WILL Dyer (@w2Dyer) takes an in-depth look at new Major League Soccer season for us. Here, he analyses each team in the Eastern Conference.
The Men in Red have plenty of options up front this year. David Accam looks a great signing; the Ghanaian was the 2nd top scorer in Sweden last year. He’s joined by Kennedy Igboananike who’s spent his whole career in Sweden. The two could form quite the partnership.
Veteran, Guly Do Prado is likely to be involved a lot as well whilst invention should be better this season coming from the well regarded youngster Harry Shipp and experienced Scotland international, Shaun Maloney. Alex provides a good option on the left wing.
With the two new franchises to contend with as well as sides with better depth I’m not sure the Fire will find a place in the post-season, probably narrowly missing out. They won’t be easy opponents though and opposing them at home could be costly. I expect them to get a lot more goals this time too so could be worth looking out for in Overs and BTTS bets.
Season prediction – 6th
Crew have failed to hold on to Giancarlo Gonzalez after his displays for Costa Rica at the World Cup in Brazil but their starting eleven may not change much this year. Tony Tchani is a mountain in midfield and up top they have Federico Higuain, brother of Napoli’s Gonzalo as well as Ethan Finlay. Expect those two to score double figures again this season and with support from Justin Meram they're certainly not goal shy.
The Crew get plenty of goals away from home and look well placed to finish in a play-off spot this year. Last season they started off slowly at home and if they can avoid that this year then a top four place beckons again.
If they are to challenge they need to be conceding closer to one goal per game. As they say in the States ‘defences win championships’ and losing Gonzalez is a bit of a blow.
Season prediction – 3rd
Disappointingly, DCU lost to Red Bulls 3-2 on aggregate in their MLS play-off quarter final in 2014, a result that wasn’t quite expected given DCU’s post season history and regular season record last year.
Their current side is very experienced. Nine of their 26 players are 29 or older. The Finnish centre-back Markus Halsti has joined from Malmo FF and could be a great addition to what is already a strong back line. USMNT (United States Men’s National Team) legend Eddie Johnson is in the twilight of his career now but still chipped in with seven goals last season and will definitely have a role to play. Fabian Espindola is a classy striker and though not prolific he spearheads the attack well bringing the midfielders in to play. He was awarded MVP last year.
Whilst DCU were brilliant last year I sense their chance to win another MLS Cup may have passed for some time. A lot of their players are fairly old and though they are solid in most positions I’m not sure they will have the same spark as last season and could find themselves failing to retain the Conference. It's unthinkable that they won’t land a play-off spot though.
Season prediction – 2nd
Impact's top scorer last season, Marco Di Vaio has retired and this has paved the way for Marco Donadel to join the club. The ex-Fiorentina midfielder will be a good addition.
Montreal are a side in constant transition given their young age and I think they could hit the nail on the head this year with so many potentially successful signings. They have a lot of options in midfield this year and I’m not quite sure what formation they will play but it will probably be with just the one striker to try and accommodate that wealth of talent.
I’m expecting a huge improvement from the French Canadians this season. I think Jack McInerney or new signing Dominic Oduro will grab a good 20 goals between them as they step up to replace Di Vaio. They were leaky at the back last year but Mali international Bakary Soumare and experienced Belgian Laurent Ciman should sort that right out. They're in with a good chance of qualifying for the post-season for the second time in four years but might take a little while to gel though.
Season prediction – 7th
New England Revolution
Revolution have possibly the strongest midfield in MLS with Jermaine Jones and Scott Caldwell providing fierce cover to the defence and the three ahead of them but behind the striker combining really well to bamboozle their opponents. If the Revs are to emulate their position from last season they will need to ensure they can keep below 50 goals conceded and that will be a tougher task without A.J Soares. It wouldn’t be harsh to say that they are short in defence but Jeremy Hall could be a good acquisition and the defensive cover from Jones and Caldwell is second to none.
I genuinely believe that with the superb Juan Agudelo up front and a wealth of goals coming from midfield the Revs will be hard to stop this year. They need to focus on staying in games for longer this time round as too many games were lost last year when a draw could have been fought for.
No side scored 60 goals in last year’s Eastern Conference but I think Revs could manage that this time around and that would probably get them to the top.
