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Major League Soccer 2012, Week 1: What We Learned

The Western Conference dominated the Eastern Conference in Week 1 of MLS action. LA Galaxy ran out of gas late against RSL, while Vancouver Whitecaps looked fantastic going forward.

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The first week of the season is in the books. Once the dust settled late last night after the Portland Timbers downed the Philadelphia Union 3-1, one thing was crystal clear: the Western Conference dominated their Eastern brother in the opening week.

But we expected that, right?

The West compiled a nice early record on the East, going 5-1-0, and the only loss against an Eastern opponent was Chivas USA losing in the dying moments against the Houston Dynamo. Wasn't the Dynamo in the West not so long ago? Yeah.

Anyways, it was only one game or one week depending on how you look at things. With 33 to go, it is time to remind you that this is not a sprint to the finish. The MLS season is a very long one.

Vancouver starts strong

When you start out your season against an expansion club like the Montreal Impact it may be tough to really gage how well you did. But giving the Vancouver Whitecaps a second look I found that not only did their offense shine like we expected them to with Camilio Sanvezzo and Sebastien Le Toux leading the way, but their defense was drastically improved from a year ago.

Yes, it is early and yes it was against an expansion club that had next to nothing going forward in the attack but some of that credit has to be spread around to manager Martin Rennie's defense. Jay DeMerit looks healthy and newcomer Lee Young-Pyo looked good. Montreal pressed late but the gritty group in the back for Vancouver held strong and forced Montreal into a lot of turnovers and mistakes.

I will say this though, I do want to see this Whitecaps side against a strong offense before I start really singing their praises. But man, how good was that goal from Camilio? The sly-dummy by Eric Hassli to set it up and just the silly move he made on Matteo Ferrari was fantastic.

Schedule not to blame for LA

Good defense wins championships and bad defense, well, bad defense struggles to come close to a championship. LA showed their major weakness in a bad way on Saturday night against Real Salt Lake. No, it wasn't the referee's fault, or the schedule, it was all down to how poorly they executed in defense against a much hungrier Salt Lake side.

Take a look at the Javier Morales goal. On one part of the field you have David Beckham complaining to the ref about a couple non-calls while Morales, Fabian Espindola and company are racing down the pitch looking to score on Josh Saunders.

Yes, it was pretty brutal to have their opening slate of games be the nasty 'four in 11 days'. That is rough, we get it. But for a team as good as LA is that shouldn't be an excuse. They were poor at the very end of the game.

Aside from the last 15 minutes, LA looked good. Edson Buddle got on the end of a brilliant pass by Beckham. The more I see that, the more I am starting to think that Buddle will easily have 15 or 16 goals this season for LA.

NBC opens up with a solid match

I was on hand for the season opener for FC Dallas on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls so my NBC experience starting out may be different from yours. I had to DVR the game and re-watch it later that evening to see exactly how NBC presented the game.

As I expected, they did a very good job of showing off and presenting MLS. I think it was every bit what we would have expected them to and they already leaped over FOX Soccer in my book in terms of preparation and production for MLS games.

Arlo White was calm and cool just like he always was for the Seattle Sounders broadcasts over the last couple of seasons. Kyle Martino did well on the field as the color analyst. The thing I love about White is the way he controls a broadcast and doesn't let the color guy get in the way. Martino played well with White in that regard and didn't do the typical ramble that most color guys do in American sports broadcasting.

Once the kinks get worked out, I have no doubt their productions of MLS games will surpass ESPN.

Dallas stout in defense

Speaking of the game on NBC, give it up for FC Dallas and their defense. They kept Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls at bay for the majority of the game. The Red Bulls lacked Luke Rogers (visa issues), Wilman Conde (injury) and Rafa Marquez (suspension), but Dallas controlled the tempo from the start of this one and never really looked back.

It was the defense that impressed the most, particularly out of the center back pairing of Ugo Ihemelu and newcomer Hernan Pertuz. The had zero fouls committed between the two of them. That is just something you don't see often out of a center back pairing.

Dallas showed they have the defensive depth to get through this season but their midfield depth is already lacking. Fabian Castillo went down early in this one with a knee injury. He joins David Ferreira on the pine with injuries for Schellas Hyndman. Throw in the fact that Brek Shea will miss a ton of games due to Olympic and senior national team games and the depth will be called into action very soon.

At least for Hyndman he knows he has a strong point man up top these days. Blas Perez had two assists in the season opener and nearly bagged a pair of goals to go with it. Look for him to be a big reason why Dallas do well this season.

Leaving it late

Two clubs waited until the final seconds to get three points this weekend. Sporting Kansas City rode a C.J. Sapong header in the 92nd minute against D.C. United while the Houston Dynamo needed an Andre Hainault blast to beat Chivas USA keeper Dan Kennedy in the 93rd minute.

Both KC and Houston are favorites in the East this season but each struggled to find the back of the net in their openers. You do have to give it up to Kennedy and United keeper Bill Hamid though for keeping the two games interesting. Between the two of them, they recorded 15 saves.