The first official Seattle Sounders match of the 2017 MLS Season was a bittersweet moment for me. The reigning MLS Cup champs started off the season with an away match in Houston, coming away with 0 points after a 2-1 loss to the Dynamo.
The sweet part of bittersweet comes from the fact that Clint Dempsey, who has been out since August 2016 with a heart condition, made his regular season return and let it be known that HE. IS. BACK. The lone goal scored by the Sounders was a beautiful setup by Joevin Jones that was finished by Dempsey. (Yes, I screamed and scared my family when Clint scored his goal. It was a very emotional moment.)
During the first 45, the Sounders struggled all the way around. Though they attempted to keep possession, the offense was rusty and shots on goal were a nonexistence. The defense took a while to adjust to Houston and their attacking plays leading to two Houston goals (Erick Torres 20’ and Romell Quioto 42’).
However, in the second half, the Sounders came back refreshed and looking completely opposite than they did in the first half.
They dominated the Dynamo in every way and Joevin Jones was excellent on the left, creating chances and eventually winning THE Dempsey goal (58’).
Those second half Sounders are what I liked to see. Those are the Sounders that went from last in the West to MLS Cup champs in the 2016 season. And though they struggled in the first half, I am so glad they came back in the second and proved they are still that team.
Sure, a first match win would have been great, but it’s just that: a first match. The guys are getting back into the swing of things, warming up and getting ready to aim to be the 2017 MLS Cup champs. I, for one, can’t wait to see what is in store for the rest of the season, especially with Clint back at full strength.
This was my matchday in a nutshell. As I mentioned in my “About Me” article I am a Graduate Student at the University of Central Missouri (UCM). Part of my job is to run the UCM Pep Band for basketball games. This is normally not an issue and a super fun part of my life, but this time it got in the way. Both the Men’s and Women’s teams, the Mules and the Jennies, were playing in the MIAA Conference Basketball Tournament in KC this weekend, and I had two games on Saturday. The Mules played at Noon, and the Jennies played at…you guessed it…6:00pm, AKA gametime.
My husband was lucky enough to get to No Other Pub, our Sporting KC bar in the Power & Light District, to watch the game with members of The Cauldron who didn’t make the trip up to DC. *Side note: Great job to The Cauldron and SKC for having the most traveling fans of any MLS team by far this week! Anyway, my husband was at No Other Pub and kept sending me updates by text, when he remembered. Here is the extent of my gametime commentary:
“Medranda starting as attacking mid, Zus right back”
“Gerso is contributing a lot”
“Melia saved a pen”
and that was it…please note his lack of punctuation. All of these things happened before 17 minutes on the clock. The lack of communication may have been helped out by the $30 unlimited burgers, wings, and beer at the watch party.
So, here are my thoughts from watching the game and highlights, and listening to interviews after the fact.
Sporting KC’s starting XI has gone through some changes since last year with the retirement of Paulo Nagamura and Brad Davis and Jacob Peterson being signed away by Atlanta United. Last year we also had a crazy defensive rotation that was forced by injuries. Hopefully this season we see a stabilized line up with Captain Matt Besler, a healthy Seth Sinovic and Ike Opara, and utility man Graham Zusi.
One of SKC’s immediate needs was to get Dom Dwyer some help up front. The answer for this first game was the addition of Gerso Fernandes and Jimmy Medranda on the wings with Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza at attacking mid. Gerso has previously played in Portugal, and he made an impact right off the bat. Not only is he fast, but there was a play late in the game where he made a crazy shot from right inside the box. It would have been perfect if he had been another 10-15 yards out.
The player of the game definitely goes to Tim Melia. This may have been the hardest I have seen anyone work for a clean sheet. Shots seemed to come in flurries, and there was no relaxing in goal. Timmy also had some assistance from his teammates with Jimmy and Dom providing huge goal-saving headers in the 66th minute. Tim’s heroics in no way diminish the show put on by DC’s Bill Hamid. Dom, Benny, Gerso, and Jimmy all had some legitimate chances, and Bill was on fire, so props to Bill!
Though it was freezing out, manager Peter Vermes chose to keep all 11 starters in for the full 90 minutes. I don’t think this was detrimental to the team’s performance though, because the guys were still playing strong at the end of the game. It seemed like DC United was bunkering down in the last ten minutes, and SKC was still making chances literally up until the final whistle.
Some things I’m curious to see coming up this season are how Jimmy and Zus are utilized, Latif Blessing…period, and the return of Soony Saad. Blessing may prove to be one of the fastest players in the MLS, and he was the leading goal scorer in Ghana’s premier league last year. Look for him to get worked into the line-up soon. Soony’s return is also a big point of interest, because him and Dom have had such great chemistry on the front line in the past.
This week is the home opener at Children’s Mercy Park, and there’s supposed to be freezing rain…welcome to Kansas City.
Oh, and by the way, the Jennies lost…
*The Tuesday before the game SKC hosted a preseason kickoff party, and that was the best time! We got to meet a few players, and play drums in the fan march through downtown KC! I was on Dom Dwyer’s insta story, so that was pretty awesome.
