Three reasons why 2016 opening games were best in MLS history

The highly anticipated 2016 MLS season got underway yesterday with a full round of ten fixtures, seeing all 20 teams in action on the same day.

Once again, MLS served up an offering which included all the crucial ingredients that make for an enjoyable and entertaining watch for fans.

There was drama, unpredictability, amazing goals, defensive horror shows, wonderful skill and high intensity, making the 2016 opening round of fixtures arguably the best yet in the history of the league. Here’s just three reasons why:

Highest goals per-game average for 10 years

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If entertainment is what gives you a thrill, MLS didn’t disappoint. A total of 36 goals were scored on Sunday at an average of 3.6 goals-per-game.

That’s 20 more goals than 2015’s opening round of fixtures and two goals-per-game higher on average.

The last time there was such a goal-fest in the first games of the season was ten years ago in 2006 when there were 24 goals scored across six fixtures, at an average of four goals-per-game.

Despite 2006 seeing a higher average of goals-per-game, it’s of course worth bearing in mind how much MLS has improved in terms of the standard and quality of play since then, making the high goal ratio very impressive.

Five goals in injury time

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It was a day filled with late twists, most notably in Orlando City’s home game with Real Salt Lake. The Lions trailed 2-0 heading into injury time, before goals from Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter in the 94th and 95th minute secured a dramatic 2-2 draw for Adrian Heath’s side.

New England Revolution provided some injury time drama as they were trailing Houston Dynamo 3-2, before Daigo Kobayashi’s 93rd minute equaliser rescued a draw.

There were also some not so important late goals in terms of affecting the outcome of the game, as Toronto managed to put some gloss on the victory away at New York Red Bulls with a 91st minute goal from Marky Delgado to make it 2-0.

Toronto players celebrate scoring vs the Red Bulls (Photo by Ashley Marshall)

Toronto players celebrate scoring vs the Red Bulls (Photo by Ashley Marshall)

Vancouver Whitecaps also scored a 93rd minute consolation goal through Kendall Watson to reduce the deficit in their game at home to the Montreal Impact, which ended 3-2 to the visitors.

Three red cards

Not everyone likes red cards being dished out, but some view it as an entertaining part of the game to see how teams can cope with a man less. Whether you’re for or against players being sent off – it certainly always provides a talking point.

There were two red cards in the thrilling Orlando City vs Real Salt Lake game. RSL saw Demar Phillips sent off for a second bookable offence after 20 minutes, before Orlando’s Darwin Ceren saw a straight red on the stroke of half-time.

Oniel Fisher was also sent off for Seattle Sounders after 41 minutes as his side went on to lose 1-0 at home to Sporting Kansas City.

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Entertaining takeaways from the opening weekend:

  • Chicago Fire and New York City served up a seven-goal thriller with NYCFC winning 4-3.
  • Orlando scored twice in injury time to rescue a 2-2 draw.
  • New England Revolution scored a last minute equaliser at Houston Dynamo in an enthralling 3-3 draw.
  • Vancouver and Montreal provided us with five goals as the Impact won 3-2.
  • LA Galaxy turned on the style by thrashing DC United 4-1.

Was the 2016 opening round of fixtures the best yet in MLS history?

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Should San Jose Earthquakes fans be concerned by this worrying statistic?

San Jose Earthquakes have established themselves as the surprise package at the start of the 2015 MLS season with five wins from their opening 11 games (D2, L4) and can be delighted with their performances in the early stages.

The Earthquakes have already recorded some impressive results with victories at home to Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew, as well as an excellent 3-2 road win against Seattle Sounders, despite going down to ten men after 52 minutes.

Dominic Kinnear has returned to San Jose as the head coach this season after an eight-year spell with the Houston Dynamo, guiding them to fourth place in the Western Conference and sixth in the overall Supporters’ Shield standings with a total of 17 points.

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Despite the excellent start to the season, there may be a slight cause for concern for the Earthquakes. At the same stage of last season, they had 13 points on the board from 11 games, just four points less than their current total this time around.

