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MLS Gets Back On The Field For 20th Season With Series Of Strong Crowds, Close Games

MLS Gets Back On The Field For 20th Season With Series Of Strong Crowds, Close Games

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Several events were held celebrating the Timbers' 40th anniversary
MLS' 20th season kicked off this past weekend, and on Saturday, "close battles in every game again reminded many fans why they watch the league," according to Liviu Bird of SI.com. This weekend's start also showed why moving MLS to a fall-to-spring schedule that is more aligned with the FIFA calendar "would be a poor decision." Cold weather "didn’t help attendance" at RFK Stadium for the Impact-DC United match, as "just 11,549 fans rolled through the gates." Bird: "Thinking about how outdoor matches would have looked in Montreal (high of 28 degrees on Saturday), New York or Columbus (both 39 degrees), it’s probably a good thing the league office’s schedule-change discussions seem to have been tabled." Meanwhile, an "intense atmosphere" for Real Salt Lake-Timbers on Saturday at Providence Park "provided a great stage to finish the day." The Timbers "celebrate their 40th season this year, taking into account" the club's previous affiliations in the old NASL, A-League and USL, and the fans "again brought a passionate display to opening weekend" (SI.com, 3/8). In Tacoma, John McGrath wrote soccer in the U.S. "is not football," and an MLS season opener "is not to be confused with the most watched single-day sporting event on the calendar." But the fact that Revolution Owner Robert Kraft "is the same Robert Kraft who controls the Patriots makes the Sounders’ victory even more gratifying." The atmosphere Sunday at CenturyLink Field for Revolution-Sounders last night "was playoff-game intense" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 3/9).

CROWD CONTROL: In DC, Steven Goff notes a snowstorm "stunted United’s ticket-selling build-up, but the game-day weather was just fine." But considering "how well the club performed last year, the long-term advance sale was disappointing." The crowd count "was, by far, the lowest in history for a United regular season home opener" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/9). In K.C., Sam McDowell notes the Red Bulls-Sporting KC yesterday was played “in front of 19,784 at Sporting Park, the venue’s 54th straight MLS sellout” (K.C. STAR, 3/9). In Vancouver, Gary Kingston noted the Whitecaps dropped their home opener to Toronto FC "before a sellout crowd of 21,000" at BC Place (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/8). In Portland, Jamie Goldberg noted the RSL-Timbers match was played "in front of a sellout crowd of 21,144 at Providence Park" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/8). In Houston, Jose de Jesus Ortiz noted the Dynamo defeated the Crew "before a sellout crowd of 22,351" at BBVA Compass Stadium (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/8). The Union and Rapids played before 18,022 fans at PPL Park, while FC Dallas beat the Earthquakes in front of 15,236 at Toyota Stadium (THE DAILY). 

Bradley said TFC's fan support was a factor 
in him signing with the team
NORTH AMERICA'S GAME
: The GLOBE & MAIL’s Cathal Kelly wrote the success of MLS “is in no small part because of the diehard support shown to Canada’s teams.” TFC fans “turned soccer around in North America and, along with” the Impact and Whitecaps, “continue to lead the way.” MLS “had its cultists” in the U.S., but BMO Field in Toronto “was the first stadium in which everyone was up for it.” Kelly: “You could argue that MLS’s current flagship franchise is Seattle. It’s far and away the best attended team, averaging nearly 40,000 at a game. It has that European feel.” But the Galaxy have “won three of the past four titles,” and the team “brings the most overseas heat.” Galaxy games at StubHub Center bring a “big crowd," but also "a relatively quiet one.” TFC MF Michael Bradley said of his club, “This is the only team in Major League Soccer that gets booed off the field at half-time if we’re losing.” But Kelly notes Bradley “meant that as a good thing.” Bradley: “In a lot of ways, what drew me here and what keeps me here, motivated and determined, is that I see in the city what I want, and they see in me what they want” (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/7).

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