Looking Back at Week 3, Ahead to Toronto

Before getting to column 2, I just wanted to thank those Union fans who came out to last Friday’s pep rally outside of City Hall. Great to see that passion on a non game day. I appreciate the many people who came up and introduced themselves to me, making me feel even more welcome as the Union’s first TV Voice.

Random Thoughts from Week 3 in MLS

I was sorry that I couldn’t make the Philadelphia Union home opener last Saturday. With my role on the MLS telecasts on ESPN, I find myself watching a lot of MLS games on TV, not as much in person. On Saturday, I gave my television remote a workout, switching back and forth on various games, setting the DVR for others. Really there was no easy way to watch all 8 MLS games that were played on that one single night.

I did manage to watch the Union vs D.C. match and came away impressed on so many levels, starting with the crowd and the atmosphere, which the television cameras captured. You would have to say it was a pretty entertaining game as well. Not many soccer games produce 5 goals, a hat trick, and nearly 35,000 electrified supporters.  Congrats to Sebastien Le Toux for the hat trick and his MLS Player of the Week honors.

Beyond the Union game, as I watched parts of the 7 other matches it left me wondering:

The New York Red Bulls were unbeaten in the pre season and won their first two games in MLS. Did week 3’s loss vs Chivas show us some areas of concern that New York has? Are they wondering about the goalkeeping spot?  The lack of service to Juan Pablo Angel?

Are the Chicago Fire keeping their heads up, thinking they made the correct decision in naming young and inexperienced Andrew Dykstra as their number one goalkeeper, or do they deep down wish they hadn’t been so hasty in releasing the veteran Jon Busch?

Is Edson Buddle’s dream start going to continue for the LA Galaxy? He’s the hottest goal scorer in MLS at the moment with 5 goals in 3 games, scoring in each game he’s played in. He’s going to have to have a great year since LA offensively doesn’t scare their rivals. They still have the great Landon Donovan, but remember they will lose him for several games because of the World Cup. The Galaxy are off to a great start with a perfect 3-0-0 record, yet to concede a goal. Defensively they will be strong, like they were a year ago, which is how they made it to the MLS Cup final. They will need to find more offense though, which is why the dream start by Buddle has to have Galaxy fans excited.

What’s up with Toronto? Forget the fact that they gave up 3 goals in 11 minutes on Saturday. How about 5 lineup changes from game one to game two? The signing of one defender a day before the game, then inserting him into the starting lineup. Then came the announcement a couple of days later that two more defenders have been signed. What was Toronto doing during the off season?

Speaking of Toronto, what can Union fans look for in Thursday night’s nationally televised game (7:00pm, ESPN2)?

For starters, this is Toronto’s home opener, so Philadelphia will be dealing with a very loud, sold out stadium, similar to Seattle. The one difference…..Toronto’s fans are angry at the moment over the way the team has started the season. Add in the fact that some popular players have been let go by management.

Philadelphia can take the crowd out of it by scoring early like they did in the D.C. game, or by just keeping good possession to frustrate Toronto and their fans. If you are Philadelphia, all eyes are on Toronto’s Captain Dwayne De Rosario, whether it’s during the run of play or on free kicks. He is the one player who can burn you on his own. Toronto’s defense is very fragile to say the least, so the more pressure you can put on them early, the better.

The Union have to also be concerned about gifting. They gave D.C. United two easy goals. You have to make other teams work harder to earn those goals.

Those are just some random thoughts in advance of Week 4 in Major League Soccer. Still way too early to make any strong judgements, since it’s a 30 game schedule. Just ask last year’s champions Real Salt Lake. They would probably be the first to tell you, it’s not as much how you start, but more about how you finish.

Enjoy the games this week and weekend.