Major League Soccer's Week 5 was a good one for a high-profile debut, a tough one for players coming off international duty and an atrocious one for goalkeepers.
Bastian Schweinsteiger enjoyed a stellar debut for the Chicago Fire, offering some very good evidence of why the Fire have invested millions into the German star. The Fire weren't able to win, but Schweinsteiger's influence was clear to see.
Friday night's doubleheader was supposed to be a great showcase of four of the league's best teams, but none of those four could muster a goal on a night that fell well short of expectations.
Part of the reason for Friday's lackluster showing was marquee players being forced out of starting lineups due to post-international duty fatigue. Seattle left Clint Dempsey and Roman Torres out of its starting lineup while Miguel Almiron and Kenwyne Jones were out of the lineup in a match they would normally have started under different circumstances. Toronto FC left Jozy Altidore and Armando Cooper out of its lineup on a night the Canadian club was forced to settle for a home draw with Sporting KC.
Saturday offered much more entertainment value, and for Minnesota United, it provided some history as the Loons recorded their first MLS victory. Kevin Molino showed no ill effects from his heavy load during the international break, leading the Loons attack in a 4-2 romp against a Real Salt Lake team in disarray as it prepares to welcome new coach Mike Petke.
The weekend also saw a rash of jaw-dropping goalkeeping blunders that had to leave some coaches aghast at plays you just don't normally see – certainly not so many in the same week.
Here is a look back at the top storylines from MLS Week 5:
SCHWEINSTEIGER SHOWS WHY THE FIRE ARE BETTING ON HIM
Anyone wondering why the Chicago Fire were willing to gamble $4.5 million on a 32-year-old player who has spent the past two seasons barely playing at Manchester United were shown just why Saturday, as Bastian Schweinsteiger showed off his considerable talent in a 2-2 draw against the Montreal Impact.
The German World Cup winner showed his intelligence, passing skills, toughness, motor and work ethic in a 90-minute performance that had a little bit of everything. Schweinsteiger's day had a goal, and several top-class passes that might have helped produce goals on another day. He mixed in a few nutmegs, a dummy, and ran past a few people when the moment called for it. Schweinsteiger even helped draw a red card with a defense-splitting pass.
How involved was Schweinsteiger? He took 101 touches in his debut, more than any other player in MLS in Week 5. Not bad for a player who hadn't played a competitive match in more than two months, and had barely played at all in the 2016-17 season.
Schweinsteiger was able to show why calling him a defensive midfielder doesn't do his game justice. While he may not be an outright attacking midfielder, he is a creator, with elite-level vision and touch, who can create chances for his teammates. He's a master at finding space to operate, and because of that he consistently puts himself into position to make plays. He also makes his teammates better with his range of passing and ideas.
The former Manchester United midfielder should only become more influential as he gains more match sharpness after so little playing time in recent months. That's a scary proposition for opposing teams considering how good he looked in his debut, when he was supposed to be rusty and lack sharpness.
CUBO CONTINUES STUNNING CAREER REVIVAL
Erick "Cubo" Torres is smiling again, robot dancing again, and much to the chagrin of MLS defenses, he is scoring goals in bunches again.
The Houston Dynamo forward bagged a hat trick in Saturday's 4-1 rout of the New York Red Bulls. Torres is now leading MLS with six goals, looking like the player who once starred for now-defunct Chivas USA, before a pair of disappointing years following his multi-million dollar move to the Dynamo had him looking like a bust.
A reunion with former Chivas USA manager Wilmer Cabrera has helped Torres regain his goal-scoring touch, and now Cabrera and the Dynamo are playing some of the best soccer in the league.
Torres credited Cabrera's faith in him as one of the reasons he has been able to regain the form that helped him score 15 goals in the 2014 season.
"I think that any player that feels backed by coach and entire team will play with confidence and will always give a great performance," Torres said on Saturday. "Today I feel confident, happy and backed by the team, which helps me give my best and contribute to the team, which is the most important. If one player does well, the entire team benefits from it, which always the most important objective.”
Torres has scored in all four of the Dynamo's games this season, a truly impressive stretch that comes after he failed to register a goal in his first two seasons with Houston.
The 24-year-old Mexican striker is scoring in a variety of ways, including via free kick, and he just might start attracting the attention of Mexican national team coach Juan Carlos Osorio if he keeps this up.
GOALKEEPING GAFFES GALORE
It was a hellish Week 5 for MLS goalkeepers.
Thing started badly on Friday, when Clint Irwin left TFC's draw with Sporting Kansas City with what was later diagnosed with a hamstring injury that could sideline him for more than a month. By Saturday, goalkeepers were at least staying healthy, but they couldn't avoid costly blunders.
