USA TODAY Sports
The weekend's surefire favorites drop surprising decisions to supposedly weaker teams at home.
When Toronto FC dump a player, there is a pretty good chance that said player will be more effective on another, better managed team.
Such is the case with Joao Plata, who was traded to Real Salt Lake. He came off the bench in their match against the San Jose Earthquakes, and he made an immediate impact, opening up space in the attacking third and providing a valuable assist to the game-winning goal scored by tico Alvaro Saborio.
Wondolowski scuffed about 6.72×109 chances, costing the Quakes a valuable opening day win, at home no less, against "rebuilding year" RSL. I don't know how many of you thought that Real Salt Lake were sure to suffer for dumping Espindola and Olave (amongst others) but I thought they would feel it. Good on Kreis and co. to come out with aggressive subs in an away match at free-scoring San Jose. I doubt Wondo will keep misfiring, but it does highlight the Quakes' over-dependence on him.
Speaking of Espindola and Olave, that was one heck of a game in Portland last night! It had all of the terrible defending that defined both teams last year, right up until Caleb Porter turned his head angrily around and said "I swear, Timbers, I will turn this stadium around and go straight home if you don't start moving around the field like you want to be there!"
Diego Valeri's quick-response, first-half goal came right after Espindola's opening strike, and will probably win goal of the week (in my book at least). Take a peek if you haven't seen it.
Portland came out in the second half with so much urgency that you have to wonder if Caleb Porter threatened to unleash a swarm of angry bees at his team if they didn't start moving around and making runs. The change was drastic enough that it makes my bee-threat theory seem plausible.
It's only the first week and as such it's silly to proclaim anything about the season, but the goal that Valeri scored should help Portland fans feel better about not signing Mix Diskerud. Darlington Nagbe also looked like a man possessed by the Ghost of Football Future, with swagger and attempts that have only been seen in small flahes in his first two years in Portland. Whether it's the Porter-effect or something else is up for debate, but my money is on his former college coach giving him a bit more freedom and a vote of confidence. It works wonders for young guns such as Nagbe.
Meanwhile, the yuk-fest that is the New York Red Bulls' defense has carried on their proud tradition from last year, at least for one game. If it wasn't for the heroics of Fabian Espindola, and to some extent Tim Cahill, the Red Bulls could easily have lost that game. Espindola, much like Joao Plata, quickly made his mark on the match. His strike carried a power and venom traditionally limited to black mambas, and if he's paired up with an in-form Thierry Henry (who was pretty bad last night) it is a terrifying thing to consider. One could make the argument though that they will need the goals if they keep defending the way they did last season.
The "crowd" (feel free to laugh at the misnomer) at Chivas USA is all over the soccer media for obvious and sad reasons. The pitiful little band that showed up at the soon-to-be Stub Hub Center more closely resembled the numbers of the Flint Michigan Tropics fans rather than usual contingent that shows up in LA. Don Garber, who has avoided addressing the Chivas topic much, answered a question directly and said it was "concerning" if ticket sales were to remain around those numbers. With Chelis' boys getting thumped on their opening day, they will need to thoroughly thrash FC Dallas this week to inspire any kind of confidence, which I highly doubt they are capable of after watching their match against Columbus. Would a midseason relocation/rebranding be that crazy an idea? An extra month of these sorts of displays would make it a discussion worth engaging in.
Mike Magee went crazy against Chicago, scoring a hat trick in a match that was more boring blowout than exciting opener. With Donovan out for a while and Beckham gone, players like Magee stepping up is exactly what the Galaxy needs to hold their season together until their star comes back. Austin Berry, meanwhile, made a case for getting kicked off my fantasy team, especially when I look at his point totals next to Matt Hedges. Silly Rookie of the Year voters...
I'm sorry for doubting you, Marco Schällibaum, at least for now. The media darling Seattle Sounders got punched in the teeth by the Montreal Impact, losing their home opener by a measly one-goal while getting shut out on their home turf in a match that did not go the way any pundit expected. It's not something that should get Sounders fans disheartened though, as their outfit created a thousand chances, but Montreal's heroic defensive efforts held them at bay. The Impact have now opened the season with a road win, something that they only managed twice all last year, and can hold their heads high heading into week 2.
It's a bit cruel to the Sounders, who created plenty of opportunities throughout the game and played without Osvaldo Alonso, but it would be unfair to Montreal to turn this narrative into "Seattle Couldn't Finish". The Impact swarmed like hungry wolves over every Seattle player that had possession and allowed very little time on the ball to see out the game. Montreal played like a team with an "Us vs. The World" chip on their shoulder, and they channeled that into a solid defensive show.
A pretty slick goal by Davy Arnaud probably helped too.
Colorado and Columbus look like different teams after their first game. Colorado in particular impressed me. I don't know how much of it is due to Watson and Andrew Jacbonson being a new d-mid pair that looked green, and how much of that was Colorado's own skill, but either way the Rapids played with a belief and intensity not seen all last season.
Toronto vs. Vancouver engaged in a study for the American Sleep Centers to see who could put their fans into hibernation the quickest. A nice goal aside, it was a dreadful event. Let us speak no more of it, as I already regret remembering the time I lost to it.
As a last second addition... spare a thought for Jay Demerit, who seems to be going down the Stu Holden Road of Terrible Luck. He has a ruptured achilles tendon and will be out for pretty much the entire season.
Food for Thought:
1) Who has your vote for Goal of the Week? Mine's on Valeri.
2) Which home team's sputtering offense surprised you more, Seattle or San Jose?
3) Toronto FC or Chivas USA: Which awful team from last year is most likely to be just as bad this year?
4) What did you think of ESPN's broadcast? Did Healy, Twellman and Lalas provide a a quality show?