Three weeks of the 2012 season are in the books and we’re starting to see some market fluctuation. The league’s EKG is beginning to spike a little bit.
Between nine MLS matches and one landmark Olympic qualifier, we witnessed a series of reversals this week - for better and for worse.
Several clubs halted slides, a pair of veteran goalscorers broke out for their first multi-goal games of the season, and Canada’s U-23 national team reversed two decades of futility against their United States counterparts in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying.
There was also a slight pushback by the Eastern Conference, which went 3W-2L-1D against the West after a 2W-9L start during the previous two rounds.
Let’s chart the highs and lows.
Perhaps no reversal was as impressive, or urgently needed, as New York’s 180 in their home opener against Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon.
Coming off two straight dispiriting losses, the Red Bulls faced a must-win game (as much as that’s possible in March) against a Rapids team coming off two straight encouraging wins.
WATCH: Henry, Cooper on RBNY win
But Colorado were missing their top two midfielders in Jeff Larentowicz (suspended) and Pablo Mastroeni (head injury), and much to the delight of the 21,024 fans at Red Bull Arena, one of their replacements gifted New York a goal in the third minute.
Midfielder Ross LaBauex telegraphed a backpass toward defender Drew Moor and the Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry pounced, intercepted the ball, and cut past Moor before finishing expertly to Matt Pickens’ near side.
Three minutes later, Henry put a perfect pass into Kenny Cooper’s path in the box and the big Texan scored to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. Cooper and Henry would each strike again, and New York went on to win 4-1, getting a solid game from rookie netminder Ryan Meara as well as Designated Player Rafa Márquez, who was making his first MLS appearance since the Punch-up On the Passaic against LA Galaxy in last year’s MLS Cup Playoffs.
In New England, the Revolution got off to an even faster start, as new striker Saer Sene headed in Chris Tierney’s cross 28 seconds into their home opener against Portland.
The Timbers pushed hard for an equalizer in the second half, but New England held on to secure the first victory of Jay Heaps’ coaching career and their first win of 2012 after two consecutive road losses.
Comforts of Home
Columbus Crew reversed their fortunes - along with the scoreline of their season-opening loss at Colorado - with a 2-0 victory against Montreal Impact in their home opener at Crew Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Crew took advantage of a straight red shown to Impact defender Jeb Brovsky in the 19th minute, and got goals from new signings Milovan Mirosevic and Olman Vargas.
Having tied Montreal in the Impact’s historic home opener a week ago, Chicago Fire were looking for a ‘W’ in their curtain raiser at Toyota Park, where they welcomed the winless and undermanned Philadelphia Union.
In the 28th minute, Marco Pappa skillfully eluded two defenders on the right wing and swung in a cross toward Dominic Oduro. The speedy Ghanian snapped a powerful header past a sprawling Zac MacMath from 12 yards to give the Fire a 1-0 lead.
Chicago racked up an 11-5 edge in shots, but had to hold on to win, as Philly mounted a late surge.
Making a Splash
Among the many impressive results this week, only one provoked a genuine double-take: That was previously winless Chivas USA’s 1-0 stunner over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, where The Goats had never won before.
Rookie Casey Townsend hit the game-winner in the 72nd minute, pounding a shot home after the ball slipped from Nick Rimando’s grasp following a cross.
WATCH: Kamara get the winner
From the truly surprising to the wildly entertaining: At LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Sunday night, Sporting Kansas City attacker Kei Kamara atoned for a missed penalty by scoring in the 88th minute to send the home side to a dramatic 2-1 win over FC Dallas.
The second half of this one featured marauding runs forward by both teams - and several near misses - before KC strung together a series of pinpoint passes to spring right fullback Chance Myers down the line.
The former number one MLS SuperDraft selection did well to beat Dallas defender Hernan Pertuz to the ball and square it for Kamara, whose sliding shot beat an out-of-position Kevin Hartman at the near post.
Landing with a Thud
Hartman may have been caught out, but at least he was trying to make a play on the ball (he left his line in an attempt to reach Myers’s cross). That’s more than the United States Olympic team defence did on two set-pieces in their shocking 2-0 loss to Canada in Nashville, Tennessee.
After opening the tournament with a 6-0 rout of 10-man Cuba on Thursday, the Americans were stymied by a compact, defensive-minded Canadian side on Saturday.
It’s been much reported that the USA team features 14 MLS players, but Canada suits up six and one of them - Toronto FC defender Doneil Henry - opened the scoring on a corner kick in the 56th minute. While USA goalkeeper Bill Hamid and centre back Ike Opara failed to attack the ball, Henry slipped in and headed home Philippe Davies’ cross.
Canada iced the game in the 83rd minute on an almost identical play, picking up their first win over the Americans in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying since 1992.
Canada will look to win Group A with a victory over Cuba at 3:30 p.m. PT, while the USA now face a must-win game against El Salvador tonight at 6 p.m. PT.
Canada’s MLS sides did not fare as well as their U-23 national team, with Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal all held scoreless in Week Three.
Whitecaps FC drew visiting D.C. United 0-0 - the first goalless match of the season - and Toronto FC were blanked 3-0 by visiting San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday afternoon. Chris Wondolowski bagged two goals for the Quakes.
In Seattle, Sounders FC clipped Houston 2-0, handing the Dynamo their first loss of the year after two road victories. Seattle’s David Estrada scored his fourth goal of the season, pushing him into an early (and surprising) lead for the Golden Boot.