26 Takeaways - Week 2 - 2020: Alan Pulido celebrates a goal for Sporting KC
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What we learned from Week 2 of the 2020 MLS regular season | 26 Takeaways

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, and Senior Editors Nick Rosano and Ben Baer.


Atlanta United FC

While much of the talk since Josef Martinez’s ACL tear has revolved around who Atlanta bring in to replace him, it is at least equally important that players already at the club step up in the prolific striker’s absence. Against Cincinnati, that’s exactly what happened. Pity Martinez grabbed two assists, including a sublime dribble before setting up Ezequiel Barco to get his second goal in two games. No one Atlanta bring in will truly replace Josef but if Pity and Barco continue in this form then Atlanta can still be one of the top teams in the league. —JLM

Chicago Fire FC

Chicago fans should be excited despite having just one point through two games. They have been forced to play a center mid at left wing (Djordje Mihailovic) and another one at right back (Brandt Bronico). With new DPs Gaston Gimenez and Ignacio Aliseda seemingly ready to get into the starting XI, they should have more talent in some spots and better fits in others. —BB

FC Cincinnati

There was plenty on show from Cincinnati in Atlanta that will have given fans unpleasant memories of a 2019 season to forget. The defending for both Atlanta goals left a lot to be desired. But there was also one significant difference. After showing some mettle in a losing effort to the Red Bulls last week, Cincy did the same on Saturday, with Yuya Kubo’s strike keeping the visitors in the matchup until the last. After a season in which Cincy took a number of heavy beatings, this represents a measure of progress. —JLM

Colorado Rapids

If you watched Saturday’s game, you would notice that Keegan Rosenberry rarely put a foot wrong. The right back was extremely clean on the ball, almost always taking a positive first touch, and was great defensively as Orlando focused most of their attacks down Colorado’s left side. The former Union draft pick is one of the most reliable players in MLS and continues to grow. —BB

Columbus Crew SC

Despite a late, retaken penalty that deprived them of a victory against Seattle, Columbus can still be happy to have taken a point from one of the most intimidating venues in Major League Soccer. It was more of a grind for the Crew than in their opening weekend win, with the performance highlighted by a game-high 11 tackles from Artur. Combine that grit with the attacking quality of Gyasi Zardes, Lucas Zelarayan and Luis Diaz and Caleb Porter’s side are now capable of getting something from any game. —JLM

FC Dallas

Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira are off to Olympic qualifying – Pomykal and Cannon with be with Dallas through this coming weekend's game, but that still leaves open at least two spots in the starting XI for the last half of March. We know Bryan Reynolds will likely get a shot at the starting right back job — in a preview of what we can see if Cannon is transferred. What head coach Luchi Gonzalez does with the No. 10 role should be more interesting as he could go with Thomas Roberts or change up his formation by adding a striker (Ricardo Pepi) or defender. —BB

D.C. United

Despite grabbing their first win of 2020, D.C. flattered to deceive in their win over expansion side Inter Miami. They were on the back foot for much of the time while the game was at even strength, and their cause was helped on several occasions by Video Review (not that the calls were incorrect).

On the individual front, Julian Gressel was impactful, most notably forcing the error that led to D.C.’s man advantage. Of concern: Ola Kamara went out injured in the 15th minute and was replaced by newcomer Erik Sorga; the 20-year-old Estonian clearly has the hunger to score and contribute, but still looks raw at this level. —NR

Houston Dynamo

Houston had a day to forget against Sporting KC, with Tab Ramos’s men dominated from start to finish. While SKC were electric opposition, Houston didn’t help themselves with consistent sloppiness in possession. Given the Galaxy’s subsequent struggles, a point in Week 1 no longer looks as impressive as it did a week ago. The one positive to come out of Saturday’s game was a debut off the bench for Darwin Quintero. For Ramos, the return to full fitness of Quintero and the still-absent Alberth Elis can’t come quickly enough. —JLM

