NEW YORK (AP) Ismael Tajouri and Maximiliano Moralez scored 12-minutes apart in the second half and New York City FC opened the season with three straight wins for the first time in the club’s short history with a 2-0 victory over Orlando City on Saturday.
Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik misplayed a back-pass that went right to Tajouri inside the 18-yard box and Tajouri took a few touches to the penalty spot for an easy finish in the 62nd minute. After an Orlando giveaway to Saad Abdul-Salaam, Jesus Medina settled it for an oncoming Moralez to slide it home.
NYCFC (3-0-0) was without start David Villa due to a minor injury.
Orlando City (0-2-1), led by NYC’s former coach Jason Kreis (2014-15), has its share of injury problems as well. Striker Stefano Pinho had a right ankle injury last Saturday, leaving on crutches, and playmaker Dom Dwyer will be out for at least two more weeks.
Sacha Kljestan made his debut for Orlando after serving a two-game ban. The club arrived late due to the St. Patrick’s Day parade traffic.
MONTREAL (AP) Jeisson Vargas scored four minutes before the intermission to lift Montreal to a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC in the Impact’s home opener Saturday.
It was the first MLS goal for 20-year-old Vargas and the first win for new coach Remi Garde, who replaced Mauro Biello in December as coach of the Impact (1-2).
Toronto (0-2) played its first game since a rousing victory in the CONCACAF Champions League over Mexican side Tigres. The travel to Mexico may have sapped some energy from the defending MLS champions, who nonetheless started most of their top players.
Garde seemed to catch everyone off guard by starting a three-man backline with former Marseille defender Rod Fanni making his debut in the middle.
It made for a mostly uneventful first half until Saphir Taider intercepted a ball and sent Ignacio Piatti up the middle. Three Toronto defenders focused on the Impact captain, leaving Vargas open on the right side to take the pass and slice a shot inside the goalpost in the 41st minute for their first lead in three games.
Piatti was inside the Toronto penalty area on two more occasions before the break but Nick Hagglund blocked one dangerous shot and another was also turned away.
Eight minutes into the second half, Piatti sent Taider in alone but Alexander Bono pushed the shot.
Toronto threatened in the 64th when Sebastian Giovinco got the ball to striker Jozy Altidore. He lifted a shot over goalie Evan Bush but saw it bounce just wide. Toronto looked to have tied it in the 84th minute when Altidore’s shot got behind Bush and was rolling slowly to the goal line, but Michael Petrasso swept it away at the last second.
Montreal striker Matteo Mancosu, who missed practice this week for what the team called precautionary reasons, didn’t dress.
Midfielder Victor Vazquez, who has had back trouble, didn’t dress for Toronto. Chris Mavinga (suspected sports hernia) was in the lineup but did not start.
MLS Weekend Preview: LA Galaxy hits to road to visit NYC
Coming off an impressive win against the defending Western Conference champions, the LA Galaxy hit the road to face New York City FC in the league’s highest-profile game of the week.
There are plenty of other storylines to follow in week two of the MLS season, including whether LAFC and Columbus can keep their positive momentum and whether TFC gets back to its league winning ways.
Here’s a look at our preview for MLS Week 2:
LA Galaxy at New York City FC — 5 p.m. Sunday
Behind first half goals from new striker Ola Kamara and midfielder Romain Alessandrini, the new-look Galaxy held on for the win against the Portland Timbers, while New York City FC went into the Cauldron in Kansas City and wiped out Sporting KC, 2-0.
Working in NYCFC’s favor on Sunday is the announcement that Alessandrini will miss the upcoming match at Yankee Stadium with a hamstring injury, but at the same time NYCFC will be without starting centerback Maxime Chanot after the French-born defender was red carded in the opener. Either way, it should be an exciting game, with Giovani Dos Santos and Kamara attacking on one side and Maxi Moralez, Jesus Medina and David Villa on the other.
10 – @LAGalaxy's Romain Alessandrini was one of the four players to tally 10+ goals and 10+ assists in the 2017 @MLS season. Dynamic.
Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake — 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Diego Rossi spoiled the weekend for Seattle while bringing the crowd to life at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles to give the expansion club a dream 1-0 win to start the year.
But Real Salt Lake did some spoiling of their own last week, holding on for a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas. Now back home, and with Mike Petke’s side looking as dangerous as ever, RSL can make their mark as a team to watch out for in the west. Fun fact: This will be Bob Bradley‘s first trip to the Rio Tinto Stadium as an MLS coach.
124 – @LAFC coach Bob Bradley has won 124 MLS games during his previous stints in the league, good for the fifth most in @MLS history. General.
Columbus Crew at Montreal Impact — 1:00 p.m. Saturday
The Crew kick off the MLS weekend slate for the second week in a row and are coming off a massive win at rival Toronto FC, in which Gyasi Zardes looks a natural in the black and gold. Pedro Santos also looked dangerous out wide and Columbus is showing early signs that it can be a legit contender this year.
The Impact, under Remi Garde’s management, fell on the Pacific Coast at Vancouver last weekend but back home at Stade Saputo, they’ll have a better shot. Look for Saphir Taider and Ignacio Piatti to combine in the middle of the park and lead to dangerous attacks.
34 – @impactmontreal's Ignacio Piatti has scored 34 goals over the last two @MLS seasons, the 4th most over that span. Lethal.
Full schedule (all times EDT) Columbus at Montreal — 1 p.m. Saturday
Colorado at New England — 1:30 p.m. Saturday
LAFC at Real Salt Lake –3:30 p.m. Saturday
Sporting KC at Chicago — 6 p.m. Saturday
Vancouver at Houston — 6 p.m. Saturday
Portland at New York Red Bulls — 7 p.m. Saturday
Minnesota at Orlando — 7:30 p.m. Saturday
D.C. United at Atlanta — 3 p.m. Sunday
LA Galaxy at NYCFC — 5 p.m. Sunday
Twenty-Three: Each team on the eve of a new MLS season
In honor of that, here’s one observation, thought, or quip for each of the 23 teams in the top flight for Canada and these United States.
Atlanta United — In some sort of Malkovich way, there’s only one way to talk about the Five Stripes season and it’s only use the surname of hyped acquisition Ezequiel Barco.
Barco? Barco Barco. Barco!
Chicago Fire — All eyes on goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, the Mexican youth national teamer who came up through the academies of Atletico Madrid and FC Dallas. The well-traveled 23-year-old is going to be asked to do a lot at a young age.
Colorado Rapids — Head coach Anthony Hudson is a top prospect when it comes to coaching, and how he sorts the Rapids will tell us a lot about his intention. A 3-5-2 with Marlon Hairston as a wing back, though, could very well have American national team implications. We’re watching with wide eyes.
Bonus: If Senegal isn’t going to use Dominique Badji, at some point can the U.S. get a look at the Boston University product. He arrived here two years before debuting at BU in 2011, and is the type of exciting player we wouldn’t mind seeing in a January or Gold Cup camp.
Columbus Crew — I promise to use more than three words in future “Twenty Three” posts, but I only need a trio for this debut post: Save the Crew.
FC Dallas — Is this a mess? I mean, this really could be a mess. FCD somehow imploded last season despite dreams of a treble, and center back Walker Zimmerman was sent packing this offseason. Given their talent and acumen, part of me wants to predict a run at the Supporters’ Shield. A bigger part thinks FCD is going to miss the playoffs and possibly cost Oscar Pareja his job.
DC United — Ben Olsen feels untouchable, and he’s getting a new stadium bump this season in addition to a full season of USMNT sparkplug Paul Arriola. Yamil Asad and Frederic Brillant are inspired intraleague acquisitions, and the Black-and-Red are a prime candidate to surprise a la the 2017 Chicago Fire.
Houston Dynamo — Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto are pound-for-pound as powerful and entertaining as any other international duo on the same club in Major League Soccer, and “Random Dynamo Game” remains the hidden gem of any viewing weekend. Welcome back, gens.
