I'm back home in California and am just about done digesting Week 1 of the 2017 season, which means it's time to set our sights at least a little bit on Week 2. The goal is to figure out whether what we've seen thus far – preseason and the opener – is the start of a trend, or an anomaly.
With that in mind, here are a few notes from the week that was, and a few thoughts on how they'll apply to the week to come:
The Kids Are Alright
MLS teams invested heavily in younger players this offseason, especially on the attacking side of the ball. These are the early dividends:
So teams aren't just shopping younger – they're actually trusting the kids they sign to go out there and get results, and it's not just the goalscorers. The Atlanta vs. New York game tilted when Jesse Marsch inserted Homegrown attacker Derrick Etienne (20) in order to change the team's shape, and Montreal subbed in 17-year-old Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla when they were looking for an equalizer.
There's no reason to think this pattern is going to change in the weeks to come.
The youngest regular in MLS may very well be the most talented player in the league, to the point that opposing coaches are gameplanning to stop him. "Basically the vast majority of my weeks leading up to this was spent on how to shut down a 16-year-old kid" is what Jim Curtin said about Alphonso Davies after the Union got out of Vancouver with a scoreless draw.
There's probably a bit of hyperbole involved there, but Davies is a nightmare to plan for with his combination of touch, vision, balance and agility. Within three minutes he'd managed to leave Keegan Rosenberry – probably the best 1v1 defensive fullback in the league – for dead out on the touchline:
Alphonso Davies is a nightmare in isolation, even for as good a 1v1 defender as Rosenberry. pic.twitter.com/r6VJcQ5h8L— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) March 7, 2017
(Happy note for Union fans: That's 20-year-old Homegrown Derrick Jones with the heady track-back and clearance to cut out that cross. Jones was very good in his MLS debut.)
Davies is arguably even more dangerous when he cuts inside, because he has the vision to combine that a lot of wingers lack. And if you send a second defender at him, he's liable to scorch both of them.
My guess is Carl Robinson will bring Davies off the bench on Saturday at San Jose, and instead save him for next Tuesday's CONCACAF Champions League semifinal opener at Tigres.
Vytautas Andriuskevicius is going to have himself a year on the overlap given the talent in Portland's front six and the fact that Darlington Nagbe will constantly vacate the left flank for him. This allowed Portland to constantly cram numbers into the box during their 5-1 win over Minnesota United, and I think that'll be the theme for the Timbers.
Regardless, expect Vytas to function essentially as a wingback this season:
per @MLSAnalyst preseason point, Vytas Andriuskevicius's average touch location was about 8 yards higher upfield than last year's average— Kevin Minkus (@kevinminkus) March 4, 2017
One Number to Note: RSL playmaker Albert Rusnak had a debut that toggled between "functional" and "promising," and created four chances in the process. As with all newcomers, time will be the ultimate arbiter. But the very early returns should have RSL fans pretty pleased even though their team could only come away with a point at home.