Narrow margins and expansion struggles: What did we learn from MLS Opening Weekend?

Week 1 of the 2017 MLS season is already in the book. After weeks of expectation and excitement, we now have some sort of form to look at – although as many questions if not more than we had before the first ball was kicked. Expansion sides Minnesota and Atlanta both suffered reality checks in their inaugural games, while there were early-season struggles in front of goal for a number of teams. So what have we learned after the first round of games?

MLS is not an easy league to come into…

Minnesota United and Atlanta United both suffered defeats in their MLS debuts. But things look a lot more promising for Atlanta than they do for the Loons after the first week’s performances. Minnesota were thumped 5-1 in Portland in Friday’s season opener, conceding twice in stoppage time to make the scoreline look a lot more concerning than it perhaps was. Although the biggest worry for Adrian Heath will be the fact Portland looked miles better than the expansion side. Yes, that’s hardly surprising given the Loons have literally just entered the league, but the fact is they’ve had a long time to build a competitive squad and we didn’t see enough from to them to quash fears that 2017 could be a long and tough season for them.

For Atlanta, things look a lot more encouraging. They might have let a one-goal lead go late on at home to the Red Bulls on Sunday night, but they played an entertaining style of play that caused New York problems throughout. They will be a tough side to face for anyone because of Tata Martino’s high-pressing style of play. Atlanta just need to ensure they have the fitness to play that way from start to finish to avoid any more late slip-ups.

It’s going to take some time for the goals to start flying in…

Last season’s opening weekend saw 36 goals scored in the ten games – a league record on opening weekend – so it was always going to be tricky to repeat that average of 3.6 goals-per-game. This year that goal rate was halved on opening weekend as there were 20 goals in the 11 games – an average of 1.8 per match. That could be down to better defending, which was certainly the case with Orlando City as 2016’s worst defensive unit started 2017 with a shutout against a wasteful NYCFC in front of a raucous crowd at the brand new Orlando City Stadium.

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New York City were one of nine sides to fire a blank in Week 1. Toronto FC and DC United missed penalties in their 0-0 draws against Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City, respectively, which proved to be costly misses from 12 yards. Montreal Impact failed to register a single shot on target in their 1-0 loss at San Jose, while Vancouver failed to score in their season opener for the first time in MLS history.

The goals will be easier to come by as the season finds its feet. Early season games are tense and teams take a while to get back into the swing of competitive league football in front of expectant crowds, it’s the same with any league in world football. Don’t be surprised if the floodgates open as early as Week 2.

It could be a long season for LA Galaxy…

We all knew that 2017 was going to be a transitional year for LA Galaxy, and they showed very little to suggest otherwise in Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to FC Dallas. Curt Onalfo is trying to get used to his squad, who themselves look a completely different unit to the one that finished third in the West last season. Jermaine Jones and Joao Pedro seemed to spend more time kicking Dallas players than creating chances from deep in midfield. They did have a tough job against arguably the league’s best team but that’s a tag we usually associate with LA. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like we’ll be saying that again any time soon.

Are the Houston Dynamo this year’s Colorado Rapids?

Many people have the Dynamo down to finish at the bottom of the West once again this season. But they sent out an early statement with their 2-1 win over reigning MLS Cup Champions Seattle on Saturday night. Few people took Colorado seriously until they were top of the Western Conference for a run of weeks and challenging for the Supporters’ Shield into the final weeks of the campaign. That’s not to say the Dynamo will do that this year, but early signs suggest they will be a better team than they were in 2016.

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Podcast: MLS opening weekend, NYCFC’s defensive woes & West Ham discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford sits down with Louis East and Jamie Ives to look back at an incredible opening weekend of MLS action as the 2016 campaign got off to a flyer.

The team will discuss whether New York City FC should be deeply worried about their defensive struggles, despite winning on Sunday, and will finish with a look at in-form Premier League side West Ham United, who are chasing a top four spot.

Be sure to comment below, or get in touch on Twitter with your views on the topics discussed.

MLS opening weekend delivers after months of anticipation

Major League Soccer is back. The opening weekend of the 2015 campaign was nothing short of spectacular as over 258,000 fans were out in force across the United States and Canada to watch their teams in action for the first time this season.

There were 10 games over Friday, Saturday and Sunday with 16 goals scored and although there was only an average of 1.6 goals per game, MLS sprung into life in fine style.

All the drama surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks seem like a thing from the distant past as soccer took over and proved exactly why we’ve all been so excited for the new season.

There were new stars, new stadiums, new kits, goals and drama as we saw three red cards over the course of the weekend.

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It all kicked off in Los Angeles on Friday where the reigning champions, LA Galaxy kicked off the new season with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire. Last year’s MLS MVP, Robbie Keane sealed the victory with the second goal and looked as hungry as ever.

Saturday night saw six games take place across the league and although two of the games ended 0-0 (Philadelphia Union vs Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake) there was lots of excitement in Canada as a new-look Toronto side beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1.

New Toronto DP’s Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco both impressed in the win as Altidore bagged a brace much to the anger of the home crowd, who soaked him in beer as he celebrated his panenka penalty in front of the Whitecaps faithful late on.

DC United, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo all recorded 1-0 wins in front of their own fans in the other three games on Saturday.

