After much uncertainty, the MLS regular season has arrived. As expected, the number goals in Week One couldn’t match the excitement entering the week, as offenses still find their regular-season rhythm. Nonetheless, the weekend featured plenty of drama with seven of ten games decided by one goal or less in MLS’s opening round.
Here is a roundup of the nine MLS games that didn’t feature the Portland Timbers.
L.A. Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 0
The MLS season started with perhaps the least dramatic game of the weekend, as the Galaxy took control of their game with the hapless Fire early on and never let go. Although the game remained deadlocked at zero until Jose Villarreal put the Galaxy ahead in the 65th minute after the Fire defense made a mess of a Dan Gargan cross and allowed the ball to fall to Villarreal to hit first time inside the far post. If there was any suspense left, Robbie Keane put it to rest in the 81st minute after Baggio Husidic nodded an Omar Gonzalez long ball into the path of the Irish international for Keane to hammer home on the half-volley. Keane’s couldn’t celebrate his goal without some controversy, however, as he flashed multiple apparently obscene gestures toward the home crowd for no obvious reason.
The frigid weather in Washington D.C. didn’t help the aesthetic value of the season opener in the nation’s capital, as MLS’s two CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinalists played to an ugly 1-0 United win. Jairo Arrieta broke the deadlock in the 58th minute as he collected a lopping vertical ball from Chris Rolfe and hit it first time past an onrushing Evan Bush. Rolfe was impressive in a D.C. attack that is without Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola for the opening stretch of the season. If the winter weather wasn’t enough to mar the game, Justin Mapp suffered a graphically dislocated elbow in a second-half collision with D.C. keeper Bill Hamid.
What Galaxy-Fire lacked in suspense about the outcome, Union-Rapids lacked in any sort of excitement. The Rapids were dreadful - completing 59% of their passes, holding less than 40% of the ball, and squeezing off a pathetic two shots in a game in which the Union were certainly better, but never looked seriously poised to break the draw. Bobby Burling will be sitting out a week after picking up a mindless second yellow card in the 68th minute for pulling down Sebastien Le Toux in the open field. The Union’s best chance of the game came in the 86th minute as Clint Irwin denied a Conor Casey header at the near post with a tremendous reflex save. But otherwise the game lived up to every bit of its billing as a season-opening duel of bottom feeders.
It was a tale of two halves in Vancouver, as the Whitecaps were all over TFC in the early going. Octavio Rivero redeemed himself for giving us the prohibitive favorite for miss of the year with a cool 19th minute opener. The Whitecaps found space in spades on the flanks of TFC’s narrow diamond, but squandered numerous chances as their box execution let them down time and again. TFC made the ‘Caps pay in the 32nd minute when Jozy Altidore collected a magnificent ball from Sebastian Giovinco, rounded David Ousted and slipped the equalizer into the open net. Whereas TFC were flattered by the tied scoreline at halftime, they were thoroughly dominant in the second half. The Reds pulled ahead in the 59th minute by way of a Robbie Findley tap-in of a Justin Morrow cross and put things away when Altidore chipped a penalty home after Pa Modou Kah hacked down the American international in the box.
Houston Dynamo 1, Columbus Crew 0
By virtually every measure on Saturday, the Columbus Crew were the better team on the field at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. But it was the Houston Dynamo who came away with the win by way of a Giles Barnes finish from a Kofi Sarkodie cross. The visitors were dominant in nearly every way, holding more than 60% of the ball and firing 18 shots to Houston’s 8. But an outstanding performance from Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric kept Crew SC off the scoreboard, with no save better than his 53rd minute denial of a Kei Kamara header that by all rights should have been the opener.
Sanna Nyassi started a competitive MLS game on Saturday evening and, not surprisingly, it didn’t go that well for his team. The Burn were the more dangerous team throughout and nearly broke through in the 22nd minute when Blas Perez’s goal-bound shot was cleared off the line by Paulo Renato. Despite FC Dallas calling Quakes keeper David Bingham into action several times, however, the Hoops didn’t break through until the 92nd minute when Bingham was drawn off his line and Perez redirected a Moises Hernandez shot into the net.
Perhaps the most anticipated of Sunday’s games was also the poorest display on the final day of MLS’s opening weekend. In a game that featured six yellow cards (including three issued to OCSC by referee Alan Kelley for diving) and a horrible tackle by Aurelien Collin that more than justifiably earned straight red, the two expansion sides showed they have some refining to do before they’re ready to compete for a playoff spot in MLS. The game that seemed destined for an ugly 0-0, however, was interrupted when Mix Diskerud curled a ball from the top of the box just inside the far post for the opener. Down to ten men, the Lions caught a bit of luck in the first minute of stoppage time when Kaka’s free kick took a huge deflection off Jeb Brovsky, crossed-up Josh Saunders, and nestled in for the late equalizer.
Sunday’s best game came from Kansas City, where the Red Bulls and SKC battled to a 1-1 draw at sunny Sporting Park. After each goalkeeper snuffed out great chances from Seth Sinovic and Felipe, respectively, the Wiz put themselves in front when Ike Opara nodded home a 50th-minute Benny Feilhaber cross. The Red Bulls wouldn’t stay behind for long, however, as just four minutes later Lloyd Sam cut in and bent a beauty past Luis Marin to pull things level. Sporting KC were probably the slightly better team in this one, however, even after Matt Besler picked up his second yellow card. Despite being a man down, SKC had opportunities to capture all three points in the waning minutes, but Dom Dwyer just couldn’t find the net.
This one was supposed to be a doozy with 2014’s MLS Cup Finalists visiting the Supporters Shield winners. But, with New England missing Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones, and the Sounders looking every bit the team they were through much of the 2014 regular season, the game turned into a laugher early. If you have questions about Seattle’s first goal, which came by way of a questionable Clint Dempsey-drawn penalty, Andrew Farrell is probably the one questioning how Obafemi Martins beat him so badly to put away a 41st-minute cross from new Sounders right back Tyrone Mears. The game felt over at halftime, but the Sounders had one more thrill in them before retiring a listless New England team. Marco Pappa was nothing short of magical during the Sounders’ 67th-minute sequence that will undoubtedly go down as one of the best team goals in MLS in 2015.