After a long three month off-season, Major League Soccer returned to action this weekend. The opening round featured a nice slate of games ranging from battles of recent champions to games between recent expansion teams.
Here are the highlights from the seven weekend matches.
Real Salt Lake 3 – LA Galaxy 1
The LA Galaxy was at the center of many of the big stories for MLS this off-season with the somewhat surprising re-signing of David Beckham, the re-acquisition of Edson Buddle after a stint in Germany and Omar Gonzalez’s ACL tear.
Many MLS insiders have predicted the Galaxy to have the most dominant MLS season in the league’s history, but on Saturday night, Real Salt Lake had different plans.
The Galaxy hit the crossbar twice in the first half and even took the lead in the 70th minute as David Beckham served a superb ball into the box for an equally superb header from Edson Buddle.
However, Real Salt Lake regrouped and only three minutes later equalized through an awkward Galaxy own goal as Sean Franklin bungled the ball into his own net from a Real Salt Lake service.
Four minutes later, the referee waved away two Galaxy appeals for fouls and Real Salt Lake took advantage as they worked the ball up the flank and centered it for the go-ahead goal by Javier Morales.
Real scored again six minutes later to seal the game.
Bruce Arena took responsibility for the loss blaming tired legs, as Arena started much of the same lineup he had used midweek against Toronto FC in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Vancouver 2 – Montreal 0
Sebastian LeToux, on his debut, showed his quality only three minutes into the match as he beat the Montreal defense with a neat touch and then cooly finished the chance he created for himself.
Hopefully not too many fans in Philadelphia will see this as it will only give them more of a reason to be furious with Union manager Peter Nowak for allowing LeToux to leave this off-season.
On Vancouver’s 2nd goal, a great passing combination from their front four (they lined up in a 4-2-3-1) resulted in a thru ball for Camilo Sanvezzo who brilliantly dribbled past two Montreal defenders in the box to secure the three points for his side.
Sporting KC 1 – DC United 0
On Saturday, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong had a night nearly identical to the two games they played with the USMNT in Janaury.
As in both of the USMNT games, Bunbury was given the start Saturday night, failed to impress, and was eventually replaced by the much more impressive Sapong who managed to do much more than Bunbury despite playing significantly less minutes.
Bunbury, after not doing enough in the first 75 minutes, and even picking up a yellow card out of frustration, was replaced by Sapong, who managed to pick up the game winner in the 93rd minute heading in a cross by fellow USMNT January camp member Graham Zusi.
Colorado 2 – Columbus 0
The Rapids opened the scoring chances early on. Although Rapids forward Omar Cummings missed a breakaway in the 20th minute, the Rapids continued to dominate throughout the match outshooting the Crew 17-3.
Shortly before the half in the 43rd minute, the Rapids finally opened the scoring when Drew Moor powered in a header from a nifty Kosuke Kimura service.
Matt Pickens kept the Crew from equalizing on one of their few chances in the 79th minute with a superb reaction save.
In the 89th minute, the Rapids sealed the three points when Quincy Amarikwa crushed a beautiful shot into the upper 90 from just outside the box.
San Jose 1 – New England 0
Chris Wondolowski, who hasn’t been able to buy a goal in his appearances with the USMNT, despite some glorious chances, continued his red-hot MLS form getting the game’s only goal in the 15th minute off a nice finish.
The best chance for the Revs to equalize came in the 81st minute as a neat run and service by Lee Nguyen almost resulted in a San Jose own goal.
In the 90th minute, Benny Feilhaber hit a glorious screaming half-volley from 25 yards out, but it went narrowly wide and the Revs went away empty-handed.
FC Dallas 2 – New York 1
USMNT fringe player Zach Loyd picked up an early goal to get FC Dallas off on the right foot in the just the 11th minute and FC Dallas doubled their lead through Ricardo Villar in the 61st.
Thierry Henry almost equalized the game in the 44th minute catching a sleeping FC Dallas defense with a quick free kick, but unfortunately for the Red Bulls it went off the post and wide.
Kenny Cooper brought New York back within a goal in the 78th minute with a gorgeous chip that could be an early candidate for Goal of the Year, but the Red Bulls were unable to find the equalizer and went away with zero points.
Houston 1 – Chivas 0
After an off-season full of transfer drama, Houston Dynamo legend Brian Ching, back in Houston, got the start alongside Will Bruin.
Most of the game was the story of missed chances. Bruin wasted a breakaway chance in the 25th minute, Chivas forward Juan Pablo Angel hit the post in the 41st minute and missed a header from close in in the 70th. Bruin and Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat both missed chances in the 73rd and Ching had a gorgeous full-volley go off the post in the 78th.
Surprisingly enough the game-winner came from a defender, Dynamo left back Andre Hainault, in the 92nd minute helping Houston steal all three points.
John D. Halloran