LA Galaxy — The worst year in club history featured a lot of bad luck, so at the minimum it’s fair to expect a bounce back in terms of bounces. Beyond that, this team is very deep in attack and replaced mixed-up striker Gyasi Zardes with in-form Norwegian attacker Ola Kamara. He just may lead the league in chances, if not goals altogether.
Los Angeles Football Club —Bob Bradley knows the league and the first XI looks very decent, but LAFC looks like they’ll need an incredible run of health to contend as a first year club. Beyond that, it’s betting that Benny Feilhaber’s decline was greatly exaggerated and we’re not sure if he’ll reclaim prime SKC form.
Minnesota United — Loons goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth likely left last season with confidence Minnesota would address the sad defending in front of him. Heck, we all did. But Minnesota still has more questions than answers when it comes to keeping balls out of their goal. The good news? The names are there to score plenty of goals.
Montreal Impact — Last season was a major letdown considering the potent combination of Blerim Dzemaili and Ignacio Piatti, and that cost a man his job. Enter Remi Garde, who will attempt to find similar magic between Piatti and new DP wizard Saphir Taider. For all of that, it’s going to be the defense which needs to solidify Montreal’s postseason hopes. Looking at the roster, it’s going to take a workmanlike performance from a star-free bunch.
New England Revolution — Brad Friedel has his hands full. Already saddled with the Lee Nguyen saga, the Revs roster is steady but not spectacular. Maybe Diego Fagundez can find another gear and Friedel can organize the unit through Kelyn Rowe and captain Chris Tierney, but it feels like 2018 could feel like a long one.
New York City FC — How long is Patrick Vieira going to stick around Stateside? One of the biggest names in football, his having found his footing in MLS is a great thing for the league. Is he holding out for Cup glory? The Arsenal job? Either way, while I was confident he’d succeed in the gig, I’m surprise he’s still around for Year Three. How special can NYCFC make this third voyage?
New York Red Bulls — The Red Bulls Academy is a monster, and has produced a verifiably threatening batch of players. While the city is big enough for two MLS clubs to develop youth, let’s take a minute to honor RBNY for remarkable production at a tricky and growing time for U.S. Soccer: Tyler Adams, Sean Davis, Matt Miazga, Juan Agudelo, Amando Moreno, Timothy Weah, and on and on. Cheers to one of the best.
Orlando City SC — Jason Kreis thinks he has a contender in Central Florida, but putting a bunch of new and wonderful pieces together quickly is a challenge for a club in any league. Kaka is gone, and was better than many expected. Sacha Kljestan has been dynamite in New York, but has to take up the boots of a legend (albeit at a nascent club). How fast will the Lions find their collective roar? Better put: Can they fake it long enough to find it?
Philadelphia Union — There are a lot of pieces in Philadelphia, but so much of this season hinges on the interplay between CJ Sapong and David Accam. Looking at the roster, the Union have what it takes to become a playoff team under the direction of Jim Curtin but could be a legit contender if the attack is firing on all cylinders. Is the chemistry there for these two?
Portland Timbers — Look: I recognize that to fly in the face of seemingly everyone’s conceptions of a coach reeks of a contrarian nature, something I don’t deny. But Portland’s inconsistency during Caleb Porter’s time in charge — some of it injury-driven, some not — feels like it had a lot to do with the nature of the coach. Giovani Savarese will have no problem at the helm of a favorite, and the departure of Darlington Nagbe opens the door to a number of tactical worlds for the new boss. The Timbers Army has every reason to be excited for a new campaign.
Real Salt Lake — I’m unsure whether Real Salt Lake has what it takes to make a charge to the top of the West, but I do know that the hiring of Mike Petke was an inspired move by the Utah club. More than anything, the idea of his lifting a major trophy with Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando would feel like a fitting moment for their careers and the league.
San Jose Earthquakes — Mikael Stahre is a very interesting hire, one of those names who feels feast or famine enough to lay claim to the Coach of the Year crown or wash out by the Fourth of July. How his new DP and countryman Magnus Eriksson mingles with Chris Wondolowski matters, as does his skill in deploying Tommy Thompson, Nick Lima, and Vako Qazaishvili others.
