Another soccer-specific stadium opened its Major League Soccer tenure in Week 3 of the 2015 season. On the opposite coast, one team kept its perfect record intact with its third win in a row.
The San Jose Earthquakes opened Avaya Stadium with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire, building on the momentum of a big away win in Seattle. Meanwhile, FC Dallas took three more points against the Philadelphia Union to max out at nine in three games.
Draws in half of last weekend’s eight matches, including three of the scoreless variety, again underscored MLS’s parity. Even so, a few things stood out in the third week of the MLS season:
Will this be the year Óscar Pareja gets the recognition he deserves?
After opening the season with two wins at home, Dallas went away to PPL Park and won again. It may have been a red card-assisted victory and still closer than it should have been according to the statistics, but Pareja’s men got it done.
Critiquing every MLS uniform, head to toe
New York City FC
New York City FC took some heat for its sky blue home shirt, which looks a whole lot like the one worn by parent/sister club Manchester City. But an homage was inevitable, and NYCFC has differentiated itself from MCFC, and the rest of MLS, with the white shorts and socks. It’s a sharp look. The away kit, highlighted by a flash of orange (from the city flag) at the neck and five stripes you can barely see that "represent the five boroughs of New York City," is lazy. With a blank template, NYCFC should’ve come up with something other than the mono-black already worn in D.C. and Columbus.
After several overhauls—LA wore black and teal, then teal and yellow, then yellow and green—the Galaxy’s white and blue brand has taken root. Three championships in four years certainly help. The sash on the home uniform, re-introduced in 2012, has quickly become iconic, and, along with the socks, helps make this all-white kit stand out. The new secondary set maintains the same feel as its recent predecessors. The yellow accents look sharp, but we can’t help but feel a white or yellow sash would tie the uniforms and brand together.
Of the four MLS teams with an all-red home uniform (that’s 20 percent of the league), the Fire were first. They’re the “Men in Red,” after all. But Chicago began veering away from its traditional look in 2012. First the famous white hoop became blue. Then last year, the blue expanded to the chest and shoulders. It doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t seem right, either. The new away kit is another all-white offering. But at least designers put a bit of thought into this one. The thin, light blue hoops on the shirt and socks, intended to reflect the design of the city flag, are a nice touch.
Montreal exemplifies MLS/Adidas’ fixation on tiny details rather than the impact (sorry) a uniform makes when viewed from more than three feet away, which is where most people watch a game. The new away kit features a tiny silver fleur-de-lis affixed to the back and more woven subtly into the fabric. But overall, it’s just another anonymous all-white uniform that mirrors the existing, plain blue primary set. The tragedy is that Montreal’s gorgeous blue-and-black striped alternate, which would be the only striped kit in MLS, is gathering dust. It should be the club’s primary.
D.C. United calls itself the “Black and Red,” but its uniform palette typically has ignored the latter. That’s been rectified with the club’s new secondary kit, which features a welcome splash of red on the traditional white jersey. The home uniform, which carries over from 2014, still looks unfinished without the white chest stripes that were dropped in 2008. If D.C. could find a way to re-introduce them, perhaps above the sponsor logo and behind the crest, it once again would boast one of the sport’s most distinctive designs.
Real Salt Lake
RSL stubbornly refuses to look great. It took a small step forward with its new secondary uniform, which now features two blue sleeves. It's too bad there isn’t even more of RSL’s beautiful claret, cobalt, and gold color scheme in the kit. The red home set carries over from 2014, making it six seasons since RSL abandoned the claret shirt, cobalt shorts/socks combo it wore when winning its only MLS title. The yellow chest stripe adds a little something extra, but RSL’s preference for an all-red kit similar to others around the league instead of a classy, one-of-a-kind look with championship pedigree is baffling.
