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MLS Power Rankings Week 3: San Jose Earthquakes open their new Avaya Stadium with a win; FC Dallas remains perfect through three games.

By Liviu Bird
March 23, 2015

Another soccer-specific stadium opened its Major League Soccer tenure in Week 3 of the 2015 season. On the opposite coast, one team kept its perfect record intact with its third win in a row.

The San Jose Earthquakes opened Avaya Stadium with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire, building on the momentum of a big away win in Seattle. Meanwhile, FC Dallas took three more points against the Philadelphia Union to max out at nine in three games.

Draws in half of last weekend’s eight matches, including three of the scoreless variety, again underscored MLS’s parity. Even so, a few things stood out in the third week of the MLS season:

Will this be the year Óscar Pareja gets the recognition he deserves?

After opening the season with two wins at home, Dallas went away to PPL Park and won again. It may have been a red card-assisted victory and still closer than it should have been according to the statistics, but Pareja’s men got it done.

Dallas can’t afford to coast now. In 2013, the team went undefeated through early May before a lengthy winless streak left it above only Chivas USA in the Western Conference. Last year, Dallas won five of its first seven followed by a streak of one win in 11. However, something feels different this season.

Many coaches stamp their identity on their teams through player selection and their style of play, and Pareja in Dallas is no different.

FCD boasts players who match technical ability and an MLS-requisite physicality, including Mauro Díaz and Fabián Castillo, with a healthy amount of fire personified by one of MLS’s most hated opponents, Blas Pérez.

That mixture makes it seem as if Dallas can find wins in multiple ways, and Pareja has enough depth to tailor his lineup as necessary. After finishing as a finalist in both of the last two MLS Coach of the Year races, this group might be the one to win the 46-year-old Colombian that accolade—as long as it can avoid the inconsistency that has plagued the team in recent seasons.

Avaya Stadium looks like a gem

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MLS teams continue to open their own spectacular stadiums, and the resources many North American owners enjoy make it plausible that the league could have the most enticing arenas for the beautiful game before too long.

The atmosphere at Avaya provides a unique experience, with planes taking off and landing just off the East side of the structure.

Nothing can replace tradition, which MLS is slowly building, but despite lacking a true cathedral of the game on the scale of Camp Nou, Old Trafford or La Bombonera, stadiums in the league have modern appeal.

The trend doesn’t stop in San Jose, with D.C. United and Orlando City SC set to join the list of franchises with such homes (and NYCFC and the New England Revolution theoretically on deck). The next major battle will be whether it’s plausible that all teams in the league not only have their own stadiums, but also natural grass surfaces within their four walls.

The Montreal Impact can’t catch a break in league play

After experienced midfielder Justin Mapp suffered a dislocated and fractured elbow in the team’s MLS opener against D.C. United two weeks ago, rookie Cameron Porter took a nasty fall on the turf at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. It looks like the 21-year-old, who set the CONCACAF Champions League alight with a series-clinching goal against Pachuca, will be out for some time, although the Impact have yet to announce a definitive diagnosis.

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Injuries and largely uninspired play have marked the Impact’s brief 2015 season so far—the exact opposite of its latest foray into the Champions League knockout rounds. It could come down to emphasis, as Montreal doesn’t need to rely on MLS play to qualify for the competition, and it seems Frank Klopas’ team places more importance on the continental competition.

As such, Montreal could be the first MLS team since Real Salt Lake in 2011 to make the final. That would be a great achievement even if it comes at the expense of league results, and it would vindicate the team’s efforts to overhaul in the offseason regardless of its ultimate MLS standing.

Over half of MLS matches have been scoreless at halftime so far this season

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Saturday offered more red cards than goals through the first three matches, as an FC Dallas double and Vancouver Whitecaps late winner offered the only respite from a brutal start to the weekend. Philadelphia Union midfielder Zach Pfeffer earned the only straight red of the bunch for a nasty elbow on Díaz.

Unlike a week before when the referees took center stage, all the officiating decisions were justified this time around.

In fact, Jorge González could have added a fourth red when Kekuta Manneh lunged into Aurélien Collin with two straight legs before Vancouver scored in stoppage time to defeat Orlando City SC.

Always the entertainer, Robbie Keane broke up the monotony with a blazing run through the Houston Dynamo defense to give the LA Galaxy a lead three minutes into Saturday’s nightcap. Houston equalized eight minutes later, and that was it for the goalscoring until Sunday.

Week 3 Best XI

GOALKEEPER: Josh Saunders (New York City FC)

DEFENDERS: Marc Burch (Colorado Rapids), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Donny Toia (Montreal Impact)

MIDFIELDERS: Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire)

FORWARDS: Octavio Rivero (Vancouver Whitecaps), Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)

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