SEATTLE - MARCH 17: David Estrada #16 (L) of the Seattle Sounders celebrates with Alvaro Fernandez #15 after scoring a goal against Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field on March 17, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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?
Week 2 in Major League Soccer was more of the same from the big boys of the league. The usual suspects of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders cemented their status as top dogs while one other club won their second game in a row on the road to start the season.
Yes, don't look now folks, but last year's Eastern Conference champion, the Houston Dynamo, is starting off strong with two road wins against Chivas and San Jose. Okay, sure, those two wins weren't exactly by a lot of goals (just one each) and they are against two of the weaker sides in the Western Conference. But still, for this Dynamo squad, these two wins are huge considering they won two away from home all of last year.
In reality this second weekend of the new season was more of the same for most of the league. The Western Conference clubs continued to beat up on their Eastern Conference foes, going 2-1-0 this weekend. The only thing that did change from the first weekend to the second was the number of draws. So far just two games have ended on level terms this season, a welcome departure when considering the events of the 2011 season.
Big O makes its debut in MLS
Give it up for the fans in Montreal, and in Canada for that matter. The love this sport and they love their teams. A record crowd of over 58,000 packed the Stade Olympique on Saturday to see the Montreal Impact make their home debut against the Chicago Fire.
The first half was a rather dull affair with neither club really creating any significant chances, but after the interval the game really took off. Montreal pressed hard for a goal while the Fire sat back and tried to soak up the pressure. Just when you thought the Fire were going to be able to hold off the Impact a sweet chip from Sanny Nyassi to Davy Arnaud made it 1-0 and the Big O went nuts.
But just as quickly as the Impact scored their first MLS goal, the Fire came back, with Dominic Oduro equalizing in the 71st minute.
In the final seconds of the match the Impact nearly had a game winner when Josh Gardner sent in a blistering shot from long range that rattled off the crossbar. That somewhat fitting way for the Impact's first home game to end - downright frustratingly.
Neither team looked great on Saturday. The Fire certainly had their chances and the Impact rode the large crowd as much as they possibly could. The draw wasn't bad for the Impact but it continues to show that it will be a long inaugural campaign for Jesse Marsch.
Depth tested in Dallas
No Fabian Castillo. No Brek Shea. No David Ferreira. That all sounds like trouble for FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman, right? In a way it was on Saturday against the Portland Timbers. The club raced out to an early lead when Blas Perez scored his first MLS goal on a rebound. The goal was set up by home grown player Bryan Leyva making his professional debut.
Dallas was the stronger team early in the match but John Spencer's side had the pace and physical play that made Hyndman go defensive early on. Just before halftime Hyndman took off Leyva from the right wing and brought in defender George John. The big defender slid into his normal center back spot with Jair Benitez moving to the wing and newcomer Hernan Pertuz moving over to the full back position.
It was a gutsy move by Hyndman. Had a weird goal scored by Darlington Nagbe not happened in the second half, it may have paid off for him.
Two games in and Dallas' depth is being question left and right. Was the move to take off Leyva the right one? In hindsight it certainly was. Portland was beginning to torch Dallas on the left wing and the young Leyva just wasn't getting it done defensively. Considering the lack of resources that Hyndman has for his midfield at the moment, not bringing on another young midfielder was a smart call.
Backe's seat getting warm
So far Backe has been able to stay in the head coaching role in New York longer than most really expected him to when he came over a couple seasons ago. But giving how the club has started out this season, with two road losses, that seat has to be getting warmer and warmer.
His lineup choices continue to baffle everyone. In Week One, the controversial choice was going with Juan Agudelo over Kenny Cooper. In week two against Real Salt Lake it was starting Thierry Henry alone up top with only Dax McCarty playing behind him in the midfield.
Once again, Henry had no service from his midfield and was forced to drop deep in order to get the ball. Naturally when Cooper came on later in the match, the Red Bulls woke up a bit but at that point it was too late. RSL had already done their damage with goals from Luis Gil and Fabian Espindola.
A loss at home next weekend will certainly give us more clues to how hot that seat is for Backe. I'd imagine anything less than a win will be examined like crazy from the folks in the Big Apple.
Heaps forced to be patient with the Revs
Yes, the New England Revolution have a talent group of midfielders but for manager Jay Heaps that certainly isn't going to be enough. The early red card to Stephen McCarthy certainly helped Sporting Kansas City dominate their way to a 3-0 win but considering how things were going before that red card, Sporting was always likely to coast through the match even with a full 11-man Revs team.
Two games in and Heaps already knows that this is going to take longer than he would like. Anytime you rebuild a roster it certainly takes a while to see a payoff, even when done correctly. Right now we have no clue whether or not this will work out for the Revs in the long haul. The talent is certainly there in the midfield but so far the defense hasn't put up much of a fight and the offense has been nearly nonexistent.
Heaps is looking for a fluid, pass-and-move type of game instead of the direct style that Steve Nicol played during his time with the Revs. That kind of switch doesn't happen with players overnight.
It may be a long while until this Revs side shows signs of improvement. One just has to hope that Heaps and the Revs front office can wait that period out.
Special day for Estrada
Fans in the Emerald City have been searching for that next guy to step up and be someone they can form a fan cult around since the trade of Mike Fucito to Montreal. After Saturday's 3-1 win over Toronto FC that search is over.
Enter David Estrada.
The third-year striker has finally come into his own with the Sounders, scoring a hat trick on Saturday night - and let's not forget his contributions on the field against Santos Laguna in the Champions League.
Estrada was a questionable draft pick back in 2010 by Sigi Schmid. I questioned it, didn't like it at the time and felt Schmid reached a little high for a guy that would have likely been around two rounds later for him. Still, give Schmid credit for sticking with him and developing him properly.
The way Estrada is going this month will certainly benefit Schmid and the Sounders, both on and off the field. The biggest factor is it could allow Eddie Johnson to take all the time he needs to get healthy again.