Planet Futbol MLS Best XI: Week 1
In the first week of the Major League Soccer season, we saw plenty of goals and not as many great defensive performances despite four shutouts in eight games. Three players had multi-goal games, while defenders were slower to shake off the preseason rust.
Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Sebastian Fernandez announced his arrival in MLS with authority, while Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando denied Landon Donovan a piece of MLS history and Robbie Keane a late penalty to kick off the Jeff Cassar era with three points.
Who else got the 2014 campaign off to a strong start? Our first Best XI of the season is below:
Planet Futbol MLS Best XI — Week 1
• Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
The goalkeeping nod had to go to either Rimando or his opposite on Saturday, LA Galaxy's Jaime Penedo. The stoppage-time penalty save — the 20th in his MLS career — to preserve the win and deny Robbie Keane an equalizer was the clincher for the RSL man.
• Defender: Bobby Burling (Chivas USA)
It wasn't a strong week for defenders, and Burling gets the nod here by virtue of his game-winning goal for Chivas USA on Sunday. He had an otherwise unremarkable game, although his clearances were solid and he won every tackle he attempted.
• Defender: Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew)
Parkhurst took the captain's armband from new coach Gregg Berhalter and ran with it. He organized Columbus well in what was a pretty dynamic back line, moved the ball well and drew a penalty.
• Defender: DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)
The potential so many people saw in Yedlin last year is starting to flourish. A long stint with the national team probably helped, and it showed on Saturday. Yedlin completed some key passes in the attack and looked better than before when defending one-on-one.
• Midfielder: Will Johnson (Portland Timbers)
One of the two midfielders in Portland's holding block had to make it, and while Diego Chará had a solid defensive game, Johnson's decision to take a quick corner in stoppage time led to the Timbers' tying goal against the Philadelphia Union.
• Midfielder: Mauro Díaz (FC Dallas)
It took Díaz a while to get into the game, but when he did, it looked good. The penalty he drew was fairly dubious, but he also completed 91 percent of his passes from the playmaking role and slammed home a sweet free kick.
• Midfielder: Sebastián Fernández (Vancouver Whitecaps)
This kid will go far. The 24-year-old Fernández terrorized New York down the left flank, cutting in to complete multiple quick combinations and nearly scoring a stunning goal in the first half before succeeding on a similar effort in the second.
• Midfielder: Óscar Boniek García (Houston Dynamo)
The Dynamo played García in the middle, and while he usually plays on the wing, it suited him well because he likes to cut inside often. His off-ball movement is some of the best in the league, such as when he found himself unmarked to score on Saturday.
• Forward: Federico Higuaín (Columbus Crew)
All three forwards on this list scored two goals this weekend. As he usually does, Higuaín also dropped to help Columbus overload in the middle, spraying balls wide to keep possession.
• Forward: Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Miller nearly had a hat trick, as he could have scored inside the first minute. That miss foreshadowed a two-goal night that included a penalty and a neat chip over Luis Robles, as well as plenty of involvement in much of Vancouver's attacking movement.
• Forward: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo)
Unlike Miller, Bruin finished his early chance, scoring on a nice side-volley just 64 seconds into Houston's 4-0 win over the Revolution. Both of Bruin's goals came in the first 15 minutes, setting the tone for an emphatic victory.
Player of the Week: Sebastián Fernández
It was tough to pick between Fernández and Bruin, as both had good games away from goal as well as putting home good attempts. However, Fernández showed a technical side to his game that Bruin hasn't quite been able to do in his short career so far. Perhaps his revelation will help fans at B.C. Place forget about that other guy who used to wear No. 7, Camilo Sanvezzo, who just left under inauspicious circumstances.
In particular, Fernández and the Whitecaps' ability to combine individual action and quick passing combinations on top of the New York penalty area were impressive. Early in the first half, Fernández and Darren Mattocks combined on a neat piece of tiki-taka to put Mattocks in on goal, which Mattocks should have finished. Vancouver played a strong game, bolstered by poise on the ball from its midfielders. You may have heard this story from the Pacific Northwest before, but the players seem to be buying into first-year head coach Carl Robinson's philosophy of attractive soccer.