By IVES GALARCEP
There were goals galore, and a slew of impressive debuts from new faces in an opening week that gave plenty of fans reason to be optimistic about the 2014 MLS season.
Opening wins by Vancouver, Columbus and Chivas USA helped all three teams start the year in impressive fashion as all three embark on a new campaign with reconstructed rosters and new head coaches.
The story of the weekend was the play of several skilled newcomers who look ready to boost the league’s overall creative quality. The Whitecaps tandem of Pedro Morales and Sebastian Fernandez, as well as Philadelphia’s pairing of Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueira, put on impressive shows for their respective teams with excellent passing, movement and creativity.
It was also a good weekend for Americans who returned to MLS from. Michael Parkhurst and Steve Clark were outstanding in leading the Columbus Crew to a shutout win at D.C. United while Maurice Edu reminded us just how good he can be after helping the Union outplay Portland’s vaunted midfield in a 1-1 draw.
Here is this week’s installment of my weekly MLS Wrap column, which focused on the impressive season openers for a handful of teams that underwent major overhauls this winter. You can find opening-week comments from Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, Maurice Edu, Diego Valeri and Gaston Fernandez.
If you missed any of the weekend’s MLS action, here is a recap of all eight matches from MLS Week One:
MLS WEEK ONE REWIND
Gregg Berhalter’s debut sees the Crew dominate possession and Federico Higuain pull the strings in a standout performance that also featured a strong debut for centerback tandem of Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez.
The defending MLS Cup champions tried to escape Seattle with a draw despite resting starters for CONCACAF Champions League and paid the price as Chad Barrett delivered the late winner.
Darren Mattocks looked consistently dangerous, and Kenny Miller showed he has plenty left in the tank, but it was the work of Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales that stole the show as the Whitecaps trounced a Red Bulls side missing Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave.
The Oscar Pareja era started in style, with a home win featuring a strong outing from playmaker Mauro Diaz. FC Dallas’ patch-work defense let up some goals without injured centerback George John, but the way attack looked made it tough to complain.
Will Bruin played like a man possessed, scoring two goals and setting up another in the first 25 minutes of the match to help the Dynamo steamroll a New England side that just never got going.
The Union came into Providence Park and stood toe-to-toe with the Timbers, with their rebuilt midfield looking extremely sharp. Portland failed to capitalize on some early dominance, but fought for the draw with a last-second Gaston Fernandez equalizer.
In a scene reminiscent of RSL’s visit to LA during last year’s playoffs, the Galaxy created tons of chances but couldn’t score. This time around it was Nick Rimando’s outstanding goalkeeping that kept the Galaxy at Bay, while Joao Plata provided the winner off a perfect Kyle Beckerman pass.
Chivas USA 3, Chicago Fire 2 (SBI Recap, Match Highlights)
Wilmer Cabrera’s first game in charge saw Chivas USA look like a much-improved side as Mauro Rosales and Tommy McNamara turned in impressive debuts for the Goats on a day when the Chicago Fire defense looked like a mess.
What did you think of MLS Week One? Which team impressed you the most? What newcomer were you most surprised by?
Share your thoughts below.