26 takeaways - 2020 - week 1

26 takeaways from Week 1 of the season

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every Monday, the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff will recap the match week that was by offering takeaways for all 26 teams in the league. This week, blurbs were written by Editor-in Chief Simon Borg, Managing Editor Jason Le Miere, Senior Editors Nick Rosano and Ben Baer, and contributors Tom Bogert and Charles Boehm.


Atlanta United FC

Obviously, the big thought here is Josef-related. It's brutal, cruel and devastating. We've written a lot on Josef Martinez's season-ending injury, so I'll refer you to Sam Jones on what his loss means to Atlanta and Greg Seltzer on potential replacements

As for a non-Josef thought: Emerson Hyndman's permanent acquisition wasn't cheap but he's off to a quick start in 2020. While the midfield group will collectively be replacing Darlington Nagbe, Hyndman's price tag suggests he's going to have a key share of that. Even outside of his beautiful game-winning goal, which won't be a regular thing, his work in possession was strong. —TB

Chicago Fire FC

The Fire put up a good fight against the MLS Cup champs without many of their newest signings. Getting confidence for their new striker Robert Beric was definitely a plus. —BB

FC Cincinnati

FC Cincy looked lost in the first half, but they showed some promising signs of light while chasing the game with Jurgen Locadia up top. It will be fun to see him get a full 90 minutes soon. —BB

Colorado Rapids

The Colorado Rapids have quietly gotten a lot younger over the past year or so, and seem to have improved at the same time. As Senior Editor Ben Baer recently calculated, the average age of the Mile High Club’s roster has dropped from 26.48 at the start of last season to 25.1 in 2020, and the young’uns aren’t just passengers. The average age of Saturday’s starting XI vs. D.C. United was under 27 – and if you remove veterans Drew Moor (36) and Kei Kamara (35), it drops all the way below 25.

“It's a young group – shoot, me and Drew Moor really messes up their age group over there,” noted Kamara with a giggle.The well-traveled Kamara mentored teen phenom Alphonso Davies in Vancouver and he said he and Moor are happy to do the same for the ‘Pids kids: “Hopefully whatever we're able to inject to the rest of the boys, then that's what's going to help the group out.” —CB

Columbus Crew SC

Three points are in the bag thanks in large part to playing 87 minutes up a man. NYCFC sat back for much of the match but the Crew will want to work on building up through the middle as they overwhelmingly relied on crosses. Their 29 from open play were the most by any team this weekend. —BB

FC Dallas

I've had to talk myself out of spending this entire space as an ode to Paxton Pomykal's mustache

Dallas are one of the most balanced and deepest teams in the league. Zdenek Ondrasek continued his hot goal scoring form from the end of last year while Tanner Tessmann went from Clemson football recruit to starting central midfielder on opening day without much of a blip. —TB

D.C. United

“We got away from building the game. And just there's too many transition moments where we were running back and forth,” said D.C. United coach Ben Olsen after his team’s 2-1 comeback loss to Colorado. “We lost the middle of the park.”

As much faith as Olsen has shown in the engine-room duo of Felipe and Junior Moreno, it’s worth wondering if one possible solution is nearby: at right back. Russell Canouse has been filling that role adeptly for some time now, but with his bite and distribution may yet prove to be more impactful in D.C.’s central midfield.  —CB

Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo did a lot of things right against the LA Galaxy, and still had to hang on to a home point for dear life in the face of Cristian Pavon and LA’s other blue-chip talents.

“The margins are so small,” noted veteran fullback Zarek Valentin. “Give these guys a half a step and look what happens: The ball gets put in the upper corner.”

Can Tab Ramos’ side hold their own this year in terms of difference-making stars? That question falls on the shoulders of Darwin Quintero and Alberth Elis, both of whom sat this one out with injury concerns. —CB

LAFC

The reigning Supporters’ Shield champs weren’t at their best against a debuting Inter Miami, which was understandable given their heroics in CCL against Club Leon less than 72 hours earlier. But they still had Carlos Vela, and the 2019 MLS MVP was the difference between the sides thanks to a sumptuous chipped goal to celebrate his 31st birthday in style. As Bob Bradley said afterward, there was little point in talking about anything else. —JLM

LA Galaxy

Set aside Chicharito for a moment. Week 1 suggested that it’s actually Jonathan dos Santos who is the LA Galaxy’s most pivotal Mexican international.

The tempo-setting center-mid missed most of preseason with a groin issue and his absence was palpable as the Houston Dynamo harried and harassed LA up the gut for long periods on Saturday, leaving Cheech isolated and annoyed up top. JdS is expected back soon, and he can’t get match fit quickly enough for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side. —CB

Inter Miami CF

Going on the road to the record-breaking 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners was always going to be a daunting baptism in MLS for Inter Miami. Still, there were plenty of positives for the expansion team to take from the game, including the performances at the back of Nico Figal and Ben Sweat. The best news for Miami? They won’t be coming up against Carlos and Vela and LAFC every week. —JLM

Minnesota United FC

Minnesota had to hang in there during the early stages of their trip to Providence Park on Sunday night but, even if Ike Opara gave up a penalty, they showed the sort of resilience that helped them make such a dramatic improvement in 2019. In the second half they prospered on the break, chiefly through wide man Ethan Finlay. Perhaps the best news, though, was newly arrived striker Luis Amarilla getting off the mark on his debut and suggesting his bold preseason goal prediction may not have been far-fetched. One down, 24 to go. —JLM

Montreal Impact

Again, it wasn’t always pretty but again, three days after advancing in the Champions League, Thierry Henry and Montreal got a positive result, and it’s tough to argue with that when your team is as tired and hit by injury as the Impact. This outing was also a definite improvement on their home game against Saprissa in terms of attacking endeavor (in part because Montreal didn't *need* to score at any point on Thursday), though it’s tough to see them contending for a playoff spot without more help on both sides of the ball. —NR

