Three weeks into the MLS season and everything has gone perfectly in Toronto, while Dallas has plenty to smile about. That's not so true in Kansas City and Los Angeles, where early results have concealed some huge problems.
What did we take away from Week 3 in MLS?
Toronto FC off to flying start
Two matches, six points.
Two matches, three goals for Jermain Defoe.
One winning goal, three Designated Players involved.
The MLS season is only three weeks old, two if you're Toronto FC, but everything is going according to plan -- if not better -- for the league's newest big name club. They are winning, and handily at that, with their complimentary players excellent next to their high priced stars. Doniel Henry in particular has been excellent at the back, while Steve Caldwell has been reliable as ever and Jonathan Osorio continues to look as good as any young midfielder in MLS. And their stars are doing plenty of heavy lifting too.
Defoe may have scored the winning goal on Saturday against D.C. United, but the play started with a gorgeous pass by Michael Bradley and a touch by Gilberto. It was the work of all three Designated Players who delivered TFC their lone tally, bringing a smile to the face of Tim Leiweke, who convinced the MLSE board to shell out nearly $100 million for the three.
Two games does not a season make, but if TFC had a two-game plan, it would have looked a lot like their first two matches.
The Sporting attack is back under the microscope
Sporting Kansas City are the defending MLS Cup champions, an impressive feat considering they struggled to get any production from their strikers a year ago. Still, they got enough help from their midfielders and defenders to score just enough goals in support of the league's best defense, but if they were hoping the attack would look better in 2014, they have to be disappointed so far.
SKC looked as impotent as ever against the San Jose Earthquakes, rarely creating chances, let alone finishing them. Their lone goal came when a handball gifted them a penalty that Dom Dwyer converted, giving them two goals in three matches this season and none from open play.
Dwyer was dangerous in Sporting's first match of the season, but he hasn't broken through from open play, while Peter Vermes' squad continues to wait on C.J. Sapong or Claudio Bieler to live up to their considerable hype. Even if Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber, Chance Myers and the rest of the squad get healthy and contribute to the goal scoring tally from deep, Sporting are going to need their forwards upon occasion.
It's still early for Sporting and the results haven't been horrible, who have not yet had their full team available to them due to injury, but if you subscribe to the theory that MLS improves each year, then SKC will need an improved attack if they are going to repeat as champions. Thus far, we haven't seen it.
The Oscar Pareja magic is real
Last season, Oscar Pareja turned the young Colorado Rapids who most expected to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference into a dynamic team that made the playoffs. Now he's at FC Dallas, but things look pretty similar to a year ago.
The Hoops sit atop MLS with seven points from three matches after dispatching Chivas USA 3-1 on Saturday in a match that displayed the sizzling attack Pareja has assembled in Texas. Blas Perez is still a force up front and Mauro Diaz has been excellent behind him, showing off why FCD targeted him as a Designated Player, but the Hoops are also getting strong play from Fabian Castillo to round out an attack that may not be as dependent on Perez and Diaz as it appears at first blush.
If there is a concern about Dallas, it is at the back, but they have also been playing without George John and Raul Fernandez, both of whom are expected to return soon. Short-term, injuries to defensive midfielders to Adam Moffat and Andrew Jacobson also leave them without a natural partner for Michel, but that won't be issue for more than a week or two.
Pareja looks to be working his magic once again and this without John or Fernandez. When they return, and if David Texeira can also come into his own, this could be a very scary team. After all, Castillo is just 21, Diaz and Texeira are 21 and Kellyn Acosta is just 18. This is a young team, just like Pareja has a year ago, but have more upper echelon talent. Watch out.
The Galaxy have major problems at the back
So far, the Galaxy's defensive woes haven't hurt them too badly, with Tijuana's four goals in the Champions League the only time they've seen an opponent put a crooked number on the scoreboard, but they are allowing chance after chance and eventually fortune won't smile on them so often.
The Galaxy's dependence on luck showed again on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, when Joao Plata missed a breakaway and the home side fluffed several other chances. LA made significant changes to the back line for the match, with A.J. DeLaGarza sliding inside and Todd Dunivant returning to the field, but it didn't help much and when Riley went down with a knee injury, things just got worse. They're getting subpar fullback play no matter who is out there, they lack depth and even Omar Gonzalez has struggled.
Their best defender has been Jaime Penedo -- he may be the Galaxy's best player period so far this season -- and that's never a good thing.
Last season, the Galaxy allowed 29 goals away from the StubHub Center and even if the scoreboard hasn't shown it yet, they have played worse early in this season than they did a year ago. They're worse on paper too. The Galaxy have serious defensive issues that Bruce Arena has to fix soon, or the bar in LA may no longer be "MLS Cup contender."