Week I of MLS is in the books, and Toronto FC are at the top of the Eastern Conference table. Here's what we(I) learned from the games on Sunday:
Toronto FC 2, New York Red Bulls 0
See Mitchell Tierney's article here for a more detailed look. We learned that the Red Bulls will probably not miss Matt Miazga all that much, because Gideon Baah is a beast. He kept the league's best player mostly quiet all night and shut down a pair of 1v1s against Giovinco without much trouble. A solid pickup for the Red Bulls. For the Reds, we know that Jozy Altidore is a key for this team, because Giovinco is not a Number 9 in any sense of the word. He was disconnected from the rest of the team, and even though TFC got the win, it wasn't a picturesque performance.
NYCFC 4, Chicago Fire 3
I'll just leave this here.
Hauptman is actually extremely talented... It takes talent to run an organization to the ground to this level #MLSWeek1— Bakary Soumare (@BakySoumare) March 6, 2016
That's former Fire defender Bakary Soumare weighing in on Fire Owner Andrew Hauptman. Boom.
We also learned that both NYCFC and Chicago have the potential to be the bottom two teams in MLS this year. Both defenses were terrible. The game was exciting like a car crash. Fortunately, Patrick Viera and Veljko Paunovic have 33 more games to sort this out.
Real Salt Lake 2, Orlando City SC 2
Orlando played like an expansion side struggling to make things work in the first half. Even after RSL went down a man to a Demar Phillips Red Card, Javi Mo and the RSL veterans gamed the Lions into submission, taking a 2-0 lead into the 94th minute. Within 30 seconds of each other, Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter scored to please the 60,000 that packed out the Citrus Bowl and scrape out a draw. RSL are strange customers this year, and I think Head Coach Jeff Cassar is quickly climbing up the ladder of MLS coaches in danger of losing their jobs.
Guess what? The Rapids didn't score. Guess what else? Dom Kinnear led San Jose to a gritty, ugly win. Get used to that. San Jose are going to play ugly soccer and do it well this year. Wondo will still score, David Bingham has emerged has a great MLS keeper, and Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez still have one more year in them. I'm guessing they have the league's best defense at the midway point of the season. The Rapids weren't lifeless or boring, and that's a major improvement. Impossible-to-spell Shkelzen Gashi looks like he can be a player for them, and with Jermaine Jones joining their midfield alongside Sam Cronin, the Rapids may surprise this year.
Mauro Diaz is really, really good. I'd bet he gets 20 assists this season, but the key point of this match probably negates that. Fabian Castillo was stretchered off the field after doing some damage to his groin. Castillo looked to be in fine form, and this is a real blow for Pareja's team. On the Union side, Jim Curtin has some figuring out to do. The Union do not look good - CJ Sapong probably can't replicate his output from last year, Vincent Nogueira gives good service but without a finisher that becomes moot. The Union backline is a mess, and the real standout of the game for them was 2014 1st overall pick Andre Blake, who made 8 (eight!) saves. Look for the Union to be bottom feeders this year.
The Dynamo quietly went out and made some pretty good moves this offseason - grabbing Cristian Maidana and the much-maligned Andrew Wenger from the Union. The pair had goals against the Revs, along with newly-minted Captain Giles Barnes. Owen Coyle's new-look Dynamo (seriously, the black kits are sharp) did well against a Revs team with a lot of firepower. Diego Fagundez continued to establish himself as a burgeoning star in MLS with an absolute rocket in the 3rd minute. Kelyn Rowe started in a deeper role alongside new signing Gershon Koffie, who had a tidy game. Lee Nguyen looks to be poised to return to MV-Lee form, and if the Revs can sort out their defensive miscues, they could be a top team in the East.
In a rematch of MLS Cup, the Timbers managed to come out on top again. Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, and Diego Chara are the best midfield three in the league, and they showed it. Chara was all over all night, putting out fires and releasing pressure. Fanendo Adi looks poised to have a big season as well, and his hold-up play gives Portland an option up top, and a cohesive identity and sense of how they want to play.
Now, the Crew weren't bad on the night. Higuain scored a ridiculous bicycle kick goal. But there's still this:
Folks, that jersey is shockingly awful. All that aside, the Crew will be just fine this year.
In the all-Canadian matchup, we learned something pretty awful: Montreal are good. Even without Drogba, they're good. Evan Bush was fantastic, Laurent Ciman had 3 or 4 fantastic moments (bicycle kicks and stuff!), and Ignacio Piatti is really, really, good. The flipside of that is that the Whitecaps were just shockingly bad. Defensive miscues, missed opportunities, and poor midfield decision making meant that they did not look good. They will be a good team this year (Kianz Froese looked great in midfield), but this was not their finest hour. Somehow, this is Kyle Bekker's fault.
This game was pretty cagey and boring. Oniel Fisher had a fantastic showing at right back before losing his mind and launching a horrendous two-footed tackle that saw him ejected with a straight Red. From there, both teams poked and prodded without much success. Eventually a goalkeeping error on a speculative drive from distance by SKC centreback Nuno Coelho broke the deadlock. Neither side looked particularly dangerous on the night, but its nice to know MLS golden-boy and Rookie of the Year-elect Jordan Morris had a decent showing.
LA Galaxy 4, DC United 1
The Mike Magee show is back, apparently. In the first half, LA were bad. Really bad. The pieces didn't fit. Gerrard was a passenger. Ashley Cole was WAY better than expected, but still left a lot of space behind him. de Jong looked comfortable, but up front Keane, Zardes, and dos Santos don't fit on the field at the same time. Its was a mess. Then, a blessing in disguise. dos Santos went off at half, and Mike Magee had his Galaxy homecoming: scoring twice, assisting, and earning a penalty. We know better than to doubt Bruce Arena, but LA won't be able to do this every week. Somehow, Arena will have to get dos Santos and Keane on the field at the same time, and that makes them worse, not better.
Meanwhile, D.C moved Nick DeLeon into the centre of the park, where he acquitted himself well early on, but faded as the scoreline tilted against DC. Ben Olsen's ragtag group of wily MLSers will not make heads roll this year, but they're fighters and could surprise as the new-look midfield gets reps.
That's more or less my observations from week one, add your own in the comments!