. He stepped up with his first touch of the game and hammered home a PK shot for his first MLS goal. But his poise and skill really showed through on his second goal.
2. Stadiums full. Take out the San Jose game because a temporary venue is tough to gage how a club really would do in this sort of weekend. But all the stadiums were nicely filled for the opening weekend. I know folks complained a bit about New York and rightfully so, that one should have been sold out. But it was nice to see Colorado and Dallas do well on the opening weekend.
Consider Dallas for a moment here, last year they opened the season with just a shade over 8,000 against in-state rivals Houston. And most of that crowd was probably Houston fans too. Fast forward to this season and they sellout the place to begin the new season. There was plenty of buzz around Pizza Hut Park. A new march to the match and scarfing tradition was formed and while I don’t think we’ll see these kinds of numbers this coming weekend when San Jose comes to town, they should still get between 12-16k this season at their games.
3. The buzz in D.C. – I don’t know if it was just Charlie Davies scoring but something about the game Saturday made me feel like that special buzz was back in D.C. with United. The stands were filled pretty nicely at RFK and I don’t know, but it just felt like D.C. was at least back for a night. Will it continue this season? Maybe. But I think having D.C. back in the discussion for a top side is a positive thing to see, one that hopefully can help spark a positive stadium discussion from the local government again.
4. Chicago and KC aren’t half bad. Seeing the Fire in person made me realize that the Fire won’t be half bad this season if they don’t use a 3-5-2 formation. When Carlos de los Cobos switched his club to what appeared to be a 3-4-3 from the press box, the club actually came more alive. Sure being up a man didn’t hurt their chances either but newcomers Gaston Puareri and Diego Chaves nearly made the most of their chances in this one.
That being said they will still get burned badly by teams with speed. As much as I like their defense, they were lucky to get away from Frisco with just a single point on the night. Dallas had loads of possession and teams with better finishers than Dallas will make this Fire team pay for it. Speaking to some Fire reporters Saturday night, they feel it will be a long season if de los Cobos doesn’t do something about how their defense handles the outside speed of some clubs.
Switching over to KC, they looked good on the night. Omar Bravo certainly played well and their attack was exactly how I expected it to be this season. But they still gave up two goals to Chivas USA, a club that I really think will be at the bottom of the Western Conference again this season. Chivas has some decent attackers but clubs with better scorers will eat away at this KC defense.
5. LA struggles but Juninho shines. Looking back at my fantasy MLS squad, I really wish I had picked up Juninho, who was relatively cheap. Two goals in one week, both amazing shots. While he did well for LA, the rest of the attack was missing. Not having a healthy Juan Pablo Angel didn’t help them out either, seeing as how in the two games he only got about a half hours work in. Landon Donovan will have to step up more in games like this, and so will David Beckham. It is still early but LA did look pretty decent this week. I just wonder how they would have fared had they not played two straight games in solid rain like they did.
6. Welcome to MLS, Vancouver. The “whiteout” was special to see at Empire Field. I know we talk a lot about the Pacific Northwest rivalries but this Canadian rivalry will be pretty special for the league as well. Vancouver was all over Toronto in this one and really packed on the pressure. Being up 4-1 at one point in the game showed this club is indeed for real. Their defense though does worry me a tad bit, if a club like Toronto can score two goals on them in the run of play, then what will a team like Colorado or New York do to them? I have to say I expected more out of their defense Saturday.
Still, it was pretty cool watching this one. Gotta give it up to Steve Nash for sitting in the middle of the stands with the fans.
7. Welcome to MLS, Portland. On the flip side of things, you have Portland. Yikes. I knew their defense was going to get exposed but Colorado basically opened the flood gates early in this one and never looked back. At least Kenny Cooper got on the boards late for the Timbers to at least give their fans hope that their offense will indeed be fun to watch.
We shouldn’t be too shocked by the result though, while Vancouver was facing a Toronto club that is going to be in a rebuilding mode for the next year or so, Portland faced a loaded defending champion to open the year. Colorado dominated this one from start to finish in my opinion. How about that goal from Jamie Smith too? Pow!
8. Agudelo is magic. I cannot say this enough, I hope for the life of me that the league and New York slowly market the success of Juan Agudelo. Why? Just look at how things were handled with Jozy Altidore and you may be able to catch where I am going with this. First of all I want nothing but success for this kid. He is magic on the ball as we saw against Seattle. He split the defense with his speed and beat a veteran keeper like Kasey Keller with ease. He drew a PK early in the game too that showed he is able to do serious damage in this league.
But why do I want him to be marketed slowly? Basically it is a selfish reason. I don’t want him to be sold too early here. This kid is so much fun to watch that I would rather see him do it here in MLS than go ride the pine on some European team like Altidore has been doing these last few years.
9. Hartmand trade to Dallas now a steal. When Kevin Hartman was traded to Dallas before the start of last season we all knew it was a bit of a steal for Dallas but look at how he played on Saturday and you will realize it was indeed a robbery on the part of FC Dallas. I know KC didn’t want Hartman anymore and were looking else where (plus Jimmy Nielsen is a pretty solid keeper too), but the proof is in the pudding here. This deal was a steal.
10. Long throw does Houston in. The difference maker in the Houston-Philly game wasn’t just the Danny Califf tap in but it was the long throw in that set it up. How come more club don’t rely on the long throw in? Its as good as a set piece for some clubs. On the flip side I know there are some clubs that use this feature in their offense a little too much to the point that it is obvious. For Philly it was perfect against Houston, and enough to get three points to open the season.
11. RSL still has plenty to offer, San Jose not to much. Its new year and another one that saw RSL open up the season with a win over San Jose. It was wet and nasty in San Jose and once again RSL handled the game with ease I thought. Kyle Beckerman’s goal was pretty nice as well. Watching parts of the game had me question, will San Jose really be able to keep up with things in the West this season? I think they’re good, don’t get me wrong, but they still lack a certain punch that will keep them in the discussion this season.
12. Western dominance? Try Eastern. I know we spoke a lot this winter about how good the Western Conference would be this season but look at the results head-to-head between the two conferences this weekend and the Eastern clubs actually came out on top. Only Vancouver won against an Eastern side. Eastern clubs with 3-1-2 in the opening weekend. I know it was one week but not a bad way for the Eastern sides to start off things this season.
(Note: this piece is the start of a new weekly recap series that I will be doing as a part of my new season additions on here. )