San Jose then went on to finish bottom of the Western Conference and second bottom of the Supporters’ Shield standings with just 30 points amassed come the end of the campaign.

A barren run of 15 games without a win at the end of last season heavily affected the Earthquakes’ final position in the table, so Kinnear will be desperate to ensure that his side avoid a similar type of capitulation in 2015.

A playoff finish for San Jose Earthquakes would almost certainly be an impressive achievement and if they can maintain their current form, there is no reason why they won’t be competing for the MLS Cup title in the post-season.

Traditionally poor March could cost Spurs Champions League qualification

Tottenham have had a fairly successful season and optimism was flying high until Sunday’s League Cup Final defeat to Chelsea and elimination from the Europa League against Fiorentina three days earlier dampened the spirits.

Spurs can now solely focus all their attention on trying to secure a top-four Premier League finish as they’re also no longer competing in the FA Cup after they suffered a shock fourth round exit at the hands of Leicester City back in January.

The North London side welcome a Swansea team that will be a tough nut to crack at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night and Mauricio Pochettino has got a big task on his hands to try and motivate the players after such a disappointing week.

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A victory for Spurs in that fixture would go a long way to boosting the morale, but recent history makes for slightly worrying reading for those affiliated with the club.

The month of March has proved a stumbling block for Tottenham in the past, so they will need to improve on recent seasons at this time of year if they are to have any hope of finishing in any of the Champions League slots.

Tottenham’s Premier League results in March since 2011:

Tottenham's form in March

Tottenham have managed just four wins from the 15 games they’ve played in March over the last four seasons, picking up 16 points from a possible 45 available.

As it currently stands, Spurs are six points off Manchester United in fourth place, but they do have the advantage of having a game in hand because of their League Cup commitments at the weekend.

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Failure to beat Swansea would be a major blow for the Lilywhites as not only would they lose pace in the European qualification race, but the Swans would then only be one point behind them in eighth position, which could really pile the pressure on Pochettino’s men.

If Tottenham’s Premier League form in March doesn’t improve on recent years, then they could find themselves in real trouble to make the cut for the Champions League places.

Will Tottenham finish in one of the Champions League qualification spots this season?

Are Crystal Palace on course for their best ever Premier League season?

Crystal Palace enjoyed their third consecutive away victory in the Premier League when they beat West Ham 3-1 at Upton Park on Saturday and have been in fine form since Alan Pardew took over as manager at the beginning of January this year.

The Eagles travel to Southampton tonight and a positive result at St Mary’s would certainly leave Palace pondering over the possibility of achieving the best Premier League finish in the history of the club.

Considering last year’s unbelievable turnaround under manager Tony Pulis, many would have predicted that Crystal Palace would struggle this season after he walked out just days before the first game of the campaign.

When Pulis quit, Keith Millen briefly took over before reverting back to assistant manager when Neil Warnock was appointed. Warnock struggled for results, picking up just three wins from the 16 games that he was in charge and was consequently shown the door, which made way for Alan Pardew’s arrival from Newcastle.

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Pardew has been an instant hit both with the players and the fans and has been welcomed with open arms as many can probably still recall his playing days for the South London side in the late 1980’s through to the early 1990’s.

He has re-instilled belief and positivity at Selhurst Park, and generally brought a feel good factor back in to the Holmesdale air.

The 2013/14 season was the club’s best ever Premier League finish, but breaking down the numbers of Crystal Palace’s form under Alan Pardew shows there is a real chance that the red and blue army can make history for the second year running.

Palace in the Premier League

Palace eventually managed to survive relegation comfortably last season and in doing so, consecutively maintained their Premier League status for the first time since its inception. They had never avoided the drop when competing in the Premier League and they now look set to further establish themselves in England’s top division.

Crystal Palace's Premier League record under Pardew

If Pardew ensures Crystal Palace continue to pick up points at the same rate they have done since he took over, then they will amass 50 points come the end of the season – five points more than they did in last year’s record-breaking campaign.

It’s certainly a big ask to maintain such consistent form, but it isn’t out of the question and Palace fans may be pinching themselves at how well the team are performing.

