Wait, we're a month into this thing?

Matchday 5 means it's been four weeks since MLS is Back weekend, and some truths are starting to solidify across the league. Some pressing questions are emerging in each market, too.

With another 14-game Saturday on tap, here's a quick-hit look at what awaits. And be sure to keep in mind: roughly 90 players are away on international duty.

Key watch info

As some schedule listing reminders…

  • Apple TV - Free = games are free to watch; all you need is an Apple ID.
  • Apple TV - MLS Season Pass = an MLS Season Pass subscription is required.

Studio shows

If you want to keep track of everything…

  • Tune into the MLS 360 whip-around show for live look-ins and analysis of all the key moments from every match.
  • We've also got MLS Countdown as a lead-in and MLS Wrap-Up at the end of the night.

Select games are still viewable via national TV partners in USA and Canada, but gone are regional and local broadcasts. Instead, MLS Season Pass brings no blackouts (any device/any location) and multiple commentary options – English, Spanish, French (Canadian teams) and a club’s home radio broadcast.

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy

Portland: When will the walking wounded start to return? Portland’s roster build isn’t perfection, sure, but no MLS club can withstand the sheer volume of key talent that’s been listed as “out” on the Timbers' availability report. DP attackers Yimmi Chara and Evander, forwards Felipe Mora and Dairon Asprilla, and midfielders David Ayala and Cristhian Paredes have all missed time… yikes.

LA: There’s precision, but where’s the end product? The Galaxy have completed an MLS-high 88% of their passes and their 54.7% possession is top-five in the league. But there are still just two goals to show for it, and LA are in danger of going four games winless to start 2023. The wingers aren’t yet producing, Dejan Joveljic is on international duty (Serbia), and Chicharito’s recovering from a preseason hamstring injury. Riqui Puig hasn't scored or assisted yet either.

Charlotte FC vs. New York Red Bulls

Charlotte: Is Enzo Copetti a 15-20 goal scorer in MLS? The club’s marquee offseason signing is on pace for that range during his debut season, arriving from Argentina’s Racing Club. A DP No. 9, Copetti will be further leaned upon with Karol Swiderski (Poland) away on international duty. If Copetti scores again, it’ll mark his first goal at Bank of America Stadium.

New York: Does Dante Vanzeir get his first Red Bulls start? The potential club-record signing came off the bench last weekend and supplied the game-winning goal as full-time loomed. But the forward, acquired from Belgian top-flight side Union SG for a reported $5.3 million, has played just 54 minutes off the bench so far. As head coach Gerhard Struber integrates Vanzeir, surely he’ll become the guy and not just a late-game substitute.

Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United

Columbus: How badly will they miss Cucho Hernández and Lucas Zelarayán? The Colombian striker is reportedly out for 3-5 weeks with an unspecified knee injury, a development that further hinders the Crew’s attack with Zelarayán (Armenia) away on international duty. Without those two DPs, new Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy will have to get awfully creative in the final third. We’re talking about two Best XI presented by Continental Tire-level players.

Atlanta: Does a statement Luiz Araújo game await? Both Thiago Almada (Argentina) and Giorgos Giakoumakis (Greece) are away on international duty, leaving one DP (Araújo) behind to spearhead the Five Stripes’ attack. The Brazilian winger is on track for his most productive MLS season yet, already chipping in 2g/1a across four matches. Without key pieces of Atlanta’s complementary attack, we’ll see if Araújo can keep meeting expectations of his big-money price tag (reported $12 million).

D.C. United vs. New England Revolution

D.C.: Can they pitch a shutout? The Black-and-Red’s eight goals against are tied for the second-worst total in MLS. Small sample size, it’s early, et cetera… but that’s a worrisome trend early on. With often four new starters in their “back five,” the group’s clearly developing an understanding of each other.

New England: Does Carles Gil return? The Revs have played it somewhat coy around the muscle knock their DP playmaker picked up two weekends ago, but he’s also not listed on their most recent availability report. With Dylan Borrero (Colombia) away on international duty, New England’s offense gets a major boost if their No. 10 can contribute – even if that’s off the bench. He’s a key-passes machine.

