5 Things We Learned from MLS Week 1

Continuity is Important

The New York Red Bulls may have created a narrative of stability in the off-season, but their dismal showing against the Vancouver Whitecaps was anything but stable. While their familiar forwards and midfielders were disappointing, the new-look defense was the most unsettling, with Olave out, Miller benched and Barklage traded. Only the half-season-experienced Sekagya remained familiar. Eckersley, Convey and Armando made up the rest of the defense and all three were poor.

It was a similar story in LA as the Chicago Fire faltered against Chivas USA.  Hurtado and Palmer both struggled and put more pressure on the likes of Segares and Soumare, the more familiar. In fact, as a collective, Chicago just about worked, but the pressure caused problems for individuals. None more so than Segares, who was unlucky not to concede a penalty for a handball. Stability and continuity really do aid a successful MLS season.

Turf is Unworkable

The start of the 19th MLS season, excitement was high, attendance was huge, the spectacle big and a dreadful playing surface. Two of the best teams in the league, Seattle and Kansas, played a dismal first half with poor touches, passes and tackles. The ball bounced, bobbled and players fell over. The issue was exacerbated in Vancouver. Due to the surface, Jamison Olave and Thierry Henry weren’t involved. This gives Vancouver and unfair advantage, yet not many seem to make a fuss.

Artificial turf may be necessary at places such as Portland, but it causes more issues than resolutions. It also looks thoroughly unprofessional. Who could forget New England Revolution at Gilette Stadium in the playoffs? An artificial turf and American football lines. This is an issue often neglected.

New-Look Philadelphia Union Start Well

It says a lot about how successful Portland and Caleb Porter are when all the MLSSoccer.com pundits predicted a Portland victory over the Union. To a lesser extent, it reflects on the disappointing Union last season. There’s been an extensive reconstruction in Philadelphia. Maurice Edu returned to the states, Ligue 1 veteran Vincent Nogueira and flair filled Cristian Maidana all came in.

But despite all this success, the real excitement was in the Union’s acquisition of young talent Austin Berry from Chicago. While this much change often causes a team to take a while to gel, it didn’t this weekend. The Union gelled quickly, and took a deserved lead through Jack McInerney. If it wasn’t for a defensive lapse, they could have left with all three points in Portland.

Berhalter’s Perfect Start at Columbus Crew

With all the onus on D.C. United extensively retooling a roster that only achieved three wins, there was a lot of expectation of improvement. It is undoubtedly a better team now, but it was made to look poor by the Crew. Berhalter reworked Higuain’s role into a link between Jairo Arrieta and the midfield, and the two were crucial in routing United 3-0. Berhalter’s European exploits were on show as the Crew often played fluidly. At times, the team could have three at the back and the full backs played like wing backs at times. Berhalter promises a different take on MLS management, and it’ll be worth watching.

Motivation for Chivas?

With the end of Chivas USA on the horizon and with the league purchasing the franchise, combined with the lack of strength and success at Chivas, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chivas rolled over. Against Chicago, the exact opposite happened. While the first half offered little in the way of dominance for either side, the second half was a to and fro battle. Chivas took advantage and clambered to a 2-0 lead. In typical Chivas fashion, they threw it away thanks to the help of a Quincy Amarikwa curler, leveling the scores at 2-2. Before  negativity could set in, Chivas’ Bobby Burling climbed to power an 88th minute header past Sean Johnson for the win.

Huge credit must go to Wilmer Cabrera, the new coach, for persevering in difficult circumstances. Not only has he done that, but he’s also managed to create a tidy roster. Mauro Rosales instantly improves Chivas’ woes from set pieces as well as being a creative outlet. Barrera showed glimpses of quality and the youngster Tommy McNamara shows a bright future for the franchise regardless of ownership. At the back, Burling brought experience and a strong mentality to a typically weak squad.

Summary

The first week brought an intriguing start to the 19th MLS season. It was expected that this season was to have so many narratives. In the first week, the league followed these narratives, and created their own.