Toronto FC’s new home set could be the reddest uniform in the history of a league that loves red uniforms, which we suppose is noteworthy (guess Adidas insisted on the contrasting three stripes). Club management has focused on building a team capable of ending an eight-year playoff drought, likely leaving little time for kit design. The holdover secondary set is charcoal gray, which features in the TFC logo and is a unique uniform color in MLS. The hooped socks finish off a striking look and make us wish there was a bit more gray in the primary.
New England Revolution
The Revs are Exhibit A for the effect a second color, even if it comes from something as mundane as a plain pair of shorts, has on a club’s brand. Long a believer in boring, N.E. last year overhauled its home blues with white shorts and hooped socks. It’s a classy yet instantly recognizable look. The image shake-up continued Tuesday with a new secondary kit inspired by the regional flag flown during the American Revolution. The red-and-white set is clunky and geometric, but it’s different, daring and local. Better to take a chance than look dull and anonymous.
The Union got it right in 2010. The inaugural navy kit with the gold center stripe, reflecting the Philadelphia flag, was iconic. The gold-and-blue away set, a reversal of the primary, was one-of-a-kind. The holdover home uniform still looks great, although the sponsor’s logo wrecks the balance. But the new secondary is a disaster, a needless departure from the brand and an 10th all-white MLS kit. Once innovators, the Union are now followers. The “WE ARE ONE” collar slogan, the tiny snake below the neckline and the embossed stars on the front are lost in a sea of white.
The Vancouver Whitecaps new primary uniform is meant to be experienced up close. It’s slogan heavy. “Our All. Our Honour.” appears inside the neck and on the hip. “SINCE 1974” is on the back. The thin, diagonal pinstripes that featured on the previous home kit have been replaced by light blue shading designed to represent Vancouver’s water and mountains. It’s all a bit too subtle. The shirt will look nice with jeans, but in the end, Vancouver’s all-white kit—and the holdover mono-navy secondary—simply blends in.
Portland quietly switched crests, from a logo featuring its name to a simpler version focusing on the axe and chevrons (the old logo lives on elsewhere). Few teams wear a badge with no writing, but the Timbers can because they’ve built such a powerful brand. Only they could wear the new home set, a bold green-and-white offering anchored by the chevrons. They're a bit wide, and the yellow below the collar clutters the shirt, but it's impressive overall. The road kit, released in 2014, is everything a good one should be: distinctive, perhaps edgy, yet connected to the club. In this case, Rose City red.
The Crew released new home and away sets featuring the club’s revamped logo, a roundel that looks nice enough but makes sense only with a cheat sheet. The explanations (the ‘O’ for Ohio, the founding year, the checkerboard pattern found in flags waived by fans) certainly tie the club to Columbus more than the goofy construction workers did. As the Crew forge ahead, they’ll stay true to their sartorial tradition. The all-yellow primary is simple but elegant, and certainly recognizable. The mono black secondary could use a bit of flourish–why so subtle with the checkers? But it works and shouldn't be needed that often, anyway.
Orlando City SC
The Lions’ love for purple is welcome in a league featuring so many similar looks. But it didn't result in creative inaugural kits. The home uniform features more up-close details, like “jacquard engineered banding…representing Orlando City’s transition to a new era” and even the club's old USL logo inside. The mono-white secondary has colored hoops on the waist and sleeves and includes more small symbols and slogans. But it’s still just another white set. The answer is obvious—swap the socks. The “Chelsea” look is underrated. White hosiery at home and purple on the road would make all the difference.
New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls have company in New York so have set out to reinforce their tenuous connection to the market within the constraints of the club’s corporate brand. The only white-red-white team in the league, RBNY now must compete with NYCFC’s pale blue. The Red Bulls’ new home set doubles down on that contrast with red sleeves and “NEW YORK” emblazoned on the shirt’s lower left in a manner “mimicking the iconic New York skyline.” The “EST.1996” on the back collar reminds fans who was there (or nearby) first. The holdover secondary definitely is unique and is great in reasonable doses.
