This opening week was largely a huge success for MLS by almost every measure. The games were good, the ones on national TV were particularly exciting, a new stadium opened, and an expansion team played its home opener in front of a sellout crowd.
But sadly, there were also some naughty fans, so we’re going to have to talk about that.
Portland Timbers 5-1 Minnesota United
Columbus Crew SC 1-1 Chicago Fire
LA Galaxy 1-2 FC Dallas
Real Salt Lake 0-0 Toronto FC
Colorado Rapids 1-0 New England Revolution
D.C. United 0-0 Sporting Kansas City
Houston Dynamo 2-1 Seattle Sounders
San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Montreal Impact
Orlando City 1-0 New York City FC
Atlanta United 1-2 New York Red Bulls
Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 Philadelphia Union
The Atlanta United experience certainly won’t be boring
55,000 fans descended on Bobby Dodd Stadium for Atlanta United’s first ever competitive match on Sunday night, and they got a show. The ending wasn’t what they were hoping for, but they can't say they weren’t entertained.
Unfortunately, a few of those fans have drawn some negative attention towards the club. Homophobic chanting was audible on the TV broadcast during Red Bulls' goal kicks, while referee Mark Geiger had more than a couple pieces of debris thrown in his direction.
But there were tens of thousands of great fans at the stadium on Sunday, plus plenty of things to like about the experience, so we’re not going to ignore it.
First, they had a ceremonial golden railroad spike banging with Yung Joc, while Monica sang a fantastic national anthem.
Atlanta United FC honorary guest is Young Joc. National anthem is being sung by Monica. @ATLUTD is for the culture ⚫️ #UniteAndConquer— DatWay_Lei (@yngboss_Lei) March 6, 2017
While Minnesota United looked very much like an unsure of themselves expansion side on Friday might, Atlanta was nothing like that. They played fast and aggressive from kickoff, and didn’t take long to find their first ever goal, scored by Yamil Asad.
BOOM. @YamilAsad11 slots home the first goal in @ATLUTD history. #ATLvNY https://t.co/z1kW1QrsN6— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 6, 2017
The crowd went nuts, and uh...
Georgia Tech fans, look away— Devonta would've won (@JasonKirkSBN) March 6, 2017
I'm pretty sure that's the loudest I've ever heard this stadium
Yeah, it was great.
But things went sour for Atlanta in the second half. They were the better team for 70 minutes, regularly frustrating the Red Bulls and looking like they were going to score a second goal, but came unglued at the end of the game.
Atlanta conceded on a set piece in the 76th minute, then lost defender Leandro González Pírez to an injury. Atlanta collapsed shortly afterward, with Anton Walkes scoring an own goal and Carlos Carmona getting himself sent off for some off-the-ball stupidity.
Yep. You can't do that. Red card for Carmona. Atlanta down to 10. pic.twitter.com/Oc7GoXNzn3— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) March 6, 2017
Don’t expect to see Carmona for three games.
Despite the disappointment, Atlanta named a man of the match to start a new tradition. Asad got to follow Yung Joc in doing some railroad-spike pounding, and it appears that they’re going to have a piece of railroad track with all the man of the match spikes at the end of the season in tribute to Atlanta’s founding as an end-of-the-line railroad town (and their biggest supporters' group, Terminus Legion).
Your first ever Man of the Match, @YamilAsad11! #UniteAndConquer pic.twitter.com/z30tFESEvR— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 6, 2017
This game was just ... so extra. And you know what? Maybe that’s good. MLS can get a little too professional-feeling sometimes — someone needs to be extra. A chunk of particularly stupid fans need to rein in their total stupidity, but otherwise, Atlanta looks like they’re going to be a fantastic addition to the league.
Some teams we thought might be bad looked very good — particularly San Jose
You’d be hard-pressed to find a pundit willing to predict that the Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, or Chicago Fire would make the playoffs this season, but all three turned in very good performances in Week 1. The Dynamo’s performance was very solid — they beat last year’s MLS Cup winners, and did it with two top-quality goals.
But the Earthquakes’ game might have been even more impressive. Check out their shots for and against vs. Montreal, from Opta’s data on the MLS website.
