MLS: Conference runners-up make statement

The first two games of the 2018 MLS season produced a pair of stunning results as defending champion Toronto FC and Atlanta United, 1-2 in Soccer America's preseason rankings, both lost.

MLS: Week 1, Results

TFC lost to Columbus Crew SC, 2-0, at home, while Atlanta United fell, 4-0, at home. Both results showed the winners, both 2017 conference runners-up, can't be counted out in 2018.

The Crew traded its top two scorers, Ola Kamara and Justin Meram, but didn't miss a repeat as it stunned the 26,633 fans with goals in either side of halftime from Federico Higuain and Gyasi Zardes, Kamara's replacement.

"From a possession standpoint from creating chances and defensively playing agile," said Crew captain Wil Trapp, "I thought was excellent. Then we got that goals to end the first half and start the second half and we lost a little bit after that but the ability to see it through in this tough environment was key."

Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said TFC's fitness advantage -- the defending champions have played two games in the Concacaf Champions League -- kicked in about the 70-minute mark, but his players didn't panic.

"What I noticed from the group was that they were calm," he said. "They were calm about the performance and that’s good. We know were not a finished product and we’re gonna get better so that’s good."

The Houston result was the stunner. Atlanta United didn't give up more then three goals in a game in 2017, but it trailed by 4-0 at halftime against Houston.

The Dynamo showed off its speed on the counter and exposed the lack of pace on the Atlanta United backline, where Tata Martino was forced to pull Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in the 39th minute.

"We continue showing," said Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera, "that our mentality when we have the ball is that we don’t want to give up going forward with the speed and with the players that we have up front. They want to score, they want to go at the goal and that helps us a lot to pressure high, win the ball high, and score really quick. That mentality helped us to go through the first half where we were finishing and we were able to put the game away for us."

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