Houston’s club motto is “Forever Orange,” and while that remains the cornerstone of the brand, the Dynamo typically add a wrinkle here and there to ensure we’re not beaten over the head with it. The new home uniform is a great example. The white shorts and checkered fade on the jersey add the right amount of contrast. On occasion, the Dynamo have worn monochrome both home and away. But there’s no need to do so, especially on the road. The balance in the primary kit and the immediately identifiable orange shorts with the secondary set showcase the Dynamo at their best.
Sporting Kansas City
From irrelevant to trendsetting, SKC has profited from one of the most successful sports rebrands in recent history. The club now must share light blue with NYCFC, but Sporting still stands out. The new home set is a departure form the bicolor “state line” uniform of 2013-14 and is anchored by a “fashion-forward window pane pattern” that’s almost as preppy as the recent argyle alternate kit. The secondary uniform is stunning. The hoops, which mirror the stripes on the club crest, highlight one of the most eye-catching sets in MLS history. It’ll be tough to see it go after this season.
FCD’s kits are an example of a good idea, poorly executed. The club made an inspired decision to go with hoops when rebranding in 2005, but the jerseys always let them down. Unnecessary seams, plackets and panels always ruined the shirt. Dallas gave up last year and went with a boring all-red primary. But it stuck with the hoops on the new blue-and-white secondary, where the side panels and sleeves still disrupt the flow. Both blue and white shorts are an option. Our 2016 ideal: a primary jersey with seamless, sleek red and blue hoops. Unique and colorful, but less jarring. Make it happen.
Another club that’s bounced from brand to brand (green-and-white, blue-and-black), the Rapids have settled in nicely with the unique but elegant burgundy-shirt, white-shorts combo. The sleeves, which mirror those worn by sister club Arsenal, add a subtle touch of flair. The new away uniform is a prime example of how a secondary kit can be tasteful and connect to a club’s brand. Last season’s mono blue state-flag set has evolved into a sharp gold-and-blue kit that maintains Colorado's colors and stands out from the crowd. We’re not fans of recolored badges—logos should be sacrosanct—but overall it’s a winner.
The club that brought us rave green, cascade shale, super cyan and electricity has succumbed to the all-white virus. Seattle is one of five MLS clubs to adopt the look this season, ensuring half the league now embraces the white-out copout. The Sounders new away kit is especially devoid of any personality—a surprising choice for a club that has much of it. The new home set features a less cluttered shirt than in seasons past. It’s a template, but it’s a step up. The uniform also features blue shorts and socks for the first time. Here’s hoping we see it as often as possible.
San Jose Earthquakes
"Earthquakes" is an appropriate moniker for a club that’s experienced so much upheaval. While the new Avaya Stadium offers stability, the brand remains in flux. SJ’s '14 overhaul produced a beautiful blue-and-black primary kit that’s already a modern classic. But the logo, awkwardly anchored by “Quakes”—a nickname of a nickname—lacks gravitas. We liked the re-introduction of the NASL-era red, which inspired last year’s away kit. That’s been replaced by a new white secondary set (yes, another one). It lacks the creativity, individuality and ambition that should be associated with a Bay Area club on the rise.
Dallas can’t afford to coast now. In 2013, the team went undefeated through early May before a lengthy winless streak left it above only Chivas USA in the Western Conference. Last year, Dallas won five of its first seven followed by a streak of one win in 11. However, something feels different this season.
Many coaches stamp their identity on their teams through player selection and their style of play, and Pareja in Dallas is no different.
FCD boasts players who match technical ability and an MLS-requisite physicality, including Mauro Díaz and Fabián Castillo, with a healthy amount of fire personified by one of MLS’s most hated opponents, Blas Pérez.
That mixture makes it seem as if Dallas can find wins in multiple ways, and Pareja has enough depth to tailor his lineup as necessary. After finishing as a finalist in both of the last two MLS Coach of the Year races, this group might be the one to win the 46-year-old Colombian that accolade—as long as it can avoid the inconsistency that has plagued the team in recent seasons.
