The MLS Wrap: New signings keep shining, the two-game grind and more

Rodney Wallace MLS NYCFC 03122017
Adam Hunger
It may not have been a winter filled with big-name signings, but several new MLS players have stepped up to become welcome additions.

It was another week full of surprises in Major League Soccer, and if you thought last week had some shocking results, Week 10 proved to be all the more surprising.

Should it have been though? The Philadelphia Union's first win of the season came against a strong New York Red Bulls side, but Jesse Marsch's men were coming off a midweek match, which certainly didn't help their cause going up against such a desperate team. It was a similar task for Sporting Kansas City, which looked sharp in a midweek win against the Red Bulls only to fall to Minnesota United on Sunday.

Bradley stars in MLS Team of the Week

Three of the four teams that played Wednesday matches wound up suffering shutout losses by multiple goals. Sporting KC fell at Minnesota, Orlando City was pummeled by the Houston Dynamo and the Union rolled over the Red Bulls. The combined score of those matches was 9-0.

And the only team that succeeded in double duty this week was Toronto FC. The Canadian side gave some pretty good evidence to support its claim as being the deepest squad in the league when it rested four key starters and still managed to earn a road win in Seattle.

San Jose winning at home shouldn't be seen as a major surprise, but the ease with which the Earthquakes beat down the Portland Timbers certainly was. Yes, the Timbers were missing Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe, but you still would have expected Caleb Porter's side to put up more of a fight.

Here is a look back at the top themes and storylines from MLS Week 10:


Florian Jungwirth MLS San Jose 05062017

Take a look at the teams doing well to start the 2017 season and a central theme with all of them is the key contribution of new players. Hitting big with offseason signings, particularly ones that aren't of the big-ticket variety, is pivotal in a league with a salary cap, and many of the teams enjoying strong starts can point to key transfer signings made this past winter.

Week 10 of the MLS season provided a good showcase for many of those who have been among the best winter pickups from abroad. Several teams did well in their hunt for effective designated player signings — such as Atlanta United with Miguel Almiron, the Chicago Fire with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, and the LA Galaxy with Romain Alessandrini — but the big story so far this season is how well several non-DP signings have performed.

Here are the five winter (non-DP) acquisitions we see doing the best so far this season:

Florian Jungwirth. The German defender has quietly been a revelation for San Jose, giving the Earthquakes a sorely needed upgrade in central defense. He is among the league's leaders in several key defensive stats, and his two-assist showing in Saturday's win against Portland is the latest reminder that he can contribute to the attack as well.

Jonathan Spector. Though Orlando City had a rough week with a pair of losses, that doesn't take away from the major impact Spector has had in helping lead the Lions' turnaround this season. 

Victor Vazquez. Toronto FC had long yearned for another reliable attacking option to supplement stars like Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, and the Spanish midfielder has stepped up and been just what Greg Vanney hoped for. Vazquez is tied for the league lead in assists with six, and has helped improve TFC's ability to keep possession and control the flow of play.

Rodney Wallace. No stranger to MLS when he arrived, the former MLS Cup winner with Portland stepped into an already-potent NYCFC attack and has made it even more dangerous, giving the team a left-sided threat to complement Jack Harrison on the right. He registered a goal and two assists in Sunday's win against Atlanta United, and has already tallied three goals and three assists this season.

Romell Quioto. Though DP Alberth Elis' signing drew more attention before the season began, Quioto has really turned heads with his speed and skill working on the left flank. The Honduran international suffered an injury while on international duty, but he has shown that when he's healthy, he's tough to stop. In fact, he has scored a goal in all four matches he has been healthy enough to start.


Kaka Orlando City MLS 05082017

Four teams were faced with the task of playing two games this week, and only one — Toronto FC — was up to the challenge.

Sporting Kansas City, the Red Bulls and Orlando City all did their best to try and cope with the heavy load — including sitting several players in one of two matches — but this weekend we saw all three fall to rested opponents by a combined score of 9-0.

MLS has tried to limit the number of midweek matches it plays, but it's impossible to avoid them, even early in the season when teams aren't at the fitness levels necessary to handle such a load with many of the same players. A select few teams boast enough depth that allows them to rest four or more starters at a time, and the early results show just that.

