MLS Talking Points: Dynamo take hot streak to Portland, Sounders homecoming, and more

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The undefeated Houston Dynamo face their first road challenge of the season against fellow unbeaten Portland, while Seattle plays its home opener.

After an opening two weeks that have featured goals galore, as well as plenty of surprises, Week 3 of the MLS season should start to paint a clearer picture of just where teams really do stand, and which teams have benefited from easy early schedules.

The Houston Dynamo have been one of the pleasant surprises early on, but they will be leaving the friendly confines of BBVA Compass Stadium for the first time as they head to Portland to take on the fellow unbeaten Timbers. San Jose is in the same boat, as the Earthquakes travel to Sporting Kansas City after opening the season with a pair of home victories. Sporting KC is a good opponent to test just how seriously we should take San Jose's strong start.

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The New York Red Bulls aren't exactly a surprise as a fast starter, but their cross-country trip to Seattle will answer plenty of questions about Jesse Marsch's men. It won't be easy against a Sounders team playing at home for the first time since lifting the MLS Cup trophy.

Several teams are still searching for their first wins of the season, including Toronto FC, which will be without Sebastian Giovinco for its trip to Vancouver. Minnesota United has shaken the snow off after last week's demolition at the hands of Atlanta United, but won't find things much easier in Colorado against a Rapids team that has been virtually unbeatable at home over the past year.

Here is a closer look at the key talking points heading into MLS Week 3:


IT'S A BIG WEEKEND FOR ... THE HOUSTON DYNAMO

Alex Romell Quioto Houston Dynamo

With the possible exception of Atlanta United, there hasn't been a more fun team to watch through the opening weeks of the MLS season than the Houston Dynamo. Wilmer Cabrera has let his speedsters fly in all-out attack mode and the results have been five goals and two victories.

Things will be much tougher on the road, in Portland, and while the Timbers are shorthanded defensively, they have the attacking weapons to go toe-to-toe with the Dynamo. Caleb Porter is a smart tactician, and he will work hard to pinpoint where to go after Houston. That should offer a good challenge for Cabrera to show how he can adapt as opponents get better at neutralizing the Dynamo attack.

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U.S. men's national team fans will want to keep a close eye on DaMarcus Beasley. The Dynamo left back is looking like he could start for the U.S. against Honduras, and Sebastian Blanco should offer him an excellent test before that important match.

Fanendo Adi should also present an interesting challenge for the Dynamo, who have yet to face that sort of physical presence at forward this season.

A win in Portland would erase some lingering questions about how seriously we should take the Dynamo as a contender, and even a draw would force skeptics to start believing the hype.


DON'T MISS ... SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS

Sacha Kljestan Osvaldo Alonso MLS 05312017

Sounders fans will converge on CenturyLink Field for the first home match of the 2017 season, and the first chance to watch the Sounders at home as the reigning MLS champions. It promises to be a festive atmosphere, but the New York Red Bulls aren't exactly going to lay down and play the role of sacrificial lamb for the party.

The Sounders may not have a win yet this season, but this is still very much a battle of MLS Cup contenders, with the 2-0 Red Bulls presenting some difficult challenges for Brian Schmetzer's side. The Bradley Wright-Phillips-Sacha Kljestan tandem is still a dangerous one, and only a Tim Howard masterpiece kept Wright-Phillips from scoring two or three goals last week. Roman Torres is suspended, which will put more pressure on Seattle's defense to deal with a Red Bulls attack that does a good job of keeping the ball and creating chances.

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The Sounders attack hasn't quite found its stride this season, though last week's dramatic second-half rally against Montreal had to inject some confidence into the team. The Red Bulls have only allowed one goal in two matches, but they will face some matchup problems, as Jordan Morris' speed will be a good test for a Red Bulls central defense you wouldn't call fleet-footed.

One player the Red Bulls could have trouble containing is Nicolas Lodeiro, who hasn't quite reached the level he showed last season in leading the Sounders to a championship, but a return to CenturyLink Field could offer the perfect opportunity for Lodeiro to remind us all just how dangerous he can be.


MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Kendall Waston Jozy Altidore MLS 03072015

Miguel Almiron vs. Dax McCarty. The league's most impressive playmaker through the first two weeks takes on one of the league's best defensive midfielders 

Sacha Kljestan vs. Osvaldo Alonso. Though the Red Bulls' new look system won't necessarily keep Kljestan in Alonso's path, the Cuban destroyer will have the main task of slowing down the Red Bulls star.

David Villa vs. Laurent Ciman. Villa has scored in three of four meetings with the Impact, and it will up to Ciman to try and cool that dominance.

Jozy Altidore vs. Kendall Waston. The big bruisers square off in a matchup Altidore needs to get the better of if TFC is going to grab its first win of 2017.

Matt Hedges vs. Kei Kamara. Whether it's Hedges or Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas must keep Kamara under wraps to keep the Revs from pulling the upset in Frisco, Texas.

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Chad Marshall. With Roman Torres out, Marshall will have more work to do, and chief among his responsibilities will be keeping tabs on the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner.

Romell Quioto vs. Alvas Powell. The Dynamo speedster has been a terror this season, but Powell has the physical tools to slow him down, with some help from Sebastian Blanco.

Chris Wondolowski vs. Ike Opara. Though Matt Besler should also contribute, Opara will need to be on his game to keep the elusive Wondolowski from finding dangerous spots in the final third.

Diego Chara vs. Alex. The Dynamo attack has been thriving with Alex in the playmaker role, and Chara is a safe bet to try and neutralize him.

Albert Rusnak vs. Joao Pedro. Rusnak has shown himself to be a dangerous threat in central midfield, but Pedro has the qualities to slow him down.


WEEK 3 PREDICTIONS

Ronald Matarrta Dominic Oduro MLS 04272016

New York City FC 2, Impact 1. Patrick Vieira's men are right at home on the small field at Yankee Stadium, where Maxi Moralez will put together another strong outing.

Atlanta United 2, Chicago Fire 0. The Fire are off to an impressive start to 2017, but haven't faced an attack as dangerous as Atlanta's. Josef Martinez will run wild again.

Vancouver Whitecaps 0, Toronto FC 1. David Ousted is suspended and Sebastian Giovinco is out injured. Look for Toronto FC's defense to carry the day.

D.C. United 2, Columbus Crew 1. Patrick Mullins has a strong outing against a Crew side that will be missing Jonathan Mensah.

Orlando City 0, Philadelphia Union 2. The Union have quietly posted some impressive performances, and will grab three road points behind the efforts of Chris Pontius and C.J. Sapong.

FC Dallas 3, New England Revolution 1. Oscar Pareja could choose to rest some starters after a demanding CCL semifinal on Wednesday, but FC Dallas should still have enough weapons to roll at home.

Sporting Kansas City 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0. The Sporting KC attack finally breaks through, with Dom Dwyer delivering a double to hand San Jose its first loss.

Colorado Rapids 2, Minnesota United 0. Shkelzan Gashi and Dominique Badji have a field day against a Loons defense still trying to sort things out.

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Real Salt Lake 1, LA Galaxy 2. Two injury-hit teams struggle through what could be an ugly one, but look for Sebastian Lletget to make the difference.

Portland Timbers 2, Houston Dynamo 1. The Dynamo will create chances, especially with Liam Ridgewell still sidelined, but look for the Timbers to exploit Houston's defensive vulnerabilities to stay unbeaten.

Seattle Sounders 2. New York Red Bulls 1. The Red Bulls defense has held up well so far this season, but Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey will feed of Nicolas Lodeiro's service to win their home opener.

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