Avaya Stadium looks like a gem
MLS teams continue to open their own spectacular stadiums, and the resources many North American owners enjoy make it plausible that the league could have the most enticing arenas for the beautiful game before too long.
The atmosphere at Avaya provides a unique experience, with planes taking off and landing just off the East side of the structure.
Nothing can replace tradition, which MLS is slowly building, but despite lacking a true cathedral of the game on the scale of Camp Nou, Old Trafford or La Bombonera, stadiums in the league have modern appeal.
The trend doesn’t stop in San Jose, with D.C. United and Orlando City SC set to join the list of franchises with such homes (and NYCFC and the New England Revolution theoretically on deck). The next major battle will be whether it’s plausible that all teams in the league not only have their own stadiums, but also natural grass surfaces within their four walls.
The Montreal Impact can’t catch a break in league play
After experienced midfielder Justin Mapp suffered a dislocated and fractured elbow in the team’s MLS opener against D.C. United two weeks ago, rookie Cameron Porter took a nasty fall on the turf at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. It looks like the 21-year-old, who set the CONCACAF Champions League alight with a series-clinching goal against Pachuca, will be out for some time, although the Impact have yet to announce a definitive diagnosis.
Injuries and largely uninspired play have marked the Impact’s brief 2015 season so far—the exact opposite of its latest foray into the Champions League knockout rounds. It could come down to emphasis, as Montreal doesn’t need to rely on MLS play to qualify for the competition, and it seems Frank Klopas’ team places more importance on the continental competition.
As such, Montreal could be the first MLS team since Real Salt Lake in 2011 to make the final. That would be a great achievement even if it comes at the expense of league results, and it would vindicate the team’s efforts to overhaul in the offseason regardless of its ultimate MLS standing.
Over half of MLS matches have been scoreless at halftime so far this season
Saturday offered more red cards than goals through the first three matches, as an FC Dallas double and Vancouver Whitecaps late winner offered the only respite from a brutal start to the weekend. Philadelphia Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer earned the only straight red of the bunch for a nasty elbow on Díaz.
Unlike a week before when the referees took center stage, all the officiating decisions were justified this time around.
In fact, Jorge González could have added a fourth red when Kekuta Manneh lunged into Aurélien Collin with two straight legs before Vancouver scored in stoppage time to defeat Orlando City SC.
Always the entertainer, Robbie Keane broke up the monotony with a blazing run through the Houston Dynamo defense to give the LA Galaxy a lead three minutes into Saturday’s nightcap. Houston equalized eight minutes later, and that was it for the goalscoring until Sunday.
Week 3 Best XI
GOALKEEPER: Josh Saunders (New York City FC)
DEFENDERS: Marc Burch (Colorado Rapids), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Donny Toia (Montreal Impact)
MIDFIELDERS: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire)
FORWARDS: Octavio Rivero (Vancouver Whitecaps), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
1. FC Dallas
RECORD: 3-0-0 | This Week 2-0 at Philadelphia
Dallas is the only MLS team on maximum points after its win over the Union and D.C.’s loss to the Red Bulls, but beware Dallas’ propensity to start fast and fizzle.
2. Seattle Sounders
RECORD: 1-1-0 | This Week Off
Seattle takes to the road for three of its next four matches after some mixed fortunes at home early in the season.
3. Vancouver Whitecaps
RECORD: 2-1-0 | This Week 1-0 at Orlando
With a goal in each match, Octavio Rivero is off to the steadiest start in MLS this year, including his impressive diving header in stoppage time to steal a late win on Saturday.
4. Los Angeles Galaxy
RECORD: 1-0-2 | This Week 1-1 vs. Houston
After a day of slow first halves on Saturday, Robbie Keane offered a respite with his third-minute individual effort, but the Galaxy couldn’t make it stand up for a home win, conceding soon after.