While other outlets are calling the Vancouver Whitecaps’ season opener against the Philadelphia Union snoozefest, I am calling it an opportunity to learn. Coming off an emotional win in the CONCACAF Champions League just 4 days prior, the starting nine was different and so was the momentum.
One big change was seeing the likes of Christian Dean in the starting IX. Dean, was out for the entirety of the 2016 season due to two back-to-back injuries and having his father pass away. Dean’s performance was solid despite not having a start in the MLS in 555 days and perfectly in step with Tim Parker in which together, they kept the Philadelphia Union’s offence at bay.
We also saw Cristian Techera and Erik Hurtado back in action. Though, the middle seemed stifled by the amount of long balls being sent by defensive players. The length of the field wasn’t fully utilized. This excluded the speed and talent of Alphonso Davies.
Davies delighted fans during CONCACAF Champions League, scored the goal to send the Whitecaps to the quarter-final and the first goal to propel the club into the tournament Semi-final. Remember Davies is just 16 years old and seems to be adding a much needed energy to the team.
Last, but not least, I noticed that Brek Shea and Fredy Montero, when subbed-on during the second half, acted as a catalyst to breathe some life into the somewhat flat-footed Whitecaps.
Almost 24 hours later, I’m still trying to process everything that happened Sunday. So much happened during the day that I almost don’t even remember the actual game itself at all. Fortunately, I remembered to record it so I’ve got it playing in the background while I write this.
I was so excited and anxious about opening day that I had to take some sleep aids on Saturday night to make sure I got some sleep. And then I woke up at 5am and forced myself to go back to sleep for a little longer. I woke up about every half hour after that until I finally gave up and got out of bed.
As I went through my morning routine, my head was filled with how I wanted this day to play out. As a member of leadership for Terminus Legion, the tailgate planning took over my week. Food trucks, games, beer, parking spaces…the list goes on. I arrived at the tailgate around 11:30am and paced for about an hour until the food trucks arrived to set up. Once everything was in place, I got to walk around and talk to people. And there were SO MANY PEOPLE. All four of the ATLUTD supporters groups were tailgating in the same lot, and combined, we have well over 1000 members, but there had to be 4000-5000 people in that parking lot. It was elbow to elbow and lines everywhere. Everyone was having a great time, though – I didn’t even hear any complaints when our kegs were tapped!
During my tailgate tour, I saw the MLS video crew walking around and tapped Susannah Collins on the shoulder to tell her I was her boss’ sister. Once the crew heard that, they were all too excited to get me on the live show, where Susannah and I played a round of Giant Jenga, so that was fun. I also did a quick Facebook live video interview with Doug Roberson of the AJC and leaders of the other supporters groups.
Seven hours after arriving at the tailgate, I finally walked through the 3rd Street tunnel to Bobby Dodd Stadium. I walked over to the Golden Spike and signed it. Walking up the stairs to the supporters section is when the goosebumps came. Standing in the supporters section and watching the players – OUR players – walk out for practice was when the noise really started. But it wasn’t until right at the end of the National Anthem that my eyes started to water. And then the whistle blew and it was game on!
I missed quite a bit of the first half due to the fact that I couldn’t find a spot within any of the sections and I walked back and forth looking for someplace to settle. I did, however, catch the first ever MLS goal (that counts – I saw plenty in preseason) for Atlanta United FC. In the 25th minute, Ty Mears lobbed a cross to the far corner of the 6-yard box and Yamil Asad slid in to push the ball into the goal. The noise at that moment was absolutely deafening. Everyone was jumping and screaming and hi-fiving. It was such an amazing moment.
ATL did have one additional chance late in the first half. Greg Garza passed to Josef Martinez, who shot it right at Luis Robles for a save. The second half saw a few more chances for ATL, but it was the New York Red Bulls who ended up with two goals to take the win. Carlos Carmona was shown a straight red card late in the second half after a rather deliberate and unprofessional foul.
Despite the loss, I walked out of the stadium with a smile on my face. I understand that the team has only been together for just over a month and they’re still working on getting their rhythm and that it will take a little time. I get that the majority of this team doesn’t have any MLS experience and may not have even watched a single MLS game before this weekend. Eventually, all of that will come together and the wins will come.
But 24 hours later, I’m still smiling because the moment I’ve waited for has finally arrived. Atlanta United is here. My team is here. And we’re not going anywhere. #UniteAndConquer
It was a beautiful day for a home opener in Sandy, Utah, that’s for sure. It was 55 degrees, a home brew festival was going strong ($5 got you an awesome pint glass and the ability to try home brewed beer made by the locals. What a way to start the day.), and even with the chill in the air, the VERY strong wind (that would ultimately affect that first 20 minutes or so of game play while the teams got used to the breeze), and the issues with our new ticketing system, we couldn’t hold still for the life of us. It was match day.
There was an audible buzz from the tailgate lot just north of the stadium, where most supporter groups for Real Salt Lake gather before the game. Section 26, RCB, SCU, La Barra Real, and many other supporters were all smiles and laughs as we waited for the game to start. Everywhere you looked people were hugging each other hello after months of not being in their favorite place: The RioT.
