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Five Things We Learned in MLS: Week 1

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Running down the lessons MLS teaches us week to week. On the syllabus this week: number 10s, number 9s, incredible upside from a squad player and diminishing DP returns. Class is in session.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

1. We should all be very, very afraid of Argentine playmakers

The answer: 4 goals, 3 assists, and 16 key passes.

The question: What is the combined stat line of Mauro Diaz, Federico Higuain, Diego Valeri, and Ignacio Piatti?

The Argentines treated MLS like their personal playground on Sunday. They combined to directly contribute to about 20% of the goals scored in MLS during week 1 (of which there were 36, more than the Rapids had all season last year), and they could have done even more damage. A "key pass" is an Opta statistic that tracks passes that directly lead to shots on goal, but do not end in an actual goal. The Argentines carved out 16 passes that directly lead to chances on goal for their team. For reference, five games were played in week 1 in which both sides could not combine for 16 key passes (Toronto-New York, San Jose-Colorado, Houston-New England, Seattle-Kansas City, and LA-DC). And those goals they were scoring? They weren't flukes, either.

2. A number 9's work

This week was a great example of how important all the tricks of the trade are for the number 9 in MLS. Whether it's Chris Wondolowski slipping between two centerbacks for a headed goal like he's done a bajillion times, or Fanendo Adi cleaning up the scraps to win the game for Portland, or Tsubasa Endoh reading a Giovinco cross and winning a penalty to steal a win his side really didn't deserve, or Cyle Larin injecting life into a lost cause with one simple, sublime touch. I could go on here, but let it be known: without someone doing the scrappy work in front of goal, finishing plays any way he can think of, it is very difficult to be successful in MLS.

3. Toronto don't need to be good

On their best day, Toronto FC will be an incredible team. Sunday was nowhere near their best day. Giovinco was left stranded up top against a strangling Red Bull midfield. Bradley defended dutifully, but he and Will Johnson couldn't find the link between defense and attack. Red Bull was simply better, and TFC looked out of ideas without the gravitational pull of Jozy Altidore up top to give Seba space.

The thing about Toronto, though, is that Giovinco is a cheat code. His ball whipped in behind the defense allowed a surprisingly good Tsubasa Endoh to win his side a penalty, and his unselfish through ball to Marky Delgado sealed the win for the Canadians. Toronto don't need to be the best team on the field to win games. With Seba on the field, any chance can be converted, and with the added stability of Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour, and Clint Irwin in the back (which all played huge roles, alternately putting out fires for Toronto), they'll be able to win more and more of these games. Be wary of the Reds.

4. Tommy McNamara does not care about you or your feelings

We knew this game wouldn't have defense, but there were loads of questions and storylines surrounding these two teams coming into the season. Tommy McNamara was in approximately none percent of those narratives. Tommy McNamara did not care.

McNamara is a bit player in NYCFC's side, an attacking center midfielder in a team that has Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Mix Diskerud, and Kwadwo Poku already in it. McNamara was supposed to be a spark plug, a go-to substitute and depth player. But I'll be honest with you: Tommy McNamara should be starting for NYC regardless of who is healthy in that midfield, because his play is special. Sure, Chicago's defense is a tire fire. Sure, he won't have it as easy against the Red Bulls or Columbus. But I haven't seen Frank Lampard score that goal or pick out that assist with his weak foot in an NYC shirt (and for that matter, I haven't seen Pirlo or Diskerud really do that, either). McNamara might be the most exciting attacking player on NYC not named David Villa, and if he can do that (with that hair, no less!), he deserves everything he can get.

5. Just what does Stevie G have to give?

Steven Gerrard had a full offseason to rest, preseason to gel with his team, and a relatively easy home opener against a DC United team that was all-but completely dependent on Bill Hamid last year, minus Bill Hamid. His game? 78% passing, one key pass, one assist, one interception, and no tackles.

Playing deep midfield next to Nigel de Jong, Stevie, nominally the linking midfielder and set-piece specialist, should be doing more than that, especially for the contract he has and especially in a game his team is dominating. He is supposed to be the key cog in facilitating possession for the Galaxy, not to mention a chance creator extraordinaire with his set-piece pedigree. Gerrard looked old and slow, and Galaxy fans have to wonder if selling Juninho, still in his twenties and coming off a career year, in favor of the rapidly aging Merseysider, was in any way wise.