LAFC

The Kenneth Vermeer adventure continues to be an adventure, and there were a few frustrating moments from Brian Rodriguez, but given their looming CCL clash with Cruz Azul and the general craziness at the Banc on Sunday, it’s hard to draw too many big conclusions. LAFC are more or less who we thought they were through two games — exquisite in attack, maybe a few more questions further back, and certainly favorites to contend once more for top honors in MLS. —NR

LA Galaxy

How do you feed Chicharito more consistently? How do you generate more quality chances? That’s this week’s No. 1 focus after the Galaxy had just one shot on target against Vancouver (watch Matt Doyle's analysis below on Extratime). Their lineup is crying out for a classic creative playmaker who can provide the attacking ideas and unlock the talent they possess (the injured Efra Alvarez is the closest thing they have to this). The likelihood of a wide-open match against offensively-minded Inter Miami in Week 3 could allow for Cristian Pavon, Chicharito and Katai to do more damage than we’ve witnessed from them thus far. —SB

Inter Miami CF

There’s a forward crisis in Miami. First, Julian Carranza went out for 10-12 weeks after an injury in preseason and now No. 1 SuperDraft pick Robbie Robinson appears to have gone down with leg injury. It’s especially disheartening considering Miami were the better team in D.C. before Robinson's injury and the Roman Torres red card. Heading into their home MLS opener, it’s unclear who might get the start up top for Diego Alonso. —BB

Minnesota United FC

Outside of Sporting Kansas City, the Loons have been the most impressive team in MLS to start the season. Not only are they winning — and winning on the road — but they’re doing it with swagger and conviction. Their players showed how comfortable they are with the counterattacking identity away from home. Now the question becomes how much things change at Allianz Field, where they will be expected to push the game. If they can cash in on the four consecutive home games awaiting them, MNUFC could quickly become Supporters’ Shield favorites. —SB

Montreal Impact

It’s all about CCL the next two weeks for Thierry Henry’s team, but getting four points from their first two MLS games will go a long way for Montreal once we hit the dog days of summer. One area to watch is their center back depth, with an 18-year-old and a CPL import looking like they will be regular starters over the next couple months. —BB

Nashville SC

On Sunday night in the office we kicked around a fanciful question — could a defender lead an MLS team in scoring? Given the looks Walker Zimmerman has had through his first games for Nashville, it doesn’t sound so ridiculous. OK, it’s an unlikely proposition in the long run, but that speaks to what Nashville are right now: a team that can capitalize off set pieces but is still very much finding its way in attack. They’ve got no points so far, but a solid foundation looks to be there in a way it wasn’t this early on with other recent expansion strugglers like Minnesota (2017) and Cincinnati (2019). —NR

New England Revolution

Henry Kessler was supposed to be New England's fourth center back and see plenty of time with Revs II in USL League One. But with Samba Camara’s contract voided after visa issues and Antonio Delamea dealing with an injury, the Virginia product has not looked out of place in Bruce Arena’s starting XI. He’s completing passes at a higher rate than expected based on their difficulty and won nine of his 12 duels. —BB

New York City FC

An uninspired showing in a 1-0 loss to Toronto won’t engender much optimism with Andre-Pierre Gignac and Tigres on tap for a massively important Champions League quarterfinal home leg. The inspiration is supposed to come from the likes of Maxi Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita and Jesus Medina. But Maxi wasn’t close to his best and the other two didn’t show up at BMO Field — both were subbed out with 20 minutes remaining. Heber continues to be the bright spot, but needs help. Manager Ronny Deila has some big lineup decisions coming up with Tigres and Dallas visiting the Big Apple. —SB

New York Red Bulls

Not many teams will have an easy time of it when they visit Rio Tinto Stadium. RBNY were on their heels for most of the Week 2 match after taking an early lead, but they were still just seconds away from pulling off a win. Sure, they played 90 minutes of scrappy defense and combined for little in attack, but RBNY showed they can play a different style to grind out a result if the situation calls for it. What’s clear is that they’re going to have to improve their set-piece defending if the defense-first approach is going to work in the future.—SB

