Sunday March 20th, 2011

From Charlie Davies scoring two goals in his return to first-team action to the Vancouver Whitecaps' first win, there were plenty of talking points from the opening Saturday of the MLS season ...

1. Davies' dream debut. Just playing in D.C. United's season-opening match would have been enough of a story. But for Charlie Davies to score two goals in his first competitive, first-team match in 17 months? Nobody could have seen that coming.

Davies notched an improbable brace in D.C. United's 3-1 victory over the Columbus Crew. Ten minutes after Davies made his entrance into the match as a 52nd-minute substitute, Chris Pontius drew a penalty on Sergio Miranda, and the crowd started to buzz.

Will they let Davies take it?

Coach Ben Olsen revealed that it was United captain Dax McCarty's choice to anoint Davies as the spot-kick taker.

"Dax came over with the ball, and he handed it to me and said, 'We trust you. We believe in you.' That says it all," Davies said.

The ever-confident striker delivered a smooth, easy finish to the right side while Will Hesmer dove in the other direction to open his MLS account just miles from the scene of the car crash that almost claimed his life in October 2009.

Davies' second goal was more impressive for a number of reasons. He was locked in a one-on-one battle with Chad Marshall, perennially one of the league's top center backs, for a long ball from Marc Burch. Marshall slipped on the play, allowing Davies to take control and head in on goal. He showed tremendous burst after collecting the ball and the confidence and class to dribble around Hesmer while maintaining his eye on goal. He finished on the run to pad D.C.'s lead at 3-0 in the 76th minute.

"I think everyone doesn't have any more doubts about my speed or quickness," Davies said.

Most figured it'd take Davies a little while to interject some offense in the United attack. His special 38-minute appearance on Saturday, one that ended with him exuding emotions and tears after the final whistle, dictates otherwise.

2. Vancouver DP makes instant impact. For all of the hype surrounding Designated Players that eventually go on to fail (Denilson, Nery Castillo, Luis Angel Landin to name a few), the Vancouver Whitecaps went against the grain with a relative unknown in MLS circles and hit an early jackpot.

Former FC Zurich striker Eric Hassli gave fans at Empire Field an inaugural match to remember with a two-goal performance in the Whitecaps' 4-2 victory over Toronto FC in the first MLS Canadian derby.

Hassli's first finish was a one-timer of a deflected cross, which he finished expertly with his left foot for the first goal in franchise history. His second was a right-footed finish into an empty net on a Whitecaps breakaway to ice the result in the second half. While Hassli boasts a pretty solid scoring record from his time overseas, it was uncertain how he'd fit into a Whitecaps attack that had many question marks entering the season. The early returns show that Hassli might deserve the DP designation after all.

3. Agudelo scores first MLS goal. With the expectations placed on New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, it's hard to believe that he had yet to score a professional goal on the club level before Saturday night.

Agudelo, whose goal in November led the United States to a 1-0 victory over South Africa, opened his professional club account with the match-winner in New York's 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders. Teemu Tainio played a long ball over the top for Agudelo, who outran Jhon Kennedy Hurtado to place a touch on the ball, then fended off Leo Gonzalez to finish with the outside of his right foot from just inside the penalty area.

On a night when Thierry Henry had a penalty kick saved, the 18-year-old Agudelo stepped up to deliver for the Red Bulls and validate those praising his abilities. There's a reason he'll be with the U.S. senior national team next weekend instead of with the U.S. Under-20 side for the CONCACAF U-20 championships.

4. Shea experiment fails. Brek Shea's move to center back did not go very well in FC Dallas' season-opening 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire. After receiving a routine pass, Shea had the ball skip over his foot going back toward his own goal and ended up fouling Gaston Puerari without any defenders behind him, thus earning him a red card and ejection.

While the foul wasn't egregious, Shea's ability to stay cool under pressure was compromised. One of the top left wingers in the league for a good part of last season, Shea might not belong on the back line, where quick decision making and being calm on the ball are two necessary attributes.

5. Expansion first impressions. All of the preseason chatter about the expansion Whitecaps and Portland Timbers involved the attack being Vancouver's weakness and Portland's strength. After one match, that notion seems to have been disproved.

In full disclosure, Vancouver's four-goal output came against Toronto, one of the league's weaker defensive units, and Portland's 3-1 loss came at defending MLS Cup champion Colorado.

Having said that, the same Whitecaps brass that took a beating for piecing together an attacking corps at the last minute may have the last laugh, especially with U.S. U-20 striker Omar Salgado waiting in the wings. Hassli starred in his first MLS match, as did Davide Chiumiento, and Atiba Harris managed to get on the scoreboard as well.

As for Portland, Kenny Cooper scored the team's lone goal in the waning minutes of a lost cause in which the team's defense and central midfield were badly exposed. We'll learn a lot more about the Timbers' attacking acumen next week, when they get a crack at the same Toronto defense that the Whitecaps abused.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.