Inter Miami CF vs. Chicago Fire FC

Miami: What does the midfield balance look like? Miami have a Gregore-sized hole at the No. 6 spot after the Brazilian captain sustained a long-term foot injury two weekends ago. Every team has an irreplaceable player or two and, well, Gregore may fit that bill for the Herons. Let’s see if head coach Phil Neville and his charges can prove that working theory wrong.

Chicago: Gut-check time? It’s pretty early for a question like that, but it’s also a valid one after the Fire allowed Cincy to rally for a 3-3 draw last weekend. Head coach Ezra Hendrickson, speaking midweek, said they searched for silver linings but also had a sit-down talk about the performance: “It's the third time now. This time we didn't lose the game, but it felt like a loss to us.” Long-suffering Fire fans know those feelings all too well…

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City SC

Philadelphia: Who steps up? Combine injuries (Andre Blake) and international duty (Dániel Gazdag, José Martínez), and three lockdown starters are missing for Philly, arguably a fourth if you toss homegrown Jack McGlynn into that mix. The Union have a deep enough roster to sustain those absences, and answering the call means possibly equaling the MLS record for the longest regular-season home winning streak (12 games by the San Jose Earthquakes across 2001-02).

Orlando: Are the CCL cobwebs shaken off? Orlando gave Tigres a commendable fight in the Round of 16, only getting eliminated from the continental competition on away goals. But the time for lineup rotation is over, and the Lions must settle on a preferred XI in the weeks ahead. That won’t come right away with goalkeeper Pedro Gallese (Peru) and winger Facundo Torres (Uruguay) most notably away on international duty, but it’s task No. 1 for the Lions to possibly climb the Eastern Conference table.

Austin FC vs. Colorado Rapids

Austin: Where is the secondary scoring? Head coach Josh Wolff has called it out, meaning how Austin can’t solely rely on Sebastián Driussi to carry their attack. There’s merit to his frustrations, too, as new striker Gyasi Zardes (0g/0a), DP winger Emiliano Rigoni (0g/0a) and winger Diego Fagúndez (0g/1a) are all slow out of the gates. As special as Driussi is, the Verde & Black simply need more dynamism and end-product.

Colorado: Who stops the bleeding? The cold, hard facts: Colorado sit bottom of the overall league table with a 0W-3L-1D record and negative-6 goal differential, plus captain Jack Price is out for the year with an Achilles injury. A result at Q2 Stadium would prove massive in improving the vibes and alleviating worries surrounding the club.

Houston Dynamo FC vs. New York City FC

Houston: Where does Houston’s midfield trio stack up league-wide? When they’re humming, the combination of Héctor Herrera, Artur and Coco Carrasquilla (away with Panama) drives the Dynamo forward and raises their ceiling. It’s undoubtedly the strength of new head coach Ben Olsen’s team, especially if Herrera’s commitment levels reflect the Best XI potential he’s capable of. As that group’s flown under the radar, let’s not lose sight of their quality.

New York City: Can Thiago Martins be the new backline anchor? After signing from City Football Group sister side Yokohama F. Marinos (Japan) last winter, he faced his fair share of criticisms amid some early-season struggles. The Brazilian defender has a DP roster tag, only increasing expectations. But he looks more comfortable early into 2023, taking a key role with Alex Callens departing for LaLiga in the winter. And with Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg) away on international duty this weekend, Thiago Martins has another chance to prove he can lead NYCFC’s defense.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders FC

Kansas City: Which part gives? With just two points through four matches, SKC are off to the second-worst start in club history after taking no points through four games in 1999. But they’re also unbeaten in their last seven at home (W6 D1), allowing just one goal over the last five matches at Children's Mercy Park. Dániel Sallói scored their first goal of 2023 last weekend, a sign of early struggles in front of goal.

Seattle: Can the "road warriors" version of Seattle wake up? The Sounders are winless in their last 10 road matches (D1 L9), including losing the last five in a row. The 10 straight away games without a win is the longest such run in the club's MLS history. With several key starters away on international duty – fullbacks Alex Roldan (El Salvador) and Nouhou (Cameroon), as well as striker Raúl Ruidíaz (Peru) – the task gets more challenging.

