An Opening Night to Remember for MLS
There were some sloppy defensive efforts and some questionable calls, but on the whole this was the best opening weekend in MLS history since the very first one back in 1996. It's just the opening whistle, but if first looks prove true this should be a memorable championship. I'm halfway done with a couple of other blog items but I couldn’t catch the fever to finish them. Top Ten things to watch for in MLS? That’s been hogtied by all of the changes heading into 2011. How can I limit it to just ten? My view of the purgatorial status of my beloved Arsenal? Hampered by the incessant sound of my head pounding into the keyboard... every time I think of what might have been. After getting properly bandaged up, I took the opportunity to partake of MLS's opening day feast. Sure, Seattle and LA sleepwalked through Tuesday's dress rehearsal but that did nothing to diminish the anticipation. There’s nothing like a bunch of new teams and new stars to make you shrug off the off-season doldrums. Sure there were blemishes. The season openers had some sloppy defending and ugly finishing, two monsoons and a few empty seats along the way. However, on the whole the story lines lived up to billing. Most games were watchable if not downright enjoyable. Even better news is that the quality of play can still improve. There’s so much to sink your teeth into from just one round of play. I haven't felt this way since the days of watching the starving fans pour in to watch Major League Soccer games for the first time back in the league's inaugural season. There were some instant returns from the new stars on the block as Charlie Davies, Omar Bravo and Eric Hassli all found the net twice. At the other end of the park Faryd Mondragon calmed the Dynamo for a great Union debut. It might not have been the prettiest display, but the Canadian derby between Vancouver and Toronto was the match of the week in my mind. The Whitecaps were the benefactors of some defensive errors but both teams showed promise and commitment to attack. Massive improvement was in evidence for two teams that missed the playoffs last year as DC United and Sporting Kansas City look like championship contenders this season. It's hard to get a read on Real Salt Lake, San Jose, Los Angeles or New England as heavy rains had a huge effect on their performance, but there was enough on display to avoid a total washout. However, if I was a fan of Columbus, New England or Seattle I would be concerned by the performance out of the gate. Still, there's plenty of time to right the ship. Juninho has already proven his long-range bombing ability after the first two games for the Galaxy and that should open up a few gaps for Juan Pablo Angel when he gets healthy. Many MLS teams have apparently learned how to identify the right foreign players for the job. Teemu Tainio, Marcos Mondaini, Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari all look like perfect pieces to their respective puzzles. One final highlight for me was C.J. Sapong, who looked like a freaking monster. He shrugged off defenders as easily as he did the pressure of his MLS debut. While many critics questioned the Sporks decision to draft him so early, it now looks inspired. The rookie out of James Madison filled in admirably for the injured Teal Bunbury. The only thing that might keep him out of the lineup is if Bravo, Bunbury and Kei Kamara prove to be even more dangerous. I'm sure there's much more that I haven’t mentioned but that just means more to enjoy next week. If you disagree, or care to add to my recollections feel free to comment below, or tweet me @PhilSchoen. And while I'm looking forward to the upcoming internationals against Argentina and Paraguay, I am also eager to see if MLS can build on a solid debut. What about you?