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MLS Features: Observations and overreactions from Week 1

The 19th season of Major League Soccer is underway, kicking off this past weekend.
March 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM   |   Comments

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Philadelphia, Pa. (UPI/SportsNetwork.com) - The 19th season of Major League Soccer kicked off with a bang this past weekend.

Defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City kicked off the season on Saturday at CenturyLink Field against Seattle Sounders FC in front of 40,000 raucous fans.

Both teams looked a tad rusty in the opening half as scoring chances were at a premium with Clint Dempsey on the bench for Seattle.

But things picked up in the second half and Seattle claimed a late winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time when a header from Dempsey clanged off the crossbar before being chipped home by Chad Barrett.

It was a chippy affair that included 40 total fouls and five yellow cards. The Sounders had 25 of the fouls, which is a new franchise record.

The poor weather in Seattle did little to help both teams control the ball, but Sporting will rue its defensive breakdown at the end and hope for a better result next week.

RED BULL NEW YORK, NEW ENGLAND LAY EGGS

What was that from Red Bull New York?

The defending Supporters Shield champions headed to Vancouver to face Carl Robinson's Whitecaps and it couldn't have gone any worse as they suffered an embarrassing 4-1 loss.

Playing without star forward Thierry Henry and defender Jamison Olave, New York was outclassed from the start. Whitecaps captain Kenny Miller opened the scoring with a penalty kick and Sebastian Fernandez doubled the lead with a spectacular strike in the 50th minute.

Miller finished his brace with a sublime chip in the 77th minute after he easily sauntered past a sleeping New York back line and new Designated Player Pedro Morales finished the rout in the 89th minute.

Red Bull got a consolation goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips in stoppage time, but it meant little as the outcome was already determined.

Ok, so it was only one game, but the Red Bulls looked completely uninterested for the duration of the match and the back line struggled mightily without Olave in the middle.

A back four of Bobby Convey, Ibrahim Sekagya, Armando and Richard Eckersley isn't going to get it done for New York in the long term.

Henry missed the game because the French superstar rarely plays on artificial surfaces, but he may not have been able to help much considering how easily Vancouver carved through the New York defense.

Many predicted the New England Revolution would easily slide into a playoff spot this season with a strong up-and-coming young team that finished third in the East last season.

But the Revs got a major wake up call in Houston on Saturday after being pummeled by the Dynamo, 4-0, at BBVA Compass Stadium.

New England fell behind after just two minutes thanks to Will Bruin, who then finished a quick double in the 12th minute. Boniek Garcia made it 3-0 for Houston before the half-hour mark.

The Revs created a couple chances in the second half, but clearly weren't ready to play when the whistle blew and paid the price for some lackadaisical defending almost immediately.

New England will have to significantly shore up its defense if it is to get a result against a newly potent Philadelphia attack this weekend.

Speaking of the Union ...

UNION IMPRESS IN PORTLAND

Traveling across the country to face the Portland Timbers is hardly an ideal way to start the season, but the Philadelphia Union, full of new acquisitions, did well to claim a point against the prohibitive Western Conference favorites.

Featuring an entirely new midfield, which includes U.S. international Maurice Edu, Argentine winger Cristian Maidana and Frenchman Vincent Nogueira, the Union switched to an attacking 4-3-3 formation and took the play to the Timbers for most of the game.

The new trio of Edu, Maidana and Nogueira did well to keep possession and make the Union dangerous in attack while negating Portland's potent forward corps.

Jack McInerney gave the Union the lead in the 64th minute off a corner kick and the club appeared to have earned its first-ever win against the Timbers, but a late defensive lapse on a corner kick in stoppage time saw the Timbers steal a point at the death.

Despite dropping two points, the Union appears to have turned a leaf from last season's counter-attacking team. Either Maidana or Nogueira could be the MLS Newcomer of the Year when all is said and done.

SAME OLD D.C. UNITED?

After a 24-loss season last year, United went for a complete overhaul and brought in a host of new players, including U.S. international Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola and entirely new back line.

In total, D.C.'s starting lineup against Columbus on Saturday featured seven new faces -- and they played like it -- suffering a 3-0 loss at RFK Stadium.

Columbus dominated the match, keeping 57 percent of possession and slicing through the United defense.

The defeat for D.C. extends its winless run in league play to 13 consecutive games dating back to last season.

Columbus defender Michael Parkhurst easily handled U.S. national team teammate Johnson, while the Crew's forward pairing of Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta were in top form.

One game does not make a season, but United head coach better hope his new group can jell quickly or it could be another long year in the nation's capital.

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