Major League Soccer Returns – Week 1

by Michael Orr

omar cummings

The first week of the 2011 Major League Soccer season saw big crowds, goal scoring and the resumption of top flight football in the United States and Canada. A quick rundown of who did what during the first weekend:

Tuesday March 15:
Seattle Sounders 0 – Los Angeles Galaxy 1
Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy opened the season with a Tuesday night game at Qwest Field. The Supporters’ Shield holders got the better of their hosts, despite a massive crowd of 36,433, on Juninho’s cracker just before the hour. Though Seattle had several nice chances, back-up goalkeeper Josh Saunders had a fine match, denying the Sounders at every turn. The showcase game last Tuesday displayed both the rust of the offseason and the promise of high level football in the modern MLS.

Saturday March 19:
Vancouver Whitecaps 4 – Toronto FC 2
One of two expansion sides in 2011, Vancouver Whitecaps started their inaugural season in MLS in the best possible way, defeating Canadian rivals Toronto FC 4-2 behind a masterful performance from Davide Chiumiento and two goals from Designated Player Eric Hassli. The Whitecaps hosted Toronto at Empire Field though the club will move into BC Place in October. The scene was that of celebration in the same ground where Vancouver debuted in the NASL in 1974.

DC United 3 – Columbus Crew 1
Charlie Davies marked his return to first team, competitive football by recording a brace in DC United’s 3-1 thrashing of Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium. Davies, a second half substitute, knocked in a penalty just after the hour and got his second in the 77th minute as the hosts took a 3-0 lead. Only Robbie Rogers’ goal saved Columbus from being held scoreless just one full season after their Supporters’ Shield triumph of 2009.

Red Bull New York 1 – Seattle Sounders 0
Seattle’s second game of the season also resulted in a 1-0 loss with Red Bull New York taking advantage of young Juan Agudelo’s 70th minute goal at Red Bull Arena. The debut win for New York is a nice start in a campaign surely aimed at winning both the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup. For Seattle, coming away without a point in their first two games is not exactly the start they expected, though LA and New York are certainly two of the tougher sides in the league.

FC Dallas 1 – Chicago Fire 1
2010 MLS Cup runners-up FC Dallas could manage only a draw against Chicago Fire at Pizza Hut Park in the season opener for both teams. Diego Cháves opened scoring for the visitors in the 17th minute but was immediately answered by a Milton Rodríguez goal in the 18th. A Brek Shea red card in the 55th minute left the home side a man down for the rest of the match but the score held and shared points were accepted by both clubs after a hard fought game.

Houston Dynamo 0 – Philadelphia Union 1
After winning just twice away from home in their debut season of 2010, Philadelphia Union got a 1-0 away victory against Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium. Union captain Danny Califf scored in the fifth minute and it was enough to hold off the Dynamo. Philadelphia look to be a side prepared to make a playoff push after the struggles of their first season.

Colorado Rapids 3 – Portland Timbers 1
Jeff Larentowicz, Omar Cummings (pictured) and Jamie Smith scored goals in the first half-hour for Colorado Rapids as the MLS Cup holders opened their title defense with a well deserved demolition of debutants Portland Timbers. The expansion side were run out of the park in the first half before settling and pulling one back late on thanks to a fine free kick from Kenny Cooper. Still, the battering at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park gives credence to the notion that the Rapids will again be a strong side in 2011. Portland have two more away games before making their home debut.

San Jose Earthquakes 0 – Real Salt Lake 1
Captain Kyle Beckerman scored just after the hour for Real Salt Lake, earning the visitors a 1-0 win away to San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Salt Lake are considered by many to be the class of MLS and they showed it in shutting down 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and picking up three points from another playoff team from last season.

Chivas USA 2 – Sporting KC 3
Top draft pick CJ Sapong scored in the second minute and Omar Bravo notched a brace on his debut as Sporting KC held off Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center. Bravo, the Guadalajara legend, lived up to his status as a Designated Player by scoring the second and third goals as Chivas pulled two back in the second half. Jimmy Conrad, the longtime Kansas City defender and Ben Zemanski got the goals for a seemingly revived Chivas side.

Sunday March 20:
Los Angeles Galaxy 1 – New England Revolution 1
The weekend closed with shared points for LA Galaxy and New England Revolution at the Home Depot Center. Shalrie Joseph got the visitors off to a shock start but Juninho got his second goal of the season to equalize before half-time. The game was played in torrential rains though Juan Pablo Ángel did appear to knock in a match-winner for the Galaxy on his west coast debut. But the goal was called back for offside and New England left LA with one of the more difficult points in the league.

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