We're five weeks into the MLS season and we're starting to see what each team is really made of.
Here are the takeaways from MLS Week 5:
USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Schweinsteiger arrived in Chicago ready to play
While Bastian Schweinsteiger's MLS debut wasn’t perfect — the Chicago Fire had to settle for a 2-2 draw — it was pretty darn good. The former Manchester United man and Bayern Munich legend was a difference-maker on the field, scoring a thunderous header and leading the Fire attack with precise through-balls that should’ve resulted in goals.
Pirlo might not be a starter anymore, and NYCFC have a good replacement ready
There’s no doubting Andrea Pirlo’s resume and his talent, but at 37 years old, is he still a starter for New York City FC? That’s a valid question after Saturday’s 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes where NYCFC looked better after Pirlo was replaced by Tommy McNamara in the 63rd minute. McNamara came on and made an instant impact, scoring within four minutes and bringing energy on both sides of the ball that Pirlo lacked.
The Italian was mocked by European blogs for standing by without making an effort to defend after his own mistake allowed San Jose to open the scoring early, but his contributions in the attack waned too as the match wore on. The time for NYCFC to move on may come this season and McNamara has been making his case to start dating back to last season.
Keep an eye on Roldan (the USMNT almost certainly is)
In reviewing all the highlights in the Seattle Sounders' scoreless draw to Atlanta United on Friday, the prominent figure throughout the action was Cristian Roldan. We already mentioned that a U.S. men's national team should be in his future sooner rather than later, and coming out of Week 5, Roldan is a player who should be on everyone's radar.
He may not be the one scoring goals, but his play on both sides of the ball has been very effective. He's a player to watch.
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor
RSL looked like the worst team in MLS this week, but it can’t last
The joke on Saturday was that Minnesota United were making Real Salt Lake look like, well, Minnesota United. Dragged down by some rather terrible defending and a shocking Nick Rimando error, RSL fell 4-2 to the Loons on Saturday. It was a hapless performance all around.
But, as bad as it was, it's doubtful RSL will stay so bad. They were tattered with injuries and forced to field a makeshift back line, which should self-resolve. More importantly, however, they have a new coach starting this week in Mike Petke. That manager Jeff Cassar was fired at all signals a sense of urgency after an underwhelming start to the season so far, and Petke has a solid enough track record that he should be able to shake up RSL in the way the team needs. RSL should be on a new path soon enough, and that presumably will offer some sort of improvement.
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
The Loons have something to build upon
After five weeks in MLS, Minnesota United can finally celebrate a win. Let's be clear: The result doesn't suddenly mean Minnesota is a good team. Real Salt Lake had a lot of injuries on top of systemic problems that need to be addressed. But the 4-2 win did prove the theory that the Minnesota attack is capable of carrying its weight -- it's the defense that has needed help.
While back line issues persisted, coach Adrian Heath's line-up changes unquestionably helped. The team will also welcome two new defensive reinforcements this week, so maybe they can stop conceding goals and losing at a record pace? If anything, the win over RSL should offer some confidence and hope.
Brace HemmelgarnBrace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
The Galaxy are struggling, but there’s reason for hope
For a team with as storied a history as the LA Galaxy, the start to this season has felt a little unfamiliar. They sit near the bottom of the table, only above Real Salt Lake. Growing pains were to be expected, of course. In lieu of aging European stars, the club has shifted younger and they’ve signed players like 27-year-old Frenchman Romain Alessandrini as a high-priced Designated Player — and the move finally paid off on Saturday as he scored his first goals in a brace vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It was a disappointing loss for a Galaxy team that still seems to be figuring out its new identity, but it’s a promising sign to see Alessandrini make an impact. Add in the fact that Gyasi Zardes returned from injury and played his first minutes since August, and there’s reason to believe the Galaxy can start to figure things out.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY SportsTroy Wayrynen
Where will the goals come for the Union?
The Philadelphia Union attack has looked pretty tepid through the first five weeks of the MLS season. They have only two goal-scorers so far, C.J. Sapong and Jay Simpson, and the question for them is whether that can be enough? So far, it doesn’t appear that way as another loss to D.C. United on Saturday means they sit in last place of the Eastern Conference on two losses and two draws.
While they haven’t conceded an unseemly amount of goals, the Union attack hasn't produced enough. This isn't altogethr different from last season either. They've got to figure something out.
Derik HamiltonDerik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
As good as the Timbers are, they need to be able to finish matches
The Portland Timbers have been very good -- unquestionably one of the best teams in MLS -- but they have a worrying tendency to take their foot off the gas and let teams into the match. Even when they throttled Minnesota United in their opening week, we saw them give up a goal to a rather ineffective team in the second half, and a late goal cost them a point in Columbus last weekend.
The trend returned Sunday night -- the Timbers were the better team against the New England Revolution, but they lacked urgency and energy in the second half. As a result, the Revs snuck through and scored a late goal and the Timbers had to settle for a draw at home.
(However, if you missed Diego Valeri's beautiful early goal in Sunday's match, it's worth watching.)
Atlanta lacked attacking bite for the first time
Atlanta United have quickly become one of the most exciting recent expansion teams for their speedy, dynamic and dangerous attack led by Josef Martinez. But without the striker on Friday, Atlanta looked to be missing a lot of their bite. The loss of Martinez for the next six weeks to injury creates an opening for Kenwyne Jones to take the role many initially thought he'd get when he first signed with Atlanta.
If Jones cannot step into a starting role to make up for the loss of Martinez, we might see a different Atlanta team in their next five weeks than we saw in their first five.