I posted this originally on SoccerNation, but it needs to be here too. After all, this is the MLS Fan Group.
As many of you may know, the MLS begins its seaon on Saturday, March 29th. Is this year the year for your team?
In case you've missed it, a lot of things have happened this offseason in US Soccer. For one, the newest MLS franchise city has been announced, and Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, was the chosen home for the MLS expansion team that will begin competition in 2010. The team name for the Philly franchise hasn't been chosen yet, nor has the name for the '09 expansion franchise in Seattle. However, Seattle have recently announced they will let their fans decide the new name of the team, and the options for the new team name for people to vote on will be released on March 25th.
So how will your team do? I'm breaking down all the teams in the MLS and giving you up to date scouting reports and predictions so you can get a good idea of how your team will finish this year. This time around I'll cover the Eastern Conference, and I'll do the West at another date.
MLS SCOUTING REPORT
The Eastern Conference was easily the toughest conference last year, hauling in 5 playoff teams. This year seems to be no different, and all teams have looked to improve over the offseason.
1. DC United
DC looks to be ready for another impressive season, and after coming in 1st place in the East but losing a disapointing Chicago in the first round of the playoffs, United's vets like Ben Olson, Jaime Moreno, Bryan Namoff and new aquisition Santino Quaranta will be coming out determined to set things right once again. DC signed a bunch of new players, including new Designated Player Marcello Gallardo, who last played for PSG in France, who will be a huge boost to DC's midfield. With the promising new players added to an already dangerous team, I expect DC to finish in first again.
2. Chicago Fire
The Fire made some big improvements this summer, singing Polish international Tomasz Frankowski and picking up Patrick Nyarko in the Superdraft, two needed strikers who will boost the Fire's attack. Combine those two with Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe, plus the midfielding attack of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Justin Mapp, John Thorrington and Bakary Soumare and the Fire will be one tough team to beat this year.
3. New England Revoultion
The Revs came off a tough loss in the MLS Championship to Houston Dynamo, and are hoping to storm out of the gate for a fresh start this year. Taylor Twellman still leads the Revs, along with Matt Reis in goal and Sharlie Joseph in midfield, but the Revs also lost a few starters this year, particularly Andy Dorman, who headed over to Scotland to play with St. Mirren and is having a good run over there so far. In my opinion, the Revs will come out strong, but with an aging lineup they will begin to tire down near the end of the season and ultimately finish in 3rd.
4. New York Red Bulls
With the addition of new coach Juan Carlos Osorio, who turned the Fire's season around last year after he came into the mix in June, the Red Bulls look to be ready to make a bid for first. Not in my opinion. Jozy Altidore, who is looking to have a breakout season this year (then possibly head to Europe, or who knows, might leave for Europe this summer) and Juan Pablo Angel are ready to lead the charge, but behind them is a somewhat lackluster group of athletes. Claudio Reyna had a somewhat disapointing season last year, and I see no evidence to support him coming out well this season. Dave van den Bergh is set for a breakout season, along with promising rookie goalkeeper Danny Cepero, but other than that the team seems to have lost all its zest. They'll reach the playoffs, but just barely in my book.
5. Columbus Crew
With sophomores Robbie Rogers and Guillermo Barros Schelotto leading the team, plus new pickups defender Andy Iro and Ricardo Pierre-Louis (both rookies), the Crew's new lineup looks promising. Look for them to improve from their lackluster 37 points from last year.
6. Kansas City Wizards
The Wizards finished with 40 points last year, which left them tied for 4th place in the East. However, this team seems to have made the least improvement out of all the teams in the East, losing Eddie Johnson to Fulham, but bringing in Striker Claudio Lopez from Club America. Lopez will make a big difference, but with an aging lineup around him I don't see how much the Wizards can improve. Lopez has eaten up a big part of their salary, so bringing in much more new talent will also be tough. Lopez may have a tough time getting used to the MLS's rough, physical play, in contrast to Mexico's smooth, flowing play.
7. Toronto FC
Toronto finished in last place in the East, with the worst overall record in the MLS, in their first official season last year, but what did you expect? It takes time for expansion teams to make a difference, and while Toronto are on the right path, they haven't reached it yet. All but three of their players have 3 years of experience or less, so most of this team is raw talent that will just begin to get a hold of the style of play this season. Maurice Edu is expected to have a great season this year, and with the pickup of Marco Valez and Jarrod Smith, the team should improve on both the offensive and defensive fronts. Not quite where they need to be, but defidently on their way.
That's it for now. Coming up next: the Western Conference