Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty hold the Brimstone Cup
Chicago Fire

Stars, surges and stingy D: Top 10 talking points of the MLS season so far

When MLS fans talk this season — or, perhaps, at this point in the season — what are they talking about?

Is it the struggles of longtime powerhouses, the rise of unlikely dominators, the hot newcomer, or the stirring comeback?

Most likely, yes. Talking points and storylines abound this season (as they always do in a league where so much can change from year to year). Here, as selected by the editorial staff, are the top 10 so far.

10. Club and Country

It's been a big year for new United States citizen Dom Dwyer and Canadian teen phenom Alphonso Davies — and just in time for a big international tournament.

Both were called up for their respective national teams ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup — and both have made immediate impacts, Dwyer netting in each of his first two appearances and Davies marking his debut with a brace in Canada's Gold Cup opener. 

Canada are now waiting for Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla to become naturalized, while Jesse Gonzalez has chosen the Yanks over Mexico and England-born Jack Harrison is looking to follow in Dwyer's footsteps. Meanwhile, Kellyn Acosta and Darlington Nagbe have emerged as key components for the USMNT in Bruce Arena's second stint at the helm.

9. Dallas and Vancouver Represent in CCL

Ryan Hollingshead's incredible story of freak accident and determined recovery was the big narrative in Dallas this past offseason — until the team started their CONCACAF Champions League run, reaching the semifinals before falling to eventual champions Pachuca. To this day, Dallas still feel they were the better club.

On the other side of the bracket, the Vancouver Whitecaps also reached the semifinals — and after Brek Shea scored in the third minute of the second leg, the Whitecaps were within 2-1 of Tigres on aggregate. UANL roared back after the break to ice it with two goals, leaving Whitecaps fans to wonder what might have happened had Shea and Yordy Reyna not fallen injured. 

8. Welcome to the Blue Wall

Let this sink in for a second: Through 20 matches, Sporting Kansas City have conceded just 14 times. That's a record-setting pace on all sorts of fronts for a defense whose play has been typified by Ike Opara's dominance in the air and on the ground. (Opara has found a scoring touch as well, including punctuating the first half of his season with an insane bicycle kick).

The question with Sporting is at the other end of the pitch, where their 24 goals this season are tied for seventh in the 12-team Western Conference. Still, as their players are so fond of saying — if you can't score on them, you can't beat them.

7. Reds Rolling

Toronto FC largely stood pat after their shootout loss to Seattle in last year's MLS Cup Final, and the strategy has paid off. This year, they look even more formidable than they did in 2016 — and they looked pretty darn good back then.

With Victor Vazquez emerging, Raheem Edwards racking up a breakout season and a spot in next year's CCL knockout stage assured by a second straight Canadian Championship, these are heady days indeed at BMO Field. Can the Reds keep it up into December and become the first Canadian side to win MLS Cup?

6. When It's Time to Change ...

Pablo Mastroeni, he of the metaphysical postmatch musings, is still on the job in Colorado despite the Rapids' downturn from last year's winning form. Where the "Spirit vs. Stats" debate has played in his favor so far, no argument could save Jeff Cassar's job at Real Salt Lake or Dominic Kinnear's in San Jose.

Things have gone pretty well so far in the Chris Leitch era for the Earthquakes, but new RSL boss Mike Petke has had his share of struggles with injury, international absences, and a rumored rift with striker Yura Movsisyan.

5. Home Sweet Houston, Away Sweet ... Anywhere but LA

For unexpected moments this season, there might never be anything to rival the Philadelphia Union's Haris Medjunanin talking a referee out of giving a red card — to an opponent.

But on a team-wide, season-long scale (so far, of course), it would be hard to match what's happened with Cubo Torres and the Houston Dynamo.

After getting skunked in 2016, Torres — now surrounded by a cadre of dangerous Hondurans in Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto — is tearing it up with 12 goals for a Dynamo team that's been unbeatable at BBVA Compass Stadium at 8W-0L-2D. (Okay, so they're terrible away from there 0W-7L-2D, but don't fairy tale heroes always run into trouble on the road?)

At the other end of the spectrum, the LA Galaxy have been great away from the StubHub Center this season (5W-3L-1D). At home? Not so much — as in one win in nine tries' worth of not so much (1W-5L-3D). Oof. 

4. New York is ... Blue?

Yup. Or at least, it's a lot less red than it used to be.

New York City FC picked up its first road win in the NY Derby this season, but that's only part of the story. Patrick Vieira has the third-year side in solid contention in the Eastern Conference, while the New York Red Bulls have been up and down.

David Villa is reprising his 2016 MVP form for NYCFC, and U-20 World Cup star Yangel Herrera has unseated Andrea Pirlo in central midfield — and new additions Alex Ring, Alexander Callens, Sean Johnson and Rodney Wallace have all proved themselves difference-makers at their positions.

The Red Bulls clearly miss Dax McCarty (and that's all we'll say about him until further down this list), and neither Bradley Wright-Phillips nor Sacha Kljestan have been able to catch the same fire they did last season. The offseason departure of Ali Curtis, Marsch's early-season trip to Salzburg, Austria — and his return to Europe for a coaching license during NY Derby Week have added another level of distraction to the roller-coaster ride that is the Red Bulls' season.

3. Orlando Blooms Early, But ...

Man, things started out great for Orlando City SC, didn't they? The shiny new stadium, the imposing Wall, the unbeaten home start (5W-0L-1D), the emergence of Colombian forward Carlos Rivas and the impact of former US international Jonathan Spector ... and then came the plummet.

Cyle Larin's DUI arrest ... the head of a supporters group posting referee Ted Unkel's business number on Twitter after a controversial red card ... a slide down the table ... and now, coach Jason Kreis insisting that officials aren't giving the Lions any breaks at home because of their raucous fans.

As Bananarama once put it, "It's a cruel, cruel summer."

2. Lights out in Georgia

Say this for Atlanta United: the Five Stripes know how to throw an expansion-season party.

While fellow newcomers Minnesota United had to weather some heavy early-season storm (though their ship, to be fair, seems far more righted of late), Atlanta's brand of United has been the shinier of the two in 2017. From drawing the world's fourth-largest crowd on a weekend filled with European action, to winning a snowy Expansion Derby in Minneapolis, to making the Golden Spike a thing, it's been nothing but Hotlanta out of the gate.

Granted, things are a little messy in the back – but isn't that true of all startups? There's plenty to see up front, though, with Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba, Yamil Asad and Miguel Almiron backing up the hype. Sure, it's still a shakedown cruise, but this ship is picking up steam as the season rolls on.

1. Rekindled

Remember the cringeworthy moment when a reporter asked newly arrived Bastian Schweinsteiger about Chicago's chances of winning the World Cup? That's about the only unpleasantness the Fire have had to endure this year — and while they might not all collect medals in Russia next year, they've put themselves in contention for silverware with a run from the Eastern Conference basement in 2016 to the top of the Supporters' Shield standings.

Schweinsteiger has been a creative rock in the midfield. Nemanja Nikolic has been a terror up top. (Sixteen goals in 18 matches, a serious threat to destroy the single-season scoring record, and he says he can do better? That is scary.) And remember McCarty, the guy the Red Bulls traded away in the offseason? Chicago definitely got the long end of that deal. McCarty, fueled by ill feelings about how the New York front office handled the deal, has been immense in Chicago's turnaround and has played himself back onto the USMNT to boot.

Talk about waking from the embers, huh?

So ... what are your top talking points of the 2017 season so far? Hit us up in the comment section below, and let us know your thoughts.