While it may seem to many living in Toronto that nothing of significance goes on outside the "centre of the universe", week 3 of MLS play did indeed transpire while TFC took the weekend off. Teams won, teams lost, Impact players got hurt... in other words, it was more of the usual for this 2015 rendition of MLS play.
We'll start off with the Canadian teams. Vancouver set off to Orlando, trying to deliver the expansion side their first taste of MLS defeat, in a match that pitted two former Reds against each other in young DP Mattias Laba and OCSC midfielder Eric Avila. In similar fashion to their road victory a week ago, Vancouver's new designated player, Octavio Rivero, scored in the dying minutes of the match to steal the victory for the Whitecaps. Rivero has now scored in three consecutive games, and one quick look at the highlight package will tell you that he could, and probably should, have scored several others over this most recent 90 minute span. All game long, Orlando captain Kaka danced around Vancouver's defending, but was unable to impact the game where it really counted- the scoresheet. The final 6 minutes of the match was likely the most exciting end to any week 3 MLS game, with Orlando twice coming close to breaking the deadlock (Canadian Cyle Larin unable to finish the second opportunity) and then Rivero's goal- a well-taken header off a set piece- ultimately being converted in the 5th minute of stoppage time.
Toronto FC's other Canadian rival, the Montreal Impact, saw their early season misfortune continue in New England (let's call it ‘the curse of Canadian teams in CCL semi-finals'). Both the visiting Impact and New England Revolution fielded starter-depleted lineups, and both sides were desperate to register their first win and first goal of the season. Ultimately, neither were successful in achieving those objectives. The 0-0 draw was not without some excitement, however- as Impact defender Hassoun Camara pulled off one of the stupidest and most blatant defensive... "manoeuvres" I have ever seen a player already on a yellow card perform-
Despite the red card, New England were unable to capitalize, and Montreal went home with an extra point, but a few less (healthy) starters, as breakout rookie Cameron Porter damaged a ligament and former Red Dominic Oduro hobbled off the field shortly after a "TFC 2014"-like miss on a fantastic opportunity.
Speaking of 0-0 draws with ejections, Colorado played to a scoreless stalemate against the visiting New York City FC, despite being a man up for the last 15 minutes due to a second yellow shown to City's Shay Facey for an aggressive challenge inches outside the 18 yard box. The match (unsurprisingly) featured quite the goalkeeping duel, with some very impressive shot-stopping from NYCFC's Josh Saunders. And in the third 0-0 draw of the weekend, the Portland Timbers made their record-breaking intentions clear, as they focused their crosshairs on the Chicago Fire's "most draws in an MLS season" mark by registering their third tie in as many games to start the campaign. Portland was visiting Sporting Kansas City, and neither team were able to generate much offensively - or, for that matter, record their first win of the season. Canadian Marcel De Jong was one of the few bright spots in the match, as he played his way into the MLS best eleven with some very solid defensive work and expertly-placed crosses (that should have been converted by his teammates).
In Philadelphia, the Union came out of the gate strong against FC Dallas, creating better opportunities in the first 41 minutes before going a man down when Zach Pfeffer delivered what looked to possibly be a malicious elbow to the head in an aerial battle. From that point on, the league's only perfect team showed few weaknesses as Dallas scored two in the second half and maintained their clean sheet. Of note to Canadian fans- former Red Kyle Bekker played a whole 11 minutes in this one, and Dallas' first goal was scored by none other than semi-Canadian Tesho Akindele:
The weekend also featured two successful home openers, as the New York Red Bulls won their rivalry match over DC United by a score of 2-0. DC United's Chris Pontius could have helped his team edge closer in the dying minutes of the game, but sent a stoppage-time penalty clear over the crossbar. Bradley Wright-Phillips' performance in the match (a goal and an assist) is likely to start quieting his doubters, who attributed the newly-crowned DP's 2014 success to retired teammate Thierry Henry. BWP's poise and composure on the ball was evident (he could have easily had a second assist as well), and his goal, while partially the product of a great ball played forward to him, was extremely well-taken-
The other successful home opener took place in San Jose's new Avaya Stadium, where the Earthquakes edged out the Chicago Fire 2-1. All three goals in the game came in the first 30 minutes, which helps explain Chicago's 58% possession despite the loss. For the first time this season all three new Chicago DPs found themselves on the field at the same time (in the 67th minute), but that still wasn't enough to find an equalizer. For now let's enjoy this feel-good moment, Ty Harden's first goal of his career (a gift from Sean Johnson in Harden's 100th MLS appearance)-
In Los Angeles- or, Carson, I suppose, Houston stole a point on the road, but at a cost- they'll go home with two newly injured players (Clark and Beasley). Robbie Keane did what he does best in converting this early goal - an impressive run from midfield (too bad the finish was anti-climactic):
Once Houston equalized, it took another keeper-of-the-week performance from Tyler Deric to keep Houston afloat, and he'll likely be called upon for more of those going forward as they struggle to fill in the injured starters' spots. Also of note- and this one's for Kent... former Red, "stoppage time" Alan Gordon, came bewilderingly close to converting a header off a corner in the dying moments of the match, despite having four men marking him...
Where does this leave TFC? In a play-off spot, of course. With a game in hand, no less! I am of course kidding, it's impossible to really deduce anything from the handful of performances that we've seen so far (or standings to date). The countless players on international leave should also make for some interesting performances/results in week 4. There are a few things that are becoming obvious, though- New England needs Jones back, Dallas is looking dangerous, and Chicago's going to need some time to gel (interestingly Maloney's already being called a ‘bust'... I wonder which WTR writer said he'd be the biggest one of those this season??). Until next week!