The Full 90

Monday Morning Rewind: A look at Major League Soccer’s opening weekend

Droplets of beer from spectators fall on Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21), left, as he celebrates a penalty kick goal against Vancouver Whitecaps by teammate Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17), right, during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver on Saturday, March 7, 2015.
Droplets of beer from spectators fall on Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21), left, as he celebrates a penalty kick goal against Vancouver Whitecaps by teammate Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17), right, during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver on Saturday, March 7, 2015. AP

How was your MLS weekend? Probably not as good as Jozy Altidore’s.

The United States national team striker made his triumphant return to Major League Soccer with an emphatic two-goal performance in an equally emphatic 3-1 win for Toronto FC over the upstart Vancouver Whitecaps.

Altidore sealed the deal in about the most assured method possible: A chipped “panenka” penalty kick.

If there are any Sunderland fans trolling around American soccer blogs for hot takes: Apparently, all you need is a Giovinco-level creator and Altidore is a scoring machine. (His two-goal performance doubles his total output in 42 appearances with the Black Cats.)

Game of the Week

This is a no-brainer (apologies to all Sounders fans), but Toronto-Vancouver was an absolute blistering game. It had speed, goals, chances, tackles, narratives. You couldn’t ask for much more.

Giovinco is going to be one of the best players in the league. I’m almost sure of it. Just watch the pass to unlock the defense for Altidore’s first goal. That’s a world-class pass.

Things to Read

Kurtis Larson of the Toronto Sun weighs in on the game of the week.

The Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio on the first MLS game in Orlando City history, which featured a fitting stoppage-time goal by Kaka.

If you don’t read Matt Doyle’s Armchair Analyst every Monday morning at MLSsoccer.com, I’m not sure you’re really an MLS fan.

Charles Boehm takes a good look at what the averted MLS strike means for American soccer, while former MLS player Bobby Warshaw weighs in (with his usual thoughtfulness) about how unfair the whole process was, slanted in favor of the owners.

Some Thoughts

A few things that I’m thinking about after a late-night marathon MLS Live session. After a 10-hour road trip on Sunday, I had a lot to catch up on.

1. ESPN and Fox Sports successfully launched our new Sunday soccer block.

From 4 p.m (Central) to just a little after 10 p.m., American soccer was front and center (well, as central as ESPN2 can be) on the American cable TV dial. It was great to see both ESPN and Fox — who both have an interesting past with covering soccer in this country at times — promote the heck out of the league this weekend. Both invested a lot of money, so I expect to see this promotion continue for a while. (There won’t always be three games, for what it’s worth.)

The production values for both were quite good (no surprise for ESPN, but I was pleasantly surprised with FS1 after years of sometimes blurry Fox Soccer coverage). I’m still not exactly sure I understand Brad Friedel’s Ohio-via-London-but-sounds-Australian-or-Irish accent, but his insight was at times very useful to the broadcast. (And the No. 1 color commentary guy for Fox is now Alexi Lalas, so we’re all winning — provided you like Lalas as a commentator as much as I do.)

I’m mixed on Fox Sports’ studio show — the only one of the two I got to watch. I like Rob Stone and Stuart Holden a lot, but the network’s insistence on forcing Eric Wynalda down our throats and adding Landon Donovan (an interesting, but not that charismatic presence) muddles the discussion a bit.

2. A sloppy weekend

Maybe this wasn’t the best advertisement for soccer in this country — two 0-0 draws, two 1-1 draws and three one-goal games. And maybe it shows that early March isn’t the best time of year for grass across most of America — parts of the RFK pitch looked like it belonged on Tatooine and players for both KC and New York looked like first-time ice skaters in shady spots.

But, Sunday sorta made up for it, didn’t it? Orlando and New York put on an interesting show that featured goals by Mix Diskerud and Kaká in front of more than 62,000 (!!!) thousand fans at the Citrus Bowl. What Kansas City and New York lacked in aesthetic beauty, both showed that, while neither will likely reach the same heights of 2014, they will be very aggressive and difficult teams to play against. And then…

3. Seattle: Locked, Loaded and Out for Revenge

The Revs played without Lee Nguyen (groin) and Jermaine Jones (hernia surgery) — huge losses — and the José Gonçalves-Andrew Farrell defensive partnership looked like a work in progress … but holy cow, Seattle. Clint Dempsey was able to casually stroll through the midfield with the ball a lot. Obafemi Martins was unstoppable in the box. The Sounders defense led by Chad Marshall repelled New England’s pacey attack. And, of course, there was this goal:

Bow to your new (for this week) American Soccer Overlords.

4. Welcome to the Aurelien Collin experience Orlando

Now I totally understand what all those Real Salt Lake fans were on about a few years ago. Just a needless, ill-timed and reckless challenge from the former KC defender.

5. Poor Justin Mapp and Teal Bunbury

Montreal’s blinding winger dislocated his elbow and, well, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s face tells the whole story.

In the late game, former Sporting Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury appeared to suffer a serious shoulder injury in the New England-Seattle game. He will be reevaluated in Boston.

Hope both of these guys are able to get back onto the field soon.

What have we learned?

Dom Dwyer knows what joke you’re going to make about his finishing.

You can, in fact, adjust your hair just seconds before scoring.

Never throw your beer at a player. It’s just a stupid decision … and a waste of a good beer.

And Seattle will win the treble this year.*

*Probably not, but it’s fun to jump to conclusions after one week.

To reach Charles Gooch, send email to cgooch@kcstar.com. On Twitter @TheFull90.

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