Orlando City SC

Oscar Pareja decided to start five defenders and three defensive midfielders in Colorado and almost came away with a point. It seems likes he was trying to build a defensive framework without the presence of Nani, who will make his season debut against Chicago in Week 3. —BB

Philadelphia Union

Are the Union the new kings of the press? It certainly felt that way watching the proceedings at Banc of California Stadium into the wee hours of Monday morning (and seriously, if you were already asleep, go watch the "MLS In 15" replay of this one in the app). If Week 1’s defeat at FC Dallas was a concern, then going toe-to-toe with the best team in MLS in Week 2 shows that Union fans can rest a little easier knowing this team can still play like their 2019 selves — if not even better. —NR

Portland Timbers

Diego Valeri looks as hungry as ever, and the defense coalesced after the Week 1 disaster against Minnesota (in part thanks to more numbers behind the ball), but the main takeaway here is that Portland still have some work to do. It’s only natural to experience some growing pains with an infusion of new starting-caliber players like the Timbers added this offseason, but three shots in a game (and none after the 24th minute — although yes, game states) is unlikely to cut it when the league's best come to town. —NR

Real Salt Lake

In Week 1 we saw a pragmatic defense-first approach to pick up a point on the road. But in Week 2’s home opener RSL turned up the attacking flair and could have easily scored three or four goals if it weren’t for some spectacular, last-ditch defending by the Red Bulls. In case there were any doubts, this will be the RSL blueprint for the 2020 season and there’s no reason it can’t work just like it did in the latter half of 2019 under manager Freddy Juarez (above), who made all the right moves from the sideline against RBNY.—SB

San Jose Earthquakes

It’s another slow start for the Earthquakes, who also needed time in 2019 before they snapped into third and fourth gear under Matias Almeyda. But when they did, they were unstoppable and played at a different pace than everyone else. San Jose shot themselves in the foot with some poor defending against Minnesota, but by season’s end they likely won’t be the only ones to succumb this badly to the Loons. Give the Quakes time — they’ll come around.—SB

Seattle Sounders

Having to settle for a point at home and being forced to come from behind to get it certainly didn’t make it an ideal night for Seattle against the Columbus Crew. But that doesn’t mean Sounders fans should be discouraged. The reigning MLS Cup champs did more than enough to beat the Crew — and would have done so had Jordan Morris converted a glaring late chance — and indeed have by far the highest expected goals in MLS through the first two weeks. And that’s all without the inspirational Nico Lodeiro, whose return appears imminent. —JLM

Sporting KC

As complete a team performance as there was in Week 2, Sporting KC controlled the game against Houston from minute one to 90. There were strong performances across the field — including another goal from Gadi Kinda — but the biggest highlight was Alan Pulido. The Mexican striker has had the type of start you dream about from your record signing. Yes, there have been goals — two in two games — but that’s only the start. Pulido has been sharp in his passing, creating ample opportunities for teammates and also leads MLS — by some distance — in high presses. —JLM

Toronto FC

Toronto FC have simply nailed the formula for sustained success under Greg Vanney and the win against NYCFC shined a spotlight on one of the keys: an ability to consistently scout and develop talents that fit their system. Every year they seemingly integrate 2-3 new pieces that invariably turn into productive contributors. Erickson Gallardo, who got his feet wet in MLS last year, and rookie Ifunanyachi Achara look to be the latest examples after Week 2. Partly thanks to a star supporting cast in attack — Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore were on their game — the two wingers were productive against NYCFC and there’s no reason to believe they won’t replicate those performances. —SB

Vancouver Whitecaps

After their Week 1 loss to Sporting KC, which felt like 2019 all over again, it would’ve been easy for the Whitecaps to play second fiddle to Chicharito Hernandez and a Galaxy team playing in their much anticipated home opener in Week 2. But it’s a reflection on manager Marc Dos Santos that the ‘Caps played tough from the start. They were rewarded with a win to build on as they continue the process of integrating all their new faces (including Janio Bikel, who was a revelation at right back on his debut). The Whitecaps desperately need these good vibes to carry over to BC Place, where they regularly stumble over a mental hump they’ve yet to overcome. —SB

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