You only have to cast your mind back to May 2010 and this was a club not only struggling in the Championship but also on the verge of extinction due to extreme financial issues. A 2-2 draw away at Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the season that year under the management of Paul Hart almost certainly saved Crystal Palace from going under.

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Palace were in administration at the time and demotion to League One would’ve had a huge financial impact that they may not have been able to recover from. They battled through some bleak times with incredible spirit and determination and it’s been onwards and upwards since then.

Recognition and credit must be given not only to Pardew for the most recent turnaround, but also to everyone involved with the club over the last five years.

Can Crystal Palace record their best ever Premier League season this year?

Are Arsenal set to record their worst ever season under Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal are currently fifth in the Premier League table and find themselves in a real battle to achieve a top-four finish and qualify for Champions League football for the 18th consecutive season.

For the past ten years, it has at times looked as though the Gunners may finally let one of those top four slots slip through their hands, but each time Arsene Wenger has managed to galvanise the team and get them over the line, often by the skin of their teeth – most notably in 2005/06, 2011/12 and 2012/13 when they narrowly pipped North London rivals Tottenham to the post each time.

This season, Tottenham are once again in fine form, Southampton have burst onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere, while Manchester United and Liverpool are also in hot pursuit.

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Arsenal’s own inconsistency throughout this campaign has left them in a tricky spot once again and they’ve only managed three consecutive wins on one occasion.

The Gunners are currently on track to come worryingly close to recording their equal lowest points tally in Arsene Wenger’s entire 19-year reign at the club.

Previous lowest points tallies under Arsene Wenger:

  • 2005/06 – 67 points
  • 2006/07 – 68 points
  • 2010/11 – 68 points

Arsenal stats 2014/15

Defeat to Crystal Palace when they face the South London side at Selhurst Park this weekend would mean that their projected points total would fall to 65, signalling the possibility of the lowest overall tally recorded by an Arsenal team managed by Wenger.

These are just projected numbers and stats don’t mean everything of course – many will recall Arsenal’s impressive run-in at the end of the 2012/13 season when they won 10 of their final 13 games, losing just one.

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Some will also argue that Arsenal’s remaining fixtures are favourable, as they face eight teams from the bottom half of the table, although points already dropped against Leicester, Hull, Stoke and Swansea this season would suggest that the Gunners can ill afford to lose focus and the pressure to perform now is extremely high.

Every game becomes a must win fixture to ensure they can keep momentum as well as forcing the teams around them into mistakes through the stress of having to keep up with the pace.

One thing that is guaranteed is an exciting race to the European qualification finish line.

Will Arsenal record their lowest ever points tally under Wenger? And will they qualify for Champions League football?

Arsene Wenger says Thierry Henry “was one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen”

Manager Arsene Wenger was asked about how he reflects on the career of Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Liverpool game at Anfield this Sunday.

The Frenchman said, “I would like to thank him for what he has done for the club and what a huge success he has been for us. He was of course an exceptional football player.

“Thierry especially was a combination of huge physical talent, technical talent, but as well special intelligence.

“He was one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few good ones.”

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Henry has taken on a role as a pundit for Sky Sports but is also keen to gain his coaching badges, although Wenger has warned him of the pain that comes with being a football coach.

“He has enjoyed it, now it’s time to suffer as well for him. Coaching is enjoyable but it is as well suffering.

“It’s not as easy to get everybody to score the goals that he scored.”

As well as reminiscing over Thierry Henry, Wenger was in a confident mood and says that Arsenal have “very good memories at Liverpool” despite last season’s 5-1 thrashing.

“Liverpool scored over 100 goals last year. This year they have scored 19, so they are not on the same trend offensively.”

Will Arsenal win at Anfield on Sunday? And was Thierry Henry one of the greatest players ever?

The reasons why 2014 was the most entertaining MLS season for nine years

Fans of the game don’t need to be told how entertaining the most recent Major League Soccer campaign was in terms of the tension, adrenaline, jubilation and despair that it created.

