Monday Postgame: Beginnings for Canada and the United States, end for Cal FC
Do you miss the MLS regular season?
For the second week in a row, there was just one league game on the schedule. But rest easy - a full slate of league action will return next weekend. And in the meantime, there was plenty of action, both on the field and off it, in the league and out of it, for soccer fans to hang their collective hat on this week.
Five MLS teams advanced to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, several MLS players were involved as both Canada and the United States opened 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, and LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane took the field at EURO 2012.
Off the field, MLS teams learned their group-stage foes for the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League, an embattled coach was dismissed, two teams swapped strikers, and a third swooped for a Honduran international, making him the second Designated Player in club history.
Let’s take another look.
Ready or Not
After nearly a year in charge of the United States national team, Jurgen Klinsmann finally coached the side in a truly meaningful match on Friday night, leading the Americans’ into their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying opener against Antigua & Barbuda in Tampa, Florida.
His CONCACAF debut may not have gone as smoothly as he would have hoped, but it did yield three points, as the USA got goals from MLS alums Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, and Herculez Gomez to down the tiny island nation (population 81,799) 3-1.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
The Benna Boys even made American fans uneasy in the 65th minute, when Peter Byers beat Oguchi Onyewu to the ball, turned and charged in on Tim Howard to cut the USA lead to 2-1.
Gomez answered just minutes later to restore the two-goal advantage, but the visitors’ goal, the multiple squandered chances by the USA, and the Americans’ general inconsistency produced a less-than-convincing impression.
What was worse for USA fans, Jose Torres - who was tapped to play left fullback after both Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo went down with injuries before the game - was injured and left the game in the 55th minute.
The USA looked like they had plenty of Klinsmann’s two-a-days in their legs, and they face a much tougher test on Tuesday night, when they take on Guatemala in Guatemala City.
Three from the Road
Canada also launched their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign this week, snatching a 1-0 win over Cuba in Havana on Friday afternoon.
With five MLS players in their starting line-up, the Canucks took it to the hosts from the opening whistle. They broke through in the 54th minute, when Olivier Occean headed home a cross from David Edgar (not to be confused with Edgar Davids).
After goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld was shown a straight red card in the 64th minute, his teammates held on to their slim lead and headed back north with a valuable three points. They also return to action on Tuesday, when Honduras come calling at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario.
Midnight in Tukwila
Back in the States, the fourth round of the nation’s longest-running tournament, the US Open Cup, kicked off on Tuesday night.
Unlike the previous round, when upsets ruled the day, favourites took control of the Round of 16 - most notably in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, the holders Sounders FC ended the storybook run of amateur side Cal FC.
The team from Thousand Oaks, California, had knocked off three consecutive higher-division teams, including MLS side Portland Timbers, to reach the Round of 16. With former USA and MLS standout Eric Wynalda pacing the sidelines as their coach, they held Sounders FC scoreless for nearly 50 minutes.
But early in the second half, an unlucky handball in the box opened the floodgates. Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso put away the spot kick, and Seattle reeled off four more goals in the next 20 minutes to walk off 5-0 winners.
Of all the fourth-round matches, there was only one defeat of an MLS team by a lower-division side. That came in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where the USL Pro's City Islanders knocked off New York Red Bulls 3-1 in extra time, getting two goals from former Red Bull Sainey Touray.
Turnover in Toronto
From the Red Bulls, who have never won a American trophy, to Toronto FC, who have never been to the MLS Cup Playoffs in their six years of existence. On Thursday, TFC dismissed coach Aron Winter, who oversaw the worst start in league history, as The Reds stumbled out of the gate to an 0W-9L-0D record.
WATCH: Mariner reacts to new post
They did pick up their first win of the year on May 26, edging Philadelphia Union 1-0, but it was too little, too late for the Dutchman. He exits Toronto with just seven wins in 44 MLS matches, while his side were outscored 80-44.
TFC named director of player development Paul Mariner as Winter’s replacement. The former New England Revolution assistant becomes the club’s seventh coach in six years.
In other league news, Philadelph traded striker and former No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick Danny Mwanga to Portland in exchange for striker Jorge Perlaza, while Houston Dynamo signed Honduran international Oscar Boniek García as the club’s second-ever Designated Player, and five MLS sides learned their group-stage opponents in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
Vancouver will not be in that competition, but they looked like a team that could be going places on Sunday night against Houston in the only MLS game of the week.
With the victory at BC Place, the 'Caps improved to 6W-3L-4D, ended a three-match winless run - and equalled their win total for the entire 2011 season.