Week 3 of the MLS season is in the books and just about every team is playing a little better as they ease into the season. With that, the competition is getting a little tighter and the table is getting a little more compact.
Here are our takeaways from Week 3:
The Loons got a point!
It was tempting to write off Minnesota United after a rather horrible first two weeks in MLS, but it seemed like only a matter of time before they got better. As of Saturday, it was time and some much-needed lineup changes from coach Adrian Heath that did it. Defenders Vadim Demidov and Jermaine Taylor, two central figures in the Loons' struggles, were benched in favor of NASL holdovers Brent Kallman and Justin Davis – and both were a definite improvement. On top of that, Miguel Ibarra finally started and, as it turns out, starting your best player helps.
Are the Loons in the clear? A 2-2 draw to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday isn't enough to jump to that conclusion. But what is clear is that there are players Heath can work with to make Minnesota more competitive.
USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
The Timbers are scary good
After two solid wins to open the MLS season, the Timbers finally met their match in a much-improved Houston Dynamo team. The Dynamo and the Timbers were the only two teams to have a 100 percent record on the season when they met Saturday night and, well, the Timbers made it look pretty easy when they took sole possession of that distinction. An explosive 4-2 win over Houston puts Portland at 10 goals in the first three games of the season, all wins. Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Sebastian Blanco comprise what might be the scariest attacking foursome in MLS. The Timbers are on pace to score 110+ goals this season, which won't happen, but certainly puts their recent performances into perspective.
As good as their first-choice line-up is, depth is helping the Timbers be as good as they are. They didn't have all their best players vs. the Dynamo – in fact, their backline on Saturday included just one starter the team planned on having this season, plus one third-string player. But their depth again passed a big test. There's no way of knowing if a rash of injuries will put pressure on their depth even more than last year, but for now the only thing the Timbers conceivably need to worry about is peaking too soon.
Troy WayrynenTroy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta United are still a lot of fun to watch
Speaking of great attacks, Atlanta United may be a first-year expansion side, but they aren't easing into MLS slowly. They are barraging their way through with speed – lots and lots of speed. Their goals in a 4-0 romp past the Chicago Fire are worth re-watching again because they are that good. There may be some tactical questions Atlanta will need to answer over the course of this season and it remains to be seen how they will do against better competition, but as we said when we highlighted those goals, the Atlanta roster has plenty of talent.
Brett DavisBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando may not have Kaka, but they do have Cyle Larin
Orlando City are now two for two, which is pretty good considering captain Kaka went down in their first week in the first 11 minutes. How they've kept it up, including a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, can be summed up like this: Cyle Larin.
The young Canadian can't stop scoring goals, but we should actually be more specific: Larin with Carlos Rivas is the combination that's getting it done. Larin has three goals in Orlando's last two games, and Rivas has two assists in Orlando's last two games, both to Larin.
Logan BowlesLogan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
D.C. United look a little lost after three straight games with no goals
Three matches into the MLS season and D.C. United still don't seem quite sure how to make everything work together. They have no goals in 2017 yet and it's hard to pin it on any one particular thing. The midfield has been a concern – Marcelo Sarvas has looked a step behind and the anticipated return of Luciano Acosta on Saturday helped a bit, but not enough. They chances they do get, meanwhile, have gone unfinished, with 11 shots from inside the box vs. the Columbus Crew failing to result in a goal, including three on target. A slow start isn't the worst thing in the world, but no goals is especially tough.
Brad MillsBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
It looks like 2017 will be very different for the Colorado Rapids
When you set aside the fact that Minnesota United actually earned a point, there's something else that jumps out about the 2-2 draw in Colorado: the Rapids gave up two goals at home. That hasn't happened since 2015 and it's the surest sign that the Rapids aren't going to repeat their ultra-defensive 2016 that had them contending for a Supporters Shield.
Last year, the Rapids scored a paltry 29 goals in 34 games – tied for the lowest in the league – but it was fine because they allowed just 32 goals. But they allowed two goals at home from a Loons side that everyone had essentially written off as the worst team in the league. That's worrying because, if they keep this up, it means the Rapids are going to have to start scoring more goals – but where will the goals come from?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY SporIsaiah J. Downing
The Whitecaps attack is not clicking – yet
The Vancouver Whitecaps lost again on Saturday, giving them zero wins through three matches so far, plus a loss in the CONCACAF Champions League last week. They have good attacking pieces in players like Fredy Montero and Alphonso Davies, but it's just not coming together yet. What the Whitecaps missed perhaps the most last year was a proven goal-scorer and they have that in Montero, but he's barely been able to make an impact. Carl Robinson needs to continue to tweak the Whitecaps to find the right lineup and get Montero more chances.
The Red Bulls may need to ease into the season again
We mentioned this when we dug into the Seattle Sounder's 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, but it's worth keeping an eye on: The Red Bulls should be a good team, but they might need to start slow like they did last year. They lost six of their first seven matches in 2016 and later won the Eastern Conference. With a slew of injuries and new players in role, particularly on the back line, plus the loss of Dax McCarty, 2017 is off to a somewhat slow start again. It's just probably going to take the players and coach Jesse Marsch some time to figure things out.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
KC vs. San Jose gave us the best and worst highlights of the week
Benny Feilhaber scored his first goal of 2017 for Sporting Kansas City and it was a lovely bender from 25 yards out. It's probably the best goal of Week 3 and worth the watch.
Meanwhile, David Bingham conceded a terrible goal for the San Jose Earthquakes. Had Bingham not touched the ball, it would've just strayed wide. We aren't sure what happened here, but it's a doozy.