Having been through the emotional roller coaster of supporting your club through a season, most will now be at peace with how their team performed in 2014 – whether they are pleased or disappointed is another question entirely.

In terms of entertainment value, MLS has come up trumps once again as the 2014 season saw 924 goals hitting the back of the net – the most ever scored in a regular season.

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Since 2012, MLS has seen more matches being played over the course of the season due to more teams being in the league and format adjustments, so it would be easy to say that the only reason we’ve seen the most goals is because there are more games.

While that is true, it’s important to bear in mind that 2014 managed to produce the highest average goals-per-game ratio since 2005 and that the standard of play in the league is now far higher than nine years ago.

MLS, year by year:

mls season stats

A closer look at the numbers will also tell you that the 2014 season saw the highest average attendance in the history of Major League Soccer.

The average attendance is up by 554 on last season and is 341 higher than the previous record of 18,807 that we saw in 2012.

With New York City and Orlando City joining in 2015, it’s clear for all to see the growth of MLS and if ever there was proof needed that the league was on the rise, then the attendance figures for this year just about confirm that fact.

Is Major League Soccer becoming one of the biggest leagues in the world?

Thierry Henry retires: The story of his career

Thierry Henry has announced his retirement from football after 20 years of service to the game which saw him play for five clubs, winning 19 titles and an endless list of individual honours along the way.

He said, “it has been an incredible journey and I would like to thank all the fans, team mates and individuals involved with AS Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and of course the French National Team that have made my time in the game so special.”

The 37-year-old confirmed that he will now be working as a pundit for Sky Sports as of 2015.

“It is now time for a different career path and I am pleased to say that I will be returning to London and joining Sky Sports. I will hopefully share some of the insights, observations and experiences I have learnt over the years with you guys.”

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There aren’t enough superlatives to describe a man of such legendary status but hero, icon, genius, idol are just a few words that have been used in an attempt to label the Frenchman.

Monaco and Juventus

Henry’s professional career began at Monaco in 1994, aged 17, where he went on to make 141 club appearances, scored 28 goals and won Ligue 1 and the French Super Cup before leaving for Juventus in January 1999.

The move to Italy was probably the lowest point of his career as he struggled to settle in and was unable to influence the game playing as a left-winger.

Arsenal

Just eight months later, Henry was on the move again and this time it was to be a life-changing moment as he joined Arsenal, but perhaps more importantly at the time, he joined up with his former Monaco manager Arsene Wenger.

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Wenger decided to push Henry up-front as opposed to out wide, and essentially the rest is history.

He notched an incredible 226 goals in 369 appearances for the club and in the meantime became Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer as Ian Wright’s previous record of 185 was blown out of the water.

As well as numerous Golden Boot awards, he lifted three FA Cup’s and two Premier League titles and was part of the famous ‘Invincibles’ side of the 2003-04 season.

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Barcelona

Desperate for Champions League success that eluded him at Arsenal, Henry made an emotional farewell in 2007 to join Spanish giants Barcelona.

He spent three years in Spain scoring 49 goals in 121 appearances, winning two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and his dreams also came true when the Catalan side lifted the Champions League title in 2009. He then went on to also win the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with Barca.

New York Red Bulls

In 2010, Henry made his move to MLS and joined up with the New York Red Bulls where he spent four seasons and scored 52 goals in 135 appearances in all competitions. He returned to Arsenal for a brief loan spell in the 2011-12 campaign and scored twice for the Gunners taking his overall goals tally at the club to 228.

France national team

As well as the remarkable achievements in club football, Henry was also part of the French national team between 1997 and 2010. He scored 51 international goals in 123 appearances and was a World Cup winner in 1998, a European Championship winner in 2000 and a FIFA Confederations Cup winner in 2003.

He finishes his career having played an overall total of 915 competitive matches for club and country, while scoring a monumental 411 goals.

