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The Western Conference continues their dominance and the Big O makes its MLS debut during Week 2. Also, could Hans Backe's seat be getting warmer?
Robbie Keane shook off several ugly misses to score his first MLS brace of his relatively brief career and the LA Galaxy handled D.C. United 3-1 on Sunday. Keane scored one goal in each half with his second one being an absolute cracker from inside the penalty area. The Galaxy essentially sealed the result when David Beckham was given acres of space inside the penalty area and unsurprisingly found Marcelo Sarvas, who headed home his first MLS goal.
If not for numerous missed opportunities, the score in this one could have been much uglier. The Galaxy out shot United 21-13 and forced backup goalkeeper Joe Willis into five saves. Willis was playing in place of Bill Hamid, who is currently training with the United States U23 team. Those national duties also called away Perry Kitchen, leaving United at a distinct disadvantage.
The Galaxy definitely took advantage. Although they only scored three goals, they had numerous quality scoring chances. Keane missed at least three quality chances all by himself and David Beckham came very close to converting at least two free kicks. United, meanwhile, only put one of their 13 shots on frame -- a late goal from Nick DeLeon -- and generally made a bruised and battered Galaxy defense look downright competent.
Robbie Keane, who has struggled a bit to find his scoring touch, gave the LA Galaxy a lead late in the first half of their match against D.C. United on Sunday. Keane's goal came off a nice series of passes in which Mike Magee fed Todd Dunivant near the post. Dunivant then headed to Keane, who was left all alone at the far post.
Up until then, it had been another frustrating afternoon for the Galaxy, who have failed to win any of their first three competitive games this year. They had outshot United 12-7 and put four shots on frame. Keane had at least two other very good chances to score, but came up empty in each. The Galaxy also probably should have been given a penalty when a United defender appeared to handle the ball in the box, but that went unpunished.
United's best chance was probably off the foot of Dwayne DeRosario who attempted to beat Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders from near midfield. Saunders was caught off his line, but the shot sailed just wide.
Despite losing Jeff Larentowicz and playing with 10 men for the final 32 minutes, the Colorado Rapids pulled out a 2-1 win on the road against the Philadelphia Union. The Rapids got goals from Jaime Castrillon and rookie Tony Cascio, the second of which came after the Rapids were down a man, to improve to 2-0-0 on the season and keep the Union winless.
The Union did press hard for the equalizer, but were done in by some bad luck and a ball off the crossbar. A week after getting badly outplayed by the Portland Timbers, the Union did look improved and outshot their opponents 20-9, but clearly have some work to do. Zac MacMath badly misplayed a cross on the first goal and the Union defense was caught completely flat-footed on the second.
Not helping matters was the surprising absence of Danny Califf. Union coach Peter Nowak said that Califf was injured -- although he did not appear on the team's injury report, and Califf apparently said he did not know why he was left out.
If the Vancouver Whitecaps beat Chivas USA, but no one is there to see it, does it count? Apparently so. Chivas had tarped off 9,000 seats for this season to try and create demand for tickets, but even still, only 7,723 bought tickets for Saturday's match, and even fewer showed up to see the Canadians pick up a 1-0 win in rainy Los Angeles.
Jay DeMerit netted the lone goal of the match when his diving header off of a corner gave the Whitecaps the lead just before the hour mark. It was DeMerit's first goal for Vancouver after joining the club last season, and it proved to be the match-winner.
That goal was really all there was to talk about, as both teams struggled to generate much. Casey Townsend came closest to scoring for Chivas, hitting a great curling ball that was on its way for a goal before Joe Cannon just barely tipped it over the bar. The Whitecaps also had a couple half chances, but there wasn't much in the match, and before DeMerit's goal it looked destined for a scoreless draw.
More amazing than the sea of empty seats at the Home Depot Center is that the win is Vancouver's first ever road win. They went winless on the road a year ago, but in front of an empty house, the Whitecaps finally got off the schneid. They have now taken six points from their first two matches, while Chivas are without a point from their first two.
Real Salt Lake will be happy to pick up a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, but they will know that the scoreline wasn't indicative of how well they played. Either that or it wasn't indicative of how poorly the Red Bulls played. Salt Lake ran over New York from the first kick, and thanks to goals by Fabian Espindola and Luis Gil, walked away from Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night with three points.
If it wasn't for Ryan Meara, New York would have lost by more than two goals, but he could have done better on Salt Lake's first goal. Paulo Jr. hit a beautiful chip over the top into the path of Espindola, who was onside thanks to a disorganized Red Bulls defense. Espindola was in all alone on goal and hit it right between Meara's legs, giving him five goals in six matches against his favorite MLS opponent.
A goal on the other side of the break by Gil gave RSL their two-goal win, but the real action was watching Meara turn away the home side's shots. They peppered the young keeper and he kept making saves, giving the Red Bulls some sort of hope in a start to the season that has seen them lose their first two matches. Salt Lake has no such concerns, with two wins and a form that has them looking like the class of MLS in the early going.
