By Chris Reiko
MLS season just started and MLS Alphabet is back.
In the first week of my MLS Alphabet, congratulations to Vancouver Whitecaps for great start and to D.C. United for let Charlie Davies have such emotional debut. How Galaxy fans learnt what is wrong with Ohio, and how talents from Brazil and France influenced MLS season opening weekend. Welcome in MLS Timbers fans, Omar Bravo and CJ Sapong, and yes, Toronto FC makes to this week MLS Alphabet too
A– Agudelo, Juan: Just 18 years old but if he keeps scoring those important goals we could have world class star in the making. Letter “A” is already reserved for all the big names in MLS (did you hear that Ampai?). Bruce Arena took away Juan Pablo Angel from the Red Bulls, but Agudelo stayed in New Jersey and this is huge positive for rest of the season.
B– Bravo, Omar: Bienevido in MLS, Omar. There were split opinions about Omar Bravo coming to MLS, some people have been questioning his age, and his qualities. He is just 31, and he had the best start in MLS from all the designated players since this formula was used in MLS.
C – Cooper, Kenny: One of the tallest strikers in MLS, he used his foot to score the historic first ever MLS goal for the Portland Timbers. When former MLS players come back from Europe, it always raises the question “why is he back?” For sure, his reasons are not financial.
D – Davies, Charlie: A wonderful comeback by our wonder boy, his MLS debut Saturday came after almost 2 years away from competition due to serious injuries suffered in a 2009 car accident. His 2 goals and an emotional reaction from the fantastic RFK crowd put tears in the eyes of many US soccer fans all over the country.
Congratulations! Charlie himself cannot ask for a better start in D.C. 2 years ago he was fighting for his life, and the RFK crowd supported him. On Sunday, he said “Thank You” to the same crowd in a beautiful way. Great start for the D.C. coach; it turns out that benching Charlie was magic in this great victory for United. “It could get scary,” said United coach Ben Olsen, when talking about Davies’ speed.
E – Earthquakes President David Kaval: One of the most active in his position in entire league, he is all over the place, from booking tickets to negotiating with sponsors to attending the demolition party. As a tribute to the most famous Earthquakes player ever, he christened a “George Best Gate” at the stadium.
Most importantly, he understands the value of community. On seeing images from the Japanese tsunami, his reaction was immediate. Kaval was the first in MLS to make his club participate in an organized donation for devastated Japan. There was also a moment of silence for Japan before the RSL game, just like other world-class clubs all over the world had. Something like that just a year ago was impossible to do in San Jose. He is a baseball guy, but don’t worry. Together with Jed Mettee and John Doyle we will convert him soon to soccer 100%.
F – Fire, Chicago Fire: They almost shocked everybody, getting so close to earning 3 points on the road against heavily favored FC Dallas. Are they that good, or is FC Dallas still in preseason form?
G– Grajeda, Hilario : A referee who took away a goal and 2 points from the LA Galaxy, shocking even the Galaxy’s enemies (yes, they have few in the league). If Earthquakes fans complain about officiating in the LA Galaxy game vs. Revolution, you know it was bad.
Galaxy Fans cannot sing together anymore “There is nothing wrong with Ohio,” because referee Grajeda is from there. To be fair, this was one of the most difficult games for officiating, and other than that one disallowed goal Grajeda did a decent job.
H– Hassli,Eric: His two goals made a nice “bonjour” in MLS for the French forward. He is the first ever DP in Vancouver Whitecaps history and people who been skeptical about his transfer sure liked what they saw. Congratulations, Eric, but FYI we do not have many defensive lines like that one from Toronto last Saturday.
I – As in: “I take the blame for this loss. I had three perfect balls just sitting there and I missed them all. It’s frustrating. It’s going to haunt me for a while. It was just one of those games where it didn’t go your way,”said Chris Wondolowski, after the loss to RSL. Bottom line, the game was close, and the Earthquakes did good job playing always-strong RSL. They looked solid, and later this season we should hear more about Wondo’s goals then apologies.
J – Juninho: He is not even close to being the highest paid player on his team, but his 2 goals in 2 games have given the Galaxy 4 points. His full name, Vitor Gomes Pereira Junior, would require an extra jersey to print in full, so the 22 year old Brazilian goes by Juninho. Last season he learnt about the league and now he is really using his MLS experience.
K – Kyle Beckerman: The largest haircut in MLS didn’t help in the heavy rain, but he found the way to score game winner and his leadership in the RSL midfield is priceless. Classy gentleman; it was nice of Kyle and his coach Jason Kreis to complement quality of the pitch after heavy rain game.”This is the best pitch we played on,” they said. Yeah Earthquakes fans, we already have something the best in MLS.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS4wrao7fGY[/youtube]
L– Leitch, Chris: I love the guy, but I am not sure how he can explain his last yellow card, just…….