Seattle Sounders — The Jordan Morris injury stinks because he’s a fine U.S. prospect, a relentless worker, and gives Seattle a different dynamic from Will Bruin and others. While I think his injury hampers Seattle’s chances of being a Top Two seed in the West, I don’t think it’s as big a loss as many have said. Seattle’s midfield is going to cue up any number of players for goals, and Morris is a couple of years removed from inevitable superstar status (which tells you something about the use of words like inevitable). He’s good, but this is not the end of the world.
Sporting KC — In an alternate universe, Peter Vermes is handed the keys to the United States men’s national team instead of Bruce Arena. He’s guiding the Yanks’ preparation for a Group G with Belgium, Tunisia, and England. What does this have to do with Sporting KC? The U.S. will hire a new general manager soon, and if that GM wants an MLS-experienced and USMNT-passionate boss, he could take Vermes away in the middle of a season (or at least hire him and allow double duty through October).
Toronto FC — The treble-winning Reds are going to do just fine in the Eastern Conference pending a horrific run of injuries, but I cannot help but view their entire 2018 through the lens of their status as MLS’ best possibility to win the CONCACAF Champions League in some time. They are two-deep in nearly every spot, and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has proven adept at scouting both big and small.
Vancouver Whitecaps — There so much mystery in British Columbia this season, and a club which flirted with the Western Conference’s top spot for most of the season. Perhaps no player is more enigmatic and emblematic of the 2018 ‘Caps fortunes than Kei Kamara. Three seasons removed from his 22-goal season, he’ll have to prove he’s more than an (approximately) 10-goal mainstay.
In that time, though, a lot has changed, including the preparation for yet another expansion side entering into the league and several MAJOR transfer moves that have sent reverberations throughout MLS.
We’ll get to Los Angeles FC and the rest of the Western Conference on Wednesday, but for now, here is everything you need to know about the Eastern Conference heading into the 2018 season.
Record in 2017: 15-9-10 — Fourth in the Eastern Conference (qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The loss of Yamil Asad was certainly a big one, but when you can replace a player like him with Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe and a plethora of young talent waiting in line it’s safe to say you’re in a good position. Defensively, one of the best back lines in MLS arguably got better with Franco Escobar’s arrival and depth provided by veteran Sal Zizzo.
Key player: Miguel Almiron — He was my Player to Watch heading into 2017, and it’s safe to say the Paraguayan lived up to the billing… and then some for Atlanta. His brilliance goes beyond just scoring goals, and his vision is almost unmatched on an MLS scale. It’s quite likely that 2018 will be Almiron’s last season in the United States, so take in his excellence while he’s still in our presence.
Coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino – The former Barcelona manager did just about everything right in Year 1, but it’s time for this Atlanta club to take the next step in its progression. Martino has succeeded on the highest of levels, and it’s hard to believe that track record won’t translate to an MLS crown at some point in the near future.
Vague 2018 prediction: If watching Atlanta was fun in 2017, then this season is going to be a treat for those attending matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s MLS Cup or bust for this talented group.
Record in 2017: 16-11-7 — Third in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: When David Accam was traded to the Philadelphia Union this offseason it raised some questions about the Fire’s intentions for the 2018 campaign. Losing the veteran attacker was certainly a damaging blow, however, the club did well to equip itself rookie talents Jon Bakero and Mo Adams — both selected in the first round. Meanwhile, a loan move for Alaves midfielder Aleksandar Katai went as an underrated move for the team.
Key player: Jon Bakero — The rookie midfielder may have been the best player in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and the Fire are expected good things from the young player from the beginning.
Coach: Veljko Paunovic — The Serbian has done a fantastic job integrating youth with a veteran core in his short time with the Fire, and he and his staff appeared to have one of the the
Vague 2018 prediction: The Fire lost a fair deal of players this offseason, including Accam, so they’ll be banking on a younger group in 2018.
