March 2012: Losing MLS start for champions LA Galaxy

Champions Los Angeles Galaxy kicked off the new season with a home defeat but then David Beckham’s team turned things around in the next match to record their first win in the current Major Soccer League (MLS) campaign by beating DC United 3-1. The North American professional league got underway on 9 March. After the thrilling and successful year in 2011, the MLS has entered its 17th season with fresh impetus. With the league now expanded to include the Montreal Impact franchise, it is an indication of the constant growth the competition has enjoyed over the years. The number of teams has been increased to 19 of which three come from Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal). Newcomer Montreal’s 1-1 draw against Chicago Fire attracted a 58,912 crowd in the 1976 Olympic Stadium on Saturday (17 March), a record for the Canadian state of Quebec.

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DC United’s Chris Korb (left) clears in front of David Beckham whose Los Angeles Galaxy ran out 3-1 winners. It was the team’s first win of the year. (Photo: Getty Images)


That superstar David Beckham, who turned down lucrative offers from Paris Saint Germain and the chance to return to England, decided to renew his contract at Los Angeles Galaxy was further proof of the increased attractiveness of the MLS. However, the champions start to the season went badly awry as they were on the wrong end of a sensation in the 2nd leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. After drawing 2-2 away to Canada’s representatives, Toronto, who are captained by the German Torsten Frings, Los Angeles promptly lost 2 -1 at home and the US champions and clear favourites were out of the competition. The former German international Frings may however be missing for the two legged semifinal against the Mexican club Santos Laguna (28 March and 4 April).  The 35-year-old injured his thigh in the 3-1 MLS defeat at Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 18 March).

“It wasn’t exactly an evening to enjoy,” said David Beckham after the loss against a Toronto team that failed to reach the play-offs in the previous season. Earlier Real Salt Lake City had ruined Galaxy’s home premier in the Championship at the Home Depot Centre in Carson City by beating the Californians 3-1. Los Angeles’ first win in 2012 came on Sunday (18 March) when, playing at home again, they beat DC United 3-1. Irishman Robbie Keane scored twice in front of 18,466 spectators.

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A crowd of almost 59,000 saw the home debut of MLS newcomer Montreal Impact and Davy Arnaud’s goal (left) against Chicago Fire. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo: Getty Images)


Winning starts for three 2011 semifinalists

From a German point of view, after goalkeeper Frank Rost left the New York Red Bulls and retired, a newcomer to the MLS is sparking a lot of interest. Arne Friedrichs, who was a regular in the German national team at the 2010 World Cup, has joined Chicago Fire. The 32-year-old, who terminated his contract at the German VfL Wolfsburg Bundesliga club, wasn’t however included in the team for the opening game in Montreal.

 

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Chivas USA’s goalkeeper Dan Kennedy in the match against championship runner-up Houston Dynamo (0-1). Continental is once again one of the MLS sponsors this season. (Photo: Getty Images)


The other three sides that reached the semifinals of the MLS in autumn 2011 all fared better in their season openers. Real Salt Lake not only celebrated their first win over Los Angeles since 2009 but also won 2-1 against New York (Saturday, 17 March). Sporting Kansas City were 3-0 winners against New England Revolution (Saturday, 17 March) having started off with a 1-0 success over DC United in Washington a week earlier. Runner-up Houston Dynamo notched two 1-0 wins. The Texans followed their away win at Chivas USA (Saturday, 11 March) with another single goal success against San Jose Earthquakes (Friday, 17 March).

In spite of the far from perfect start, Los Angeles, who dominated the 34 match regular season last year, is still considered to be the favourites for the title. “We’ve got a strong squad again. I’m sure we’ll have a good season,” said coach Bruce Arena, the former US national coach when talking about his team’s chances of successful title defence.