The first week of the 2011 Major League Soccer season wasn’t short on dramatic storylines: Portland and Vancouver played their first games (with drastically different outcomes), Charlie Davies made a successful return, and Dwayne De Rosario scored the league's 8,000th goal, just to name a few. Now, here’s a look at some of the less obvious stats and milestones from the opening games – ones that didn’t get the headlines.
1) Brown goes nearly seven years between MLS matches. Long time, but not quite the record.
Due to the injury to Troy Perkins, the Portland Timbers began their MLS existence with Adin Brown as their starting goalkeeper. Brown is no stranger to MLS, but it had been quite a while since his last appearance with the New England Revolution.
It was June 26, 2004, when Brown suffered a concussion and was replaced by Matt Reis at halftime (Reis hasn’t lost the job since). From that date to this past Saturday, a total of 6.73 years passed before Adin finally played in a league game. That’s a long time, but it’s not quite the record.
The recently retired Eddie Lewis left San Jose after the 1999 season (when they were still known as the Clash) and wouldn’t return to MLS until mid-2008 with the LA Galaxy. When the “American Beckham” joined forces with the actual Beckham, it had been 8.90 years since his last league game. Behind him are Birahim Diop (7.81) and Greg Sutton (7.03).
Two players recently almost took over the top spot. If Jamar Beasley had gotten into a match late last season with Kansas City, he would’ve set a new mark (he’s no longer with the team). Also, Stern John was in preseason camp with Chivas USA, but failed to earn a roster spot, so he’ll just have to settle for keeping his record scoring rate intact: 44 goals in 55 games with Columbus.
But back to Brown: A Brad Friedel or Marcus Hahnemann return would smash his record. Hahnemann’s last MLS game was in 1999, while Friedel last played in the league in 1997, earning Best XI and Goalkeeper of the Year honors with the Crew.
2) Two MLS players with new nationalities
When Vancouver’s Nizar Khalfan and New York’s Jan Gunnar Solli stepped onto the field Saturday, they were part of a group of 55 players to make their league debuts in Week 1, which is one more than the entire 2002 season. While others like Omar Bravo and Eric Hassli have grabbed the lion’s share of the attention, Khalfan and Solli made some history of their own: they became the first players of their nationalities to play in MLS. Khalfan became the first Tanzanian, and Solli the first Norwegian.
The 2010 season saw five new nationalities: Australia (Danny Allsopp), Estonia (Joel Lindpere), India (Sunil Chhetri – he played in one Open Cup qualifier), Latvia (Raivis Hscanovics), and Montenegro (Branko Boskovic).
Some of the most notable countries still missing from the list include Egypt, Greece and Turkey. Greece was close to being knocked off, but Kansas City defender Nikos Kounenakis was waived after 2010 without making an appearance. The next new nationality is likely to happen soon, as Vancouver’s Long Tan was in the 18-man squad against Toronto. When he debuts in MLS, he’ll be the first Chinese player to do so.
3) Mondragon – the oldest player to debut in MLS
Another newcomer was Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, whose age was mentioned in nearly every article during the offseason. That wasn’t the case after the opener, as his role in the Union’s 1-0 shutout of the Houston Dynamo was the story. For a team that leaked goals in 2010, that’s a big improvement. It was also notable to see him taking over the captain’s armband. However, it turns out that his age was notable on Saturday as well.
At 39.74 years of age, Mondragon became the oldest player ever to make his MLS debut. He bests Kasey Keller (39.30), who set a new mark in 2009 in the Seattle Sounders’ first-ever match. Before Keller, the record was held for nine years by Lothar Matthaus, and by Thomas Ravelli and Hugo Sanchez before him.
Meanwhile, D.C. United’s Pat Onstad extended his record as the league’s oldest player of all time by another half year.
4) Moreno joins the six team club
Alejandro Moreno became only the fifth player to play for six different MLS teams. Before suiting up for Chivas USA, he’d previously played for LA, San Jose, Houston, Columbus, and Philadelphia. The other four players who have done the same are Andy Williams (CLB-MIA-NE-NY-CHI-RSL), Brian Dunseth (NE-MIA-CLB-DAL-RSL-LA), Ezra Hendrickson (NY-LA-DAL-DC-CHV-CLB), and Carey Talley (DC-KC-DAL-RSL-CHV-NY).
Two notes: First, Dunseth’s only appearance for the Galaxy came in a CONCACAF Champions League game, so only four players have done it in league play. Second, Moreno was helped by the league’s decision to consider the Houston Dynamo as a new franchise with different records when they moved from San Jose, as he didn’t actually change teams during that offseason.
Active players who could join the list in the future include Jeff Cunningham, Kevin Goldthwaite, Daniel Hernandez and Tyrone Marshall, as all are currently with their fifth team.
5) Cummings scored in his fourth straight opener
Finally, as noted in this column two weeks ago, Omar Cummings did indeed become the first player to score in four straight openers for his team. He scored the second goal for the Colorado Rapids in the 3-1 win over Portland.