What to Watch — Week 3

D.C. United v. Houston Dynamo — 1:30pm ET

The first matchup of the weekend features winless D.C. United against a Dynamo team that has not decided if they want to be good or not yet.

D.C. went into Orlando City Stadium and proved that even Lion’s have weaknesses, as Yamil Asad got his first goal for the Black and Red. D.C. couldn't hold on for the win, but they walked away with a road point against Orlando. Not bad at all.

The Dynamo started hot by dismantling Atlanta in a 4-0 win, they then stumbled against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Two defensive lapses caused a Kei Kamara Penalty and a Brek Shea goal that ultimately spelled a sorry end to the Dynamo’s day.

Players to Watch:

D.C. United

  • Luciano Acosta — Acosta put in a solid shift last week against Atlanta, and D.C. immediately looked more dangerous the second he stepped on the field. Look for his minutes to increase as they are trying to work himself back into the starting XI.

  • Yamil Asad and Paul Arriola — These two need to get more involved in the attack. They are the supply lines for striker Darren Mattocks, so if they are not playing well, D.C. is not playing well. The wider these two can get, the better for the team.

  • Junior Moreno — The defensive midfielder will be key against a deadly Houston counter attack. If he can stay in position and keep his back line organized, he can be the spark that starts counters of their own.

Houston Dynamo

  • Alberth Elis — This man is dangerous on the counter, and he will burn anyone and everyone in his way. He is able to beat defenders with both pace and skill, it also helps that he is a threat in front of goal. Look for him to up his goal tally this week against a D.C. team that has holes in defense.

  • Mauro Manotas — Houston’s #9 had a solid year last year with 10 goals on 24 starts, and he looks to continue that trend this year. He scored against a weak Atlanta team in Week 1 and was close a few times against Vancouver last week. He should have a good time against D.C. even if it is on the road.

Things to Watch:

This game is going to come down to how well D.C. can park the bus, which should be their game plan going in as Houston is so dangerous on the counter.

New York City FC v. Orlando City SC — 3:30 pm ET

This Matchup features an undefeated team against a winless, albeit underachieving team. Orlando City travels to Yankee Stadium to take on undefeated New York City FC in this midday clash. NYCFC has started the season in miraculous form as they were able to knock off Sporting KC on the road in Week 1 and then opened up their home turf with a win against the LA Galaxy. Orlando City had to scrounge for a late equalizer against D.C. United in Week 1, after a terrific Yamil Asad freekick/goal/cross (we're still not sure what exactly to call it). Week 2 did not see their fortunes improve as last year’s lowly expansion side Minnesota United came to Orlando City Stadium and tamed the lions in a 2-1 thriller.  

Players to Watch:

New York City FC

  • David Villa — Is it really a NYCFC piece without mentioning David Villa? This guy came to MLS in 2015 and has been on fire ever since. The 36-year-old Spaniard looks to continue his form as Orlando’s new look defense is off to a shaky start. With a goal and an assist on the year, it looks like the year(s) of Villa are going to be around for awhile in the Bronx.

  • Sean Johnson — The 28-year-old goalkeeper is the heart and soul of NYCFC’s defense. He seems to rarely make mistakes and is always at the right place at the right time to make some incredible saves, and he is always executing the fundamentals. The kind of stability Johnson provides at the back is crucial to any team looking to compete for MLS Cup. The revamped fire power of Orlando should make for a good early year test for City’s goalkeeper.

Orlando City SC

  • Sacha Kljestan — For the first time this season, the former Red Bulls man can suit up for his new club. He will be the key in the midfield, much like he was when he played for the Red Bulls. He will be asked to be the puppet master of the offense. It will be interesting to see how Kljestan fits into his new surroundings with the other new signings around him.

  • Jonathan Spector — The captain of Orlando City will be in for a tough day at the office as he will be tasked with keeping NYCFC’s high powered offense out of Joe Bendik’s face. He will have to be strong in the challenge and communicate well with his back line and center midfielders to make sure no gaps exist.

Things to Watch:

The biggest thing to watch here is, will Orlando City SC get their first win of the season? Many people picked them in the preseason to make their first ever MLS Cup Playoffs appearance given their new, big name signings, but injuries and early season suspensions have put that on hold. Turning things around could be a tough ask against a strong side like NYCFC, especially at Yankee Stadium. Look for David Villa and company to exploit those early season jitters that Orlando seems to still be working out.

Atlanta United FC v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC — 7:30 pm ET

Atlanta United looks to build off of last week's victory against D.C United as they take on the undefeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Atlanta has high expectations heading into the season, but those were put temporarily on hold after a 4-0 dismantling at the hands of the Houston Dynamo in Week 1. The Five Stripes bounced back in Week 2 with a 3-1 victory at home against their 2017 Achilles heel in D.C. United. The Whitecaps are one of three undefeated teams going into Week 3, so this will likely be a tougher test for ATLUTD.

Players to Watch:

Atlanta United FC

  • Miguel Almiron — Simply put, Almiron is the key to the Atlanta attack. When he has time, space, and the freedom to move around where he pleases, Atlanta United's offense fires on all cylinders. He will be feeling good after his Goal-of-the-Week screamer from Week 2 and will be looking to build on that performance in front of a loud Atlanta crowd.

  • Jeff Larentowicz — Last week Tata Martino moved Larentowicz from CB to his more natural #6 position, and things went much better for Atlanta's defense. If Larentowicz lines up in the midfield again as expected, ATLUTD will look to build on their improved defensive performance in Week 2. He will have his work cut out for him, though, as Vancouver has a significant height advantage and Larentowicz is known to foul in areas that could prove dangerous.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

  • Kei Kamara — Kamara has a great start to his tenure in Vancouver, scoring his 100th MLS goal for the club last week. The 6’3” forward is going to have a field day with the back line of Atlanta that’s tallest player is the 6'1" Leandro González Pirez

  • Alphonso Davies — The young midfielder has started and played nearly every minute of the 2018 season so far. He has one goal and one assist on the season, but his speed is what makes him especially dangerous. He will be key to Vancouver's counter attack against the Atlanta back line. He will also need to have pinpoint crosses to give Kamara a chance at putting Vancouver ahead.

Things to Watch:

The key to this matchup is how well will Atlanta deal with the height advantage that Vancouver has over them. On the other end, it will be interesting to see how Vancouver can deal with the speed of Atlanta’s front three. This should be a fun end-to-end game that could potentially be full of goals.