Nashville SC

Even with a loss, it was a successful inaugural MLS match for Nashville. The spectacle was great, the crowd filled and the squad delivered a strong performance against one of MLS's best. The scheduling doesn't get any easier, though, with road matches at Portland and Toronto next. Can one of the attackers catch fire in the next few weeks? —TB

New England Revolution

A disappointing season debut for a team that's expected to make some noise in the East, but don’t go selling your Revs stock quite yet. They would’ve almost certainly walked away with a point had Tajon Buchanan converted a great chance in the 86th minute (its xG value of 0.88 was the highest of any shot in Week 1) instead of putting it off the post. Carles Gil’s absence is also noteworthy in this one, and his presence more than anyone’s may determine whether the Revs are fighting for the final playoff spots or fighting for home-field advantage down the stretch. —NR

New York City FC

Sure, the early Maxime Chanot red card made the going tough for NYCFC in Columbus, but to toss the match away is to dismiss what was a tactically exceptional showing from a team forced to play down a man for 87 minutes. Despite the loss, the match was another sign that new manager Ronny Deila has already developed a strong feel for his squad. NYCFC were unfazed after being reduced to 10 men and they played with the same air of confidence that they’ve shown in Champions League play (and Ronald Matarrita looks to have regained his best form). Deila might want to avoid any significant lineup shuffling and keep his starting lineup humming in Toronto (sans the suspended Chanot) so they can maintain their positive vibes heading into the first leg against Tigres on March 11. —SB

New York Red Bulls

Back in 2018, Florian Valot took MLS by storm. The Frenchman had three goals and four assists in his first eight games before going down with a torn ACL. He came back in 2019, started the first two games and promptly tore his ACL again 125 minutes into the season. He’s now back and contributed two assists in the season opener, proving that he may be the playmaker the Red Bulls need. —BB

Orlando City SC

The bad news for the start of the Oscar Pareja era? Orlando couldn’t find the back of the net at home. The good news? Of the five shots RSL took at Exploria Stadium on Saturday night, only one (from outside the box) was on target), one more (also from outside the box) was off target, and the three others (two from outside the box) were blocked. It was a good defensive showing for a team that has not historically seen many of them, and once the suspended Nani returns for the Lions, there will be more to look forward to in the opposition final third. —NR

Philadelphia Union

After a bit of a disjointed preseason, with the visa process routinely taking key players from the team as well as Kai Wagner's injury, the Union didn't catch top form in Week 1 against Dallas. Also: Warren Creavalle as the club's starting No. 6 probably wasn't the plan this offseason. More is expected from Matej Oravec or Jose Andres Martinez in 2020. —TB

Portland Timbers

The Timbers began strongly at home against fellow 2019 playoff competitors Minnesota United on Sunday night and will feel hard done by that lively debutant Felipe Mora was not awarded a penalty in the early stages. But the second half saw Portland toss away that momentum by conceding two similar goals on counter-attacks down their left side. “Stay disciplined,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese repeated afterward as the lesson his team need to learn quickly. —JLM

Real Salt Lake

This is clearly a team still working on its attacking identity following the departure of Jefferson Savarino in the offseason. There are some interesting new pieces on the roster, not least of which are new arrivals Justin Meram and Giuseppe Rossi (both subs in Orlando, it should be noted), as well as Venezuelan youngster Jeizon Ramirez (not in the 18), but they generated very little in the way of attacking threat in Week 1. RSL also have a No. 1 'keeper not named Nick Rimando for the first time since 2006, and the good news is the current holder of that designation, Zac MacMath, looked comfortable between the sticks while debuting for his new team. —NR

San Jose Earthquakes

New year, same Goonies. The spirit of 2012 is still alive and well in the Bay thanks to their big offseason buy, Oswaldo Alanis. You’ve probably all seen the defender’s stunning free-kick to earn a point against last years’ MLS Cup finalists, but he also looks like a clear upgrade on the defensive side of the ball. Still, they were outplayed by Toronto for good portions of this one, and there’s more work to be done if they want to improve on their 2019 showing. —NR

Seattle Sounders

After a rough Thursday night, anything but a win would have led to groans in Seattle. The late comeback meant those didn’t happen but the absence of Nicolas Lodeiro looms large. —BB

Sporting KC

So far, so good for Sporting KC's key winter imports. Gadi Kinda amplified the whispers of his strong preseason with a complete midfield performance, Alan Pulido scored the type of poacher's finish you pay millions of dollars for, while Roberto Puncec was *fine*.

Back to Kinda: Peter Vermes will have a good headache in midfield when Felipe Gutierrez returns, having to pick three of Ilie, Roger Espinoza, Guitierrez, Kinda and Gianluca Busio on a weekly basis. —TB

Toronto FC

The last-minute free-kick equalizer from a near-impossible angle should probably be less worrying than the goal Toronto gave up just seconds after going two goals up:

Those are the kinds of goals that blunt momentum, and this one let San Jose back into a match that the Reds had largely controlled until that point. On the plus side, Alejandro Pozuelo looks ready to pick up where he left off in 2019, and is doing his best to make the narrative around TFC’s woes from the penalty spot a thing of the past. —NR

Vancouver Whitecaps

The good news after a 3-1 opening day loss? Winger David Milinkovic provided a quality assist on his debut. Last season, new wingers Lucas Venuto (1,132 minutes) and Lass Bangoura (634 minutes) each had one assist the entire campaign. Young DP forward Joaquin Ardaiz (405 minutes) had zero goal contributions. —TB

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