Season prediction – 1st
New York City FC
The new boys on the block and probably the side to beat given their glamorous New York residence and a couple of big name signings. Frank Lampard will join the club at the end of his Manchester City stay, a saga that has caused a fair bit of confrontation between fans of the new team and owners.
Jason Kreis is a well-regarded coach but his win percentage of 42% overall in six years at RSL was nothing special. As this is their first year and pre-season has seen them fiddle with their line-up I’m not expecting a great deal from them.
David Villa was not that great in his time at Melbourne City and he’s certainly past his peak. Expect a season of getting to grips with competitive soccer.
Season prediction – 10th
New York Red Bulls
With Jamison Olave, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Ryan Meara, Eric Alexander, Ambroise Oyongo all out the door, will their replacements be good enough? Sal Zizzo scored in a pre-season game against Toronto FC in Ontario and Bradley Wright-Phillips kept up his incredible scoring form but is the service going to be as classy as last year?
Felipe comes in from Montreal Impact and the little Brazilian could be quite good for NYRB but as good as Cahill? Probably not. Sacha Kljestan could be a great addition after good experience with Anderlecht in European competitions but overall I don’t see an improvement in NYRB’s quality going forward.
The Red Bulls could be in the shadows now with NYCFC joining in the party and losing Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill could be quite detrimental to their chances of silverware and I don’t see any improvement in the squad. All this could mean a season of consolidation under their new manager.
Season prediction -4th
Orlando are the other new franchise in MLS and the Lions have signed a huge star in Kaka, the ex-Milan and Real Madrid playmaker will be a class edition to MLS and his loan to Sao Paulo in 2014 proved he’s no slouch at 32. All Orlando’s attacks will start with him and I am fully expecting him to be their MVP. The real question is whether OC will have enough quality surrounding the Brazilian to be good enough to compete in a very strong Eastern Conference.
In the last day or so there have been strong rumours that Mario Balotelli will join Orlando. It seems like the perfect move for a player struggling to impress in Europe and constantly misunderstood. He would in my mind be the best player in MLS if he joins. He’s still young and there is no denying his ability. Florida seems the ideal place for a person like Mario.
The Lions haven’t taken to tough competition that well yet with a 3-0 loss to Owen Coyle’s Houston Dynamo in pre-season. They got some good results against MLS sides when playing in last year’s pre-season Pro Soccer Classic tournament but many changes have occurred since then. If Balotelli comes in he could make them big contenders but without a proven goal scorer they could struggle.
Season prediction – 9th
A pretty quiet off season for Union, with little business done in the transfer market. They traded Amobi Okugo and Pedro Ribeiro to Orlando City, whilst the trio of Carlos Valdes, Leo Fernandes and Zac MacMath all going out on loan.
Rais M’bohli will start in goal after a wonderful World Cup for Algeria while C.J Sapong has arrived to support the attack but he’s never been prolific for a striker and with Fernando Aristeguieta coming over from Nantes in the French Ligue 1 he will probably have a starting role.
The Union’s defence was not strong enough to contend last year and was the main reason why they finished seven points short of a play-off spot. With their attack they will win plenty of games but they fall just short fairly often with a leaky back line. I expect a slight improvement in the side but not in line with the rest of the Eastern Conference and that could actually result in a lower placed finish than last year.
Season prediction – 8th
Hey big spender! The sale of Jermaine Defoe to Sunderland opened up the market for Toronto who have brought in Italian whizz-kid Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus. He will bring raw pace and dribbling ability to their side and could be considered the best player in MLS at the moment.
In midfield they have the hugely experienced calm head of Benoit Cheyrou who has had a wonderful domestic career in France and alongside him is national superstar Michael Bradley, a powerhouse.
The Reds had a weird pre-season where they struggled for goals and with last year’s dreadful displays still very much in the minds of Toronto fans I’m not sure the positivity will translate exactly, but this could be their best season yet. They haven't finished in the overall top 10 of MLS since their inception in the 2007 season but that should end sooner rather than later.
Season prediction – 5th
MLS Cup – New England Revolution to win (8/1 Skybet)
MLS Cup – DC United to win (10/1 888 Sport)
Do you follow MLS? Is Will on the right track? Let us know your thoughts and your best bets for the new season?