That’s zero quality shots for the Impact and enough good ones for the Quakes that they should have scored more than once. And we have plenty of reasons to believe this is repeatable, too. They allowed fewer goals than Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls last season, they went undefeated in preseason with five shutouts, and Dominic Kinnear has been a very good defensive coach in MLS for more than a decade.
The Quakes have to figure out their attack, but their defense is definitely playoff-quality.
An NYCFC fan stole a seat!
We did a separate post on Sunday about the opening of Orlando City’s new stadium, which you should check out. Orlando City Stadium is the new gold standard for MLS grounds and should be the model for all new soccer-specific stadiums going forward.
But uh ... some dummy NYCFC hooligan tried to steal a seat.
Shoutout to this @NYCFC fan for trying to steal a LITERAL seat from our home. Have a nice night in the clink. pic.twitter.com/BRKtaqFIOa— Orlando City Central (@OrlCty) March 6, 2017
I wonder why he’d do that ... OH!
trying to build a soccer specific stadium one stolen seat at a time https://t.co/1q8fgrljCt— Gaby Kirschner (@gabykirschner) March 6, 2017
MLS Twitter is already in mid-season form.
Clint Dempsey is back!
During the USMNT’s January camp, Bruce Arena said that he would not be calling up Clint Dempsey for World Cup qualifying in late March. After this goal (and Dempsey’s solid 90-minute performance), Arena will be re-thinking his position.
First 2017 goal for the defending #MLSCup champs belongs to @clint_dempsey.— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 5, 2017
Good to have you back, Deuce. #Sounders pic.twitter.com/UIHGckYPMG
It can’t be overstated how much the USMNT missed Dempsey in their losses to Mexico and Costa Rica. If he’s fully fit, he should be on the team. It’ll be up to Dempsey, Arena, and Brian Schmetzer to determine if he’s far enough along in his recovery from a heart problem to play in Hex matches.
MLS Live power rankings
This is not a ranking that has anything to do with how good a team is at soccer, which should be obvious from who’s checked in at No. 4. It's simply about how likely you are to be entertained if you choose to watch their game on MLS Live. Notably, none of these teams currently qualify as "unwatchable." They all had something to offer this weekend, or fun players that suggest they will soon.
- Atlanta United
- Portland Timbers
- FC Dallas
- Minnesota United
- Seattle Sounders
- LA Galaxy
- Toronto FC
- New York City FC
- Houston Dynamo
- New York Red Bulls
- Orlando City
- Vancouver Whitecaps
- Colorado Rapids
- Real Salt Lake
- Sporting Kansas City
- Chicago Fire
- Columbus Crew
- Montreal Impact
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Philadelphia Union
- New England Revolution
- D.C. United
Is Atlanta good? I have no idea, but they might be the most purely entertaining MLS team I’ve ever seen. The Timbers might not actually be as fun as they looked against a bad Minnesota team, but we’ll find out soon enough.
Montreal gets some benefit of the doubt due to Ignacio Piatti’s presence on their roster, plus their performances last season. They were the team that had the least to offer in Week 1. D.C. should get more fun when Luciano Acosta is fit and Ian Harkes is up to speed, but their current lineup leaves a lot to be desired. Philly is a competent soccer team with plenty of decent players, but of the teams near the bottom of the list, they seem like the least likely to become fun.
Here is a list of way-too-early takes that are not worthy of an entire column. You should argue with me about them.
- The Red Bulls should not have traded Dax McCarty.
- But since they did: Tyler Adams is better than Sean Davis and will be first choice quickly.
- Last McCarty take, I promise: He was really good against Columbus, and the Fire will get better when they have Matt Polster or Juninho to pair with him.
- Minnesota United will end this season with the worst record in MLS history.
- Kellyn Acosta looks like a complete midfielder, and the Dallas star will become a USMNT mainstay shortly.
- I am unalarmed by Toronto and Seattle’s starts. They’re still the best teams in the league.
- Atlanta United is a good organization that will clean up the homophobic chanting and beer-throwing that marred the opener.
Here is a photo I love from this week’s games
Have a great week!