MLS is a league filled with parity. We all know that, but it was confirmed for everybody with the number of shocking results from week: Real Salt Lake defeated the Seattle Sounders, the Philadelphia Union managed a 2-1 victory over defending Eastern Conference champions Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids surprised the LA Galaxy with a 95th-minute Marco Pappa goal, among others.
But perhaps the most interesting result was the Houston Dynamo's 5-0 victory over FC Dallas. The Dynamo impressed many with their offensive ability and defensive work on Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo, but FCD's performance in this game was very worrying from the defending Western Conference champions' perspective. Oscar Pareja's side came out looking flat, and spent most of the game sitting in their own half.
It was most concerning, though, to see Diaz and Castillo be shut down by a defense not considered to be one of the better ones in MLS. The Colombian should have been able to speed past right-back Jalil Anibaba, but, with help from Andrew Wenger and David Horst, the former Sporting KC man was able to prevent Castillo from really making an impact on the game. That, combined with Diaz's inability to get anything going in the center, means concern for Dallas.
Here are some other major storylines from week two:
Chicago Fire, NYCFC try out three at the back
I briefly mentioned New York City FC's midfield difficulties a couple days ago. It was a tough situation for new manager Patrick Viera, but it's possible the former World Cup winner solved the problem with a new formation they tried out on Sunday: the 3-4-3.
MLS rarely sees three at the back formations, but this look appeared promising in a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC. The front three of David Villa, Khiry Shelton and Tony Taylor was threatening throughout, and the midfield quartet worked beautifully.
Andrea Pirlo was given free reign in defensive midfield, with Federico Bravo covering him, and Mix Diskerud and Tommy McNamara pressured the Toronto backline consistently. If not for some Sebastian Giovinco craziness, NYCFC would have earned six points in two games to start the year.
The Chicago Fire, who NYC beat last week, also tried the three in the back, and experienced some good results. They managed to draw 1-1 with Orlando City SC despite going down a man early in the first half, and seemed to be a lot more organized than they were last week, when they gave up four goals.
But they still have problems. Lacking a Harry Shipp-type creator in midfield, they aren't getting the distribution that they had in previous years. The defense looked good, but when Michael Harrington was ejected in the 32nd-minute, they had to adjust defensively and were unable to experience the effectiveness of the wing back, a prominent feature of three at the back formations.
There were positives for both teams, though. Expect to see more 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formations throughout this year.
Montreal Impact look like favorites
Did anybody have the Impact taking six points from games against the Vancouver Whitecaps and the New York Red Bulls? I know I didn't.
But they did, outscoring the two Supporters' Shield contenders by a combined 6-2. Ignacio Piatti dominated once again, scoring a goal and helping on another one, and Dominic Oduro provided a goal as well. Their passing in the midfield is possibly their best quality, as they can probe the defense for so long that teams like the Red Bulls end up without a chance to score or get on an attack.
Here's the midfield's completed passing map:
That's a lot of passes.
With more games like these, the Impact could keep winning and, eventually, end up as Supporters' Shield favorites.
San Jose Earthquakes defeat Timbers
The Portland Timbers kept up last year's form with a convincing victory over the Crew last week, but they got halted by a tough Earthquakes team determined to sneak back into the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.
2-1 was the final score, with Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa scoring goals at rainy Avaya Stadium. Wondo's goal was his typical opportunistic finish off a cross, but Amarikwa's score was something else. The California native got on the break and chipped Adam Kwarsey from around 35 yards out, hitting the top left corner of the net past the diving fingertips of the helpless keeper. It was a goal that rivaled that of Dairon Asprilla's in the playoffs last year.
After this impressive victory, the Quakes will look to contend for a postseason spot despite the abundance of talent in the Western Conference. They have all the makings of a playoff team: A talented young keeper (David Bingham) a solid, deep backline (which includes guys like Victor Bernardez and Marvell Wynne), a talented number-six (Fatai Alashe), speedy wingers (Simon Dawkins and Alberto Quintero), and goal-scoring forwards (Amarikwa and Wondolowski).
Watch out for this team, because they might just crash the party in the Western Conference.
Tyler Miller: The Seattle Sounders' young keeper had some struggles in their loss against Real Salt Lake. Not only did he not move when Sunny scored RSL's first, he was at fault for Jamison Olave's late winner. Miller allowed the center-back to out-jump him and head the ball into the net, a big no-no for any goalkeeper. Verdict: Not encouraging
Daniel Steres and the LA Galaxy: The Galaxy were looking at a well-earned point on the road in Colorado, a tough place to go for anybody, but saw Marco Pappa blast one home on a volley late in second-half stoppage time to give the Rapids the win. It should never have happened, as center-back Daniel Steres's attempted clearance fell right to the feet of the Guatemalan. Verdict: Developing
Union without Maurice Edu: After Philadelphia captain and starting center midfielder Maurice Edu went down for an extended period of time, nobody thought the Union would be able to compete with the Crew. But they did, and they would defeat Columbus 2-1 despite the absence of Edu. Chris Pontius played well in midfield, scoring both goals. Verdict: Not bad
Final Points of Emphasis
—Dom Dwyer and Sporting Kansas City quietly win again: Six points in two games for SKC, against the Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. Forward Dom Dwyer has shown his goal-scoring prowess, scoring twice against the Whitecaps. That front three of Dwyer, Brad Davis and Graham Zusi is looking pretty good.
—Giovinco dominates again: Despite going down 2-0 on the road, Toronto FC got back into the game and came away with a point. Sebastian Giovinco was the main reason for that, as he recorded a goal and an assist in his quest to win a second straight MVP award. It will be interesting how Greg Vanney fits him into the offense when Jozy Altidore returns next week.
—No sophomore slump for Cyle Larin: After a Rookie of the Year Award-winning season last year, Orlando City's Larin has kept his foot on the pedal. He had a goal and an assist in OCSC's late comeback against RSL last week, and scored their lone goal in a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire. Like I said last week, just wait until Kaka comes back.