It has been a pretty big upheaval during this offseason. Some of our best players have left to other teams or retired, our backup keeper Jeff Attinella was chosen in the MLS Expansion Draft, and a few other players that we had gotten used to having around weren’t renewed for another year. In their place came a much younger crowd of players, some from RSL’s own academy (we now have 7 homegrown players on our team this year), Brooks Lennon from Liverpool FC, Albert Rusnak from FC Groningen who has done marvelous in the offseason, and we have Jeff Cassar for another year, at least.A bit of a nerve-wracking start for any RSL fan, but once it was time, we all went in as quickly as we could.
All in all, we came away with a draw, 0-0 against Toronto FC. Possession was right down the middle, 50/50 with a lot of blocked shots by RSL and a penalty kick save in the 30th minute from the Wall of the Wasatch, Nick Rimando, which makes this his 130th shutout. Three players made their RSL debut this game, Albert Rusnak starting off with the team and Ricardo Velasco being subbed in for Jordan Allen at the87th minute as well as Chad Barrett subbing in for Yura Movsisyan at the 69th minute of play.
Seven yellow cards were given this game, 3 for RSL and 4 for Toronto FC, with ranges from Dissent to Unsporting Behavior. One landed a PK for Sebastian Giovinco who now knows that PK’s aren’t worth breaking a sweat for Nick Rimando.
19,519 were in attendance for this home opener, and I can safely say this was an encouraging performance from RSL. Great job out there, boys. We’ll see you next week against Chicago Fire!
It’s 2017 and New York City FC still hasn’t managed to best Orlando City SC on the road.
I’ll admit to a lingering fondness for Orlando City. Chalk it up to being expansion team twins, how deeply I appreciate their tribute to the victims of the Pulse shooting, and Kaká. Just… everything about Kaká. I genuinely like them, and I get some warm fuzzies when we play them.
That said, I would love it if we could defeat them in their own home.
It is a really nice home, for the record. This was the inaugural match in the new Orlando City Stadium, and throughout the game I kept marvelling at just how slick it is. Good job, Orlando! You built a beautiful stadium that I think we all covet, at least a little bit. And naturally the narrative of the team and supporters getting a win for their first game in a new home is a lovely one.
But again: It would be great if we could go down to Florida and win.
Despite the 1-0 loss, there are still some positives we can take from this match.
Usual defensive shakiness and some lag in the midfield aside, I thought NYCFC looked comfortable. So often the first few matches of the season are plagued with nerves as the team is still growing together, but I didn’t see any of that. The team gelled, for the most part, which is more than I expected.
We held the lion’s share of the possession, and though we weren’t able to finish any of the chances created, the fact is that there were plenty of chances. It’s easy to see that there’s already more play opening up to supply strikers with opportunities. In particular, the link-up between Jack Harrison, Maxi Moralez and David Villa (before he was called offside — in other news, water is wet) was stunning. More of that, please.
(And, you know, more clinical finishing for more goals. Goals would be great.)
There are, of course, old ghosts that continue to haunt NYCFC. To say our defense is weak would have been a lukewarm take last year — does it even bear repeating this year? It was especially stark going up against Orlando City, who are similarly notorious for defense issues, and yet… they defended against us fairly well. What? Guys, come on. If Orlando City can mold their defense into something semi-firm after all this time, so can we. Please. I don’t ask for much.
One of the things I like best about Patrick Vieira is his willingness to alter lineups to find winning combinations. The beginning of the season is always full of growing pains, so I don’t expect a dramatic change right away, but I am confident the starting lineup next week will look different. My biggest question is if he’ll bench Andrea Pirlo, who didn’t exactly have the game of his life in Orlando. My second biggest question is, can I really live in a world where Pirlo is on a bench?
I leave you with a smattering of random observations:
We play better when we have a second striker. We didn’t have a second striker until the 84th minute. It was a little hard to watch.
At one point in the second half, Cyle Larin and Maxime Chanot got tangled up on the ground and it looked a bit like Larin was trying to spoon him, to which I say: Same.
Jack Harrison is still doing brilliant Jack Harrison things, and opposing teams are still dealing with brilliant Jack Harrison things in the only way they know how — by throwing every defender at him at once in hopes that he won’t be able to dance his way out. (Sometimes he does anyway. I love those times.)
Bench depth is the best problem and we’re lucky to have it, but man, I miss T-Mac. The game inarguably changed pace for the better when he came on.
UGO. Ugo! Here’s the part where I confess that I was unable to watch a single minute of preseason, so I hadn’t yet been introduced to the wonders of Ugo, but now that I have: Ugo, you guys. What a firecracker! I can’t wait to watch him play this season.
Taylor Twellman commenting that NYCFC “played a sexy kind of game” has been looping in my head for hours. Please help.
Next week we’re back home to take on D.C. United! What do you think we should do differently? Who do you predict will score the first goal of the season? (Don’t say David Villa, that’s cheating. Get creative.) Is it too early to wonder if Jack Harrison’s beard might be bad luck?