After Friday's appetizer, MLS featured a full slate of games Saturday with 12 teams in action. Let's get right to it.
The first game of the day featured Champions League participants D.C. United and Montreal Impact. Unfortunately for Montreal, D.C. United is not from Mexico, so that road draw the team specializes in when it comes to playing our friends south of the border was out of the question. Fortunately for D.C. United, Montreal is not from Costa Rica, so giving up multiple goals was not a foregone conclusion.
United broke through in the second half in a lightning-quick counter attack. After Bill Hamid blocked a Justin Mapp shot that Andrew Dykstra certainly would have allowed, the ball quickly went back into play near the center line. The ball found the feet of Chris Rolfe, who played a perfectly weighted ball to Jairo Arrieta who calmly slotted the ball past an onrushing Evan Bush.
Montreal had an opportunity to equalize but Camara decided he would rather not score when he kicked a ball directly at Conor Doyle from two yards away despite having the entire net to work with as Hamid was on the ground. Or perhaps Camara was performing an ode to Chris Pontius who wasted two fantastic chances, the second of which I thought was literally impossible to miss until Pontius proved otherwise. It was sort of impressive.
Did we expect anything different? Philadelphia had the better of the play throughout, also as expected, but failed to win the game because they are Philadelphia. There were not a whole lot of highlights in this one. After a strong preseason, Andrew Wenger wanted to remind fans he was still Andrew Wenger by blasting a shot off the crossbar early in the game.
Newcomer Fernando Aristeguieta showed just enough to give Union fans hope he can be the answer to finding more goals, but also just enough to show he can be a perpetual tease and not quite live up to the promise. Sebastien Le Toux once again had to shoulder quite a load and created the best moment of the game when he drew a second yellow card on Bobby Burling. Despite playing a Rapids side with 10 men for 20 minutes, the Union could not find a winner.
I have always had a strange infatuation with Conor Casey who was subbed on late and had a tremendous header denied by Clint Irwin. I've always felt Casey doesn't get enough love, so shout out to the big bald guy.
It took Jozy Altidore 32 minutes to do what would have taken him roughly 8 years, 43 days and 6 hours to accomplish at Sunderland: he scored a goal. AND THEN HE SCORED AGAIN. In what was the anti Union-Rapids game, Vancouver and Toronto played a beautiful game with pace, chances and creativity throughout. In fact, there are too many highlights to list all here.
Vancouver was on the front foot early and cashed in on the constant pressure in the 19th minute with a goal from new man Octavio Rivero. Prior to that, the game started out in somewhat humorous fashion as Rivero missed a golden opportunity by fumbling a touch right in front of the net. That was followed up Toronto's big acquisition, Giovinco, missing a golden opportunity of his own. The future looked bright for both teams.
All was forgotten on that Rivero goal though as he took a perfectly weighted ball from Pa Modou Kah (no, really, Kah did that) and blazed past an offside trap to easily beat the goal keeper.
Giovinco also redeemed his early miss by finding Altidore in the box in the 32 minuted. After a crafty run around defenders just outside of the box, Giovinco played a smooth pass in Altidore who danced around David Ousted to calmly put one home.
Toronto's second goal was a result of pitiful defense by Vancouver. Justin Morrow had about 100 acres of space coming down the left side to easily cross a ball into a streaking Robbie Findley, who the Whitecaps also felt was unnecessary to closely cover. Findley, who is not Chris Pontius, finished a very similar chance in confident fashion.
Thankfully, the universe restored it balance when Pa Modou Kah remembered who he was and made a costly mistake. Kah took down Alitdore in the box with a drop toe-hold that Bret Hart would have been proud of. The referee was not as amused and awarded the penalty. Altidore went into full troll mode as he took the penalty, gently lofting the ball where Ousted was standing only to see Ousted dive away.
It was a really great game that has me scared about Saturday's match. First, because Kekuta Manneh is the fastest man alive and that's not hyperbole. Second, Pedro Morales is probably going to be not happy and he proved again Saturday he is really good. So have fun with that Fire.
Houston Dynamo 1, Columbus Crew 0
Nothing cures the disappointment of a lackluster Fire performance quite like a good, old-fashioned Columbus Crew failure. To watch the Crew dominate and attack relentlessly only to be shut out and defeated was quite satisfying.
The Crew poured pressure on early and often, but it wasn't until the second half when Kei Kamara had a great header denied by Tyler Deric. Deric had a very strong game in the shutout, but I personally didn't think it was as spectacular as some believe it was. Deric did get help from the crossbar late in the game after Federico Higuain launched a rocket from outside the box that rattled the bar.
[Important sidenote: I cannot recall a weekend with so many crossbar shots. I'm not sure if players are displaying their precision by showing they can hit the smaller surface area of a cross bar rather than the larger net area or is missing is en vogue at the moment.]
Houston broke through in the second half when homeless Kofi Sarkodie turned Waylon Francis inside out on a run up the right flank. Sarkodie cut in toward the box and passed to Giles Barnes who impressively roofed a rocket from close range that is the leading candidate for goal of the week. Seriously though, Sarkodie looked really out of place wearing a jersey with no name or number. It's like he was in a third-grade recreational basketball league.
While I enjoy the Crew's disappointing start, the truth is they looked dangerous and Houston looked toothless. It was a confusing result.
Blaz Perez missed a couple and then scored. In fact, the whole entire game could be summed up as FC Dallas missing a lot and then scoring. San Jose goalie David Bingham had some fun saves along the way, but really San Jose was a mess.
The game was decided in the 92nd minute where Perez, after missing a few chances from five yards out with strikes that went directly to Bingham, finally converted. Moises Hernandez, who I assume was ticked off at Perez for the aforementioned missed chances, kicked the ball as hard as he could toward Perez's head. Perez, who was trying to duck to save his life, actually ducked into the missile sent in by Hernandez and guided the ball into the back of the net with a well-placed header.
Having not finished the job with the death strike, Hernandez and his teammates attempted to destroy Perez by jumping on him after the goal and suffocating him. Perez still got back up, so it looks like FC Dallas is stuck with him for another week at least.
What did become clear during the game was that there really needs to be a starting spot for Tesho Akindele. He didn't come on until the second, but he was immediately one of the most influential and dangerous players in the game. It was a slow start, but FC Dallas still showed their impressive depth.
So I looked forward to this game, but the combination of the late start and the awful, boring action early on put me to sleep. I was not surprised to wake to find the game was played to a scoreless draw that featured 41 fouls.
Maybe these two teams were just angry they weren't playing on Sunday when all the other marquee matchups were taking place. Either way, it was disappointing for two sides where more should be expected. Judging by what I read, Portland had the better of the play but couldn't find a way to score.
So really the Timbers were just channeling 2014. I'll just let you watch the highlights to get the recap.