With nearly the entire league playing on Saturday this weekend, the two Sunday fixtures took center stage. LAFC and the Philadelphia Union played to a wildly entertaining 3-3 draw, while the Portland Timbers topped new boys Nashville S.C. 1-0 on a goal early on.
Still, with just a few games there are plenty of lessons to be taken from the slate of fixtures, with the Philadelphia Union learning maybe the toughest one of the bunch.
1) Don’t blink
The Philadelphia Union learned the hard way that goals only last until your next defensive shift. Three times the Union scored against LAFC, and three times they were undone moments later. The Union took a lead three different times in this match, and led for a combined total of 12 minutes. They were scored on nine minutes after bagging the opener, one minute after taking a 2-1 lead, and two minutes after going ahead 3-2.
It was unfortunate too, because Philadelphia produced some absolute bangers. Take this absurd free-kick from Union defender Jakob Glesnes who delivered from an incredible 40 yards out.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 9, 2020
The Union leave Banc of California Stadium with just a single point, their first point of the season after another disappointing result on opening day. Philadelphia should be fine moving forward, but the dropped points represent missed opportunities as other teams start establishing themselves as contenders early on.
2) Diego Rossi might be the best overshadowed player in the league
Carlos Vela’s presence on LAFC does a whole lot more than provide oodles of goals. Just by being on the field, the Mexican takes all the narrative attention away from someone who might be even more important to the squad in Diego Rossi.
The 22-year-old Uruguayan has been electric for LAFC since joining prior to its inaugural 2018 season, with a combined 28 goals and 14 assists through his first two campaigns. He is already up to snuff this season, proving critical again on Sunday with the first goal of the new season, but more importantly he was once again ruthless on the counter. Rossi’s proficiency on the break is one of the most underrated yet valuable skills in the league, giving LAFC a viciously dangerous weapon in the back pocket should they sit back and absorb pressure for a time.
To be completely honest, it’s shocking that Rossi doesn’t get more credit for the success of this expansion side. He has yet to earn an international cap for Uruguay, although with Luis Suarez on the shelf maybe that changes this month. At just 22 years old, it’s likely that Rossi – called the “quarterback” of this LAFC club last season – makes a marquee European move at some point in the near future, so LAFC fans should appreciate him while he’s around. Carlos Vela takes all the spotlights so Rossi can provide the spark.
3) If you feel the need to park the bus, go for it
A year after making the playoffs, the Portland Timbers sat back and defended against new expansion side Nashville SC. It worked. After Valeri scored just 12 minutes in with a scrappy volley that found the inside of the right side-netting, the Timbers had seen enough up front. They generated just three shots all night to Nashville’s 14, but it didn’t matter as the hosts grinded out all three points.
It was a lesson for Nashville above all else that early goals can really hurt, but the Timbers also learned something valuable, and that is they can defend against an offensively inferior side for nearly a full 90 minutes without being breached, something they could take with them moving forward. After capitulating defensively to Minnesota United in a 3-1 opening day loss, the clean sheet is valuable for Portland and will give them confidence moving forward. Early in the season, that can be just as valuable as the three points.