YOESTING: Champions League, MLS openers bring excitement to weekend

Arsenal's Danny Welbeck celebrates after scoring his side second goal during the English FA Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Monday, March 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

A weekend off from the English Premier League to focus again on the FA Cup left much to be desired.

Fortunately, the opening weekend of MLS action and a battle of giants in the final FA Cup quarterfinal on Monday helped salvage the week.

Both Texas MLS teams began their seasons with 1-0 victories, typifying a first Saturday in which goals were hard to come by (five of the six matches had one or fewer goals).

The low scoring was interrupted by the return of Jozy Altidore to MLS. The U.S. national team striker scored twice in his first game with Toronto FC, already giving him more goals than his entire stint with Sunderland.

Sunday's TV games were a bit more interesting.

In the newcomer's game, Orlando City SC was a bit fortunate to draw level with New York City FC late on a deflected free kick taken by Kaka. Mix Diskerud scored a fantastic opener for the visitors.

NYCFC will feel as though it should have held on with a goal and man advantage, but the sold-out Citrus Bowl probably played a role in spurring the home side to salvage a point.

After an intense 1-1 draw between Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls, Seattle put down a marker to the rest of the league, routing reigning runner-up New England 3-0 for all to see.

The Sounders' star strikers were on full display, with Nacogdoches' Clint Dempsey scoring twice and Obafemi Martins adding a goal and an unselfish assist.

It all set the stage for the game of the weekend.

With just one EPL game (Tottenham's lucky win over QPR in a makeup), the FA Cup was the focus of England's attention. That was a bad thing on Saturday and Sunday.

In the first three quarterfinals only one team scored, Aston Villa in a 2-0 win over West Brom. Bradford City tied Reading 0-0 and Liverpool was unable to top Blackburn in another 0-0 draw.

Fortunately, Arsenal visited Manchester United's Theater of Dreams on Monday for a memorable showdown.

The Gunners went in front after a superb team goal that saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's dribbling skills open up space for left back Nacho Monreal to coolly fire past David De Gea in the 25th minute.

The lead didn't last long as Angel Di Maria picked out Wayne Rooney's giant, gleaming forehead with a pinpoint cross to level the match four minutes later.

After an open first half, both teams made substitutions to tighten up the defenses, the Red Devils making two changes at halftime and Aaron Ramsey forced on to replace a hobbled Oxlade-Chamberlain six minutes later.

Thus it was a defensive miscue that proved critical.

Six months ago Danny Welbeck was sold by Manchester United to Arsenal because he didn't score enough goals.

Back at Old Trafford, Welbeck did just that, scoring the winner when right back Antonio Valencia's back pass to De Gea was woefully short. The new Gunners striker swooped in, dinked the ball past a rushing De Gea and calmly placed the ball in the back of the net.

United's attempts to come back were in vain, with De Gea's brilliance the only reason Arsenal didn't win by more than 2-1.

The game was sealed when Di Maria was booked for diving and then given a red for tugging at the referee's shirt in protest. In that regard, the official deserves kudos for making two correct decisions on dives, also showing yellow to Adnan Januzaj, United's only offensive substitution of the game.

(Star striker Radamel Falcao, meanwhile, was left on the bench and even ended up in a U-21 match on Tuesday.)

Soccer has a great capacity to thrill, but the occasional dour result can dampen a weekend.

Luckily for soccer fans in the U.S. there are plenty of options and sooner or later there will be a match that takes your breath away — like Real Madrid's narrow 5-4 aggregate win over Schalke on Tuesday afternoon.


Follow Travis Yoesting on Twitter @TYoestingETFS






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