Monday, March 4, 2013

MLS Week 1 Roundup

Week one from MLS is officially in the books.  There were surprises (Montreal beating Seattle in Seattle), blow-outs (Galaxy 4-0 over Chicago), and a few barn-burners (Portland coming back to tie NY 3-3).




I have three main impressions from the weekend that was.

1. Seattle will take a step back this year.  The Sounders had to be the most disappointing team of week 1.  I felt like Seattle wasn't quite the same team without Fredy Montero and a solid back line.  They are relying heavily on Mauro Rosales and Eddie Johnson, allowing other teams to focus on them.  With nobody else really stepping up to lead the team, where will the goals come from?  Sure, Johnson will get 15-17 goals this year, but with the rest of the west getting better, Seattle will have to bolster their attack before the signing window closes or else they could be in an early hole.

2. Chivas USA needs to go.  The Goats are currently an embarrassment to the whole league.  While they announced their attendance for the home opener at around 7000, reports say only ~2000 tickets were sold, with around 2000 given away for free.  Commissioner Garber needs to address this now.  I don't think anybody would oppose relocation midseason or forcing a change in ownership.  The organization is a joke right now, and while I think two teams in LA is a great idea, this isn't working.



3.  The overall quality in play in MLS has improved greatly.  The games this weekend were entertaining showcases for the league all around.  There were several beautiful team goals, individual moments, and the Timbers/RedBulls game was perhaps the best soccer game of the weekend anywhere in the world.  I can't think of a game except for the Chivas/Columbus game that wasn't fun to watch (even the CHVvCOL game had some spectacular goals).  MLS should be extremely proud of the product it's putting out on the field.  Teams are finding their own styles of play.  There is competition at every position on nearly every team.  It's a great time to be an MLS fan.

Late Challenge team of the week:

Goalkeeper:
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake.  Rimando made several reaction saves to help RSL preserve the shutout (his 100th career S.O).  He denied last year's MVP Chris Wondolowski several times and is the stone wall of RSL's defense.  Honorable mention to Jimmy Nielsen (SKC).

Defenders:
Aurelien Collin, Sporting KC.  For me, made some huge plays and was more solid at centerback than reigning DOY Matt Besler.

Tony Beltran, RSL.  When Beltran came forward into RSL's attack, they threatened goal nearly every time.  Did well to keep Wondo and Fucito out of the net.

Jamison Olave, New York Red Bulls.  Olave scored on both ends, but prevented a bevy of Timbers goals by being a beast all over the field.  Broke up scoring chances all night and kept NY in a game they really should have lost.

Midfielders:
Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City.  It was the Zusi show on opening day.  With a goal and two assists, Zusi might be the MVP of the week.

Davy Arnaud, Montreal Impact.  Arnaud's goal against the Sounders was a perfectly weighted lofty thing of beauty.  His leadership and hustle gave the Impact the biggest upset of the weekend.

Diego Valeri, Portland TImbers. The most impactful player in the best game of the weekend.  Could be an early candidate for MVP.

Eddie Gaven, Columbus Crew.  Pulled the strings and did the dirty work in the Crew's demolishing of Chivas.

Gershon Koffie, Vancouver Whitecaps.  Ended a beautiful team sequence for the winning goal against Toronto.  Was a pest all over the field.

Forwards:
Mike Magee, LA Galaxy.  You score three goals, you make the list.  Everybody is on the "underrated" bandwagon, but Magee has been a goal magnet for several years.

Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake.  Two great goals from two chances.  More than last year's golden boot winner could say.  The most under appreciated striker in the league.

Coach:
Jason Kreis, Real Salt Lake.  Could have gone to Marco Schällibaum (MTL) for winning in Seattle, but Kreis made the perfect change at the perfect time.  Bringing on Joao Plata opened up San Jose and led to two Sabo goals.  Weathered the storm before and after the goals to give RSL the biggest win of the weekend.