Week 2 of the 2018 MLS season is in the books, a lively slate with plenty of action and a few surprises. Here's a few tidbits you should be aware of.
Sturdy systems shine
It’s a bit silly to spend too much time looking at the standings at this stage. But bear with me a moment. The league’s early leaders are LAFC, Columbus Crew SC, New York City FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, all with a maximum six points from two matches each.
All four have displayed cohesive tactical concepts executed by players with clear understandings of their roles and relationships on the pitch. Bob Bradley’s SoCal expansion squad has been well-drilled defensively and rapier-sharp on the counterattack. Gregg Berhalter’s Crew SC continue to flash a fluid, enterprising attacking style. NYCFC are passing, possessing and pressing at a high level despite new faces in key positions. And the Whitecaps, while not as complete yet as the other three, are using a smash-and-grab approach to good effect.
“We have a clear idea of how we want to play and I felt you saw it today,” said NYCFC’sAnton Tinnerholm after Sunday’s 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy. Success in modern MLS isn’t merely about talent, but creating a collective framework with which to maximize it.
Baby Bulls run rampant
The New York Red Bulls didn’t just thrash the Portland Timbers4-0 in their regular-season opener on Saturday. They did so with an extremely young starting XI featuring just two of their usual starters, as coach Jesse Marsch rested players with an eye towards RBNY’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal Leg 2 match vs. Club Tijuana in midweek.
Rookie Homegrown Ben Mines added his name to the league’s all-time list of youngest goalscorers by netting the opener. And when it seemed the Baby Bulls needed a nudge to put the Timbers to bed, veteran Bradley Wright-Phillips and still-a-teenager-but-already-a-starter Tyler Adams entered the match to spur a late goal flood and send Portland home hurting. RBNY are this week’s #PlayYourKids champs.
Barnburner in Bridgeview
Week 2’s free-flowing action served up two blowouts with four-goal final margins. But the biggest scoring haul, and the most heart-stopping drama, could be found in Chicago’s southern suburbs.
Toyota Park witnessed a truly wild affair between the home Fire and Sporting Kansas City. The visitors raced out to a 2-0 halftime lead before the Men in Red came storming back, banging in a barrage of three goals in 13 second-half minutes that seemed to have earned them a comeback win. Yet there was still time for KC – who it should be noted scored the fifth-fewest goals in MLS last year – to spring a few more surprises of their own…
The weekend’s nine games brought 38 goals in all, and several of them were of superb quality. Miguel Almiron's top-shelf strike was lovely to witness. Colorado Rapids rookie Niki Jackson's leaping header was beautifully brave. Felipe Gutierrez's late winner for Sporting KC displayed clockwork teamwork. And all five of LAFC's goals at Real Salt Lake were well-constructed collective efforts.
Salute the centurions
Two of the league’s deadliest strikers marked notable milestones this weekend. Down in Houston, Kei Kamara bagged his 100th regular-season goal in the Whitecaps’ 2-1 win over the Dynamo (one of his former teams to boot), just the 10th player in MLS history to reach that rarified level of productivity. And in the Bronx, David Villa scored the game-winner for NYCFC, his 64th regular-season goal, in his 100th overall MLS match (including postseason action).
A few more notes from the record books: Atlanta United’s home opener drew 72,035 spectators to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, breaking the Five Stripes’ own record for the largest single-game crowd in league history. And with two goals and three assists vs. RSL, LAFC marksman Diego Rossi became just the sixth player in MLS annals to be involved in five goals in one game.
What key Week 2 happenings did I miss? Let me know in the comments section below.