After two weeks, FC Dallas is the only team in MLS with six points, and the club takes the top spot in the MLS Power Rankings; Expansion teams NYCFC, Orlando City rise after first wins.
After an opening weekend filled with excitement, Major League Soccer still offered plenty of talking points in Week 2. Another expansion team played its home opener in front of a packed house, both 2015 newcomers won for the first time, a couple refereeing calls drew attention from across the league, and there's only one team with the maximum six points–although a few have, dubiously, yet to play two matches.
The weekend slate featured a considerable surprise as well, as the Seattle Sounders, fresh off a thorough beating of New England in their season opener, lost to an opponent who began the season in the opposite fashion in the San Jose Earthquakes. Ahead of their opening match at the new Avaya Stadium, the Quakes had big-money players Chris Wondolowski and Innocent Emeghara rise to the occasion in taking down the Sounders on the CenturyLink turf.
Here are some more thoughts on the second week of MLS play:
NYCFC opens with dream start in the Bronx
Despite concerns expressed by New York Yankees players, NYCFC's Yankee Stadium field, advertised as 110-by-70 yards, looked a bit narrower than expected but held up fine despite less-than-ideal conditions in New York leading up to the first MLS matchday in the Bronx.
On that field, NYCFC put on a worthwhile home debut, with manager Jason Kreis's side looking dangerous in attack. Having a player with David Villa’s pedigree on the squad helps, and he delivered his first goal for the team in its first home game. He added an assist to seal it late in the match, as expansion draft pick Patrick Mullins put one past his former New England Revolution teammates with his first touch of the game to secure a 2-0 win.
Orlando City deserved its first win, even if it took a GK error to get it
The Lions have been the better team in both of their first two matches despite not scoring a goal of their own through the run of play. They needed an own goal from goalkeeper Tyler Deric to defeat the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday. Deric’s gaffe came in the midst of another otherwise-solid performance from the first-year MLS starter.
The goal-inducing error came as Deric took a heavy first touch on an innocuous back pass, highlighting the uniqueness of goalkeeping psychology.
Deric’s teammates mishandled multiple passes throughout the match, but his mistake is the most glaring because it resulted immediately in a goal. Similarly, any mistake a goalkeeper makes is magnified because of his proximity to his own goal.
It’s part of the danger of the position and one of the aspects most who play that position love about it. Ultimately, it cost Houston a goal and a loss at home, but expect Deric to gamely put himself in the line of fire again next week without a second thought. It takes a special mental disposition to be a goalkeeper, knowing that one bad mistake can erase fans’ memories of saves such as Deric’s world-class effort on Kaká in the first half.
Two refereeing decisions heavily influenced the outcome of two matches
In Columbus, David Gantar sent off Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow after he made minimal, if any, contact with Ethan Finlay just outside the penalty area. Ironically, Gantar is the same official Michael Bradley received a fine for criticizing last September by saying, “What can you say? He’s just not good enough.”
Gantar said in post-game comments to the pool reporter on site Saturday that Morrow’s foul met the requirements for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity. If he calls a foul in that situation, it likely has to be deemed as such, but it seemed to be a clean tackle.
In Utah, Allen Chapman called Maurice Edu for a phantom foul on Luke Mulholland that gave Real Salt Lake a penalty that tied its match with the Philadelphia Union.
Chapman’s call looked just as soft as Gantar’s, with Mulholland falling over until little pressure. Both had obvious impacts on the outcomes of the respective matches.
Why didn't the Red Bulls, Rapids play in Week 2?
Four teams—D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls, the Colorado Rapids and the Montreal Impact—didn’t play a league match after the opening week. D.C. and Montreal were offered some leniency because of their participation in the CONCACAF Champions League knockout rounds, but the Red Bulls and Colorado hadn’t played competitively before Week 1.
Scheduling frequently draws criticism from the more vocal MLS coaches, including veterans Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid. In Philadelphia ahead of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Schmid told SI.com if he were commissioner, he would create a more regular, balanced schedule where teams played alternating home and away dates.
With an even number of teams, every team should play the same number of matches every week.
It would eliminate any advantage teams receive from playing four matches in two weeks, while their opponent only plays once or twice in that span. If MLS can also make a conscious effort to navigate FIFA international windows, it would put an end to the complaints and headaches that the fixture list generates every year.
Week 2 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Bobby Shuttleworth (New England Revolution)
DEFENDERS: Sean St. Ledger (Orlando City), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps)
MIDFIELDERS: Justin Meram (Columbus Crew), Cristian Maidana (Philadelphia Union), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire)
FORWARDS: David Villa (New York City FC), Blas Pérez (FC Dallas), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)