New York City FC's Sean Johnson hit a poorly struck clearance attempt that led to a San Jose goal. It was a play Johnson won't be proud of but one that was overshadowed by much worse mistakes, including one by a surprising source.
Nick Rimando is widely regarded as one of the most technically gifted goalkeepers in MLS history, but his deft touch let him down against Minnesota United when his attempt at a Cruyff turn to play himself out of danger devolved into a turnover that gave Loons striker Christian Ramirez a free run at an open goal.
Nick Rimando suffers brain fart, gives Christian Ramirez the easiest goal he'll ever get pic.twitter.com/hEWs3HqLEq— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) April 2, 2017
Not to be outdone, LA Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop showed his inexperience in the first half of the Galaxy's loss to Vancouver, racing out of the penalty area to clear away a threat only to miss the ball and leave his goal wide open for Whitecaps midfielder Cristian Techera to score.
Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson's late-game mistake may not have been as glaring as the ones committed by Rimando and Diop but it was more costly, as it helped New England salvage a late draw in Portland.
The LA Galaxy had Gio Dos Santos, Jermaine Jones, Ashley Cole and Jelle van Damme in the lineup, but still couldn't manage to avoid Saturday's 4-2 loss to Vancouver. As much as you can blame goalkeeper Clement Diop for some of the goals, it is starting to look like Jones and Brazilian midfielder Joao Pedro are a bad fit together in the Galaxy central midfield. Jones has the freedom to float forward and play more like a box-to-box midfielder, but with Pedro also venturing forward, opposing midfields can get in behind the tandem and attack the Galaxy defense with numbers. The Whitecaps took full advantage of this repeatedly.
The current MLS leaders in assists are Patrice Bernier and Alex Lima, with four each. If that's surprising to you it's probably because Bernier had recorded a combined two assists in the previous two seasons, and Lima had managed four assists in his five previous MLS seasons combined.
Philadelphia Union fans are starting to get nervous. Jim Curtin's squad is in last place after five weeks, and Saturday's 2-1 loss at D.C. United saw the Union make some silly mistakes that led to both D.C. goals, and left the Union still searching for their first win of the season.
"This league is too strong and there’s too much talent to spot teams two goals," Curtin said on Saturday. "I know this group; the performances are not indicative of the point total that we are on right now. So again, we need to continue to work hard in training, fix some things and results will start going our way."
Is Curtin on the hot seat? Not just yet, but the Union will need wins soon or risk digging a hole too deep to climb out of in an Eastern Conference that has grown stronger with the improvements of Columbus and Chicago, and the arrival of Atlanta United.
With the first month in the books, we have a three-horse race in the MLS Rookie of the Year field. San Jose fullback Nick Lima, Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel, and Columbus Crew defender Alex Crognale are off to strong starts to the season. D.C. United rookie Ian Harkes came into the season with plenty of hype and is seeing regular minutes, but from an impact standpoint, he's still a notch below the aforementioned trio, at least for now.
Marco Farfan may only be 18, but the Portland Timbers fullback isn't shying away from the action. He registered eight tackles won in Sunday's draw with New England, the highest total by any player in the league this season.
You can chalk up at least some of Farfan's impressive poise to the experience he gained playing in USL last year. Farfan is one of several USL alums doing well in the early weeks of the MLS season, a list that includes Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, Philadelphia's Derrick Jones and Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop.
A.J. DeLaGarza made his 200th career MLS start in Houston's 4-1 win against the New York Red Bulls. It is an impressive milestone considering he came into MLS considered by scouts to be too small to play center back but not quick enough to play fullback. He proved his doubters wrong, as he embarks on his ninth season in MLS. His first season away from the LA Galaxy is off to a good start, with DeLaGarza playing well at right back for the Dynamo. One can't help but wonder if the Galaxy would change their minds if they had a chance to undo the trade that sent DeLaGarza to the Dynamo this winter.
BEST OF MLS WEEK 5
Player of the Week: Erick "Cubo" Torres. The Houston Dynamo striker delivered a hat trick in Houston's romp over the Red Bulls.
Team of the Week: Houston Dynamo. Despite missing Romell Quioto, the Dynamo still managed to dismantle the Red Bulls in a 4-1 victory.
Rookie of the Week: Alex Crognale. The Columbus Crew center back wins for the second straight week, as he started in place of injured standout Jonathan Mensah and helped keep Cyle Larin under wraps in a 2-0 victory.
Coach of the Week: Carl Robinson. With his team trailing 2-1 at halftime, Robinson turned to Fredy Montero as a halftime sub despite him carrying a mild hamstring issue. The move paid off as Montero helped rally the Whitecaps attack to three unanswered goals.
Goal of the Week: Luis Solignac looked like he was on his way to having the week's top finish, especially since it was a stoppage-time equalizer, but then Diego Valeri delivered a stunning volley on Sunday night: