Major League Soccer began it’s 22nd season this weekend as two new clubs were welcomed into the league and three games were nationally televised on ESPN & Fox Sports 1. This season is projected to be the “best one yet” for MLS supporters, as 22 clubs will now be competing in the growing league.
The season started on Friday night as the Timbers won 5-1 against the expansion team Minnesota United. Portland scored in the 14th minute off a Valeri free kick as center back Lawrence Olum touched the deflected past Minnesota goalkeeper John Alvbage. After halftime the new Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco whipped a ball into the center of the box, which was finished off by his fellow childhood friend Diego Valeri who headed to the far post past Alvbage to make it 2-0.
Later in the game, Minnesota then responded as substitute Christan Ramierez hit a ball just above the eighteen yard box past diving goalkeeper Jason Gleeson. Then almost right after kickoff in the 81st minute, Minnesota defender Vladim Demidov pulled down Fernando Adi in the box, giving Portland a penalty. The penalty was easily dispatched by Diego Valeri.
A few minutes later, Adi then scored two beautiful solo goals to finish off Minnesota. Both involving silky ball handling against helpless defenders. This is surprising given that the giant Nigerian is known more for his hold up play around the box than his ball handling skills inside the box. Overall, it was a great night for the 2015 MLS Cup champions didn’t make the playoffs last season.
Saturday’s slate of games created a few upsets. Champions Seattle Sounders lost to the new look Huston Dynamo 2-1 away from home. Dempsey returned with a goal, which is good news for US men’s national team fans.
The Galaxy lost surprisingly to FC Dallas 2-1 in the StubHub Center. The new look Galaxy conceded a 69th minute goal to Kellyn Acosta as he dribbled into the center of the box and slotted across his near post past goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
Last year’s Western conference champions Colorado beat the New England Revolution 1-0 thanks to a goal by the Senegalese attacker Dominique Badji. San Jose then beat Montreal 1-0 after a beautiful Godoy chip.
There were three 0-0 draws as Real Salt Lake tied MLS Cup runner ups Toronto 0-0 after RSL legend Nick Rimando blocked a Giovinco penalty. Vancouver then tied the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night and DC United tied against Sporting KC on Saturday afternoon.
Though perhaps the two biggest storylines of the opening weekends were Orlando’s opening of their new stadium & Atlanta’s first game against the New York Red Bulls. Orlando won in a scrappy 1-0 game against NYCFC in their new Orlando City Stadium. Breakout Canadian striker Cyle Larin made a late run into the box and headed the ball past Sean Johnson off a Giles Barns in the 15th minute. After the goal was scored, NYCFC came out of their shell and tested Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik but they couldn’t score.
The stadium opening felt quite surreal, even for fans watching on TV. The most notable part of the new stadium is “The Wall”, the vertical section for the Orlando’s diehard supporters groups. The game itself retained an atmosphere that matched if not surpassed the most famous atmospheres in Germany and South America. This stadium opening was something MLS and Orlando City will always remember.
After the Orlando game ended, Atlanta United then opened their season up against the New York Red Bulls in front of 55,000 fans in the Bobby Dodd Stadium. The atmosphere was electric but Atlanta United lost 2-1 after a late surge by the New York Red Bulls.
Atlanta scored first in the 25th minute as an unmarked Yamil Asad hit the ball first time off a Tyron Mears cross. Atlanta for a while bossed the game around as Miguel Almiron showed off his blistering pace and distribution abilities. He is already looking like a true playmaker at the young age of 23.
However; the South American flare of Atlanta’s midfield wasn’t enough to get them over the line as the Red Bulls scored two quick late goals to win. A 76th minute Sacha Kljestan corner was headed in by Daniel Royer. Then in the 83rd minute, a Kamar Lawrence pass in the box to talisman Bradley Wright Phillips was then converted by the 20 year old defender Anton Walkes, giving the Red Bulls the winning goal.
Overall, MLS had a successful first week that was full of entertaining matches. Can’t wait for more next week.