The opening Saturday of MLS action was very fun. There were lots of goals, some awful performances by presumably good teams and the formation of a couple of clubs for players that I just invented.
Major League Soccer referees have a reputation for allowing more physical play and letting a lot of minor fouls go. The replacement referee for this game called it as if he were officiating in La Liga or Serie A -- so, correctly -- and it resulted in an absolutely insane 40 fouls. As a result, the game had no flow and was very boring.
That is, until the dying minutes, when Seattle pushed hard for a winner and got it. Poor Erik Kronberg, Jimmy Nielsen's replacement in goal for Sporting KC, made his only significant error of the match when he came out for a cross he couldn't realistically claim and left his goal wide open. Clint Dempsey hit the crossbar with a header and had his follow-up effort blocked, but Chad Barrett -- CHAD BARRETT!!! -- cleaned up the garbage to record the winner and the first goal of the MLS season.
Awesome things from this game that had nothing to do with scoring or replacement refs: DeAndre Yedlin has learned how to defend and it's terrifying.
The Black and Red certainly have more talent than they did last season, but they had seven new players in the starting lineup and one of the returning starters joined the team mid-season last year.
Their lack of chemistry was an obvious issue and it showed on the opening goal, which featured a lack of communication between left midfielder Nick DeLeon and left back Christian Fernandez Salas. They let Columbus right back Josh Williams get into dangerous positions constantly, and in this situation, it caused everything to break down. Hector Jimenez also made an amazing pass to set up Williams for a cross, which was met for a goal by Jairo Arrieta.
D.C. didn't have much of a chance to get back in the game. They were victims of a soft penalty call in the 26th minute when Perry Kitchen grazed the shirt of Michael Parkhurst, who went down. Federico Higuain converted from the spot to double his team's lead. Very little happened between there and the 90th minute, when Higuain took advantage of a D.C. team in desperation mode and scored his second goal of the game.
Arrieta was one of the worst finishers in MLS last season, so the Crew are going to be a team to watch out for if he's actually scoring.
Vancouver made the apparently excellent decision to not blow everything up in the offseason, just bringing in a few complimentary pieces and a new coach to get the most out of the talent they already had. Their debutants were excellent, with Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales both scoring goals. Steven Beitashour was a rock at right back, while Matias Laba struck up an excellent midfield partnership with Nigel Reo-Coker.
The opener came 34 minutes in, with Kenny Miller converting a penalty after Richard Eckersley was caught handling the ball in the box. Things got worse just after the break when Fernandez scored a stunner from 20 yards, assisted by Darren Mattocks. Miller's second came 77 minutes in off a brilliant chip after he caught the Red Bulls defense napping. Morales, who entered in the 65th minute, didn't take long to announce his presence, scoring in the 89th minute.
New York's one goal came in stoppage time, when David Ousted switched off and was beaten to a ball by Bradley Wright-Phillips, who flicked the ball past him. It was hardly any kind of consolation.
Will Bruin followed up a brilliant 2012 campaign with a less productive 2013 campaign, in which he had more chances than just about any striker in MLS, but scored only 10 goals. He looked like an even better version of the 2012 Bruin on Saturday, wrecking the Revs with two goals and an assist in just 23 minutes.
His first came on a half-volley just 64 minutes and his second on a simple finish from close range after just 13 minutes. He set up Boniek Garcia's 23rd minute goal for good measure and was handed a curtain call by Dominic Kinnear, going off to a huge ovation in the 89th minute. Houston added another goal after his exit through Omar Cummings.
Remember when the Revs were a popular dark horse MLS Cup contender? Cool week.
Mauro Diaz joined Pedro Morales on the list of new(ish) South American attacking midfielders that look like they're going to be totally awesome. Diaz joined FC Dallas in the middle of last season, but didn't totally find his footing. This year, the Dallas attack appears to be built around him and he contributed with lots of excellent play that won't show up in the box score, plus a pretty great free kick goal.
Dallas actually appeared to be in quite a bit of trouble 10 minutes in when Sanna Nyassi was handed a free tap-in goal at the post to Chris Seitz's left. You'll be stunned to learn that Dallas started an 18-year-old at right back, homegrown player Kellyn Acosta.
Unfortunately for Montreal, things didn't go their way after that. Fabian Castillo equalized pretty quickly and Diaz drew a penalty not long after that, which was converted by Blas Perez in the 24th minute. Diaz's free kick goal came only two minutes into the second half, and from there, Montreal were in trouble. They pulled one back through Andrew Wenger -- is he still a top prospect? -- but they couldn't find an equalizer.
No one should ever be terribly concerned by the way Bruce Arena's teams start the season, but this was still a very nice start for Jeff Cassar to keep anyone who doubts RSL in a post-Kreis world quiet for the time being. They were decent enough defensively even without Chris Schuler available to them, though LA did take an incredible 27 shots. Nick Rimando was his team's hero, making nine saves on the night, including one on Robbie Keane's stoppage time penalty.
Joao Plata scored the winner in the 80th minute from about 12 yards, assisted by Kyle Beckerman with an excellent pass. From there, RSL faced a serious fight to hang on to their lead, which their fans probably thought they lost when Tony Beltran fouled Rob Friend in the penalty area. But Rimando is a shiny golden god, so sorry, Galaxy.
Drawin' Caleb Porter is back! In this particular instance, the Portland Timbers will probably be very happy that they were able to snag a point, as much as they've talked about turning their numerous draws from last season into wins during this campaign. New signing Gaston Fernandez came up huge on his debut, scoring his team's only goal in the 94th minute.
While Fernandez joins the Newish South American Attacking Midfielders Who Look Like They're Going To Be Totally Awesome™, Philadelphia's Jack McInerney joined Will Bruin and Jairo Arrieta on the list of Crappy Finishing Decent Strikers Who Learned How To Finish Again™. He went through a terrible run of form late last season after a white-hot start, but Philly fans have hope that he can get back to being the old Jack Mac after his 64th minute goal, finished off from a corner by Christian Maidana and a flicked header by Maurice Edu.
But Philly couldn't break Portland's now 16-game home undefeated streak. Fernandez's winner came on an easy finish from eight yards, off a deflected corner that the Union did a poor job of clearing.