Friday, March 14, 2014

Sounders welcome TFC, Union look to build on Week 1 draw

Red Bulls open up at home, Earthquakes hope new signings spark Wondo

The suddenly-glamorous Toronto FC will open up their MLS campaign tomorrow and what better place to introduce the league to Englishman Jermain Defoe and Brazilian Julio Cesar than to the confinements of Seattle's kingdom of loud.

Sure, the turf won't be easy to adjust to--or even like--but Toronto's newly-acquired employees will be impressed by the boisterous enthusiasm for football. Of course, MLS vet Dwayne DeRosario--embarking on his return yet again to this hometown club--and Michael Bradley most likely will have advised the new recruits on not only to the best-attended park in the league but also on the athleticism displayed throughout MLS. Thierry Henry has already attested to this.

Bradley vs Clint Dempsey in front of a packed house. Who would have thought this just a couple of years ago?

Seattle took three points on a last-minute goal by unlikely hero Chad Barrett in its home win last week over defending champions Sporting Kansas City. The affair was what one would expect to be for a first match of a 34-game tournament--scrappy and hesitant until the latter stages of the match.

About 175 miles further south, the Philadelphia Union deployed their shiny new weapons in Argentine Cristian Maidana and Maurice Edu as well as Vincent Nogueira to patrol the midfield. And they looked good in doing so only to be doomed by a last-second goal by Portland Timbers. The Union will surely contend for a playoff spot and--dare we say it--a possible Shield? Maybe a move or two away from that though!

First, the Union welcome a demoralized New England Revolution side that was blanked 0-4 in Houston to the Dynamo last week.

Further up the New Jersey Turnpike, the New York Red Bulls will look to forget its 1-4 walloping to the Whitecaps in Vancouver last week and hope to kick off its defense of its Supporters Shield in style as they host Colorado Rapids. If it ain't broke, why fix it? But in RB's case, it needed a little tweaking. It did not appear to do the trick initially as Harrison's heroes were sliced and diced and thrown away with yesterday's recycling although the Canadians weren't too shabby themselves as they quickly took control of the match after RB sought to do the same early on.

The apparent antidote is a young Rapids team that haven't won at Red Bull Arena's gotta be years now. Although they have some good youth talent on its side, the Rapids' speed won't be enough to off Red Bulls as they need to respond to last week's debacle immediately.

Another home-opened to watch out for is San Jose Earthquakes' tilt in welcoming Real Salt Lake. The Californians made some interesting acquisitions in the offseason in Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi and grabbed Yannick Djalo from Portuguese football on loan. Chris Wondolowski is going to need all the help he can get after a top season in 2012 saw him notch 27 goals before his 2013 production fell to just 11 goals. What kind of possession play will San Jose head into now with these new players? Don't forget about Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart. Should be a good mix of touch and physicality.

In other matches: the Dynamo host Montreal Impact, Kansas City celebrates last year's championship with fans before taking on FC Dallas while the Chicago Fire visit the Timbers and Chivas USA takes on the Whitecaps.

-Tio Pelotas