MLS is back, and it delivered in spectacular fashion on Sunday. There wasn't a single scoreless game and none of them could be classified as boring either. Whether or not it was good soccer is certainly up for debate, but no one can accuse MLS of putting out a bad product. This was extremely good stuff, and set the tone for what could be the league's most entertaining season yet.
New York Red Bulls 0-2 Toronto FC
Chicago Fire 3-4 New York City FC
Orlando City SC 2-2 Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Colorado Rapids
Houston Dynamo 3-3 New England Revolution
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Portland Timbers 2-1 Columbus Crew SC
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-3 Montreal Impact
Seattle Sounders FC 0-1 Sporting Kansas City
LA Galaxy 4-1 D.C. United
There were 36 goals! This probably wasn't much of an anomaly.
Salary cap and closed system or not, MLS is always going to have trouble becoming the best soccer league in the world. The next-best alternative is having a genuinely silly product with a ton of goals. It might not have happened intentionally, but it appears that MLS has stumbled into exactly that kind of product.
MLS competes in a very crowded sporting landscape. Not only do they have to sell tickets and sponsorship against other American professional sports, but they're competing for attention against Liga MX and the English Premier League, which are just as accessible to American audiences. At the same time, soccer's conventional wisdom is that low-budget teams play organized, defensive soccer to compensate for their lack of talent. These two things are at odds with each other.
The problem with that conventional wisdom is that it comes from leagues with much more inequality than MLS. There is no Real Madrid to compete with here, no matter how much Rapids and Fire fans want to complain about the Galaxy. There are also six teams from each conference that make the playoffs. You can spend half your games leaking tons of goals and still compete for a title. In that way, MLS is awesome.
Between the need to draw eyeballs away from other sports and leagues and the conditions MLS has created (shouts to Targeted Allocation Money), teams have every incentive to overspend on entertaining players while underspending on defensive players. The result is a league with playmakers, wingers and strikers good enough to play in any league in the world, but very minimal defensive depth.
Look at the league and pick out the teams that have a better defense than attack. There aren't many. The Rapids once Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard are settled in, certainly. Probably D.C. United. Probably the Quakes, too. I think that's the whole list. Get ready for a high-scoring season.
Orlando-RSL was perfect
While it wasn't the highest-scoring game of the day, this game was the platonic ideal of an MLS game in 2016.
It had everything: silly red cards, fast pace, guys trying tricks, minimal defending, a young superstar in Cyle Larin taking over in stoppage time and a last-minute comeback. Plus, "Burrito" Juan Manuel Martínez did this.
The Burrito - Yura Movsisyan - Joao Plata front line is going to be amazing to watch this season. And speaking of ...
Weekly MLS Live power rankings
This is not a ranking that has anything to do with how good a team is at soccer. It's simply about how likely you are to be entertained if you choose to watch their game on MLS Live.
13. Red Bulls
Here is a list of way too early takes that are not worthy of an entire column. You should argue with me about them.
1. Mike Magee is better than Giovani dos Santos
2. Toronto FC's long-ball tactic was actually good
3. NYCFC is a bad team
4. FC Dallas is winning a treble
5. Fraser Aird got owned by Ignacio Piatti repeatedly because of his bad hair
6. Sigi Schmid is getting fired at the end of the year
7. Targeted Allocation Money is the best idea this league has ever had
Here's a great photo from this week's games
Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Have a good week, fam.