Minnesota United FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Minnesota: Which unexpected player seizes the moment? Minnesota are in double-digit absence territory when combining Emanuel Reynoso not being around, international call-ups and injuries. Head coach Adrian Heath tried to frame it as an opportunity at training midweek: “Some of the younger guys will be on the bench and maybe get on the field, so when one door closes, it opens for other people.” Amid this 2W-0L-1D start, it’d be remarkable if Minnesota avoid a letdown with so many key pieces not available.

Vancouver: Will the 2021 Brian White please stand up? That’s when the striker had 12g/5a in a shade over 1,900 minutes following his trade from the New York Red Bulls. Last year, White had just 4g/1a in nearly 1,700 minutes. With DP striker Sergio Córdova potentially sidelined through mid-May, the Whitecaps need White – or someone like MLS NEXT Pro-proven Simon Becher – to lead the line and emerge from this slow start.

Nashville SC vs. FC Cincinnati

Nashville: Can Hany Mukhtar end his goal drought? I did a double-take when looking this up, but the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Golden Boot presented by Audi winner hasn’t scored since a mid-September 2022 draw at Austin FC, a seven-game stretch across the regular season and playoffs. Mukhtar’s got two assists in there, but Nashville need their attacking hub to come alive.

Cincinnati: Can Brandon Vazquez end his goal drought? Keeping with the theme above, Cincy’s star striker has gone five games without scoring a goal in MLS (though he did score on his US men’s national team debut in January). After a Best XI season where Vazquez had 18g/8a across 33 games, the floodgates will probably open once he finds a breakthrough. Vazquez is doing plenty of solid target-man work in the meantime, showing he’s a more complete player.

Real Salt Lake vs. St. Louis CITY SC

Salt Lake: Does Pablo Ruiz make his 2023 debut? The Argentine midfielder was away from RSL getting his green card, but he’s back in the squad and available for selection. With Braian Ojeda (Paraguay) away on international duty, there’s also a need to fill the hole left by the on-loan Nottingham Forest player. Ruiz, in 2022, had a breakout year with 2g/5a in 29 games.

St. Louis: Will another historical milestone get cleared? After becoming the first expansion club in MLS history to win each of their first four games, St. Louis move onto their next hurdle. Only one club in MLS history has won at least five games to start a season (excluding the shootout era): 2012 Sporting Kansas City, who rattled off seven consecutive wins to start the year. With a league-high seven different goalscorers, CITY SC will like their chances.

LAFC vs. FC Dallas

LAFC: Will the bounce-back trend continue? Quite remarkably, LAFC have never lost consecutive home matches in all competitions throughout the club's history (debuted in 2018). That’s front of mind because the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions are back at BMO Stadium after losing 2-1 to Costa Rica’s Alajuelense in the CCL Round of 16 (advanced on aggregate). They’ll have three key players away on international duty: forward Dénis Bouanga (Gabon), midfielder José Cifuentes (Ecuador) and left back Diego Palacios (Ecuador).

Dallas: What does Alan Velasco’s sophomore season have in store? The Argentine winger already has 2g/1a in four games, looking to build off his 6g/7a output in 26 matches last year. As a club-record signing for FC Dallas, it’s fair to raise expectations now he’s got a full preseason completed and is acclimated to the league. Velasco is also a show-stopper by consistently offering up AT&T 5G Goal of the Week nominees.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Toronto FC

San Jose: Who steps in for Carlos Gruezo as a defensive midfielder? San Jose were due to miss their DP during the international break anyways (he was named to Ecuador’s squad), then Gruezo picked up an injury last weekend. The good news is Luchi Gonzalez said midweek Gruezo “shouldn’t be out very long.” But the new head coach also quickly noted how he was “brought in to be kind of this engine in the middle, this enforcer, ball recovery, physicality, play simple to get the ball to other players, and just really be an anchor in the midfield.” Those qualities aren’t easy to replace.

Toronto: How much are the Canadian absences felt? Four key players – fullback Richie Laryea, midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio, and striker Ayo Akinola – are all away for Canada’s Concacaf Nations League games. Add in how Lorenzo Insigne remains out with a groin injury and Toronto’s depth will be tested big time. That could be the Achilles heel of an apparent top-heavy group.