Prior to this season, David Estrada was a nobody. He pretty much just sat on the Seattle Sounders' bench and that's assuming he even made the bench. But after Saturday, he's certainly not a nobody anymore and is on the verge of cult hero status in Seattle after the striker picked up a hat trick to lead them to a 3-1 win over Toronto FC in Seattle's home opener.
Estrada got onto the scoreboard after 17 minutes largely thanks to Alvaro Fernandez, who was involved in all three of Estrada's goals. The Uruguayan danced down the left and put a defender on the turf with some great footwork to clear enough space for a cross. The Reds could not clear the cross from in front of goal, and eventually Estrada was able to hop on the ball and poke it home for the opening goal.
Fernandez was involved in Estrada's second goal, as he and Marc Burch both picked up on the tally that came right after the break. Finally, Estrada and Fernandez combined wonderfully to put Estrada in alone on goal. Estrada slammed the ball home and the hat trick was his, albeit with a big helping hand from Fernandez.
Ryan Johnson did his best to give Toronto a chance with a brilliant goal when the Sounders were up 2-0, dribbling more than half the field before cutting in and curling the ball into the upper corner, but it wasn't nearly enough. Seattle was the better side from the start and really could have had a couple more goals. In the end, their three goals proved to be more than enough though, and the Sounders were comfortable winners.
FC Dallas looked strong in defeating New York last week, but Brek Shea was off with the U.S. U-23's this week, George John was still trying to reintegrate himself with the team and David Ferreira and Fabian Castillo were out injured.
It wasn't exactly shaping up to be a sterling Saturday evening when they took on the Portland Timbers, and it wasn't, but it wasn't awful either. The Timbers had several opportunities to take down Dallas, but in the end settled for just one goal from Darlington Nagbe in a 1-1 draw.
The scoring started in the 22nd minute when Bryan Leyva's shot from a tight angle down the right was saved by Troy Perkins, but not controlled by the goalkeeper. He left the rebound sitting in the box and Blas Perez got there first, knocking the ball in for his second goal in as many matches since signing with Dallas over the winter.
After Dallas went in front, Portland pushed hard for an equalizer, and five minutes after the break they got it with some help from the home side. Kevin Hartman has never been very good with his feet and it showed when he just popped a clearance up in the air 30 yards from goal. It fell to Daniel Hernandez, but he was under pressure and couldn't do much except let it hit him, which it did. The problem is that it then bounced into the path of Nagbe, who was in alone on goal and slotted home the equalizer.
Nagbe's goal wasn't Portland's only chance. Lovel Palmer hit the post once and Kris Boyd made a nuisance of himself on several occasions, but they couldn't find a winner. That is not to imply that Dallas were inept, as they created some chances as well, but they were clearly missing some of their better players and had to accept the home draw.
The New England Revolution are not particularly good, but they are really, really not good when they have to play 75 minutes with 10 men. That's what they had to do on Saturday when Stephen McCarthy was sent off early, so to the surprise of no one, things got ugly. Oh, and they had to do it against Sporting Kansas City, who are very good.
What happens when very good meets not very good? 3-0 happens.
Sporting was the better team from the start, but after McCarthy was sent off, the Revs really didn't have a chance. It was all Sporting from there and they had three or four times as many missed golden chances as they had goals, but the goals did come, and they picked up an unsurprising and very much deserved victory over an overmatched opponent.
First, Graham Zusi put the home side on the scoreboard when his shot off of a cross was saved, but came right back to him to poke across the line. Kei Kamara also scored on a second chance, knocking home his second shot after his first one was blocked. Finally, C.J. Sapong finished a beautiful move by Sporting, and the home side was on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win in front of an adoring home crowd in their first home game of the season.
Both FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers picked up impressive wins last weekend in their season openers. Dallas dispatched New York rather easily, getting a goal from new signing Blas Perez and bossing the Red Bulls around for the better part of the match. Portland fell a goal behind Philadelphia, but then stormed back to win as they also got a goal from their new signing, Kris Boyd.
Now Dallas and Portland, with both of their big forward signings in the lineup, will look to continue their bright starts. It's Perez vs. Boyd! It's Dallas vs. Portland! It's MLS soccer! Let's get it on!
If anyone watching the San Jose Earthquakes take on the Houston Dynamo was tuning into their first MLS match, I can promise you that all MLS matches are like that. Most are much, much better. Really, watching paint dry would be better. In the end, the Dynamo picked up a 1-0 win thanks to a first half penalty, but even that wasn't the result of good play. There was no good play for 90 minutes.
The lone goal came when Jon Busch came rushing off of his line to collect a chipped ball over the top to Brian Ching, but he hesitated when he came out and then decided to give up on the ball and ran straight into Ching. It was an odd play and the referee pointed to the spot for it. Brad Davis buried the penalty and Houston was in front.
The match was played in San Francisco at AT&T Park as part of a doubleheader, but it proved unnecessary to play in the bigger stadium. Few people showed up and those who passed looked to be the smart ones after 90 awful minutes.
