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Five things to watch in MLS: Week 3

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While the league’s newest clubs have drawn a lot of the attention thus far in 2017, last year’s final two teams left standing have yet to win in their opening two matches.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 2 ]

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

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Champions welcome Red Bulls in home opener

The Seattle Sounders needed two late goals last weekend to earn a draw against the Montreal Impact, and their first home match of the year presents another challenge.

Although the New York Red Bulls haven’t looked their best in the opening two weeks, Jesse Marsch’s side has come away with six points, and are one of only four teams in the league to win their first two matches.

Brian Schmetzer’s side continues to play without Brad Evans at the back, who is battling a calf injury, and Aaron Kovar but otherwise the Sounders are relatively healthy. The good news for the Sounders is that Clint Dempsey has started the season well, and more importantly he’s overcome issues regarding his heart that kept him sidelined throughout the conclusion of 2016.

There’s little doubt that Seattle will get it together and be in contention at the top of the West again this season, but the Red Bulls certainly present a difficult matchup.

Fire look to remain hot against Atlanta

Atlanta had reason to be disappointed after its opening week defeat against the Red Bulls, but Tata Martino’s team showed just how good they can be in Minnesota.

Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez (3 goals this season) each netted two goals against the Loons in Atlanta’s six-goal outburst up north, but now the newcomers take on a revamped Fire side that has started the season unbeaten.

The Fire midfield has shown the most notable improvement so far since the acquisition of Dax McCarty in the center of the park, while Nemanja Nikolic has provided a strong scoring presence up top after his successful career in Europe.

How bad will it get for Minnesota?

Two games. 11 goals allowed. Definitely not the ideal start for Adrian Heath and co.

The transition for expansion sides has never been easy and certainly well-documented, but did anyone think Minnesota United would be this bad through two weeks?

Meeting a hungry Portland Timbers side (one that looks good enough to win the league) in Week 1 surely wasn’t a favorable matchup to kick off the season, but falling 6-1 to Atlanta in the Loons’ home opener last weekend only piled on the negative sentiment towards Minnesota.

Kevin Molino has already proven to be a strong signing for the Loons, notching the team’s lone goal a week ago, but the rest of the squad has yet to catch up, particularly defensively. Minnesota’s 11 goals conceded is the most an expansion side has ever allowed in the opening two weeks of a season.

Earthquakes, Dynamo face difficult road tests

The two non-playoff sides from last season have started off better than anyone could have expected, and it’s good news for the two clubs that play in the congested Western Conference.

Historically both teams have shared plenty of success in MLS, but the last few years have been anything but that. The Earthquakes have not qualified for the postseason since 2012, while the Dynamo have only done their San Jose counterparts one better by last reaching the playoffs in 2013.

Both clubs have put out predominantly young rosters this season, while mixing in experienced talents like Chris Wondolowski and A.J. DeLaGarza to round out each team. The Earthquakes and Dynamo each played nine starters last week under the age of 30, and both squads are having tremendous early success because of this.

The Dynamo have benefitted from strong performances from players like Erick Torres and Romell Quioto, while Americans Nick Lima, Tommy Thompson and Fatai Alashe have put a stronghold on the right side of the field for the Quakes.

D.C., Crew look sluggish to start season

D.C. United was a playoff team in 2016, while the Columbus Crew are just one season removed from appearing in the MLS Cup final.

It’s way too early to make projections, but both sides have underwhelmed so far through two weeks, especially in the back. New York City FC exposed the D.C. back four last Sunday with a four-goal performance, while the Crew allowed a trio of goals to get past Zack Steffen down in Houston.

Meanwhile, the two sides have a combined two goals to show for their efforts, with both coming from the Crew. D.C. could receive a massive lift if Luciano Acosta is deemed fit to play against the Crew. The diminutive Argentine attacker was a prominent figure in the D.C. attack last season, and he’ll be valuable once again in 2017 if Ben Olsen’s side is to find success.

For the Crew, Ola Kamara and Ethan Finlay have found the back of the net this season but Greg Berhalter’s team will need more production out of attacking players like Federico Higuain and Justin Meram.

Vela scores 24th, LAFC clinches playoff berth

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SANDY, Utah (AP) – Carlos Vela scored his MLS-leading 24th goal of the season, Tyler Miller had four saves and Los Angeles FC beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night to clinch a playoff berth.

LAFC played a man down after defender Walker Zimmerman, who was shown a yellow card for time wasting in the 17th minute, was given a red for unsporting behavior in the 48th., Real Salt Lake’s Aaron Herrera, who blocked two would-be goals in the first half, was shown a straight red for denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Vela, who then converted from the spot to make it 1-0 in the 64th minute.

