While the league’s newest clubs have drawn a lot of the attention thus far in 2017, last year’s final two teams left standing have yet to win in their opening two matches.
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PST takes a look at some of the most intriguing storylines as Major League Soccer heads into the second week of the season.
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Champions welcome Red Bulls in home opener
The Seattle Sounders needed two late goals last weekend to earn a draw against the Montreal Impact, and their first home match of the year presents another challenge.
Although the New York Red Bulls haven’t looked their best in the opening two weeks, Jesse Marsch’s side has come away with six points, and are one of only four teams in the league to win their first two matches.
Brian Schmetzer’s side continues to play without Brad Evans at the back, who is battling a calf injury, and Aaron Kovar but otherwise the Sounders are relatively healthy. The good news for the Sounders is that Clint Dempsey has started the season well, and more importantly he’s overcome issues regarding his heart that kept him sidelined throughout the conclusion of 2016.
There’s little doubt that Seattle will get it together and be in contention at the top of the West again this season, but the Red Bulls certainly present a difficult matchup.
Fire look to remain hot against Atlanta
Atlanta had reason to be disappointed after its opening week defeat against the Red Bulls, but Tata Martino’s team showed just how good they can be in Minnesota.
Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez (3 goals this season) each netted two goals against the Loons in Atlanta’s six-goal outburst up north, but now the newcomers take on a revamped Fire side that has started the season unbeaten.
The Fire midfield has shown the most notable improvement so far since the acquisition of Dax McCarty in the center of the park, while Nemanja Nikolic has provided a strong scoring presence up top after his successful career in Europe.
How bad will it get for Minnesota?
Two games. 11 goals allowed. Definitely not the ideal start for Adrian Heath and co.
The transition for expansion sides has never been easy and certainly well-documented, but did anyone think Minnesota United would be this bad through two weeks?
Meeting a hungry Portland Timbers side (one that looks good enough to win the league) in Week 1 surely wasn’t a favorable matchup to kick off the season, but falling 6-1 to Atlanta in the Loons’ home opener last weekend only piled on the negative sentiment towards Minnesota.
Kevin Molino has already proven to be a strong signing for the Loons, notching the team’s lone goal a week ago, but the rest of the squad has yet to catch up, particularly defensively. Minnesota’s 11 goals conceded is the most an expansion side has ever allowed in the opening two weeks of a season.
Earthquakes, Dynamo face difficult road tests
The two non-playoff sides from last season have started off better than anyone could have expected, and it’s good news for the two clubs that play in the congested Western Conference.
Historically both teams have shared plenty of success in MLS, but the last few years have been anything but that. The Earthquakes have not qualified for the postseason since 2012, while the Dynamo have only done their San Jose counterparts one better by last reaching the playoffs in 2013.
Both clubs have put out predominantly young rosters this season, while mixing in experienced talents like Chris Wondolowski and A.J. DeLaGarza to round out each team. The Earthquakes and Dynamo each played nine starters last week under the age of 30, and both squads are having tremendous early success because of this.
The Dynamo have benefitted from strong performances from players like Erick Torres and Romell Quioto, while Americans Nick Lima, Tommy Thompson and Fatai Alashe have put a stronghold on the right side of the field for the Quakes.
D.C., Crew look sluggish to start season
D.C. United was a playoff team in 2016, while the Columbus Crew are just one season removed from appearing in the MLS Cup final.
It’s way too early to make projections, but both sides have underwhelmed so far through two weeks, especially in the back. New York City FC exposed the D.C. back four last Sunday with a four-goal performance, while the Crew allowed a trio of goals to get past Zack Steffen down in Houston.
Meanwhile, the two sides have a combined two goals to show for their efforts, with both coming from the Crew. D.C. could receive a massive lift if Luciano Acosta is deemed fit to play against the Crew. The diminutive Argentine attacker was a prominent figure in the D.C. attack last season, and he’ll be valuable once again in 2017 if Ben Olsen’s side is to find success.
For the Crew, Ola Kamara and Ethan Finlay have found the back of the net this season but Greg Berhalter’s team will need more production out of attacking players like Federico Higuain and Justin Meram.