Here are the 10 things we learned from the first week of MLS’ 20th season:
1. The new MLS TV deal got off to an encouraging start
Not only should the Sunday double-headers on ESPN2 and FOX Sports 1 become destination spots for American soccer fans, but the productions on both networks feel big-time this year.
ESPN has refreshed their presentation with some fantastic new graphics and a full-fledged pregame broadcast, while FS1 has a studio show. Both networks also appear to have dedicated more cameras and microphones to their broadcasts this year as well.
For comparison, last year’s opening weekend had just a single game on national TV – Seattle vs Sporting KC from CenturyLink Field on NBCSN on a Saturday afternoon. This year’s opening weekend had four national TV games across three networks. Now, if we can just figure out how to use the SAP button on Univision…
2. Both Orlando City and New York City FC did well in their inaugural game on Sunday
NYCFC put together a very decent performance, got a terrific goal from Mix Diskerud, and came away with a point, while Orlando salvaged what would have been a sour end to a banner day with Kaka’s deflected stoppage time equalizer.
But it’s clear that these two sides are still very much expansion teams, and no amount of talent, Jason Kreis, or Fill The Bowl madness can change that. There’s a certain roughness, a lack of chemistry and lack of polish that is pervasive in first year teams across every sport. That’s why it will be difficult for both to make the 2015 playoffs.
3. Seattle is picking up right where they left off last year
The Sounders’ third goal in their demolition of the New England Revolution on Sunday night was world class. Tyrone Mears looks like Roberto Carlos. No Osvaldo Alonso, no DeAndre Yedlin, and Brad Evans at center-back – it didn’t matter.
But the story, as usual, was Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, and more exactly, how well they work together. It’s no surprise that both Dempsey and Martins have been hits in MLS, but few could have predicted that they’d be so inseparable on the field.
4. It was a tough night for New England in the Emerald City, and they have a few concerns going forward
One is that this team is pretty average without Jermaine Jones. The other is how Teal Bunbury – if he’s not injured – Charlie Davies, Juan Agudelo, and Diego Fagundez are all going to get playing time and gel.