Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.

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Awkward First Touch: MLS Week Three

Posted by: Jon Marthaler Updated: March 26, 2014 - 11:29 AM

Local MLS expert Wes Burdine (@MnNiceFC) is here to recap and preview Major League Soccer. When he's not here, he's podcasting. Wes?


1. Toronto FC 1, DC United 0

Last year’s Toilet Bowl finalists met in Toronto this week. This season, the tide has changed, with Toronto (America’s Team™) in the ascendency, and DC United continuing their stint in purgatory. Toronto won the day with a Triple Designated Player play: Michael Bradley’s genius pass to Gilberto, who forced a save, which fell for Jermain Defoe to finish. Tim Leiweke, the president and CEO of Toronto's parent company, should have received credit for an assist.

The final score was quite deceiving, though. Toronto unveiled their fancy new team for their home opener with a packed crowd, but Toronto only had 37% of the possession, 62% passing accuracy, and just 265 passes against DC's 466. This indicates that we should temper our exuberance over a new and improved Toronto, just as we wait for DC’s offense to get clicking.

Highlights: Designated Player 1 passes to Designated Player 2 and Designated Player 3 finishes with aplomb. Hurray Don Garber!
Bonus(!) Highlights: I can only guess the intent of this fan’s celebration, but here’s my best guess: Richie Rich is a huge Toronto FC fan, and in solidarity with the big money signing of Jermain Defoe, he decided to make it rain on the new striker as he celebrated his goal.
Short Version: Don’t Call It a Comeback just yet.

2. Colorado Rapids 2, Portland Timbers 0

In 2002 the band Interpol released their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights. Pitchfork named it the best album of the year even though that year saw the release of instant classics like Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight. Only two albums later, Interpol released a single whose lame melody was matched only by the face-palm-worthiness of its title: “No I in Threesome.”

In 2013, MLS pundits coined a term for Portland Timbers’ style of play from the name of their new Wunderkind manager, Caleb Porter: “Porterball.” This year, the Timbers have two points from three matches, both from home games. In this match, Portland’s forty-foot-tall part-time keeper/part-time megafauna Donovan Ricketts saw red as he gave up a penalty. Less than a minute after Colorado converted, substitute goalkeeper Andrew [Lloyd] Web[b]er gave up another penalty.

Short Version: The sophomore album is usually filled with songs about the rough life on the road and it’s tough to live up to the hype of the debut.
Highlights: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my undying love for a certain newly be-mulletted midfielder named Dillon Powers, last year’s MLS Rookie of the Year and the player who I chose before the MLS SuperDraft to be a superstar. The first penalty came about when Powers put his roommate Deshorn Brown in on goal with a Michael Bradley-esque pass.

3. FC Dallas 3, Chivas USA 1

I don’t mean to alarm you, but the best team in the league is, um, Dallas? Hoops (though they’ve abandoned the “hoops” on their jerseys because they’re not flattering; might I suggest a slimming black dress?) signed Oscar Pareja as their manager during the off-season, poaching him away from Colorado, where he exceeded expectations. But let’s be honest, they have two wins, which were against two of the league’s worst teams - Montreal and Chivas. Last year, they were the best team in the league mid-season, before slouching toward Bethlehem with second-to-bottom finish in the Western Conference.

Short Version: Call me if Dallas are top of the league in August.
Highlights: There is some poor defending in this, but Je-Vaughn Watson shows good hustle and finishing to get the goal.

4. DC United v Chicago Fire, Saturday, 3 PM, NBC Sports.

This is by far not the marquee game of the weekend; it is nothing but a fight for the league’s table scraps between two struggling clubs. Yet it is the only nationally televised game on this weekend. What an utter disappointment.

That isn’t to say that it won’t be an interesting game; it's just a lost opportunity. DC United really have improved their team, but we haven’t seen them gel on the field yet. When I look over the Chicago Fire’s roster, I can’t see much wrong with it - they have last year’s league MVP, Mike Magee - but there isn’t much about it that’s exciting. Even Magee is one of the tamer league stars.

5. What to watch this weekend

There are actually four games that will be really fascinating to watch this weekend. None of them, of course, will be televised, but I pay for the relatively cheap MLS Live subscription that lets me watch these games. And that’s what I’m here to do, right? Watch games for you?

  • Colorado Rapids v. Sporting Kansas City. High energy.
  • FC Dallas v. Portland Timbers. Surprise package v. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On? I have a feeling that Dallas won’t be top of the league on Monday.
  • Real Salt Lake v. Toronto FC. The hair of Kyle Beckerman v. the non-hair of Michael Bradley.
  • Seattle Sounders v. Columbus Crew. Every time a friend randomly stumbles upon a Sounders game I get a text, “Wow, these Seattle fans really bring it.” Yes, and OK Computer was also an okay record.

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