The first month of the season is officially in the books. Seven more to go until we reach the playoffs.


Throughout the last few months, going back to the offseason, there's been whispers of how MLS just feels different this year. Part of that is expansion, and part of it is the targeting of new kinds of DPs, and part of it is the sudden, unmissable influx of Homegrown talent. The league has clearly changed.


What hasn't changed is the need to protect your home turf, especially out west. Western Conference teams above the red line went 10-0-3 at home through Week 5. Those below went 3-5-3. It's not as pronounced in the Eastern Conference, but the pattern's still there.


I made some pretty, pretty pretty bad predictions based upon what dropped home points meant for both NYCFC and Sporting KC early last season, and will not be repeating that mistake. I will say, however, that teams who can't figure out how to get the job done at home at this time of year more often than not spend November watching the rest of the league play for trophies.


I will also note that NYCFC are 9-1-2 in their last 12 home outings across all competitions dating back to last summer, so... yeah. Disastrous starts aren't necessarily fatal, and can be flipped immediately into quality and sustained runs of form.


So don't panic. But don't ignore warning signs either.


Let's head to the Bronx:




Gloves Off


NYCFC are, though four games, sitting relatively pretty and playing undeniably good soccer. There are some personnel issues yet to be worked out in midfield, but for the most part they seem to have banished the memory of that historic drubbing by Toronto FC in the playoffs and have improved upon the form that got them to the 2016 postseason in the first place.


And for this group it means the same patient, steady, build-from-the-back ethos that sets them apart stylistically from just about everybody else in the league:

<strong>Team</strong>
<strong>Possession</strong>
<strong>Passes Own Half</strong>
<strong>Passing Accuracy Own Half</strong>
New York City FC
61.91
1253
92.74
Atlanta United FC
61.21
983
88.91
LA Galaxy
58.37
786
92.24
New York Red Bulls
56.30
962
79.42
Columbus Crew SC
55.22
1139
89.99
Toronto FC
55.06
891
86.76
Seattle Sounders FC
54.63
861
88.15
San Jose Earthquakes
54.60
817
87.52
Sporting Kansas City
54.26
810
90.62
Philadelphia Union
52.37
735
86.94
Colorado Rapids
50.16
575
85.57
Minnesota United FC
48.46
1041
84.73
Real Salt Lake
47.36
659
78.76
New England Revolution
47.11
509
90.37
Portland Timbers
46.73
750
90.67
Orlando City SC
44.34
494
89.47
Montreal Impact
43.90
839
87.96
D.C. United
43.55
657
86.76
FC Dallas
41.17
492
84.35
Chicago Fire
39.70
800
87
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
39.03
591
87.14
Houston Dynamo
38.66
497
83.9

That possession number is obscene and will drop throughout the year, as will Atlanta's. What won't drop, though, is that second number, the "Passes Own Half" column. The only teams within 250 passes in their own half of NYCFC's total have both played five games to NYCFC's four, and as you can see from the final column, NYCFC also lead the league in passing accuracy in their own half.


It's who they are. They got in trouble when they tried to change that last autumn, and have learned the lesson.


The next lesson is one we might've gotten a glimpse of in Saturday's 2-1 win over San Jose:


For what it's worth I do not think the Fire will win the World Cup. I also think they're not done adding pieces this year.


4. D.C. United got their first goal, second goal, and first win of the season in a closer-than-it-should've-been 2-1 win over visiting Philadelphia on Saturday at RFK Stadium.


The win is obviously nice and absolutely necessary, and who can argue with two goals, even if they were very much products of Philly mistakes? Still, United aren't even a shadow of what they were late last season when they blitzed the league for better than 2.5 goals per game over the final three months. It didn't really matter that Bobby Boswell was back in central defense, or that Lucho Acosta is once again fully fit and pulling the strings at attacking midfield.


D.C. just haven't found their magic.


3. Did Gregg Berhalter mean to ring Justin Meram's bell with the acquisition of Kekuta Manneh late last week? If so, it worked. Meram was the star man with both goals as Columbus handed visiting Orlando City their first loss of the season in a 2-0 win.


Crew SC may have found something in youngster Artur at d-mid and Homegrown rookie center back Alex Crognale. Even as others get healthy it'll be hard to justify taking either player out of the lineup.


2. Our Pass of the Week goes to Clint Dempsey, and just go ahead and take your pick:



Neither the Sounders nor Atlanta United could find paydirt on Friday in one of the more entertaining scoreless draws you'll see in this league. 


1. Both Portland and New England found paydirt in Sunday night's weirdly low-intensity 1-1 draw at Providence Park. For a pair of teams with so many attacking options and so many classy, skillful midfielders, this match-up underdelivered on the entertainment scale.


Know who won't care at all? The Revs, who will cross the continent with an unexpected point and three of their next four at home.