FC Dallas won all three matches it played after midweek CONCACAF Champions League matches early in the MLS season, and Toronto FC most recently beat the Sounders 1-0 just four days after beating Orlando City. Greg Vanney sat four key starters, including Giovinco, and his team still squeezed out a victory.

Excluding FC Dallas and Toronto FC, MLS teams are a combined 1-7-1 this season in weekend matches following a midweek match. The lone victory in that bunch was recorded by the Red Bulls, who followed up a CONCACAF Champions League-eliminating loss in Vancouver with an MLS season-opening comeback win against Atlanta United.

There is only one midweek match this week — Wednesday's clash between the Columbus Crew and Toronto FC — but the following week will see 10 MLS teams in action on Wednesday. That is shaping up to be a grueling week, especially for the teams that are lacking quality in reserve.


Romain Alessandrini LA Galaxy MLS 05062017

The LA Galaxy looked primed for a crushing loss. Down 2-0 at halftime, and having lost Jermaine Jones to injury and Jelle Van Damme to a tactical substitution, the Galaxy looked primed for a loss that could have spelled the end of Curt Onalfo's tenure as coach. If there was a time for a team to lay down on a coach it didn't believe in, Saturday afforded that opportunity to the Galaxy.

Instead of lay down, the Galaxy rallied, scoring goals off a pair of corner kicks to salvage a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire

"We became a team tonight," Onalfo told reporters after the match. "That's the Galaxy team that you'll see moving forward. I think it was a galvanizing moment for our group. We've been through a lot already, and it was pretty darned good second half."

Onalfo sent a clear message to his team in the first half when he benched captain Van Damme in the 33rd minute. After the match Onalfo made it clear he benched the veteran because he didn't feel he was playing well.

"I expect our players to be right from minute one, and I'm the leader of the team," Onalfo said. "If guys aren't (right), I'm the leader of the team and I have to make substitutions to get our group where it needs to be. I brought in (David) Romney and he did a solid job and we didn't concede any more and we ended up creating a lot of chances."

It might seem odd for a team with such a storied tradition of dominance at home to be so overjoyed by a draw, but that's just the kind of season it has been starting out in 2017. The Galaxy had a 1-3-1 record at home heading into Saturday, and a loss could have meant the end of Onalfo's time as Galaxy coach. Earning a draw doesn't mean Onalfo isn't still under immense pressure to turn things around, but Saturday's second-half performance was a clear sign that this Galaxy team hasn't given up on its coach.

Now it will be up to Onalfo to build on that momentum, which won't be easy with a four-match road trip coming up, starting with a visit to Red Bull Arena, where the Red Bulls are 4-0-1 this season. Onalfo will have to decide what to do about Van Damme going forward, and whether or not benching the Belgian will light a fire under the MLS Best XI defender. He must also figure out what to do with his midfield, which started out looking shaky as a unit yet again before Jones left the match with a knee injury. That isn't to say the Galaxy are better without Jones, but there is certainly evidence to suggest that the Galaxy have looked better when Jones and Joao Pedro haven't been on the field together.

Perhaps a monthlong stretch of road games isn't the worst thing in the world for the Galaxy. But given the challenges that lie ahead, Onalfo is going to need more responses like we saw in the second half on Saturday or the Galaxy could find themselves with a new coach when they return to StubHub Center on June 17.


CJ Sapong MLS Philadelphia Union 05062017

Player of the Week: C.J. Sapong. There were several outstanding performances this week, from Rodney Wallace's to Chris Wondolowski's, but Sapong gets the nod for his hat trick at a time when his Philadelphia Union desperately needed a result.

Team of the Week: Toronto FC. A pair of wins, including a win in Seattle without Giovinco, made TFC the easy choice.

Rookie of the Week: Abu Danladi. The first pick in the 2017 MLS draft impressed in his first MLS start, scoring a goal and providing an assist in Minnesota United's upset of Sporting Kansas City.

Coach of the Week: Greg Vanney. Left four starters home and still managed to earn a 1-0 victory in Seattle.

Goal of the Week: David Villa.There may have been better strikes this week, but the combination play in the buildup to Villa's goal against Atlanta United earns the NYCFC star this week's honor: