Week 1 is in the books and the MLS Dogpile makes its long-awaited return. Depending upon reader interest (see comments . . . have comments . . . post comments . . . you know the drill), MLS Table Talk will also be returning, but probably not until Weeks 5-7, by which time some sort of reasonable analysis of the numbers on offer should be possible. Without further ado . . .
1. New England Revolution (----W)
Can there really be any doubt who gets to sit atop the pile after Week 1? The Revs met the Dynamo in a rematch of the last two MLS Cup finals--a match between two of the strongest sides in the league over the last few years. And the Revs sauntered to a 3-0 result without their tight-shirted talisman Twellman. That, ladies and gentlemen, puts you at the top of the pile. Nyassi looks a very promising player, and once again, Nicol appears to have slotted in the pieces around a solid core, thus fashioning a contender. Next up, the Revs hit the road to face Blanco and the Fire on Thursday Night Futbol.
The Playoff Pack
2. Chivas USA (----D)
A slow start for the Goats in the first half at Dallas, but they came back strong in the second (at least if box scores, and match recaps are to be believed). Though they were missing a few key cogs in the machinery, the same can be said of Dallas. Next week, Preki's boys will head home to the friendly confines of the Toolbox, which they turned into a fortress last year--a very quiet and sparsely populated fortress, but a fortress nonetheless. Will the new-look RSL spoil their home opener?
3. Kansas City Wizards (----W)
A big win to open the new ballpark, but hardly a dominating performance. The Wizards should get goals this year, but they also looked surprisingly tight at the back. How much of this is due to their quality and how much to DC's inability to put pressure on the fullbacks is subject to debate. Regardless, the new strike pairing both netted on their debut, and they beat the back-to-back Supporters' Shield winners. A promising start, but I still think that defense will prove shaky against sides that look to exploit the flanks, namely next weekend's visitor--the Rapids.
4. DC United (----L)
A loss is a loss, true. But it wasn't like United was dominated in their 2-0 loss to KC. The new-look defense held the Wiz to three shots on goal. The fact that KC's deadly duo stuck two of those in the net speaks more to their quality than to DC's lack thereof. Add in DC probably looking ahead to Pachuca in midweek and trotting out Mediate in place of Fred, and you've got all the ingredients for disappointment. There was definitely rust on the offensive machinery, but there were moments of promise. Here's hoping for more than promise (read as: goals) next weekend at home against TFC.
5. Houston Dynamo (----L)
Ouch. Looking ahead to a mid-week CONCACRAP date, perhaps? Lack of pace in the back line highlighted, underscored, and circled in red marker? Lack of quality forward play penalizing a tremendous midfield? Hard to say, but going by the highlights (featuring one headed chance for the Dynamo) and box score (3 shots on goal versus 13 for the Revs), the Dynamo were flat and exposed. Hardly the best way to start your season, but they didn't start particularly well last year either (see also, DC United, 2007 edition). Next weekend at home in the Lone Star Derby against Dallas should see an improved performance.
6. Chicago Fire (----D)
Blanco rescues the Fire late with a moment of magic. Why do I have a feeling that I'm going to be saying that a lot this season? It was also refreshing to see the Hunchback back to his argumentative best, provoking opposition players and fans alike. I have a feeling that those red cards he managed to avoid last year are going to be finding their way out of referees' pockets this year. And that's going to hurt the Fire badly when he's suspended. Another tough test awaits, as Alpha Dogs, the Revolution, come calling on Thursday night.
7. FC Dallas (----D)
Sample headlines for the Dallas papers . . . Davino's debut devastated by dumb decision. Who doesn't put the "D" in "defense"? Duilio Davino, that's the dude. Ah well, at least Morrow's men managed a draw. Not having the evidence before my own eyes, it looks like the Hoops were at least fairly dangerous, despite missing some regular first-teamers. Next week will be tough--on the road to Lone Star rivals Houston, who are coming off a Week 1 drubbing and will looking to impress.
8. Colorado Rapids (----W)
Are they that good, or is LA just that bad? I tend to side with the second option. The Rapids managed four goals, but they only had five shots on frame and a PK. On the other hand, they nullified what was supposed to be one of the more dangerous attacking sides in the league. Clavijo's clowns have haunted this territory before--threatening to look competent, but then fading away to obscurity as the season progresses. I need to see more, and next weekend away to the Wizards might give us a better idea what the Rapids are about this year. Holy Crap! I just realized that the Rapids were the only team in the West to win this weekend, which means that they're atop the Western Conference. What're the odds on them staying there longer than a week?
Bum-sniffing Omega Mutts
9. New York Red Bulls (-----)
A week off can only help the Red Bulls as they wait for the long-promised reinforcements to arrive and bolster their thin lineup. All indications have been that pre-season was not encouraging, but Osorio proved last year that he can win in MLS. Saturday will see their debut as Sigi's Crew come calling in the Jersey swamplands.
10. Real Salt Lake (----D)
I want to rate them higher, but until the results come, it's still the same old RSL. How Kreis' men didn't manage to win their home opener is beyond me. Forget Blanco's stoppage time equalizer for a second. RSL should have been done and dusted by that point. They limited the Fire to two shots on goal--a massive defensive improvement, and managed to put shots on frame nine times themselves. Even starting without some of their recent acquisitions on the pitch, RSL were looking extremely dangerous early, with Espindola exposing the Fire back line time and again. Despite the late setback, all signs point to an improved RSL, at least at home. How they'll travel should be on display next weekend as they visit the Goats.
11. Columbus Crew (----W)
Sigi's boys benefit from a lack of sharpness from the TFC striker corps. Both sides had 13 shots, but while the Crew managed to put a healthy seven on target, TFC (and primarily Jeff Cunningham) managed only three. The Crew had a few nice passing moments, but didn't look tremendously dangerous, nor particularly solid at the back. A sterner test against more competent opposition will tell us what the Crew are bringing to the party this year. Unfortunately, that test may not happen next week, as they hit the road to face the Red Bulls. And yes--that stage looks absolutely atrocious.
12. Toronto FC (----L)
A missed PK. Cunningham wayward in front of net. The impressive traveling support go home disappointed. TFC were in this game and probably deserved better--if not a win or a draw, than at least a goal for their efforts. But the strikers were not sharp, and the old onion bag would not bulge. As a United fan, I'll hope that trend continues next weekend at RFK.
13. Los Angeles Galaxy (----L)
Could Lalas' Abomination be even worse than we all imagined? Cronin is going to be in for a season reminiscent of Guzan's during Chivas' inaugural season. Will he rise to the challenge? Where was the vaunted trinity of Donovan, Beckham, and Ruiz? Too much international travel in the midweek? Perhaps. 3 shots in total? Is that what sexy football is all about? Oh dear, oh dear. It looks like another disappointing year in La-La Land. If they can't take care of expansion San Jose at home on Thursday, I expect the sparks (and heads) to start flying.
14. San Jose Earthquakes (-----)
It's really gotta suck to sit and watch opening weekend, particularly when you've been out of the league for a few years. But what a way to return to action! Thursday Night Futbol visiting the old bane--the Los Angeles Galaxy, who looked pretty vulnerable to a Colorado side with many of the same issues up top that the Earthquakes themselves would seem to have. Yallop has got to be relishing a chance to hurt the Galaxy, and by extension, Lalas, deeply.