And just to add to the excitement, the first MLS Soccer Sunday of the season saw three key clashes played out to cap off a fine weekend.

Orlando City and New York City played their first ever MLS game against each other in front of a huge crowd of over 62,000 supporters at the Orlando Citrus Bowl in Florida.

New stars, Kaka and David Villa both led their teams out in a game that exploded into life late on as there were two goals, a red card and a penalty shout waved away inside the final 15 minutes.

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Mix Diskerud scored NYCFC’s first MLS goal with a fine curling shot in the 76th minute before Aurelien Collin was then sent off for a foul on Villa after 83 minutes.

But that man Kaka was on hand to save the day for Orlando as his deflected free-kick ended up in the back of the net, much to the delight of 60,000 Lions supporters.

Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls played out another entertaining 1-1 draw afterwards before the Seattle Sounders flexed their attacking muscles in a 3-0 win against the New England Revolution in the final game of the weekend.

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Clint Dempsey bagged a brace with Obafemi Martins getting the other in a solid display to once again prove that they are probably the best strikeforce in MLS.

Opening weekend delivered after months of expectation. But there are still 33 regular season games to go in what should be the greatest ever Major League Soccer campaign.

What was your favourite moment of the opening weekend of the new MLS season?

MLS Opening Weekend: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 1

The 2015 Major League Soccer season is finally upon us! MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy take on Chicago Fire at StubHub Center tonight in the first game of the new campaign and it looks set to be one hell of a year.

The league is more competitive than ever before and the addition of the two new MLS Expansion franchises, New York City FC and Orlando City bring even more quality along with stars such as Kaka and David Villa set to play their first MLS game against each other in week 1.

Other standout fixtures for the first weekend include Sporting Kansas City vs New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders vs New England Revolution with both games taking place on Sunday after the Orlando City vs New York City game.

That’s all to come though so to fill your time before then, here are five bold predictions ahead of the first weekend of the 2015 MLS season. Lets go!

1. Chicago Fire to spoil LA Galaxy’s opening party

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The LA Galaxy are already favourites to retain their MLS Cup title come December and many see their opening game against the Chicago Fire as a relatively easy one. However, the Fire have invested heavily in the squad this offseason and have new stars in Kennedy Igboananike, Shaun Maloney and David Accam ready to pounce. Add that to the fact the the Galaxy lost their first game of last season too and you’ve got a recipe for Chicago success in the curtain raiser.

2. Fernando Aristeguieta to score at least two in debut against Colorado Rapids

The Philadelphia Union host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday and will expect to kickoff 2015 with victory, given that the Rapids have lost their last nine away games in MLS. New signing Fernando Aristeguieta should start up top and will have plenty of opportunities in and around the box to start life in MLS with goals!

3. All goals to be scored by debutants in Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC game

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Two Canadian rivals go head-to-head on Saturday night as the Vancouver Whitecaps take on a Toronto FC side set to unleash star signings Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Vancouver have a Designated Player of their own to unleash in the shape of Octavio Rivero and all the goals in this one will be scored by debutants.

4. Kaka and David Villa to both score on their debuts

All eyes will be on Kaka and David Villa as Orlando City and New York City start their first ever MLS campaign against each other on Sunday. Both players have been given the captain’s armband and will lead by example with stellar performances that will see both stars find the net.

5. Dom Dwyer to start the new season with a hat-trick

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Sporting Kansas City welcome the New York Red Bulls on Sunday evening and two English strikers will face up against each other once again as Dom Dwyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips (last year’s two highest goalscorers) go head-to-head in Kansas City. Dom Dwyer will outshine BWP on Sunday though and the Sporting KC hero will start 2015 with a hat-trick against a Red Bulls side that has gone through serious transition.

What are your bold predictions ahead of the opening weekend of the new 2015 MLS season?

Orlando City SC to face New York City FC in headline opening clash for 2015 MLS season

One of the most eagerly awaited games of the 2015 MLS season has been thrown out to us for the first weekend of the new campaign as both expansion sides Orlando City and New York City will go head-to-head on Sunday March 8.

We can expect huge coverage from all over the world, with everyone keen to see how New York superstar David Villa shapes up against Orlando’s very own star in Kaka.

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At this moment we are all unsure of what will happen with Frank Lampard, but given the magnitude of this opening fixture we hope he will be in the frame come the start of March.

Both sets of fans will be desperate to see their side get off the mark in the right way and both sides will be looking to impress in their opening game in Major League Soccer.

The fact that it mark both sides first MLS game makes it all the more special and the excitement leading up to the tie will be huge.

We cannot wait for this one and will cover the ins and outs all the way up to kickoff on Sunday March 8.

The game will be one of ten played on a bumper opening weekend in what should be the most exciting MLS season to date.

All ten opening fixtures for the 2015 MLS Season:

Friday March 6
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire (StubHub Center)

Saturday March 7
DC United vs. Montreal Impact (RFK Stadium)
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC (BC Place)
Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew (BBVA Compass Stadium)
Philadelphia Union vs. Colorado Rapids (PPL PARK)
Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake (Providence Park)
FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Toyota Stadium)

Sunday March 8
Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC (Orlando Citrus Bowl)
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls (Sporting Park)
Seattle Sounders FC vs. New England Revolution (CenturyLink Field)