This may have been the second week of the 2012 season, but it was all about firsts.
From Montreal to Vancouver and Los Angeles to Philadelphia, multiple players, several teams, and thousands of fans – 58,912 in Montreal alone – broke new ground in a sizzling round of matches.
While the latest expansion team made history in their first home game, their brethren in Western Canada achieved a franchise milestone, and their Toronto rivals raised the bar for the game in the Great White North.
Elsewhere, there were impressive debuts, the season’s first hat-trick and multiple account-opening goals.
Also: for the second week in a row, no scoreless draws.
Cue the recap in 3, 2, 1…
Moment of Impact
On Saturday afternoon in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the Impact came about two inches from topping last spring’s storybook home openers in Vancouver and Portland, which is saying something.
Five minutes into time added on, with the score tied 1-1 and the record crowd of nearly 59,000 fans clamoring for a late winner, Montreal’s left fullback Josh Gardner crushed a shot from about 45-yards out on the left flank.
Chicago Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi, like the capacity crowd looking on, barely had time to react before the ball rocketed past him … and slammed off the far post.
With that, Montreal fans were denied an outlandish late winner, but they still got an exciting first chapter for Major League Soccer in their city. Captain Davy Arnaud scored the first MLS goal in Impact history, a glancing header off a perfect cross from Sanna Nyassi in the 56th minute.
Chicago’s Dominic Oduro equalized 15 minutes later, and despite the efforts of Gardner and Nyassi, who was denied from close range by Tornaghi in the 85th minute, that’s the way it ended.
While Montreal just missed getting their first win, they did earn their first point as an MLS franchise – and sent their fans home happy.
It was a big week for MLS’s other Canadian sides as well. On Saturday night, Vancouver secured their first-ever MLS road victory, edging Chivas USA 1-0 at The Home Depot Center behind United States international Jay DeMerit’s inaugural MLS goal.
Toronto FC also achieved a historic breakthrough, becoming the first Canadian team ever to reach the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) semifinals after they shocked the heavily-favoured LA Galaxy 2-1 in their second-leg quarterfinal on Wednesday.
The Reds came thudding back to earth three days later in MLS play, though, dropping a 3-1 decision at Seattle and losing Designated Player Torsten Frings to a hamstring injury.
Like LA, Sounders FC had been unceremoniously bounced from the CCL on Wednesday – though "unceremoniously" is putting it mildly: Seattle were routed 6-1 at Mexico's Santos Laguna to go out on a 7-3 aggregate defeat.
They returned to league play hungry for redemption – and they got some, as striker David Estrada exploded for the first hat-trick of the year (and first goals of his MLS career) to pace the home side’s win.
The Galaxy also recovered from their CCL loss in style, cruising past D.C. United 3-1 in MLS action. The box score was studded with firsts: Robbie Keane’s first two-goal game in MLS, Marcelo Sarvas’ first goal in the league, and United rookie Nick DeLeon’s account-opener as a pro.
Fittingly enough, this Sunday-night game, which capped a week of firsts, ended with another one: the Galaxy’s first victory of 2012.
LA’s big-market counterparts in New York did not bounce back as well from their most recent loss. The Red Bulls dropped their second straight, falling 2-0 at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
RSL got goals from Fabian Espíndola and Luis Gil to go 2W-0L-0D on the season and push their unbeaten streak against New York to five games.
Spencer on the Mic
WATCH: Spencer makes the call
New York’s Week One opponents, FC Dallas, scrapped out a 1-1 draw with visiting Portland Timbers on Saturday night.
After Hoops striker Blas Pérez opened his MLS account 32 minutes into the match, Portland’s Darlington Nagbe bagged his first of 2012 to tie it up just after halftime.
The game featured the MLS debut of 20-year-old Dallas winger Bryan Leyva, the club’s first Homegrown Player, who helped create Pérez’s goal with a hard shot on net. It also featured the announcing debut of Timbers coach John Spencer, who made the goal call on Nagbe’s strike while doing an in-game interview with TV announcer John Strong.
Portland’s Western Conference foes San Jose Earthquakes hosted Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon, and the visitors got the first goal of the year from Brad Davis (on a penalty kick) to nab their second away win of the season – matching the team’s 2011 total for road victories.
New England Revolution started on the path to matching a stat from last season, too, but it was not one they want to equal: The Revs earned their (and the league’s) first red card of the season on Saturday, as centre back Stephen McCarthy was sent off in the 14th minute for a last-man foul on Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong.
The Revolution – who would give up goals to Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara, and Sapong en route to a 3-0 loss – racked up a league-leading 10 red cards last season, one short of the MLS record.
The weekend’s other red came out on Sunday at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. Just two minutes after midfielder Jaime Castrillón scored his first MLS goal to put Colorado up 1-0, the Rapids’ Jeff Larentowicz saw a second yellow and was sent off.
Instead of struggling, though, the 2010 MLS Cup champions got forward and scored a second goal within five minutes, this one from rookie attacker Tony Cascio (his first MLS tally).
Philadelphia’s Lionard Pajoy opened his MLS account in the 67th minute to make it 2-1, but the Union could not find an equalizer, despite knocking on the door several times before the final whistle.