MLS preview: Can Atlanta cope without Josef Martinez? Time for Timbers to worry?

Can Atlanta United succeed without Josef Martinez? (1:52)

Paul Tenorio joins Banter to weigh in on Atlanta United's chances in the East without injured star Josef Martinez. (1:52)

The 2020 MLS season is off and running and even though it is just Week 2, there are major talking points going around league circles.


How will Atlanta United react without Josef Martinez?

The news that goal-scoring machine Josef Martinez is out with an ACL tear continues to reverberate, but Atlanta United have to get back to business on Saturday when they host FC Cincinnati (7 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+).

There is little doubt that Atlanta executives Carlos Bocanegra and Darren Eales will eventually find an adequate replacement for Martinez, but it will be nearly impossible to match the output of the Venezuelan striker.

In the short term, it will be up to the Argentine pair of Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez to provide the fireworks. Fortunately for Atlanta United, the former looks primed to enjoy a monster season. Barco took his goal very well in the opening win over Nashville SC and, on top of his blue-collar performances in the CONCACAF Champions League series with Motagua, it's clear the player who blazed his way to Copa Sudamericana glory with Independiente in 2017 has fully found his stride in Atlanta.

There is also the dangling carrot of a potential move to Europe at the end of the season, and there would be no better way to market yourself to European clubs than proving yourself as the alpha dog on one of MLS' premier teams. A motivated Barco combined with a settled-in Pity will not fully make up for Martinez's absence, but it could be a lot less painful than Atlanta United fans might think.


Is Jordan Morris poised for a monster season?

Taylor Twellman and Paul Tenorio believe Jordan Morris' strong start for Seattle could be a sign of things to come.

Is there reason to worry in Portland?

There was a lot of hype about Portland's attack heading into the season with the trio of Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and new arrival Felipe Mora, but the main takeaway following the 3-1 defeat to Minnesota United in Sunday's home opener was the poor performance from the Timbers' back line.

Head coach Giovanni Savarese saw his side gutted for three goals in the second half, all on the counterattack. Portland's defense was slow to react and if not for some heroics from goalkeeper Steve Clark, Minnesota United could have had another goal or two. Portland looked old and slow and, considering that the biggest reinforcements over the winter came in attack and not defense, there is cause for concern.

A lot of that worry can go away in the short term with MLS rookie Nashville coming to town on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), but another subpar display from the Timbers' back line against a team most expect to finish at the bottom of the conference table will sound some alarm bells.


35 MLS goals in 90 seconds

A quick look at all the goals from the opening weekend of MLS, including a beautiful chip from Carlos Vela.

Will Inter Miami get their first win in D.C.?

All things considered, David Beckham's new team fared decently well in its MLS debut defeat to LAFC, thanks in large part to Luis Robles in goal. The former Red Bulls keeper kept Inter Miami within a goal with a number of top-notch saves.

There were also positive moments in attack for Miami. Head coach Diego Alonso had his team playing direct and its pace and ability to play in tight spaces made for some nervy moments for the LAFC defense. Rodolfo Pizarro is bound to make some defenses in MLS look downright silly, and that could come as early as this Saturday in the nation's capital against a DC United team that coughed up a second-half lead and lost 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids in Week 1.

DC United are still trying to get settled with their new arrivals Julian Gressel and Edison Flores, and the acquisition of Federico Higuain will require a bit of an adjustment. Coach Ben Olsen will eventually get things figured out, like he always seems to do, but it might come with a few scars, like a loss to an expansion side.


It is not often that the MLS Player of the Week is someone who came off the bench, yet here we are with Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris, who was substituted on at halftime and scored both goals in Sunday's 2-1 comeback win over Chicago.

Morris has started 2020 with a bang, and not just in MLS, with a goal and an assist in the CONCACAF Champions League. Despite Seattle's unexpected elimination to Olimpia, Morris is still poised for a big season. The timing of his runs on Sunday was impeccable, his passing was precise and he has developed a nose for goal that is matched by only a few in the league. There is no reason to think he can't continue that form on Saturday at home against Columbus (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+).

This is all great news for Seattle, especially with playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro still out injured, and it's a good sign for the U.S. national team with the CONCACAF Nations League finals and 2022 World Cup qualifying on the horizon.


Outside of the Alan Pulido signing and the Tab Ramos hiring, both Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo flew under the radar over the winter, but each impressed in their opening matches. Sporting went to Vancouver and got a 3-1 win thanks to a Pulido goal, and Ramos' Dynamo kept the much-hyped LA Galaxy in check with a 1-1 draw in Houston.

Now the two will clash in Kansas City on Saturday (8.30 p.m. ET, ESPN+), with former Figueres and New York/New Jersey MetroStars teammates Ramos and Peter Vermes squaring off on the touchline. It is not crazy to think that both of these men will one day be national team managers, but for now fans can enjoy the tactical battle between two well-coached teams.