MLS Week 1 preview: Sounders vs. Revs, Timbers vs. RSL headline First Kick weekend
It’s here. It’s. Finally. Here.
The 2015 Major League Soccer season kicks off today. Then there’s more MLS action on Saturday. Followed by more MLS on Sunday. This is what our lives are going to be like for the next nine months. Learn it, live it, love it.
[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS previews for 2015 ]
MLS returns with a bang-up schedule of games for First Kick weekend as all 20 teams are in action, highlighted by the following matchups.
Seattle Sounders vs. New England Revolution (Sunday, 9:30 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)
Could it be a preview of the 2015 MLS Cup final? It’s obviously too early to tell (unless you’re the PST staff), so as far as Week 1 of the regular season goes, we’ll enjoy this one for what it is certain to be: entertaining, attacking soccer played by two of the league’s most formidable attacking units.
Obafemi Martins is poised to score a ton of goals this season (17 with 13 assists last year wasn’t enough) and put his name in the MVP race once again. Clint Dempsey (15 and 10 in 2014) and Lamar Neagle (9 and 9) figure to give the Revolution backline plenty of trouble, as well. Juan Agudelo returns to the Revs, who were missing only a consistent goalscoring center forward in their run to MLS Cup 2014. Lee Nguyen (18 goals, 5 assists) and Co. will be left to fill the void left by the absence of Jermaine Jones (hernia surgery).
Prediction: Sounders 2-1 Revs
Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
Neither team made a ton of major moves in the offseason, which would lend itself to a fast, functional start for both sides to begin the season, if not for a number of key injuries. Will Johnson is out the first few weeks of the season, if not the first month, so a heavier workload falls on the shoulders of Diego Chara, who’s more than capable of picking up the slack. Diego Valeri (11 goals, 14 assists in 2014) will also miss a few games, and it remains to be seen whether Darlington Nagbe can replace the Argentine’s production.
Joao Plata was a revelation for RSL last year (13 and 6), but a broken foot in preseason means he’s out until the summer. Javier Morales can ease the pain of losing Plata’s creative work, while Sebastian Jaime needs to strike up a fruitful strike partnership with Alvaro Saborio even more quickly now.
Prediction: Timbers 2-2 RSL
Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC (Sunday, 5 pm ET, ESPN2)
Two expansion teams set to play in front of 62,000 fans inside a sold-out Citrus Bowl. Welcome to MLS, Orlando, be sure to bring the ruckus just like this every single week and we’ll gladly have you back again and again.
The MLS debut of Kaka, David Villa and Mix Diskerud. Need more? OK, one of these teams is likely to make the playoffs in a somewhat weakened Eastern Conference. Since the season hasn’t even started yet, we can pretend this game is going to decide which team is playing in November.
Prediction: Orlando 1-1 NYCFC
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC (Saturday, 6 pm ET, MLS LIVE)
Perhaps no player will be under more intense scrutiny in 2015 than Jozy Altidore. Having made the switch back to MLS, he was, predictably, greeted by the “Couldn’t hack it with the big boys, huh, Jozy?” crowd. A goal or two in his TFC debut should buy him a few weeks of silence.
The Whitecaps are probably going to be the most entertaining MLS team to watch this year (again). Pedro Morales will be in the MVP conversation come the end of the season. Kekuta Manneh is always going to be exciting, if unpredictable. The midfield is as solid as could be with Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie. Octavio Rivero, 23-year-old forward, is the wild card. If the ‘Caps find someone to put away all those chances, they’ll be a nightmare.
Prediction: Whitecaps 2-3 TFC
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1)
Two teams largely rebuilt during the offseason, but trending in very different directions. Sporting KC gutted the middle-third of their roster and upgraded on every level of the field. Luis Marin takes over in goal; Ike Opara (broken ankle) returns in defense while Jalil Anibaba makes for a solid backup; Roger Espinoza returns from Wigan and is joined by Bernardo Anor, who’s poised for a big year in KC; Krisztian Nemeth could be the second consistent scoring option Sporting needed behind Dom Dwyer.
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls lost Thierry Henry (10 goals, 14 assists in 2014) and Tim Cahill, while adding Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins. The sense is that’s not enough to replace Henry’s genius, but for the first time in a long time, Jesse Marsch’s bunch might be a better functioning unit than they were before.
Prediction: Sporting KC 1-0 Red Bulls
LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire (Friday, 10 pm ET, UniMas)
The defending champions get things started Friday night, kicking off the 20th MLS season. Landon Donovan has retired, leaving a massive hole in the Galaxy attack (10 goals, 19 assists in 2014), but don’t worry, Bruce Arena will fix it one way or another because that’s just what he does.
Frank Yallop, on the other hand, needs a fast start to his second season in Chicago after finishing ninth in the East last year. Visiting the defending champs on opening day isn’t typically a recipe for success, so we’ll be wishing Frank and his troops, new Designated Player Shaun Maloney included, all the luck we can give.
Prediction: Galaxy 2-1 Fire