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Key moments of each year from Henry’s illustrious career:

  • 1994 – Professional debut for Monaco on August 31
  • 1995 – Became first-team regular with Monaco
  • 1996 – French Young Footballer of the Year
  • 1997 – Ligue 1 winner with Monaco
  • 1998 – World Cup winner with France
  • 1999 – Joined Arsenal from Juventus
  • 2000 – European Championship winner with France
  • 2001 – Included in PFA and UEFA Team of the Year
  • 2002 – Premier League and FA Cup winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2003 – FA Cup winner with Arsenal and FIFA Confederations Cup winner with France
  • 2004 – Premier League ‘Invincibles’ winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2005 – FA Cup winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2006 – Champions League finalist and scored last ever goal at Highbury in a 4-2 win vs. Wigan (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2007 – Joined Barcelona
  • 2008 – Entered into English Football Hall of Fame
  • 2009 – La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winner with Barcelona
  • 2010 – Joined New York Red Bulls and topped Eastern Conference
  • 2011 – MLS All-Star
  • 2012 – MLS All-Star and returned to Arsenal for loan spell
  • 2013 – MLS Supporters’ Shield winner with New York Red Bulls
  • 2014 – Retired from football and became Sky Sports pundit

In his announcement Henry mentioned how he hoped that we have “enjoyed watching as much as I have enjoyed taking part” and it’s fair to say that we have all enjoyed watching him play and many will continue to reminisce in years to come over some of the incredible goals and special moments in his career.

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He also added that he has “had some amazing memories (mostly good!) and a wonderful experience” – as have we thanks to his elegance on the field.

You rarely come across anyone who has a bad word to say about Thierry Henry and tributes will continue to pour in for a legend who will be sorely missed on the pitch, but he will have a place in history forever in the shape of his statue outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Thierry Henry is quite simply, a living legend.

Thierry Henry: The living legend – A look at the New York Red Bulls stars MLS numbers

Legend is a word sometimes brandished loosely, but in the case of Thierry Henry, it’s about the only word that does him and his achievements justice.

No one knows what his next move will be since his recent departure from the New York Red Bulls, but one thing that is certain is that he has enjoyed an illustrious career and his services to soccer will never be forgotten.

Here is a breakdown of Thierry Henry’s New York Red Bulls career:

Titi Red Bulls in numbers

Statistically, 2012 was Henry’s best season in Major League Soccer as he recorded his highest goals tally in one MLS season, his best goals-per-game ratio, goals-per-minute ratio and goals contributed.

His final season saw him take on the role of provider and he notched 14 assists (his highest number of assists in one MLS season), many of which would have been for top goalscorer Bradley Wright-Phillips who has become a designated player since Henry’s departure.

Four years and five seasons at the Red Bulls brought some moments to remember and here is his time at the New York club in numbers:

Rumours are swelling about his next step with many linking him with a possible return to Arsenal – perhaps in a non-playing role – but whatever happens, everyone in MLS and at MLSGB will miss seeing him play in the USA.

What will be the next move for Thierry Henry?

The 2014 MLS Cup guarantees to make history

The team that now goes on to win the 2014 MLS Cup will be making new history in some way or another which only adds to the excitement and intensity we’re all expecting.

Seattle Sounders have had a fantastic season irrelevant of the eventual outcome of their MLS Cup campaign as they scooped the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup double.

However, should they manage to seal MLS Cup glory, they will become the first ever team to complete the treble and thereby print their name in the record books, which would be a remarkable achievement and truly cement the fact that they have been the best team this season.

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[Seattle Sounders enjoyed success in this year’s U.S. Open Cup]

LA Galaxy narrowly missed out on the Supporters’ Shield title when they lost 2-0 to Seattle Sounders, but they can focus all their attention on trying to bring home the MLS Cup.

If they go on to win it, they will become the most successful team in the history of the competition with five titles – they are currently tied on four with DC United.

Meanwhile, both New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls are hunting down their first ever title in this competition.

The Revs are probably the unluckiest team in MLS Cup history having been to four finals and finished on the losing end on every occasion, twice losing 1-0 after extra-time and once losing on penalties.

Title winners since 1996:

MLS HistoryWhatever happens, it promises to be entertaining and will also set new history for one of the clubs.

Who do you think will win the 2014 MLS Cup?