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Things we learned from MLS 2017, Week 1: Houston is hot in March

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The Dynamo starts another year in encouraging form, and the Expansion Uniteds have trouble with the 82nd minute.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It's only Week One, but we can still take a lesson or two from the opening weekend of MLS 2017.

1. It's hard being an Expansion team, especially in the 82nd minute

The two newest clubs in MLS - the Uniteds of Atlanta and Minnesota - had broadly similar experiences in their first games in the league: everything was going more or less OK until the 82nd minute.

For Minnesota, Christian Ramirez scored in the 79th minute against Portland, trimming the Timbers' lead to 2-1 and setting up a late bid for at least a point for the visiting United. Except the resurgence never happened. Diego Valeri bagged a penalty in the 82nd minute and Fanendo Adi got a brace in injury time. Portland ran away with a 5-1 win.

Atlanta had the pleasing experience of outplaying the New York Red Bulls for most of its inaugural game in MLS. Even when RBNY equalized in the 76th minute, it seemed little more than a temporary setback for a home team that had dominated the match since opening the scoring mid-way through the first half. But the Red Bulls scored again - in the 82nd minute. Six minutes later, Carlos Carmona was sent off, and the 10-man United played out the end of a game it should have won comfortably as the second-best team in the match.

The question of which Expansion club will have it harder in MLS this season will be quickly settled: they play each other on March 12. Expect both sides to be at full focus when the 82nd minute rolls around.

2. It's Week 1, so Houston is hot

The Houston Dynamo got out to a good start in MLS 2017, beating defending MLS Cup champ Seattle, 2-1. The team has retooled over the off-season, and the front three of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Erick 'Cubo' Torres looked to have an encouraging early-season chemistry.

But Houston's March form hasn't really been its problem. In 2016, the Dynamo scored 11 goals in its first three league games, including an eye-opening 5-0 win over FC Dallas. But losing a 4-3 shootout to RBNY seemed to stall Houston's momentum. March ended with a 1-0 loss in Vancouver. The Dynamo didn't win in MLS again until May.

In 2015, Houston opened league play with a win - and didn't win again until April. In 2014, the Dynamo posted back-to-back victories in MLS to start its campaign, and then slumped into a six-game winless streak.

Houston might be good this year, it might not. There's no telling from its earliest results. The Dynamo has missed the playoffs the last three seasons, it was a contender for MLS Cup in two of the three seasons prior to that. But it tends to start the year well: the team hasn't lost its opening game of the season since 2011.

See how Houston is playing in April before deciding whether it is a team on the turnaround, or just the usual Dynamo in March.

3. Another record for Luis Robles

Luis Robles is the MLS Ironman because he holds the league's record for consecutive starts and consecutive 90-minute games played. Against Atlanta United, the RBNY 'keeper tied (current LA Galaxy president) Chris Klein's all-time record for consecutive regular-season appearances: Robles has now played in the Red Bulls' last 141 league games, starting and finishing every one. It is, simply, the most extraordinary appearances streak in MLS history.

4. Keep an eye on Sacha Kljestan

The Red Bulls' leading assist-man over the last two seasons picked up another assist in his team's season-opener. That boosted his career regular-season tally in MLS to 68.

With the retirement of Brad Davis, and re-retirement of Landon Donovan, Kljestan is the MLS assist leader among currently active players in the league. He is 18th on the all-time MLS assists list, and he can reasonably be expected to move up that list during the course of the year (he only needs two more to get to 16th, for example). And if he continues the exceptional assist-making of his first two seasons with RBNY (34 in the regular-season since 2015), he could end up in the MLS all-time top 10 by the end of 2017.

5. It's too early to tell

It is Week One. Every team in MLS has played one of 34 league games. Seven of those teams - Portland, Houston, San Jose, RBNY, Colorado, Dallas, and Orlando - won. Seven lost. Eight tied. Some of the results advanced perceptions built on last season's performances: Colorado, Dallas, and the Red Bulls were among the better teams in 2016. Some results did not: MLS Cup champ Seattle lost to a team, Houston, that didn't make the playoffs. But it is Week One. We won't know for some time whether these first-day results have anything to tell us about the early-season or even full-year form of any of the 22 teams in the league.