MLS is finally back, and it gave us plenty of entertainment in week one. We saw some of the league's best teams live up to the hype and show us what elite MLS play looks like, while Montreal gave us one shocker to quench our upset thirst.
There were some signs of the rust that usually accompanies the first weeks of the season, but on the whole, the matches were entertaining and relatively sharp. The teams were aggressive and adventurous. There was some clever coaching and some bright new talents. It was the rare weekend without anything to complain about in MLS.
Color us confused. Elated, but confused.
Philadelphia Union 1-3 Sporting Kansas City
This one took a while to get going and if you want to see what a team working through kinks playing a bad team looks like, this one was for you. But the Caps' lone goal was a gorgeous one with some beautiful interplay to free up Gershon Koffie, who finished excellently to earn the home side all three points.
Vancouver looked like a completely different team in the second half once Nigel Reo Coker came in, giving them someone dependable and calm to work around in the midfield. The Whitecaps have always had talent, but putting it together in some sort of coherent approach has been a challenge. Maybe Reo Coker is the man to give them a hub to build around? We'll find out, but one thing we don't need more matches to figure out is that Toronto is horrendous.
D.C. doesn't win in Houston. Why they still try defies logic.
Who knew that "Matt Pickens - Out (Shin)" would be the most important part of every match preview? That proved to be the case on Saturdaywhen backup goalkeeper Steward Ceus came flying off his line to grab a long ball over the top, only to find himself out of his box. Unable to catch the ball, Ceus panicked and let it bounce over his head, which allowed Jackson to run onto it and tap it into the empty net for the match's only goal.
It wasn't all bad for the Rapids, though. Youngsters Dillon powers and Deshorn Brown looked promising and the team took well to Oscar Pareja's new possession-oriented style. The team is still short a creative player who can turn possession into chances, but that is step two. They're still working on step one, and that work looked good in week one. Now if only Pickens could get fit.
The Sounders are still chasing Obafemi Martins, which means they haven't replaced Fredy Montero yet. Osvaldo Alonso was suspended for the match, too, robbing Seattle of their two best players from last season and just for good measure, they officially parted ways with Christian Tiffert earlier in the day. Everything considered, it is not a surprise that the Sounders lost on Saturday night, but the Impact did their part to make it happen.
Montreal's goal was wonderful -- a quick counter-attack capped by a brilliant chip by Felipe to Davy Arnaud for a silky smooth finish. Full marks to the Impact for that alone, but it was a good all-around performance for the visitors.
It was clear from the very smart that Montreal was going to defend first, second and third, then look for its chances at goal on the counter, which is exactly what they did. They were compact and showed the composure away that they often lacked last season, when they were a meager 2-12-3 on the road. Alessandro Nesta's presence along the back line paid dividends and Patrice Bernier showed once again why he one of the best holding midfielders in the league.
A lot of the talk after the match was about Seattle and what's wrong there (a lot, most of which will be fixed once they get fit and fill out their team with another signing or two), but this match could be the start of a Montreal playoff run. Don't forget that they stayed in the race for a while last season.
Talk about a match that went exactly as expected. The Goats were absolutely abysmal, even if they managed to keep the Crew off the scoreboard for a bit, and eventually Federico Higuain got to them with a gorgeous strike from distance just after halftime. Toss in an amazing flick by Josh Williams for another goal and Dominic Oduro exploiting the pressing Chivas defense late and you have the expected result.
The only somewhat surprising thing was the 7,121 that showed up at the Home Depot Center, a shockingly low number that is even more disappointing if you looked at the stadium and realize how many no-shows that includes.
We'll get a better idea of what to make of the Crew when they play someone who ... it wouldn't be nice to finish this sentence.
When Robbie Keane said before the season that Mike Magee could be a Designated Player most people laughed, but he sure looked the part on Sunday. The man who usually waits until the playoffs to turn it up to 11 scored his first career hat trick with three tremendous finishes and some help from Keane, who helped set up all three goals before adding his own.
If only Magee could be paid a Designated Player's salary for a day, he would be a happy man. He would also be a pretty happy man if he could play this Fire defense every match (he might also score the 102 goals he is on pace for). Someone might want to tell the Chicago defense that the preseason is over and these matches count.
What happens when two teams open up, attack in numbers and treat defending as an optional exercise in front of a raucous packed house? Fun. A lot of fun.
Did Chris Wondolowski use up all of his goals last season? Of course not, but it looked like it on Sunday as he wasted chance after chance.
Enter Alvaro Saborio.
While the Quakes' feared frontman couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, Saborio was just biding his time. He waited and watched as Wondolowski failed to put his team in front, then struck twice in the final 20 minutes to deliver his rebuilt team a win over last season's Supporters' Shield winners.
It was fitting that Saborio and Beckerman, who provided the assist on the second goal, led the way for RSL. They are the two holdovers from a team that shipped out a handful of stalwarts this offseason and rebuilt around those two, along with Nat Borchers (who was out injured this weekend) and youngster Luis Gil. RSL still has work to do and it will take Jason Kreis some time to build them into an elite side, but with Saborio and Beckerman holding down the fort, they should be fine in the meantime.
Oh, and that Gil kid? He showed why Salt Lake and the rest of American soccer is so high on him with some dazzling touches and clever runs. Just wait until he figures out what he's doing, too.