The Philadelphia Union threw one heck of a homecoming party on Saturday, and capped it in style with a victory Philly soccer fans won't soon forget.
Almost as promising as the more than 34,000 that turned out for the Union's 3-2 win over D.C. United was the performance by a Philly team that looked miles better than the squad that lost to Seattle in the season opener.
The defense was far more organized (a ten-minute stretch in the second half notwithstanding) and the attack showed signs of life. Roger Torres really does have the look of a future star while Sebastien LeToux has solidifield himself as a fan favorite for his hard-working style and an unforgettable hat trick.
Does this mean the Union will be challenging for a playoff spot? They may still be a few players away, but at the very least there is reason for optimisim and reason to believe we won't see another nightmare expansion season like Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC endured.
In case you missed it, here is my FoxSoccer.com piece on Philadelphia's inaugural home match.
Here are some more observations from Week 3 in MLS:
Stevie Nicol just never ceases to amaze. Every year New England loses players and every year Nicol finds new impact players to plug in. Zach Schilawski's hat trick was a quality display of finishing and both he and fellow rookie Seth SInovic look like the latest diamonds unearthed by Nicol.
Toronto FC fans that made the trek to see TFC's 4-1 drubbing at the hands of New England had to be asking themselves why it was Jim Brennan, and not Nick Garcia, that retired. Garcia is a liability and Toronto is (at least) two centerbacks away from being a serious playoff contender.
Edson Buddle is in the zone. It isn't as if he hasn't had great runs before in his career, but he could be part of something special on an LA team who already has the strong defense in place. If Buddle can keep this up, the Galaxy will have to be favored to win a third MLS Cup title.
Houston's third MLS Cup looks ages away after a home loss to the Galaxy. Brian Ching's absence figured to hurt the Dynamo attack, but it's becoming clear that the losses of Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark are going to prove extremely difficult to overcome. That's not to say the Dynamo should be counted out, but it is clear that Houston is going to have to spend this summer to fill the team's dire need for a forward and a playmaker.
As if returning most of the key pieces of its championship team wasn't enough, RSL could have one of the off-season's best winter signings in Alvaro Saborio, who's clutch equalizer helped RSL tie Seattle and put more pressure on Jason Kreis to have the Costa Rican in the starting lineup. It's a nice problem to have.
As for Seattle, Brad Evans will want to forget about Saturday after being beaten for both of Real Salt Lake's goals. The late goal aside, the Sounders should feel good about taking a point away from Rio Tinto Stadium.
There isn't a more surprising winless team in MLS than the Chicago Fire, which has one point from three matches under new coach Carlos De Los Cobos. Costly defensive blunders and an underachieving offense have to be worrying Fire fans. As for De Los Cobos, he's on a two-year guaranteed contract so he isn't likely to feel much pressure yet, but he should.
San Jose deserves credit for winning on the road and doing so impressively. Their defense looked very shaky in the season-opening loss to Real Salt Lake, but with rookie Ike Opara looking like the player he was touted as being coming out of college, and with veteran Jason Hernandez healthy, the Earthquakes just might have a defense that can keep San Jose out of the West basement. I won't give them much more than that because the Earthquakes offense is still pretty undewhelming.
Jesus Padilla came off the bench to provide a vital spark for Chivas USA. Will this lead to Padilla living up to the hype surrounding his arrival to MLS last season?
As a whole, Chivas USA showed more toughness and life on Saturday, things that were painful absent in season-opening losses to Colorado and Los Angeles. The Rojiblancos still need a top striker, though Dario Delgado looks like a quality centerback option.
The Red Bulls didn't show much energy in losing to Chivas USA, and while it shouldn't be used an excuse for losing, why does MLS have an East Coast team making consecutive trips to the West Coast (NY played Seattle last week and Chivas USA in Carson last Saturday).
More concerning for the Red Bulls than jet lag is the inconsistent play of Bouna Coundoul. When he's on, Coundoul can be a dominant and acrobatic goalkeeper. When he's not, he can be a mistake-prone, timid and unreliable goalkeeper.
Coundoul's performance makes it even more mind-boggling that New York didn't sign Jon Busch. It likely has nothing to do with faith in back-up Greg Sutton, but more the likelihood that the Red Bulls will try to bring in a foreign goalkeeper this summer.
Curt Onalfo's decision to use Jaime Moreno off the bench was a curious one. Did he fear the abuse Union defenders would inflict on the aging star? Either way, D.C. had no offense to speak of until he entered the match.
If Moreno's benching had more to do with his inability to give more than 45 good minutes, D.C. is going to be in a world of trouble offensively. Chris Pontius looks better suited to play on the wing and Danny Allsop looks like a player who won't do a thing unless he's getting quality service.
D.C. United's bigger problems lie in the back, or perhaps more specifically, with the D.C. midfield's inability to support the back four. In all three games, D.C. has seen its back-line overrun because of a lack of defensive support from midfield. That is something that will remain a problem while Clyde Simms is injured.
Columbus has to feel disappointed about coming away with just a point after leading FC Dallas until the final seconds. Yes, Eric Avila's stunning equalizer probably shouldn't have counted because of his handball just before that play, but Crew star Guillermo Barros Schelotto deserves some blame for leaving Avila alone to complain to the referee.
While FC Dallas showed heart in finding a late equalizer, playing a second straight match in front of less than 10,000 fans (8,422 to be exact) is awful. Will Dallas fans ever make the trip north to Frisco to watch FC Dallas, or will FCD owners have to think about a new plan (and new home)?
That's all for now. I'll add some more thoughts through the day so feel free to check back in.
What stood out for you from Week 3 in MLS? Who impressed you the most? Who do you think looked awful?
Share your thoughts below.