MLS is back! And it was pretty damn good for the first weekend of the season, too.
There was plenty of action with 3.25 goals per match, the replacement refs weren't that bad and average attendance was up 8 percent over last year's opening weekend. In fact, if a pirate held a sword to our necks and demanded we draw a conclusion from this week, it would be this — MLS will take over the globe by First Kick 2015.
Or, and this is another theory, the league has played just 2.94 percent of its season, so maybe we should take a step back and not declare imminent world domination. Both are valid opinions (one is a valid opinion) but regardless, it was a good weekend.
Everything is coming up Chivas
Chivas USA fans' bar for happiness was pretty low after last season, but they still have to feel like everything is going their way. First, Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes sold the club, then MLS reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the club in Los Angeles. It was a perfect lead-in to the season for the team, which will have new owners and a new name for next year.
Then things got better — Chivas won their opener.
Yes, they played the Chicago Fire and, yes, it was at home, but they are already 17 percent of the way to their win total from a year ago. Thomas McNamara showed the departed Goats brass that maybe the draft isn't a total waste, while Erick Torres showed why fans are pining for him to stay beyond June, but Chivas got good performances all around. They dominated the Fire and put Gonzalo Segares in the spin cycle time and time again, which isn't easy.
Nobody is going to claim that Chivas are going to win MLS Cup and even the playoffs remain a long shot, but after a year — and years, really — of frustration, dejection and heartbreak, the Goats finally had a good month, and a good day on the pitch. Lord knows they deserve those fleeting smiles and cheers.
Now someone fix McNamara's hair and it will be perfect in Chivaland.
Who's going to stop the Whitecaps?
The Vancouver Whitecaps didn't miss the playoffs in 2013 because they didn't have enough attacking talent. Between Russell Teibert, Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh, Kenny Miller and Camilo Sanvezzo, they had plenty going forward and while Camilo did leave, the Caps signed Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales.
Now the only question is who is going to be left out of the lineup and just how scared opposing defenses will be.
If there was any question about the Whitecaps missing Camilo, that was wiped out in their obliteration of the New York Red Bulls. Morales and Manneh didn't even start, but Morales netted a goal off the bench, while Fernandez scored in his Vancouver debut, Miller netted a pair, Mattocks had an assist, Teibert was a menace all match and Manneh looked dangerous after he came on. The sheer depth that Vancouver has going forward is absolutely frightening for the rest of the league, making new manager Carl Robinson's job much, much easier. All he has to do is figure out a way to patch together a defense.
The Whitecaps' fortunes may eventually rest on Jay Demerit's health, but regardless of whether or not they have a good enough defense to win regularly, they're going to be must-watch TV in the league for one reason: nobody in MLS can touch their array of attacking talent.
Will Bruin may have relocated the goal
Many pegged the Houston Dynamo to make a third consecutive MLS Cup last season and it didn't happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest and easiest to fix was Will Bruin's inability to score. After a 16-goal regular season in 2012 — a campaign good enough to earn him a national team call-up — he went cold last year and wasn't even first choice for stretches of last season. As Bruin slumped, so did the Dynamo, but it looks like Bruin circa 2012 might be back and it took just 13 minutes for him to serve notice.
Two minutes into the season, Bruin notched his first and 11 minutes later, he had himself a brace.
The Dynamo had two questions entering the season: who would score goals and who would play centerback. The latter remains a mystery, although the first outing with David Horst and Jermaine Taylor was promising, while the former looks like it may not be a concern for long. Bruin has proven he can score before, and if early returns are any indicator, he's back to being the man. If that's the case, Dominic Kinnear is halfway to having a MLS Cup contending team again.
Same problems for the Galaxy
The Galaxy struggled all last season because they couldn't close out matches, then found themselves in trouble in the playoffs because they couldn't finish. On Saturday, both of them doomed them against Real Salt Lake.
Joao Plata's 80th minute tally fired the visitors to three points, while the Galaxy will rue their missed opportunities before and after the winner. Whether it was Landon Donovan's miss or Robbie Keane's continuous terrible finishing, including a weak 93rd minute penalty, LA couldn't turn their good midfield play and great debut by Samuel into a goal.
One game does not a season make, but despite several new faces, the 2014 Galaxy looked exactly like the 2013 team that bowed out in the Western Conference semifinals.
Pretend the Sounders and Sporting never played
The Seattle Sounders picked up three points and those count just as much as any other points, but Saturday's contest against Sporting Kansas City was the ultimate in "don't take much out of the opening match." The Sounders were short-handed, the match was choppy and Sporting Kansas City always lose late at CenturyLink Field, combining to make the contest somewhat of a throwaway.
Ask yourself this: do you know much more about either team than you knew on Friday? Probably not.
And when Chad Barrett scores the winner you know the whole match is a hoax anyway.