M– Milton Rodriguez: His goal saved a point for FC Dallas. He holds a record: in his 15 year soccer career, he’s changed clubs 18 times. So, be careful FC Dallas, because this is already the second year for the Colombian in red and white.
N – Nash, Steve: The NBA star was one of the most influential figures in bringing MLS to Vancouver. During Saturday’s season opener, Nash’s leadership on the stands was not different than on the basketball court. Almost 22,600 fans poured through the Empire Field gates on a festive opening day and celebrated with him.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=185qQ22gaTk[/youtube]
O – Officiating: It was good, a noticeable improvement since last season. Other than Galaxy game and few mistakes here and there, then referees did their part very well to make this MLS season opener the best EVER.
P– Philadelphia Union: Is their defense that good, or is the Dynamo offense just not there yet? “We had a couple counterattacks with open space, and we need to finish and provide that final pass,” coach Peter Nowak said. “It didn’t happen, but after the first game there is still a lot of room to improve.”
Q – Quality: Quality and professionalism from Omar Bravo. Having 62 caps and 15 goals scored for the Mexico NT, Bravo scored twice Saturday, ironically against the most pro-Mexican club in MLS, Chivas USA. What makes it even better is that he not only played 297 games for the original CD Chivas Guadalajara, but he also scored 107 goals for them. Great acquisition by Sporting and a wonderful start that will bring more Mexican fans to the stadium. Now, Omar is their man in MLS.
R– Revolution: The Revs shocked LA on a rainy Sunday, thanks to an early goal from Shalrie Joseph and a little help from the ref. It is a lot better to see reports about Shalrie scoring goals and creating assists then about his off the field activities. Other than Revs fans, attorneys in Boston are also happy that he is back, because it means they’ll have another client to keep them busy. Despite the lucky point in LA, the Revs looked solid. Now they have Rajko Lekic practicing with them, and if they can sign him, o yes he can score. Lekic was offered to several MLS clubs, but it looks like he found his place in New England.
S– Sapong, CJ: Drafted as the number 10 pick in 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Sapong scored the quickest debut goal by a rookie in MLS history and was a string addition to the Chivas USA defense led by veteran Jimmy Conrad. Sapong is also the first player drafted in 2011 MLS SuperDraft to score in MLS. CJ is a soccer fanatic, a student of the game, and his future is bright. Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes showed his confidence in CJ by drafting him, and credit goes to Vermes to play the rookie in an important game. Meet the goal scorer: Watch my post draft interview with CJ.
T – Timbers: A combination of first, cold feet, and then shell-shock, but Portland fans have their reasons to stay positive. The Rapids are current MLS Champions and obviously many teams will lose in Commerce City this year. If you are a Timbers fan, don’t panic about your defense. Sure, some corrections are needed, but the Rapids have one of the most difficult and explosive offenses to play against. Keep in mind the Timbers are an expansion team and played the MLS Champions.
U – United: Congratulations! After nightmares from last year, their great start this season makes spring look very positive for Ben Olsen and his group.
V – Vancouver: It was place to be for soccer fans last Saturday. The crowd reaction was on a world class level, and despite terrible defending, all 6 goals compensated for the long wait for MLS soccer to come to British Columbia. Something tells me that the Whitecaps will have a hard time scoring 4 goals in another MLS game this year, even when they play Toronto again.
W – Winter, Aron: In his MLS debut, the Toronto FC coach looked like someone who had his uninsured car stolen before the game. It looks like TFC fans will have to wait little longer for “total football” a la Aron Winter. This is MLS, with all its specifics, limits etc., and as we know not every European or Dutch coach will succeed here. Hans Backe did very well last year, but with the highest payroll in MLS.
“It’s going to take time. It’s hard to come in and implement a new system, a new style, totally different from what a lot of guys are used to, and it’s going to take time to adjust,” said goal scorer and TFC’s best player Dwayne De Rosario. “But like I always say, hopefully sooner than later, because this is the first game and games are going to start coming fast,” De Ro added.
Oh yeah, games will fly for TFC this season. The good news for TFC fans: from now on things can get only better.
X – Extremely impressive: The number of fans on opening weekend totaled 210,465. Especially good news in Dallas, where in comparison with last year opener, the improvement was about 150 %. Nice job, Frisco.
Y – Yallop, Frank: Since the Earthquakes reincarnation in 2008, the San Jose coach has lost all 4 home openers, and his team was scoreless in all of them. This is nothing new, in 2001 Frank Yallop also lost his home opener 0-1, and the Earthquakes won their first MLS Cup that year. Stay positive Quakes fans, it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
Z – Zemanski, Ben: His Chivas USA lost their home opener, but the 22 year old Akron product scored a goal, which means he’s already matched his scoring output from last year when he needed 21 games to put the ball in the net once.
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