FC Dallas avenged their playoff defeat of last season by beating the New York Red Bulls 2-1 at home on Sunday in Major League Soccer's first nationally televised game of the new campaign.
Both sides had new additions on show, but it was Dallas who gelled quicker to take the victory with goals from Zach Loyd and Ricardo Villar,
Defensive lapses, the bane of New York's season last campaign, were again a major problem, with both of the home side's goals easily avoidable. Despite the changes to the defense in the off-season with the departure of Tim Ream, there appeared little improvement.
Indeed it was one of the men making their MLS debut for the Red Bulls, Markus Holgersson, who was partly at fault for Dallas' opener.
With fellow new signing Wilman Conde unable to play through injury, Holgersson started alongside Stephen Keel in front of rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara.
The new look defense looked all at sea when Dallas' Dallas' Andrew Jacobson crossed in from the left after just 11 minutes. Two botched clearances, first by Holgersson and then by Dax McCarty, eventually saw the ball land at the feet of Dallas' Loyd. And the defender made no mistake in hitting a low drive through the legs of Holgersson and past Meara.
Despite the loss of Fabian Castillo, Dallas went close to adding a second before the break through new striker Blas Perez. The Panamanian pounced on another poor defensive clearance, but his shot was well saved by Meara from point-blank range.
As the half moved toward a conclusion, the Red Bulls started to exert some pressure for the first time in the match. And they came agonizingly close to getting back on level terms.
Thierry Henry utilized a strategy he famously demonstrated during his Arsenal days by taking a quick free kick to catch the opposition unawares. On this occasion, though, Henry's low strike struck the upright, with Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman well beaten.
Dallas continued to hold their lead and went two goals clear in the 61st minute, with the Red Bulls once again architects of their own downfall.
Left-back Roy Miller carelessly gave the ball away near midfield to Perez, who surged forward before playing a clever pass through to Villar. The midfielder took a perfect first touch before clipping the ball over Meara with great aplomb.
And Dallas nearly went further ahead when Carlos Rodriguez's cross found Perez just over 10 minutes later. Once again, however, Meara was able to deny the striker an MLS debut goal, making a fine near-post save.
The Red Bulls looked to make the most of their reprieve and pulled a goal back through their own debutant striker, Kenny Cooper. The former Portland Timbers player got himself on the end of Henry's lofted through ball and coolly knocked the ball over the head of the onrushing Hartman.
But there was to be no equalizer for the Red Bulls as Dallas got a morale-boosting victory to begin their 2012 season.
For the Red Bulls it was a case of the same old story as some shambolic defending completely undermined every other aspect of their play. New York have a talented roster, but if boss Hans Backe is incapable of shoring up their back line then it is hard to see the team bettering last season's playoff elimination to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With the creative force of David Ferreira still hopefully to return imminently from injury, Dallas can be confident of a positive season. On Sunday's evidence the signing of Perez appears to have given the team a focal point and a goal scoring threat up-top that they lacked in 2011.