Houston isn't going to complain about the lack of entertainment, though. Despite advancing to MLS Cup last year, they weren't exactly a stout road team. The Dynamo won just twice away from Houston all last season, but just two weeks into this season they have now matched their road win total from a year ago.
It probably wasn't the exact result that Montreal Impact fans were hoping for, but their 1-1 tie with the Chicago Fire did earn them their first point of their MLS history. A Montreal soccer record crowd of 58,912 witnessed the game. That also qualified as the eighth biggest single-game attendance in MLS history.
Davy Arnaud was able to make sure those fans didn't go home entirely disappointed. The veteran midfielder scored the first goal in the Impact's MLS history when he nodded home a delivery from Sanna Nyassi. The glancing header in the 56th minute sent the crowd into a wild celebration and also gave the Impact their first lead of the season.
Although the threatened to extend that lead on a couple occasions, the failure to do so ultimately caught up to them. Dominic Oduro found the equalizer in the 71st minute when he was able to get just enough of his foot on a Sebastian Grazzini pass to beat Donovan Ricketts.
Just before the final whistle, the Impact nearly pulled out the three points. But Josh Gardner's blast hit off the crossbar.
There were more than 50,000 people in attendance for the Montreal Impact's first home MLS game, but they couldn't will them to a goal in the first half of Saturday's game against the Chicago Fire. Despite creating several opportunities, and even having a Justin Braun goal waved off for being offside, the Impact played to a scoreless first half with the Fire.
The Impact definitely looked to have the better of the play. The shots were even, but the Impact were able to put two on frame and were able to create several dangerous opportunities. The best came when Braun was able to put a ball past Paolo Tornaghi, but it was waved off. Braun generally was the most active player for the Impact, but did get caught being offside on a couple of occasions.
The Impact were able to accrue about 57 percent of the possession in the first half.
There's no reason to lie, Week 2 of the Major League Soccer season lacks a bit of oomph. Of the nine games on the schedule, just two of them feature two teams that were in the playoffs last year. Of those two games, Real Salt Lake-New York Red Bulls is probably the only one that's really intriguing. Of course, that's not the one that will be on national TV as NBC Sports Network continues to show a very odd decision-making process when choosing which game to broadcast.
Anyway, here's what to watch for this week and how to watch it:
There are supposed to be close to 60,000 people when the Montreal Impact make their MLS debut against the Chicago Fire. The Impact probably weren't quite as bad as some of us made it seem last week, but a better showing would be a good way to help ensure that a good chunk of those people that come to today's game will be inclined to stick around. Remember, they have four more games at Olympic Stadium before moving into their new soccer-specific home. Time: 2 p.m. TV: TSN (Canada), MLS Live, Direct Kick.
Believe it or not, fans of the San Jose Earthquakes still dislike the Houston Dynamo quite a bit. The Dynamo, of course, left San Jose after the the 2005 season and went on to win a couple MLS Cups. Although San Jose eventually got their Earthquakes back, the wounds have yet to heal. Truth be told, no one outside of San Jose seems to care much, though. Time: 5 p.m. TV: MLS Live, Direct Kick.
Just about everyone who doesn't have a rooting interest in the New England Revolution think they are going to be awful this year. Their lackluster loss to the Earthquakes in Week 1 hardly changed any perceptions. Now they travel to Sporting Kansas City, a team most people think will be pretty good. The Revs could go a long way toward convincing their fans not to give up early by showing some life. Time: 8:30 p.m. TV: MLS Live, Direct Kick.
Just one team claimed fewer points on the road that the Portland Timbers in 2011. Last week's win over the Union have a lot of people talking about how improved this team is. But let's not forget that the Timbers looked like world-beaters at home last year, too. Today's game against FC Dallas is a great test for them. Time: 8:30 p.m. TV: MLS Live, Direct Kick.
The Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC are coming off very different CCL quarterfinal results, which could affect today's game. The Sounders will be looking for a massive bounce back from a massive loss to Santos Laguna, while the Reds will be trying to avoid a hangover from the biggest win in franchise history. Time: 10 p.m. TV: MLS Live, Direct Kick.
The Vancouver Whitecaps can't prove they are for real by beating Chivas USA today, but they can go a long way toward convincing us they aren't total fakes. Last year, they were the only MLS team to go winless away from home. They can end that streak today, something they really should do if their attack is really as good as we're being led to believe. Time: 10:30 p.m. TV: MLS Live, Direct Kick.
The Philadelphia Union look like they are going to be awful this year. The Colorado Rapids should be improved, but are no one's idea of an intriguing side. Still, some of us will watch just because we like the idea of watching Arlo White... Time: 4 p.m., Sunday. TV: NBC Sports Network
Losing at home to Real Salt Lake is one thing, but losing at home to D.C. United would be something else entirely. Not to take anything away from United, but if the Galaxy lose this one it might be time to start panicking. Time: 7 p.m. TV: Galavision.
TFC will be looking to build off the biggest moment in club history when they open their MLS season against the Sounders.
The early season excitement can make even a week of boring matches fun
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