At the end of it all, Major League Soccer can sit back and look at Week 3 as a success. They dubbed it as Rivalry Week, which included a huge day on NBC Sports covering all six league games on Saturday.
There may have been a load of draws but at least the league should be able to see that this kind of weekend is what the league needs from time to time. Fans enjoyed it. I think the media enjoyed it. Overall not bad.
So what all did we pick up from this draw-fest of a weekend? Plenty.
Rivalries fuel the weekend
Yes the draws were lame. New York and D.C. United kicked things off with a wild 0-0 affair at Red Bull Arena. Bill Hamid made seven big stops, including a goal line grab that will be talked about for weeks to come. Portland and Seattle ended in a fairly entertaining 1-1 draw. As did Colorado-RSL and LA-Chivas.
I’ve thought long and hard about this weekend as I was able to really dive into it thanks to NBC’s Breakaway show that was a perfect addition to Saturday afternoon. I think some things worked while others did not.
What did work:
- The true rivalries of the weekend. Having five big rivalries take up the weekend was a great move. Fans were engaged more and overall I think you can all it a success from a marketing standpoint.
- Games were close. What you want in a rivalry game is a tight, hard-faught battle. Not a blow out. Sure some fans will want to see blow outs but for me, these kind of games need to be close. I look at the Houston-Dallas game for one, that was about as good of a game as the league could have asked for on this weekend.
- Houston-Dallas. I just mentioned it but it is worth mentioning again. This game had it all. Drama. Goals. A late winner. Two rowdy fan bases in one stadium. You also had physical play, some heated moments and some interesting comments from coaches afterwards (more on that later).
- Late goals. Dallas had one. Portland had one. Chivas USA had one. New York nearly had one. In all, the drama from the weekend was there. (Yes San Jose fans I know you had one as well…)
- NBC. I can’t state it enough how good of a job the folks at NBC Sports did on Saturday. From the first game in New York to the last in Seattle. Perfect day of soccer for all MLS fans. The Breakaway segment was fun to watch and really worked for the league. I hope one day this will the normal thing on a Saturday afternoon/evening in MLS.
- Montreal v Toronto. Probably Saturday’s most interesting game. I got to watch the majority of this one and it did not disappoint. Montreal appears to be the real deal for now folks. Toronto isn’t half bad either.
What didn’t really work:
- Time of year. Doing this kind of week in March really didn’t work. I felt the game in Dallas yesterday was more of an opening day feel than a rivalry day feel. Weather was an issue in some cities too (I know that is tough to plan for but still). Plus teams aren’t in good form yet. I’d much rather see this a month and a half into the season when teams have a little bit of rhythm about them.
- The draws. Yes, that has to be included. It didn’t help that the majority of games were duds.
- The schedule woes for Seattle, Houston and LA. All three had lackluster performances on the weekend due to their CCL hangovers. While each were up to the task of their rivalry game, placing this away from a CCL date would have been better.
- Non-rivalry games. Yes, it had to happen this way but I’m sure for some fans it was tough to get up for a San Jose-Columbus game. No offense to either side but it would have been nice to see Columbus play Chicago or San Jose play LA this weekend. But it had to happen, I know.
Still very early
Is Montreal the best club in MLS? After three games it appears that way. Are Vancouver and Dallas the best teams in the West? No. Even if the standings says that they are you know they are definitely not at this point.
Really the point is that we are still very much in the early stages of this season.
I still view teams like LA, Seattle, Houston, Kansas City and even a D.C. United as some of the better teams in the league despite their slow starts. It is going to be interesting to see how those teams find a way to pick themselves up here in the early parts of the season.
Food for thought:
Is Montreal the best club in MLS right now? Can they keep it up?
What will it take for Chivas USA to keep up their new found momentum?
Will someone be able to stop San Jose late in the game here?
Can FC Dallas build off their big win over Houston?