Monday, March 10, 2014

Rimando, Vancouver put in class performances

Philly, Chivas USA among sides to spring surprises

Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando was pure class, the New York Red Bulls were not and Chivas USA's offseason novela didn't affect them on the pitch in MLS' opening weekend.

Rimando reminded folks why he can't be discounted in his side's 0-1 win over the L.A. Galaxy as he stopped Robbie Keane's injury-time kick from the spot although the Irishman didn't do himself any favors with a hesitant swing coupled with a kick that wasn't his usual-potent self. The Utah side will again be a consistent force this campaign as they yet again return with the core of a team that has been a success for several seasons, albeit without their managerial weapon in Jason Kreis, who took off for New York City FC.

In Vancouver, the New York Red Bulls were confident and talking everything about defending their Supporters Shield trophy but were dealt a dose of reality of how difficult that process will be as the Whitecaps--enjoying a newfound chemistry with several new signings and a new manager in Welshman Carl Robinson--tore apart the Red Bulls in a 4-1 walloping, thanks to two goals by Scottish striker Kenny Miller and one by its new designated player in Pedro Morales, the stylish Chilean that should make Vancouver fans quickly forget about last year's 20-goal Brazilian marksman Camilo.

Chivas USA, the red-headed stepchild of the league for years and which was sold to the league recently, have added pieces to its puzzle that could get the lameduck franchise a playoff ticket for the first time since 2009. (We assume lameduck since the Chivas USA experiment brought forward by Chivas Guadalajara mastermind Jorge Vergara appears to be shortlived as the league hopes to obtain an ownership group that keeps the team in L.A. under a new umbrella name.) Its 3-2 win over Chicago Fire was a grinding decision that the side would have lost in past seasons. A 14-player turnover that includes former Mexican international Adolfo 'Bofo' Bautista and Mauro Rosales along with returning players in Carlos Bocanegra and the smooth Dan Kennedy in net can bring a surprise element to the league before what is expected to be a full-on rebranding (we hope!).

In other matches, DC United's own makeover looked out of sync as they fell 0-3 to Columbus Crew with Federico Higuain (Gonzalo's older brother) netting two and Costa Rican Jairo Arrieta opening up sequences. FC Dallas opened up its campaign with a 3-2 decision over Montreal Impact, Houston Dynamo blanked New England Revolution 4-0 and Portland Timbers needed a final-play goal by Argentine Gaston Fernandez to equalize its match at home against a much-improved Philadelphia Union that should give the East favorites a run for their money. The first match of the season saw Seattle Sounders also tie with a last-minute play at home with defending champions Sporting Kansas City.

-Tio Pelotas