MLS Eastern Conference Season Preview Capsules
The Associated Press
A look at the Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference teams for 2014, in order of finish last season:
LAST YEAR: 17-9-8 (First overall, first Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: F Thierry Henry, F Tim Cahill, F Peguy Luyindula, F Bradley Wright-Phillips, MF Dax McCarty, MF Eric Alexander, MF Jonny Steele, MF Lloyd Sam, D Jamison Olave, D Roy Miller, D Ibrahim Sekagya, D Kosuke Kimura, D Connor Lade, GK Luis Robles.
WHO’S GONE: D Markus Holgersson, F Fabian Espindola, D Heath Pearce, D Brandon Barklage
WHO’S NEW: D Richard Eckersley, D Armando, MF Bobby Convey.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Rookie coach Mike Petke led the Red Bulls to their first Supporters’ Shield in the regular season and he has almost everyone back from the team that disappointed losing to Houston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Thierry Henry (10 goals) and Tim Cahill (11 goals) are up front for the league’s top scoring team (58 goals), and they have depth with midfielders Jonny Steele and Lloyd Sam all capable of contributing. The biggest changes will be in the back with the additions of Spanish defender Armando and the acquisition of Richard Eckersley from Toronto, where he was a fixture for three years. Expectations will be high for the Red Bulls, who have never won an MLS title.
LAST YEAR: 17-10-7 (Second overall, second Eastern Conference. MLS Cup champion).
WHO’S BACK: F Dom Dwyer, F Claudio Bieler, F C.J. Sapong, F Soony Saad, M Paulo Nagamura, M Graham Zusi, M Benny Feilhaber, M Oriol Rosell, M Jacob Peterson, D Aurelien Collin, D Seth Seinovic, D Chance Myers, D Matt Besler, D Ike Opara.
WHO’S GONE: G Jimmy Nielsen, F Teal Bunbury, D Kyle Miller, D Federico Bessone.
WHO’S NEW: M Sal Zizzo, M Jimmy Medranda, M Alex Martinez, G Andy Gruenebaum.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The MLS Cup champions will be busy this season. Not only will they be defending their league title, they’ll also begin play in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, and then later in the year begin the next round of Champions League competition. There’s also the U.S. Open Cup to worry about, and several players are likely to be called up for national team duty during the World Cup. Managing all of those minutes may be the biggest challenge for coach Peter Vermes, and it’s why he spent considerable resources in building depth. Keep an eye on young players such as Dom Dwyer, a breakout star last season, and 16-year-old homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who has been receiving interest from English Premier League teams. The biggest question mark lies at goalkeeper, where captain Jimmy Nielsen has retired. Longtime backup Erik Kronberg will get the first shot at the job, though veteran Andy Gruenebaum was brought in to provide some competition and youngster Jon Kempin has loads of potential.
LAST YEAR: 14-11-9 (Seventh overall, third Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: F Diego Fagundez, M Chris Tierney, M Lee Nguyen, F Kelyn Rowe, GK Bobby Shuttleworth, F Saer Sene, D Jose Goncalves, D Andrew Farrell, D Kevin Alston, D A.J. Soares, M Stephen McCarthy.
WHO’S GONE: F Juan Agudelo, GK Matt Reis
WHO’S NEW: F Teal Bunbury, M-F Steve Neumann, M-F Patrick Mullins, GK Brad Knighton, D O’Brian Woodline.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Revolution hope to keep building after reaching the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2009. They had an eight-match unbeaten streak (6-0-2) before losing in the semifinals against Sporting Kansas City. Bunbury, 23, should provide some offense after being acquired in a trade with Sporting Kansas City. He had 19 goals in his first three MLS seasons. Fagundez, just 19, is the team’s primary offensive threat after finishing fifth in MLS with 13 goals last season. The defense also improved last year with rookie Farrell, a first-round draft pick from Louisville, and Goncalves, who played every minute of every match. The Revolution allowed just 38 goals last season. Shuttleworth was solid in his first season as first-string goalkeeper. With Matt Reis retiring after 16 MLS seasons, the Revolution brought in Brad Knighton from Vancouver to back up Shuttleworth.
LAST YEAR: 14-11-9 (Ninth overall, fourth in Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: F Will Bruin, D Corey Ashe, M Giles Barnes, M Ricardo Clark, D Warren Creavalle, M Brad Davis, M Andrew Driver, M Boniek Garcia, GK Tally Hall, D Kofi Sarkodie, D Jermaine Taylor.
