Major League Soccer, Toronto, Magee all return with a bang
Major League Soccer is BACK.
With 10 games on the opening day schedule, there's more than enough to try to parse as we make a ridiculous attempt to figure out who these teams are with just 90 minutes of competitive league soccer under their belts.
The first strike
They say you can judge how a season will go based on the quality of the first goal scored. OK, they don't actually say that, but it could be true. If there is any possibility that the first goal of the new season is a harbinger, we could be in for a doozy of a 2016 campaign.
That's because the first goal of the new year was a quality far-post curler perfectly struck and expertly scored by New York City FC's Tommy McNamara. The mulleted one found space in front of the Chicago back line -- after an extremely poor giveaway by the Fire -- and did not waste his opportunity to go into the books as the first goal scorer this year.
On the road again
In 2015, Toronto FC began their schedule with seven straight road games because of renovations at BMO Field. During that stretch, they won three and lost four. A difficult start became a slight positive, with the Reds grabbing nine points despite the less-than-ideal circumstances. That start set the stage for the club's first playoff appearance.
Toronto is again on the road for a protracted period to start the 2016 season. More renovations to BMO Field means an eight-game away stint, beginning with a daunting opener against the Red Bulls; but just like in 2015, TFC started the season with a big win.
Sebastian Giovinco looks to have resumed his dominant form, and although it would be wrong to say the visitors controlled more than a few of the game's 90 minutes, three points to start the year against New York is nothing to question.
Goals, goals, goals
Sunday's marathon certainly delivered on the goal front with 36 scored over 10 matches. Four games featured at least five, and another one gave us four. In the latter, Orlando City stormed back from two goals down to earn a wild draw against Real Salt Lake thanks to Cyle Larin and Adrian Winter.
Three players scored twice, including Joao Plata of RSL and the brilliant Ignacio Piatti of the Impact. Piatti made up for the lack of Didier Drogba in the Montreal lineup, while Plata showed the form that turned him into a MVP candidate back in 2014.
There was quality in the goals, too, headlined by Federico Higuain's overhead kick in Portland and McNamara's aforementioned opener against the Fire. Mike Magee's chip of Andrew Dykstra wasn't all that shabby, either.
Were all of those goals due to defenders still getting their bearings in the new season, or are attacking players beginning to dominate? Who knows. But MLS in 2016 will be fun if teams can keep up the pace.
The Fire and NYCFC collided in Bridgeview, Illinois, in a game that served as the league coaching debuts of both Veljko Paunovic and Patrick Vieira. If the wild 4-3 NYCFC win was any indication, these might end up being two of the more entertaining teams in the league -- because they can score goals and because they're likely to give a lot of them up. Each side is due for more than its fair share of shootouts.
For New York, the key was the young, attacking talent Vieira sent out. McNamara was very good, but so were Tony Taylor and Khiry Shelton. The American forwards each showed up on the goal sheet, as did Mix Diskerud.
Word around the Fire camp was that Paunovic was installing a high-energy, high-press style that would tax his players' two-way abilities (hence the trade of Harry Shipp) but revive the franchise. So far, all it has brought is a leaky defense that found itself caught out many times over the course of the game.
NYCFC, a team still figuring itself out, took advantage, to the tune of four goals.
The return of Magic Mike
For the first 45 minute at the StubHub Center against D.C. United, the Galaxy looked slow and unsure of themselves. Steven Gerrard was struggling to influence the game, Nigel de Jong was constantly moving into the same spaces as the former Liverpool man, and Giovani dos Santos was essentially invisible.
Then Mike Magee came on in the second half for dos Santos, and everything immediately picked up. Magee's return to the club that nearly made him an MVP under its banner before trading him for Robbie Rogers is much more than a feel-good story.
Magee is healthy again (finally), and Bruce Arena is the MLS coach with the best understanding of how to use his ability off the bench. Don't expect the Chicago native to start much, but do expect him to make his way into the fray when LA needs a spark.
Team of the week
MLS is BACK
Did we mention that MLS is back? Week 1 lived up to the expectations. Let's see what Week 2 has in its surprise bag.
Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer. He also hosts a daily soccer podcast that covers the beautiful game. Follow him @davisjsn.