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Five things to watch in MLS: Week 2

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The Major League Soccer season hits Week 2 on Saturday with a full slate of matches, however, one fixture has already been postponed due to inclement weather up in New England.

[ MORE: MLS power rankings — Week 1 ]

PST takes a look at some of the most intriguing storylines as MLS heads into the second week of the season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Battle of the expansion sides

Week 1 was a tale of two completely different teams, however, both Atlanta United and Minnesota United ended up with the same outcome on opening weekend.

Atlanta held a 1-0 lead over the New York Red Bulls heading into the final quarter hour, but a pair of goals from the visitors and an unnecessary red card prevented Tata Martino’s side from even grabbing a share of the points.

Meanwhile, Minnesota was simply played off the pitch at Providence Park last Friday evening as Diego Valeri and co. attacked and attacked and attacked some more. Adrian Heath’s side looked gassed as the Timbers continued to press, but now the Loons can turn their attention to Atlanta.

The question is: which expansion side will get a victory first?

How does NYCFC click offensively?

When you think of New York City FC’s attack, David Villa is the first name that comes to mind and rightfully so. However, with Frank Lampard no longer at the helm in the Bronx, there are some questions as to whom will be the heir apparent as Villa’s number two up front.

Second-year attacker Jack Harrison and cult hero Tommy McNamara are likely candidates to pick up the slack left by the recently-retired Lampard, but filling that void is much easier said than done.

In Week 1, NYCFC had its share of chances in the Orlando City half of the field, but Patrick Vieira’s group wasn’t sharp enough in front of net. Some of that will certainly be chalked up to the fact that it was opening weekend but there are still legitimate questions about finding a player or combination of players to bag at least 12 goals in 2017 — which is the number Lampard registered a season ago.

Timbers backline in shambles

Caleb Porter’s attack put on an absolute show against Minnesota with the Timbers’ five-goal performance, and while the frontline will surely be among the league’s best in 2017, there are some concerns at the back.

Already thin defensively, the Timbers will likely be without defenders Liam Ridgewell and Alvas Powell as the club prepares for the LA Galaxy on Sunday night. That leaves Chance Myers, Roy Miller and Marco Farfan likely in the mix to fill the two starting roles for the Timbers’ back four.

Despite the Galaxy’s struggles against Dallas last weekend, the Timbers will have to be wary of Giovani dos Santos and co. in the attack, particularly if Porter’s group is shorthanded defensively.

New-look Dynamo hope to build off of Week 1

It’s hard to put a ton of stock into one match, but the Houston Dynamo had a swagger about them in their opening weekend win over the defending champion Seattle Sounders.

Goals were hard to come by a season ago for the Dynamo, however, the Texas club looked more dynamic in their movement up front last weekend. Erick Torres found the back of the net, which has been a rare occurence in his time with the Dynamo.

Meanwhile, offseason signing Romell Quioto is somebody to take notice of this season for both the Dynamo and Honduras as he hopes to help his country reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Galaxy remain undermanned due to injuries/suspensions

There are still familiar faces on the LA Galaxy, but this is a drastically different squad from last season. Already without the departed Robbie Keane, the club has had to battle numerous injuries throughout preseason and into the start of the 2017 campaign.

Now, the club will be without Jermaine Jones and Dave Romney for their meeting with the Timbers after earning suspensions this week from MLS’ Disciplinary Committee.

Giovani dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget and newly-signed midfielder Romain Alessandrini will continue to spearhead the attack while Gyasi Zardes recovers from injury, while the backline features a strong centerback pairing of Jelle Van Damme and Daniel Steres.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.