MLS 2015 is upon us! The first week of the season also brings the first OaM MLS Team of the Week of the season. We're getting things started with a simple 4-4-2, and an (ultimately not quite successful) effort to pick players actually capable of playing the position assigned to them in this selection.
GK Clint Irwin (Colorado Rapids): Houston's Tyler Deric made more saves and his team won its match; Nick Rimando was also in remarkable form in Portland, helping RSL to a point on the road under difficult circumstances. But for this observer, Irwin made two of the best saves of the week, and given the ragged play in front of him, was more significant in securing his side a point for their efforts this week than either Deric or Rimando.
RB Tyrone Mears (Seattle Sounders): Mears was brought in to replace DeAndre Yedlin, the only major absentee in Seattle's squad from last year's Shield-winning group. He's off to a good start. Seattle was one of the few units that came out looking crisp and fluid in Week 1, in part because the core of the 2014 group was retained for this campaign. Mears could have been the odd man out, but he provided what the Sounders have come to expect from the right back position, including an assist for Obafemi Martins.
CB Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City): Opara's return from long-term injury coincides with KC's need to fill an Aurelien-Collin-shaped hole in the back line. At the first attempt, he made a good case for being the replacement Peter Vermes needs: scoring KC's only goal of the game, and leading an increasingly rearguard effort to contain RBNY's industrious attack. When Matt Besler was sent off, the team hardly seemed to miss him, even turning the tables on NY and almost nicking a win in the dying minutes. Opara's work at the back was instrumental in preventing the game from slipping away from KC in the last 20 minutes.
CB Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake): Returned from a two-year sabbatical in New York, where he picked up a Supporters' Shield, Olave is back where belongs - the club that made his name in MLS. RSL spent a lot of time under the cosh in Portland, where the Timbers provoke 63 clearances from a harried defense. Olave registered 19 of those, back-stopping Chris Schuler (who made the highlight-reel, goal-line block that secured RSL's clean sheet and first point of the season).
LB Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas): This column has a weakness for underdogs and the under-appreciated. Hernandez broke into FC Dallas's first team last season, having been on the club's books since signing a Homegrown Player deal in 2010. He got the start at left back to open the 2015 campaign, and was not perfect. There are arguably better left back options in his own squad (Hi, Michel!), and certainly more accomplished players of the position all over the league. But he'll improve if he keeps getting chances, one assumes. And he'll keep getting chances if the choices he makes on the field continue to pay off. In a scrappy, open game, FCD nabbed the winner in stoppage time - because Hernandez decided to slap a shot at goal from just outside the area, and Blas Perez deflected past the 'keeper. A bit of game-changing good fortune can be the difference between a season of consistent minutes in the first team and a year in the reserves. Hernandez is off to an encouraging start in 2015.
RW Lloyd Sam (New York Red Bulls): This site is called Once A Metro. It is focused on the New York Red Bulls. A New York Red Bull scored one of the best goals we'll see all season. Of course he is in this selection.
CM Mix Diskerud (NYC FC): He was asked to a lot of the carrying for NYC FC's midfield, taking a deep-lying distributing role and gradually moving up the field as the team cycled through a variety of attacking approaches, none of which was particularly successful - until Mix decided to take a shot on goal, putting his team ahead against the run of play. The blue team very nearly won a game it should have lost, and the reason for that - and the point it ended up having to settle for - was mostly Mix.
LW Kaka (Orlando City SC): He lined up as the middle-man in OCSC's attacking midfield triumvirate, but roamed all over the pitch, frequently popping up on either flank to provide width. When and if the rest of Orlando's attack gets closer to the same page as Kaka, they'll be a terrifying prospect for MLS defenses. This week, we saw a lot of mistimed passes and runs, as OCSC's players seemed as baffled by Kaka's intentions as the NYC FC defense. His stoppage-time equalizer was fortunate, and probably should have been classed as an own goal - but it is often said that one should be lucky if one cannot be good; Kaka was both this week.
FWD Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC): There will be pressure on Altidore all season, and some will never move past the fact he flunked the test posed by his unhappy time in Sunderland. Still, he is in MLS to score goals, and two in his first game may not answer his critics (many of whom probably do not doubt his ability to score goals in less challenging leagues than the EPL) but his brace did offer early suggestion that TFC could be a happier home for his talent than Wearside.
FWD Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders): Clint Dempsey scored twice this week, but Martins caught the eye a little more. It's harsh to single out one player from Seattle's remarkably cohesive attacking unit, but such is the logic of Team of the Week. Martins' goal and assist underscored his value to the Sounders' system.
COACH Greg Vanney (Toronto FC): Two teams looked a cut above the rest in Week 1. Seattle was good last year and opened up at home against Eastern Conference opposition. Trouncing visiting teams who have traveled far to reach the match is not unusual in MLS. Toronto, however, crossed Canada to play Vancouver, fell a goal behind - and then found a higher gear. An impressive win under any circumstances, but particularly on the road, in a different time zone, in a week that illustrated how generally inadequate most MLS preseason preparations can be. TFC looks to have started 2015 at a higher level than all but the presumptive best teams in the league, and that is a compliment to Vanney.