Vela, whose 15 assists are tied with Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers for the league lead, broke the MLS record for combined goals and assists. Sebastian Giovinco’s had 22 goals and 16 assists for Toronto FC in 2015.

Miller has eight shutouts this season for LAFC (18-3-4), who have won four consecutive games and seven of their last eight dating to June 28.

Adama Diomande side-netted a rising right-footer to cap the scoring in the 82nd minute.

Salt Lake (12-10-4) had its six-game unbeaten streak, including three straight wins, snapped and allowed multiple goals for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on June 1.

Lampard: ‘We need more personality’

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Frank Lampard‘s baptism of fire as Chelsea boss continued on Sunday, as the Blue coughed up a 1-0 lead and were lucky to draw at home against Leicester City.

[ MORE: Pulisic watch. How did he do?

After being hammered at Manchester United in their opening PL game last weekend, then losing to Liverpool on penalty kicks in the Super Cup final in Istanbul on Wednesday, Chelsea started superbly against Leicester but only led 1-0 thanks to academy graduate Mason Mount scoring his first goal for the club.

Speaking to our partners Sky Sports after the game, Lampard revealed he was not happy at all with the second half display and urged his young side to show more personality on the pitch.

“It was a really good start, fantastic, and we could’ve been two or three goals up. We were quick, bright, energetic, then we allowed Leicester back in the game and in the second half I was not very happy, we offered them too many chances on the counter attack,” Lampard said. “We can only look at ourselves. In all our matches I have been delighted in big passages of having the ball but we didn’t have enough angles or options to keep the ball moving. We have to have more personality, we saw that in midweek, but today we didn’t have that.”

The most disappointing thing for Lampard will be the way Leicester grabbed hold of the game in the second half.

Brendan Rodgers‘ side launched counter after counter as Jorginho and N’Golo Kante were overrun in midfield by James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, and both Maddison and Jamie Vardy should have won the games for the Foxes.

“You can attack, but still be in positions to not allow the counter-attack,” Lampard added. “I’m not here to play great attacking football and then concede counter-attack goals. We need to show more than we did. I was under no illusions that there would be moments like this. We have to work on the pitch on the things we can improve.”

Lampard is spot on with his assessment, but how does he change things?

The most obvious thing is that he needs his team to be more consistent. They’ve started their last three games fast but failed to make the most of big chances and have been made to pay for that with some sloppy passing in midfield.

It is still early days for Lampard in his first season as a PL boss, while many of his youngsters are also finding their feet in the top-flight. Chelsea’s fans will stay patient but the fact that have yet to grab a win shows there is plenty of work to do but the Blues have shown flashes of brilliance, usually at the start of games.

Having a consistent lineup is one thing, but Lampard now needs his players to be brave, show their personality and stand tall for the cause as he ushers in his new era. Too many of them went missing in the second half against Leicester at Stamford Bridge, which will be more than a little concerning for the Chelsea legend.

Pulisic watch: How did USMNT star perform on home debut?

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Christian Pulisic made his home debut for Chelsea on Sunday, as the USMNT star started for the Blues against Leicester City at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: What did we learn? ]

How did the 20-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania get on during his first start in the Premier League?

The American playmaker played 70 minutes and although he, like Chelsea, started well, it’s safe to say he faded in the second half as the west London club gave up their lead and drew 1-1 against the Foxes.


2nd minute: Pulisic follows up after Schmeichel saved Mount’s effort but the Leicester goalkeper bundles the ball wide.

3rd minute: Gets free at the near post from the resulting corner but can’t flick the ball goalwards.

15th minute: Gives away a free kick for a foul on Ricardo Pereira.

19th minute: Cuts in from the left and plays a nice pass across the pitch to start an attack.

20th minute: Works back well defensively to put Pereira off his cross.

26th minute: Starts a great move which almost sees Kante score. Flicks it out to Emerson who finds Giroud to play in Kante.

27th minute: Pulisic pops up on the right flank and tries to cross into the box but his cross is blocked and goes out for a goal kick.

29th minute: The American switches flanks with Pedro and is now on the right wing.

30th minute: Pulisic races onto a loose ball but Schmeichel slides out and gets there just before him.

34th minute: Back on the left, taken down by Ayoze Perez as he runs towards the halfway line and looks to pass. Wins a free kick.

39th minute: A few nice touches on the ball but then loses the ball on the halfway line.