WHO’S GONE: F Brian Ching, D Bobby Boswell
WHO’S NEW: M Tony Cascio, D AJ Cochran, D David Horst, GK Michael Lisch, F Mark Sherrod,
WHAT’S AHEAD: This will be the Dynamo’s first season without Ching after he retired after the 2013 season after a 13-year career, with the last eight coming in Houston. But aside from him and defender Boswell, the team which lost to Sporting KC in the Eastern Conference final remains largely intact. They will have a young squad but still have the veteran leadership from goalkeeper Hall, who started all 34 games last season, and six-time All-Star Davis. Bruin looks to bounce back from a tough 2013 and return to his 2012 form this year. They’ll also need Taylor to step up and make up for the loss of Boswell, who went to D.C. They should be able to continue their annual run of reaching the playoffs.
LAST YEAR: 14-13-7 (11th overall, fifth Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: F Marco Di Vaio, MF Justin Mapp, MF Patrice Bernier, MF Felipe, D Matteo Ferrari, D Jeb Brovsky, D Hassoun Camara, GK Troy Perkins.
WHO’S GONE: OUT: D Alessandro Nesta, MF Paolo DelPiccolo, MF Maximiliano Rodriguez, MF Sinisa Ubiparipovic, MF Davy Arnaud, DF Zarek Valentin.
WHO’S NEW: Coach Frank Klopas, D Eric Miller, F Santiago Gonzalez.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Impact had an epic second-half swoon last season but still went to the playoffs in their second season. To address the shortcomings, Montreal made a change at the top, bringing in Frank Klopas from the Chicago Fire to replace Marco Schallibaum. The Impact’s roster remains largely unchanged, with forward Marco Di Vaio leading the way. Di Vaio had 20 goals last season, but he’ll miss the start of this season while serving a 3-game suspension heldover from last season’s playoffs. Montreal was expected to reach agreement with former New York Red Bulls defender Heath Pearce, who spent training camp with the club. Pearce, 29, is coming off hip surgery. The Impact open at FC Dallas.
LAST YEAR: 14-13-7 (12th place overall, sixth inEastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: F Mike Magee, F Juan Luis Anangono, F/M Patrick Nyarko, M Dilly Duka, M Jeff Larentowicz.
WHO’S GONE: D Austin Berry, D Jalil Anibaba.
WHO’S NEW: Coach Frank Yallop, D Patrick Ianni, D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Fire have a new coach with Yallop replacing the fired Frank Klopas. They also have a whole season with Magee, the Chicago product and reigning MVP. Chicago transformed into a postseason contender once it acquired him from the L.A. Galaxy and missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, going 12-6-5 after his arrival following a 2-7-2 start. Magee came up big, scoring 15 of his 21 goals following the trade. But the defense is a question after some offseason moves. The Fire acquired Ianni and Hurtado from Seattle for Anibaba and traded away Berry, the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year.
LAST YEAR: 12-12-10 (14th place overall, seventh Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: M Brian Carroll, F Conor Casey, M Danny Cruz, M Keon Daniel, M Leo Fernandes, D Ray Gaddis, F Christhian Hernandez, F Antoine Hoppenot, M Michael Lahoud, F Sebastien Le Toux, GK Zac MacMath, F Jack McInerney, M Jimmy McLaughlin, D Amobi Okugo, F Aaron Wheeler, D Sheanon Williams.
WHO’S GONE: D Jeff Parke, M Matt Kassel, D Chris Albright, Michael Farfan, M Gabriel Farfan, M Kleberson, M Roger Torres.
WHO’S NEW: M Maurice Edu, D Ethan White, M Pedro Ribeiro, M Vincent Nogueira, D Richie Marquez, M Cristian Maidana, GK Brian Holt, GK Andre Blake, M Corben Bone, D Austin Berry.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Union made major changes after missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, headlined by adding Edu and his national team experience to the young club. With Vincent Nogueira joining Edu in the midfield, it will solidify what has been a weak link in recent seasons. The Union also added Maidana and traded for Berry. The Union have reached the postseason just once in their four seasons, so this type of depth should help. McInerney had a breakout season in 2013 with 12 goals, though he tapered off. Casey is nicked up to open the season, and the club will need him healthy to contend for a playoff berth.
LAST YEAR: 12-17-5, (16th overall, eighth Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: F Federico Higuain, F Jairo Arrieta, F Ryan Finley, F Justin Meram, M Dominic Oduro, M Agustin Viana, M Bernardo Anor, M Ethan Finlay, M Wil Trapp, D Chad Barson, D Josh Williams, D Eric Gehrig, G Matt Lampson.