Record in 2017: 16-12-6 —Fifth in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: With Ola Kamara and Justin Meram no longer in the fold, the Crew attack is going to look drastically different this season. Veteran presences like Gyasi Zardes and Mike Grella will step in to try to fill the void, but the expectations for the Crew have surely changed.
Key player: Gyasi Zardes — The ex-Galaxy attacker is going to play a big role up front for this team, and with Ola Kamara gone, Zardes will have to pick up the slack in the goalscoring department.
Coach: Greg Berhalter — The former MLS player has been one of the best coaches in the league since taking over, and he’ll need to do a special job this season if the Crew are to contend.
Vague 2018 prediction: This club was very close to reaching MLS Cup in 2017, but a plethora of exits this offseason have the Crew looking up at the major contenders in the East.
Record in 2017: 9-20-5 — Last in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The addition of Yamil Asad was the biggest add in terms of name recognition, but D.C. managed to get a very good goalkeeper in David Ousted as well, after losing Bill Hamid last year when he left for Europe. Throw in veteran MLS players like Darren Mattocks and Frederic Brillant, and D.C. has some good guys to build around.
Key player: Yamil Asad — Atlanta’s loss will surely be D.C.’s gain this season. Asad was brilliant in 2017 playing with Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez and Atlanta’s dynamic attack, so we’ll see how the Argentine transitions into his new club.
Coach: Ben Olsen — On paper, Olsen has a really strong group of talent. It’s up to the former USMNT player to get his side back into the playoffs.
Vague 2018 prediction: Olsen and Co. had a sneaky good offseason, and they could very well be in the playoff mix this season.
Record in 2017: 11-17-6 — Ninth in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The shocking move to send Laurent Ciman to LAFC was not on anybody’s radar in Canada, but it caused a big shakeup within the Impact defense. While losing the center back was massive, it was coupled by seeing Blerim Dzemaili also leave when his loan deal expired. The Impact managed to acquire a few foreign players to try and make up for losses, with Bologna’s Saphir Taider and Canadian defender Michael Petrasso entering the picture.
Key player: Raheem Edwards — The versatile wing player was acquired through a trade with LAFC, and he’s shown that he can be one of the most promising young players in MLS. With the ability to play wing back and in the midfield, expect Edwards to garner some serious minutes with his new club.
Coach: Remi Garde — The former Lyon defender has joined a squad in transition mode, so his first season at the helm will likely involve seeing what he has for future campaigns.
Vague 2018 prediction: A new manager in place and a drastically different roster will likely see 2018 serve as a transition period for the Canadian side.
New England Revolution
Record in 2017: 13-15-6 — Seventh in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The Lee Nguyen saga dominated the headlines throughout the layoff from action, but with the USMNT midfielder still in New England, the Revs can regain their focus. Kei Kamara‘s departure this offseason could create a bigger role for Kristian Nemeth in 2018, while the back line will rely on several new faces from the SuperDraft, including Brandon Bye and Nicolas Samayoa.
Key player: Krisztian Nemeth — The ex-Sporting KC man will be counted on a lot in 2018 with Kamara no longer at Gillette Stadium. With a solid group of attacking options around him, including Nguyen and Diego Fagundez, Nemeth will have to find his form after netting just one goal in six appearances last year.
Coach: Brad Friedel — The first-year manager has already had a lot to deal with during the Nguyen saga, but his on-field job will be just as difficult after losing several key players this offseason.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Revs appear to be in a similar position to 2017. There’s enough talent to make the playoffs, but it’s probably not expected.
New York City FC
Record in 2017: 16-9-9 — Second in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: The loss of Jack Harrison dominated the offseason news for NYCFC, and now the Bronx side will be looking at a host of new faces to help revamp the attack. Young DP Jesus Medina, Ismael Tajouri, Ebenezer Ofori and Jo Inge Berget have all joined the pack for Patrick Vieira’s squad, and are expected to fill Harrison’s shoes and help aid top goalscorer David Villa.
Key player: Jesus Medina — The young South American player has been brought in to replace Jack Harrison on the wing, and the 20-year-old will be on a short leash given the number of players NYCFC has brought in to compete in the attack.