41st minute: Plays a bit of a strange back pass to Kepa which puts Chelsea under pressure.

45th minute: Pulisic blocks a cross as the ball smashes him in the ankle and he goes down injured.

46th minute: He is back on his feet and sends in a cross which is deflected out for a corner.

53rd minute: Drifts in from the left and plays a nice ball inside, moment laters plays it to Pedro who loses the ball.

63rd minute: Chases down a lost cause but Caglar Soyuncu calmly flicks the ball over his head.

66th minute: Cross comes in and looks like he is winding up for a bicycle kick but is bundled to the floor. No penalty kick.

70th minute: Shortly after Leicester equalize, Pulisic subbed off and replaced by Willian. A ripple of applause from the home fans.

Chelsea, Leicester put on a show in draw

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An amazing encounter saw Chelsea draw 1-1 with Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Frank Lampard‘s tough start to life in charge of the Blues continued.

Academy graduate Mason Mount, his first for the club, put Chelsea ahead early on but Leicester rallied valiantly in the second half as Wilfried Ndidi headed home the equalizer.

The game then turned into a wild end-to-end clash as the Foxes impressed mightily.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Chelsea have now failed to win any of their opening three games of the season, with a defeat at Man United, a penalty shootout defeat against Liverpool in the Super Cup and now a draw at home against Leicester.

The Foxes have now drawn both of their opening games, against Wolves and Chelsea, in a solid start to the season for Brendan Rodgers, who will be a little upset they didn’t make the most of their second half chances.


3 things we learned

1. Fast start evaporates once again: This is now becoming a slightly worrying theme for Lampard. Just like they did against United and Liverpool, Chelsea dominated the early proceedings but failed to make the most of it and Mount’s goal was as good as it got. The high-press was relentless in the first 20 minutes but Chelsea don’t seem to have the fitness levels to regain that momentum, and the way they needlessly gave the ball away in the second half was worrying. Lampard’s midfielders, Jorginho and Kante, failed to provide a shield and this young Chelsea side were a little too naive. Plenty of work today for the Blues.

2. Classy Leicester shine: It took them about 25 minutes to get going, but once they did Rodgers’ side showed their class. Tielemans and Ndidi dominated midfield and Maddison and Vary were so dangerous in attack. This Leicester side has dealt well with the departure of Harry Maguire as Caglar Soyuncu looked composed in central defense. A very promising display from a team who will push for a top six finish.

3. Pulisic struggles to make impact: It was a rough first start in the PL for the USMNT star, who had a few nice touches early but just couldn’t get into the game after Leicester improved dramatically. He played well in Istanbul on Wednesday and maybe he was a little tired after a big few weeks. Not his best display as he failed to get in dangerous positions and was subbed out in the 70th minute.

Man of the Match: James Maddison – Ripped Chelsea apart in the second half and grabbed an assist, plus should have scored the winner but fired over. Incredible quality as he ran at Chelsea’s ragged defense time and time again.


Chelsea almost got off to a perfect start as Olivier Giroud teed up Pedro but the Spaniard sent his volley into the side-netting. Moments later Mount and Christian Pulisic almost scored but Kasper Schmeichel denied both players after a lovely forward pass from Jorginho.

And Chelsea’s rapid start grabbed them a deserved opener as Mount robbed Wilfried Ndidi of the ball and slotted home past Schmeichel as Lampard had his first PL goal as Chelsea boss.

Leicester eventually settled down as Ricardo Pereira broke free but couldn’t find Jamie Vardy, while Mount headed at goal after a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta. James Maddison’s free kick almost found Ndidi at the back post but he couldn’t get on the end of it as Leicester improved as the game wore on.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Foxes started the second half well and Maddison rounded Kepa but Chelsea cleared after he played the ball back. Hamza Choudury whipped in a dangerous cross which Kepa held on to as Leicester continued to pour forward in the second half.

Leicester’s equalizer arrived from a corner kick as Ndidi atoned for his error which led to Chelsea’s goal with the Nigerian rising above Cesar Azpilicueta to make it 1-1.

Maddison should have put Leicester 2-1 up moments later as Fuchs found him in the box and he bundled towards goal before somehow firing over from eight yards out. Jamie Vardy then drilled just wide after good work from Maddison as the Foxes continued to flood forward.

Youri Tielemans smashed a shot on goal which was pushed away, then Vardy couldn’t get his feet right in the box as Leicester had the final big chance of the game and were left feeling a little underwhelmed with their point gained at Chelsea. That says it all.