WHO’S GONE: Interim coach Brian Bliss, M Eddie Gaven, M Matías Sánchez, D Gláuber, D Danny O’Rourke, D Chad Marshall, G Andy Gruenebaum.
WHO’S NEW: Coach Gregg Berhalter, M Daniel Paladini , M Hector Jimenez, D Michael Parkhurst, D Waylon Francis, D Giancarlo Gonzalez , G Steve Clark.
WHAT’S AHEAD: New owner Anthony Precourt took over in August but his enthusiasm and money couldn’t prevent the Crew from missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Berhalter is a former U.S. National Team defender and played for the Los Angeles Galaxy and coach Bruce Arena. Berhalter will bring more structure and a 4-3-2-1 attack that he hopes rejuvenates Higuain and especially Arrieta. Oduro led the club with a career-best 13 goals last season and is slotted for the right flank although he prefers to play up top. Trapp, at age 21 and in his first full season, is a burgeoning star in the midfield and is already considered one of the team leaders. The Crew traded former two-time MLS Defender Chad Marshall to Seattle but in its biggest offseason move signed U.S. defender Michael Parkhurst to anchor the center back position. Meanwhile, Francis and Gonzalez both play for Costa Rica’s national team. Clark was acquired from Seattle and will battle Lampson, the former Ohio State keeper, for the starting job.
LAST YEAR: 6-17-11 (17th place overall, ninth Eastern Conference)
WHO’S BACK: F Andrew Wiedeman, M Kyle Bekker, M Jonathan Osorio, M Alvaro Rey, D Jeremy Hall, D Gale Agbossoumonde, D Ashtone Morgan, D Doneil Henry, G Joe Bendik, G Chris Konopka.
D Jay DeMerit, D Jordan Harvey, D Andy O’Brien, D Sam Adekugbe, F Darren Mattocks, F Kenny Miller, M Gershon Koffie, M Russell Teibert, M Aminu Abdallah, M Andre Lewis, G David Ousted, G Marco Carducci.
WHO’S GONE: G Stefan Frei, M Matias Laba, F Danny Koevermans, F Robert Earnshaw, D Jonas Elmer, D Richard Eckersley, M Bobby Convey, M Darel Russell, M Michael Thomas, F Emery Welshman.
WHO’S NEW: M Michael Bradley, M Dwayne DeRosario, F Jermain Defoe, D Bradley Orr, M Jackson, F Gilberto, G Julio Cesar, D Justin Morrow.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Has there ever been a Major League Soccer club that made a bigger offseason splash than Toronto FC? The club added U.S. national team stalwart Bradley, picked up talented striker Defoe from Tottenham in the English Premier League, brought back fan favorite De Rosario and signed one of the top goalkeepers in Cesar, who had been with Queens Park Rangers. Throw in the loan of Orr from Blackburn and the arrival of Jackson in a trade with FC Dallas and Toronto FC will have a vastly different roster than the one that plodded to a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference last year. It’ll be up to second-year coach Ryan Nelson to make sure that all of the talent — and all of the egos — are able to coexist on a club that is drawing comparisons to the Miami Heat for the way it has collected stars in the offseason.
LAST YEAR: 3-24-7 (Last place overall, last place Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: G Bill Hamid, M Perry Kitchen, M Chris Pontius, M Nick DeLeon.
WHO’S GONE: D James Riley, D Daniel Woolard, D Ethan White, D Dejan Jakovic, M John Thorrington, M Dwayne De Rosario, M Marcelo Saragosa, F Lionard Pajoy, F Carlos Ruiz, F Casey Townsend.
WHO’S NEW: D Jeff Parke, D Bobby Boswell, D Sean Franklin, D Cristian Fernandez, D Steve Birnbaum, M Davy Arnaud, F Eddie Johnson, F Fabian Espindola.
WHAT’S AHEAD: DC United last year set the MLS record for fewest wins in a season. Bizarrely, they also won the U.S. Open Cup, when puts them in elite company as a participant in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League. Only four starters return from a team that scored just 22 goals in league play. There’s talent among the new names, but coach Ben Olsen is essentially starting from scratch in terms of team chemistry. Johnson (64 career MLS goals) and Espindola (44) can score, but can they mesh? Same goes for the entire new back line of Fernandez, Parke, Boswell and Franklin. At least United’s long-running stadium woes have a hope for resolution, with plans progressing to move out of antiquated RFK and into a new facility tentatively scheduled to open in 2016.