Coach: Patrick Vieira — The third-year coach has had the chance to put his stamp on this NYCFC roster, and he’ll be expected to take the next step in 2018 with a group that features many talented names.
Vague 2018 prediction: NYCFC supporters will be hoping that preseason isn’t any indication of how the club looks in the regular season. A number of attacking signings should keep this team near the top of the East, though.
New York Red Bulls
Record in 2017: 14-12-8 — Sixth in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: It was an offseason of turnover for the Red Bulls, and one where notable players Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella, Gonzalo Veron and more were sent packing. With that said, the club has brought in young reinforcements with big promise, including Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra, Cristian Casseres Jr. and Amando Moreno (who previously played for the club).
Key player: Alejandro “Kaku” Gamarra — With Kljestan gone, Gamarra has great expectations bestowed upon his shoulders this season. The Red Bulls waited awhile to secure the former Huracan midfielder, but he should pay dividends with his pace and vision in the attacking third.
Coach: Jesse Marsch — Make no mistake about it. Marsch and his staff have a plan, and they’re sticking to it. A younger roster is exactly what they’ve been trying to establish, and now it’s time to see what kind of steps they can take.
Vague 2018 prediction: A young, feisty roster is what Marsch has on his hands. Could easily see Red Bulls contending for an East crown or falling short of the playoffs due to lack of defensive depth. Hit or miss.
Orlando City SC
Record in 2017: 10-15-9 — 10th in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Cyle Larin’s departure wasn’t a surprise, although the way that it went down was anything but amicable. With the Canadian gone, Orlando now has to find a new way to bag goals in the attack. After missing out on the playoffs in each of their first three seasons, the Lions have done big things this winter by acquiring Justin Meram and Sacha Kljestan. The club also brought in solid veterans like RJ Allen and Stefano Pinho, as well as Jose Villareal from the Galaxy.
Key player: Sacha Kljestan — The creative attacker was brought in to do what he’s done for the Red Bulls in the past, which is create. Everywhere he’s gone, Kljestan has managed to influence the attack in a positive manner, and with Kaka’s departure, the American has a big role.
Coach: Jason Kreis — The former NYCFC manager certainly wasn’t shy this offseason with his roster moves, but now it’s time for Orlando to step up and make use of its newfound talent.
Vague 2018 prediction: The Lions have gone all in, and the roster is shaping up to at the very least be a playoff squad.
Record in 2017: 11-14-9 — Eighth in Eastern Conference (Missed MLS playoffs)
Offseason evaluation: Outside of acquiring David Accam from the Fire, it was a quiet offseason in Chester. The attack should be able to latch onto another gear with the Ghanian present in the lineup, but several key losses, including Charlie Davies, Chris Pontius and Roland Alberg, could hurt the team’s short-term plans.
Key player: David Accam
Coach: Jim Curtin — The 38-year-old has had his share of ups and downs with the Union, and with a predominantly young roster in 2018, he’s going to need his players to play hard on a weekly basis if Curtin is to last.
Vague 2018 prediction: There aren’t many positive expectations for the Union, nor should there be. Hard to see this club making the playoffs.
Record in 2017: 20-5-9 — First in Eastern Conference (Qualified for MLS playoffs, Won MLS Cup)
Offseason evaluation: The defending champions somehow found a way to make their roster better, and did so without spending a ton of money. Bringing in midfielder Axel Aketxe from Spain and Holland defender Gregory van der Wiel has added another dimension to TFC’s deep roster, despite losing Raheem Edwards, Steven Beitashour and Benoit Cheyrou this offseason.
Key player: Gregory van der Wiel — The club’s attack is certainly the least of Toronto’s concerns, so that turns the attention to the back line. Van der Wiel was brought in to fill the spot left by Beitashour, and the veteran Dutchman should be a strong fit for the club.
Coach: Greg Vanney — It’s amazing to see what the club has transformed into over the last several years, and Vanney has played a big part in how TFC has become an elite MLS side.
Vague 2018 prediction: Last year, PST said 2017 could be the first of many MLS titles for this club. Toronto is the favorite once more.