5. San Jose Earthquakes
RECORD: 2-1-0 | This Week 2-1 vs. Chicago
The Earthquakes opened Avaya Stadium with a positive result, giving them more wins than losses on the season for the first time since the end of 2013, although it’s still early days.
6. Orlando City SC
RECORD: 1-1-1 | This Week 0-1 vs. Vancouver
Conceding extremely late at home on Saturday left Orlando reeling after another match in which it held more possession and led the shot count but couldn’t be more efficient in front of goal.
7. Columbus Crew
RECORD: 1-1-0 | This Week Off
After a week off, Columbus hosts the Red Bulls next weekend before inexplicably taking another full week and a half off from competitive matches.
8. Houston Dynamo
RECORD: 1-1-1 | This Week 1-1 at LA
Despite a mediocre road record in 2014 and conceding a goal early against LA, Houston resiliently scored a goal of its own eight minutes later through Nathan Sturgis and defended resolutely to earn a point at the StubHub Center.
9. Real Salt Lake
RECORD: 0-0-2 | This Week Off
Looking for its first win of the season, RSL gets no advantage from its week off, as Week 4 opponent Toronto FC also took some time off.
10. New York City FC
RECORD: 1-0-2 | This Week 0-0 at Colorado
After just three appearances for RSL in 2014, goalkeeper Josh Saunders has been one of NYCFC’s most valuable players in the early going, making seven saves to earn a point on the road Saturday.
11. Toronto FC
RECORD: 1-1-0 | This Week Off
After a week off, Toronto heads to Utah as it nears the halfway point of its seven-match exile from BMO Field due to stadium renovations.
12. New York Red Bulls
RECORD: 1-0-1 | This Week 2-0 vs. D.C.
With the weight of his new Designated Player tag weighing heavily, along with provider Thierry Henry’s retirement, Bradley Wright-Phillips finally delivered with a goal and assist on Sunday.
13. Portland Timbers
RECORD: 0-0-3 | This Week 0-0 at Sporting KC
The Timbers have drawn all three matches and failed to score in two in 2015, harkening back to their 15-draw 2013 season, in which they drew three of their first four and finished first in the Western Conference during the regular season.
14. D.C. United
RECORD: 1-1-0 | This Week 0-2 at Red Bulls
Ben Olsen’s coaching style really only allows for one style of victory, and when his players’ passion and grit do not match his own, they’re bound to lose as they did against the Red Bulls.
15. Philadelphia Union
RECORD: 0-1-2 | This Week 0-2 vs. Dallas
Philadelphia hasn’t scored at home in two matches, bookending a three-goal outpouring in Salt Lake that wasn’t good enough to get all three points.
16. Sporting Kansas City
RECORD: 0-1-2 | This Week 0-0 vs. Portland
Kansas City has scored just two goals in its opening three games, matching its slow 2014 start; Dom Dwyer hasn’t scored yet, but he only scored once in the first three last year.
17. Colorado Rapids
RECORD: 0-0-2 | This Week 0-0 vs. NYCFC
The Rapids’ winless streak is at 16 after failing to score against MLS newcomer NYCFC at home. The last team they beat–Chivas USA in a 3-0 result July 25, 2014–doesn't exist anymore, either.
18. Montreal Impact
RECORD: 0-1-1 | This Week 0-0 at New England
Montreal lost Cameron Porter to an apparent serious knee injury after Justin Mapp dislocated his elbow in the first game of the season and failed to match its CCL output in MLS play.
19. New England Revolution
RECORD: 0-2-1 | This Week 0-0 vs. Montreal
After having one of the league’s most potent attacks in 2014, New England hasn’t scored through its first three games in 2015.
20. Chicago Fire
RECORD: 0-3-0 | This Week 1-2 at San Jose
Harry Shipp continues to be a bright spot for an otherwise dismal Fire, finally getting on the scoresheet in an eventual loss on Sunday.