8 Things We Learned from MLS Week 3
After three weeks of play across the grounds of Major League Soccer, we are beginning to get a taste of what the biggest stories are going to be in 2014.
In the Eastern Conference, a few new names are helping a pair of clubs gain confidence and potentially earn a spot atop the standings in the long run.
Out west, a team without a key player battled to a road victory, while a young star continued to fly under the radar.
Continue reading for a look at the eight biggest takeaways from Week 3 in MLS.
Gilberto Is a Pretty Good Designated Player Too
A week after fellow new signings Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe earned plenty of praise for their debuts in Seattle, the third designated player to be brought in this offseason shined in Toronto's home opener.
Gilberto combined well with Defoe up front to put the D.C. United defense under pressure on numerous occasions.
The Brazilian's saved shot in the 60th minute eventually led to Defoe's goal, which happened to be the only strike that hit the back of the net at BMO Field on Saturday.
If Gilberto and Defoe can finish off a few more chances, they could end up being the best forward duo in the league by the end of the season.
Seattle Will Be Just Fine Without Dempsey
While we're on the topic of high-profile designated players, Clint Dempsey was forced to sit out Seattle's match against Montreal on Sunday thanks to a two-game suspension he received for a punch to Mark Bloom's groin last week.
Without Dempsey in the lineup, the Sounders looked just fine on the road at Olympic Stadium as Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle combined well up front with Kenny Cooper.
Neagle's header led to an own goal by Montreal's Troy Perkins in the eighth minute, while Cooper chipped in a delightful pass to Martins, who headed home the second goal of the 2-0 win in the 58th minute.
If the attacking trio can once again play well up front against Columbus in Week 4, they could roll past Portland in the Cascadia Cup match set for April 5 at Providence Park in Portland.
A Sporting KC Forward Finally Scored
When Dom Dwyer slotted home Sporting Kansas City's lone goal in the 1-0 win over San Jose, he broke an extremely long goal drought for the team's forwards.
Dwyer's 57th-minute goal was the first scored by a Sporting forward in 571 minutes of play, a total that spans six games.
Sporting certainly has the firepower to score from the position and one has to think that was just a fluke record that will not pop up again in the near future.
LA Needs to Sharpen Up on Defense Early in Games
After a miserable first half in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday against Tijuana, the LA Galaxy didn't do itself any favors in the first half against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
The Galaxy let in their fourth first-half goal in two games as Alvaro Saborio found the back of the net in the 19th minute of the clash at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It also didn't help that Saborio was left wide open near the right post to beat keeper Brian Perk for his first goal of the season.
Erick Torres' Fast Start Is Flying Way Under the Radar
Not many fans are aware of how strong of a start Erick Torres is having up front for Chivas USA in 2014.
Torres is currently tied with Defoe and Will Bruin atop the Golden Boot standings with three.
The young playmaker, who scored seven goals in 2013, has scored a goal in each match he has played in this season, including his 81st-minute strike in the 3-1 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday.
If Torres remains a force in attack all season, he could challenge for the Golden Boot title thanks to an explosive midfield behind him led by Mauro Rosales.
Gregg Berhalter Is Slowly Building Columbus into Supporters' Shield Contender
Gregg Berhalter has already made his imprint on the Columbus Crew within the first month of the regular season.
Through two games, Berhalter's Crew have looked organized in the back for the most part and lively in attack.
The center-back pairing of Giancarlo Gonzalez and Michael Parkhurst has done terrific by only letting up one goal in 180 minutes, while the midfield play is very fluid at the moment.
In Week 1, it was Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta who starred for Columbus, but in Week 3 it was Bernardo Anor and Wil Trapp that had the impressive showings.
If Columbus can receive production from all 11 players on the pitch throughout the season, the team could be a dark-horse contender for the Supporters' Shield.
There's No Need to Worry About the Red Bulls
The defending Supporters' Shield champions earned their second point of the season on Sunday on the road in a 1-1 draw with Chicago.
Despite only earning two points from its first three games, New York has no need to worry about its slow start.
The Red Bulls missed two key players against Vancouver in Week 1 and have recorded positive results in two consecutive weeks.
While manager Mike Petke would have liked to earn a win by now, he can't be discouraged about the way his team is playing at the moment.
The next game New York will play presents a perfect opportunity to earn three points as Chivas USA visits Red Bull Arena on Sunday.
MLS Is Still Not on Par with Liga MX
Three MLS clubs faced a harsh reality in Mexico this weekend as they all dropped out of the CONCACAF Champions League at the quarterfinal stage.
LA and Sporting both conceded way too many goals to have a chance to win in the end, while San Jose put in a spirited effort that saw it lose on penalty kicks to Toluca.
As another continental competition passes without a success by an MLS club, the concerns about the league's schedule and qualification process for the Champions League were brought up again.
This will be a continuous discussion until teams from the league can defeat ones from Liga MX on a consistent basis.
The league is making plenty of progress at home, but the results on Tuesday and Wednesday showed it is not there quite yet on the continental stage.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report, you can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.