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MLS 3 things we learned: When playing LAFC, don’t blink

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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.

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.

FOLLOW LIVE: Two games top off MLS Week 2

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With 11 games already in the books, MLS wraps up week 2 of it’s 25th season with two must-see bouts.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard ]

The defending Landon Donovan MVP award winner, Carlos Vela, and LAFC look to extend their perfect start to the new season against the Philadelphia Union. Sunday’s game is the Supporter’s Shield winners’ last before the first leg of their quarterfinal CONCACAF champions league series against Cruz Azul on Thursday.

Action, however, kicks off in Oregon, as the Portland Timbers look to bounce back after a season-opening loss to Minnesota United. Nashville SC, who dropped three points in their league debut, will experience their first taste of Providence Park’s hostile environment.

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Portland Timbers v. Nashville SC — 7:00 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Philadelphia Union — 10:30 p.m. ET

MLS Week 2 preview: Rapids aim for 2-0; LAFC hosts Philly

MLS preview
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Major League Soccer’s first week of the 2020 season was low on surprises excluding Colorado’s 2-1 win at DC United.

The Rapids will hope for a surprising 2-0 start after that road triumph, with Orlando City headed to Colorado for Week 2.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Colorado didn’t win its first match until Week 13 of 2019, when it started a seven-match unbeaten run. The Rapids haven’t started 2-0 since 2012.

Head coach Robin Fraser would love to keep the good times rolling against an Orlando side that didn’t have Nani in a Week 1 draw with Real Salt Lake.

The Rapids announced a new deal for captain Jack Price on Thursday, the former Wolves defender entering his third year with the club and set for two more after that with an option for 2023.

“We like people that don’t fancy us, we’re not really bothered about them,” Price told The Denver Post’s Jake Shapiro. “They can talk, we know that we’ve got a good squad. We’ve added quality, and the players that were here towards the back end of last season. We were one of the best teams form-wise.”

That match, a 9 p.m. ET kickoff, is one of 11 Saturday matches. Other curious encounters including Columbus visiting Seattle and Toronto entertaining NYCFC.

That leaves just a pair of tilt Sunday, with a pair of 0-1 teams colliding when Portland hosts Nashville and a big test for cross-country traveling Philadelphia.

[ MORE: 5 things we learned from Week 1 ]

The Union opened with a loss at FC Dallas, and Sunday gets no easier with a home opener for LAFC.

LAFC now has an international roster slot open because Carlos Vela has an American green card.

Philly has a change of its own, as Alejandro Bedoya has had his Designated Player deal bought down with TAM.

That leaves the Union with only one DP.

MLS Week 2 schedule

Saturday (all times Eastern)
New England v. Chicago — 1:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake v. New York Red Bulls — 2 p.m.
FC Dallas v. Montrela — 3 p.m.
DC United v. Inter Miami — 3:30 p.m.
Toronto v. NYCFC — 5 p.m.m
Atlanta United v. FC Cincinnati — 7 p.m.
San Jose v. Minnesota — 8 p.m.
Sporting KC v. Houston — 8:30 p.m.
Colorado v. Orlando City — 9 p.m.
Seattle v. Columbus — 10 p.m.
LA Galaxy v. Vancouver — 10 p.m.

Sunday (all times Eastern)
Portland v. Nashville — 7 p.m.
LAFC v. Philadelphia — 10 p.m.

Ex-USMNT winger Picault traded; Four selected in MLS Re-Entry Draft

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Four players found new clubs via Stage One of the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft on Tuesday, while a one-time USMNT winger found a new home by way of trade.

That player is Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, who is headed to FC Dallas in exchange for $300,000 of 2020 General Allocation Money and a conditional $75,000 in 2021.

[ MORE: U.S. Soccer announces award nominees ]

Picault, 28, had five goals and five assists in 35 appearances for Philadelphia this season, his third in MLS. He scored 17 times with eight assists his first two seasons in the league, and his next appearance will be his 100th in the league. He earned caps for the USMNT in 2016 and 2018.

As for the Re-Entry draft, Mikey Ambrose is headed from Atlanta United to first-year club Inter Miami CF, while fellow expansion side Nashville SC has selected Eric Miller from New York City FC.

A pair of goalkeepers are also moving, with Richard Sanchez going from Chicago to Sporting KC and Kendall McIntosh heads from Portland to the New York Red Bulls.

Three things we learned from Atlanta-Philadelphia (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Atlanta United topped the Philadelphia Union by a final score of 1-0 inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, booking their return trip to the Eastern Conference final which they won in 2018 en route to lifting MLS Cup. Atlanta took an early lead through a delightful chip by Julian Gressel, set up by Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez’s 360-vision through ball (more on that in a moment), they never relinquished it, and Josef Martinez put the game away late. While the Five Stripes were far from their overwhelming, all-consuming selves on the scoreboard and stat sheet (just 12 shots, five on target), they allowed Philadelphia even less on the other end of the field (11 shots, three on target). Atlanta will host Toronto FC, in a matchup of the last three East champions and the last two MLS Cup winners, in the East final next Wednesday, Oct. 30.

[ MORE: Frank Lampard praises Christian Pulisic ]

Three things we learned

  • A Pity-ful moment: It’s true that Pity’s first season in Atlanta has (far) fallen well short of what Miguel Almiron contributed in 2018, but that was always going to be an unfair measuring stick for the Argentine. After spending all regular season (and the first round of the playoffs) in and out of the lineup, Pity got the call on Thursday and delivered the goods. This is an assist you’re not supposed to see, but Pity saw it all the way.

  • Don’t give Josef a glimpse. It’s too late: Good luck finding a finish better than this one from Josef. It couldn’t have been placed any better, whether higher or to the left, and there’s not a thing any goalkeeper in the world could have done to stop it. He had a few chances to find the back of the net in this one, and while he was largely wasteful on the night, he put the most difficult of all those chances away and showed once again that he can singlehandedly take over and change the course of a game, or an entire playoffs.

  • Atlanta with a sense of control: Coming into the season, the biggest question following Frank De Boer‘s appointment as Tata Martino’s replacement revolved around the clash of playing styles of the respective sides. Early on, it was a total disaster as De Boer tried to force square pegs into round holes. Eventually, though, he relented a fair bit of control and met his players somewhere in the middle (though, still closer to their end of the spectrum). In a way, this year’s edition of ATLUTD might actually be better suited to navigate the playoffs en route to lifting MLS Cup (if not for LAFC standing in their way). There was a large measure of control and maturity to the way they finished off this game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez

Goalscorers: Gressel (10′), Martinez (80′)