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Sporting KC's Eye On The Playoffs: MLS First Kick 2011 Rewind

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What an opening night it was for Major League Soccer to kickoff its 16th season on Saturday night. The evening saw 24 goals scored in just over a six hour span of soccer comprising eight league games. Fans were rewarded for their long and torturous offseason wait. Fantastic storylines abound. An on-loan US national team star makes his debut for his (albeit, not our favorite in the world) new club and scores two goals 17 months and an incredible road to recovery after he was nearly killed in a fatal car crash. Multiple exceptional nominees for MLS Goal of the Week. Two former long-time Wizards score goals on their new club debuts.

Oh, and Sporting Kansas City kicked the season off right with a 3-2 win, thanks to a hot start from their first round SuperDraft chice and a double from their newly signed Designated Player. All in all, MLS First Kick 2011 was a raging success, no matter what metric of awesomeness you use to measure it.

Before the day's action on Saturday, I outlined three key games for Sporting KC fans to watch out for; games that they should be paying attention to with one eye looking to the end of the season and the league standings. It's never too early to start jockeying for position. Rather than give a couple of generic sentences on all seven other games every week, we'll probably continue to take a look at a handful of games involving clubs that look to be the closest competition to Sporting at the moment.

The quick rundown, after the jump...

DC United 3-1 Columbus Crew

Watch the official Match Highlights

Hate United, Love Davies. Honestly, that's the only way I can really feel about this game. It was such a great moment seeing Charlie Davies' long-awaited, and deserved, return to first team action accompanied by 2 goals nearly 17 months after he was broken to bits and pieces in a fatal car accident, in the city in which the accident took place. It really did come full circle for him, and no one deserves it more after the amount of work he put in to get back. Well done on you, Chuck D. #HULD - start the Twitter trend.

As for the game itself, it was pure shock to see this team that looked so absolutely awful for all of last year come out with such firepower. Perhaps not a championship level yet, but unfortunately, DC United are back. The talent is young, too.

The craziest thing to happen in this game, though? Josh Wolff; yes, that Josh Wolff scored a goal for DC. When he was taken in the re-entry draft by United, I thought it laughable that they expected any sort of contributions from him this year, or ever; even more so when they continued to mention him as a starter for 2011. Whatever, Josh.

This quote from Black And Red United, SB Nation's DC United blog, says it all:

Last year, it took D.C. United six league matches to score three goals. This year, just one.

Hate them.

Houston Dynamo 0-1 Philadelphia Union

Watch the official Match Highlights

I mentioned it on Saturday before the day's games kicked: Philadelphia kind of owned Houston last year, winning away and drawing at home. Much of the same continued on Saturday. Houston, who were the trendy preseason pick to make giant leaps and bounds back to relevance this year did little more than lay a preverbial egg against the second year Union.

This from Dynamo Theory, SB Nation's Houston Dynamo blog:

After last season's disappointment, the Houston Dynamo wanted nothing more than to erase the bad taste in their mouths and get 2011 off to a strong start. Instead, an anemic offense and a defensive mistake on an early set piece set the tone for what was a wholly frustrating night in Houston.

Through the entire 2011 preseason, those issues of 2010 looked to be a real thing of the past. Rookie Will Bruin had come in and breathed new life into the attack, and the sometimes leaky defense often kept clean sheets against fellow MLS competition. Then, the real whistle blew and things reverted back to yester-year. Still, Houston look to have some good pieces, and with a coach like Dominic Kinnear, they'll eventually get the ship righted and headed back up the ladder.

Colorado Rapids 3-1 Portland Timbers

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"Portland are going to be decent and fun to watch, Vancouver are going to be awful." That was the popular montra regarding the two expansion MLS clubs this year heading into the season. Portland went out and brought forward Kenny Cooper back to the league, traded for former Wizard Jack Jewsbury and assembled a fairly experienced MLS club. They absolutely shit the bed on Saturday night.

Okay, maybe that's a tad harsh, because Colorado looked really good, because well, they are really good and no one is giving them credit for it. Except for me, of course.

While Portland were getting trashed at the defending champions' home, all Vancouver did was go out and put a beat down on Canadian rival Toronto FC by using the exact flair and attack-mindedness that many expected of Portland.

From Burgundy Wave, SB Nation's Colorado Rapids blog:

A hell of a start to the season for the defending champs, and one that might turn some heads. The next two games are against Chivas USA and DC United, so we'll see how this team continues to handle some of the weaker teams in the league. Either way, there's very little to complain about after that one.

SB Nation MLS Power Rankings


Also, every week the SB Nation MLS blog managers get together and do our own variation of a league-wide power rankings. I'll probably use this space regularly to give the newly updated rankings, and share a few thoughts on why I voted the way I did.

My Ballot

Tier 1: RSL, LA, NY
Tier 2: Colorado, FCD, KC, Seattle, DC
Tier 3: SJ, Philly, Chicago, Houston, Chivas
Tier 4: NE, Vancouver, Columbus, Portland, Toronto

My General Rationalizations

While Real Salt Lake continue to progress in the CONCACAF Champions League and represent the league all by their lonesome, they didn't fail to flex a little bit of muscle in the league opener, either. You can't take drop the preseason number one after beating a playoff team from the previous year to start the year. The darling child of the league's eye, Los Angeles Galaxy, got to play two games on opening week, they did manage four points from the pair. As already stated, Colorado are the real deal, but we'll need to see a bit more from them against stronger competition, because those top three are solid.

Nothing brought greater joy to the fans of MLS league-wide than to see Seattle lose twice on opening week, am I right? Sporting KC looked good, but a shaky 3-2 win over a not-very-good Chivas USA team won't garner much movement from me. One more impressive performance from DC and we'll re-visit them.

For whatever reason, San Jose just don't do anything for me. Yes, they've got Wondolowski who scored a million goals last year (actually, it was just 18), but outside of him, I just don't know where it's going to come from. This week's opponent, Chicago Fire, were the beneficiaries of a dreadful red card decision against FC Dallas' Brek Shea, so they managed a 1-1 draw that likely should have gone the way of Dallas with all three points.

Of the teams at the bottom, Portland still should be the best of the lot, but they looked bad this week, and it may take some time to work out. I know Vancouver looked stellar on opening night, but as bad as Portland looked that night, Toronto are that bad forever. Sorry, Canada; you lost Teal Bunbury to the US men's national team, and your two MLS franchises are in the bottom level of my Week 1 MLS Power Rankings. We are le sad.