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 By Jason Davis

Montreal Impact make a statement; Giovinco and Wondolowski shine

It's a meeting of first-place clubs in the Western Conference to open the season when the San Jose Earthquakes play host to the Portland Timbers.

Week 2 threw up the kind of results and crazy moments that make Major League Soccer just so darn lovable.

Here is a look a the major talking points from the weekend:


Two games into the 2016 season, the Montreal Impact have walked away with wins after playing two of the league's presumed MLS contenders. Last week, the Impact won in Vancouver; this week, they handed the Red Bulls a 3-0 thumping at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

The Red Bulls will head back home hearing in their sleep the new cast-iron bell rung by the Impact fans whenever their team scores. Montreal sprung New York on the counter with clinical precision, and if it wasn't for Luis Robles in goal, New York might have heard the bell ring a few more times.

Two things are clear after the result: One, the Red Bulls are suffering through an early-season malaise for unknown reasons; two, Montreal is a good soccer team that might in fact be an Eastern Conference contender.

With or without Didier Drogba (and so far, it's been without), the Impact possess a heady, ball-winning midfield that can adequately service an attacking quartet that includes the talents of Ignacio Piatti. The Impact is for real.

And what about New York? Two losses to start the season is no reason to panic, but the defending Supporters' Shield winner has problems to address without a goal to its name so far in 2016.

The upsets

No, nothing you thought you knew was good and what was not heading into the season has anything to do with the results we are now seeing.

It took two weeks for MLS to remind us that upsets are a way of life in this league. In fact, as "upsets" go, they're not really upsets at all, because upsets imply scarcity. These upsets happen all the time; "upset" is a misnomer.

This week, Houston throttled FC Dallas 5-0 in the biggest stunner of the round by a wide, wide margin, and Colorado got an extra-time winner from Marco Pappa to beat the Galaxy 1-0 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia went to Columbus and beat Crew SC 2-1, the first loss in a home opener for Columbus in 10 years. Real Salt Lake beat Seattle 2-1 thanks to a late headed goal by Jamison Olave.

And finally, on Sunday afternoon in San Jose, the Quakes took down the defending MLS Cup champion Timbers thanks to a Chris Wondolowski special and a wondergoal from Quincy Amarikwa.

Houston's destruction of FC Dallas stands out, though, as it should. Owen Coyle's move to a move fluid attacking approach -- with Cristian Maidana playing provider -- made easy work of FCD's defense. It probably won't always be that easy, but the Dynamo clearly look like a team worth watching.

Three at the back

The league's newest foreign coaches have reintroduced the three-man back line to MLS.

Veljko Paunovic and Patrick Vieira set their teams out as such this weekend, bucking the MLS standard of four at the back. Paunovic's Fire went 3-5-2 against Orlando in a game that ultimately ended in a 1-1 draw and the new boss' first point in the league, while Vieira's side lined up in a slightly different variation that featured wingers higher up the field. NYCFC also drew, 2-2 against Toronto FC.

These tactics might have been situation-specific, especially in the case of NYCFC. The additional midfield help allowed the home side to limit TFC's effectiveness on the small field at Yankee Stadium, at least for a half.

Vieira seems unlikely to lock in on any one particular setup, especially considering some of the selection advantages he has, but the three-man approach could be a go-to weapon when attempting to slow down visiting teams at Yankee Stadium. As we learned last year, it's a very different game on the tiny patch at the baseball venue.

It remains to be seen whether Paunovic and Vieira will actually launch a trend of three-man back lines, but at the very least, MLS now has a few more tactical wrinkles.


If there was any wonder left whether Sebastian Giovinco could dominate MLS in his second year as he did in his first, it should already be put to rest.

The Italian forward did it again on Sunday, picking the ball up in midfield and dancing through several NYCFC defenders before slotting the ball past Josh Saunders. The goal was Giovinco's second of the year, but more importantly, equalized the game and help TFC leave the Bronx with a point.

Wonderful Wondo

Almost as remarkable as Giovinco's ability to dribble around opposing players and score goals is Chris Wondolowski's continued uncanny ability  to pop up in perfect places in front of the net.

Wondolowski is now 33 years old, and where that age might mean the beginning (or middle) of a decline for most strikers, there's plenty of reason to think that the San Jose Earthquakes man is on his way to yet another strong statistical season.

In the Quakes' 2-1 win over Portland on Sunday, Wondolowski did what he has always done: a short, 5-yard run to the near post, splitting defenders and scoring a simple redirection. It has none of the flash of Giovinco's shimmy-shake routine, but it's equally devastating.

Wondolowski scored 16 goals in 2015, his sixth straight year in double figures. It's a lock he'll add a seventh and that we'll be talking about Wondolowski lining up in 2017 for an assault on Landon Donovan's career MLS goals record.

Oh, and Sunday wasn't even the highlight of his week

Team of the weekend

MLS TOTW 20160313
Jason Davis' MLS best XI.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.


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