Two of the most intriguing storylines to emerge from the opening week of the MLS season will be on display when the Houston Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps FC square off on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston.
The Dynamo scored four goals in the first half and rolled to an uber-impressive 4-0 win over Atlanta United on March 3, beating in every way an opponent that some expect to challenge for this year's MLS Cup.
"It was a good day, but it was only one out of 34," Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said.
Houston's Alberth Elis didn't score one of the four goals, but the Honduran ran Atlanta's defense ragged, finishing with two assists and doing enough to earn a spot on the Team of the Week along with teammate defender Philippe Senderos.
For the Dynamo, it was a game to build on as they aim to prove last season's trip to the Western Conference finals was not a fluke. Houston knows it's far from being a finished project and the players and coaches alike have kept a level-headed approach to their dominating season-opening win.
"It's a long season and don't think it's so much about one game but to continue approaching the game in the proper way," said Houston forward Andrew Wenger, who scored the opening goal in the romp.
Houston's opening-day performance took place without likely starting midfielder Tomas Martinez, who missed the match because of a suspension that carried over from the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"My teammates that got to play did it very well," Martinez said. "Now we must continue like this, not relax, and give it our all because now comes a very hard game.
"From here until the end of the season, we want to win every game -- we are going always for the three points. That said, (Vancouver) is a very tough opponent. We faced them last year and we also have tools and we are going to do our best."
While Houston was impressive in the Bayou City, the Whitecaps were also turning some heads in the Pacific Northwest as teenager Alphonso Davies had a goal and an assist and veteran Kei Kamara added his first goal in his Vancouver debut in a 2-1 win over Montreal.
Davies, a homegrown 17-year-old who is in his third MLS season, became the 11th youngest player to score a goal in league history.
"I'm feeling great," Davies said afterward. "I'm feeling comfortable. When I played my first season with the club, I was nervous and didn't know what to expect in the league. Second season was me just trying to figure out what I have to do now.
"Third season, going in to it, I know the basics. Being able to move the ball quick, make runs, play with the team. I got adapted to the league a little bit more. I've developed, I wouldn't say rapidly, but I'm still working up there."
As the 2018 campaign progresses, the question now for Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson is how Davies' minutes will be managed.
"I just like seeing him on the field," Robinson said of Davies. "(He's) able to play multiple positions. I've played him right wing, I've played him left wing, I've him played inside of three midfield players, I've played him as a number 10, I've played him as a left back. It's a great education for the young boy, it really is."
The Dynamo are hoping their trend of home success against Vancouver continues. Houston has never lost to Vancouver at home (4-0-1) and have not conceded more than one goal in any of five home games. The Dynamo lost just once at BBVA Compass Stadium last season.
Overall in 11 matches between the teams, Vancouver enjoys a 6-4 edge (with one draw) and a 15-13 advantage in goals scored. Houston won last year's meeting 2-1 in May.