2016 MLS Preview
Columbus Crew SC 58 points
Although coming up short in last year’s MLS Cup, the Crew have a lot to build on for another deep run. Kei Kamara had a true breakout season, scoring 22 goals to tie for the league lead and Will Trapp’s development as a central midfielder will continue to help Columbus maintain their status as an East powerhouse. They will be motivated to finish the job this year and they have the tools to get it done.
New York Red Bulls 55 points
One playoff disappointment after another must be gnawing at the Red Bulls and their fan base at this point. The supporters should keep in mind that Bradley Wright-Phillips, Dax McCarty and Sasha Kljestan are still in the fold. In addition, 11 of their wins last year were by more than one goal. So it’s a fair thing to say that the Bulls have the core to make it to MLS Cup, but whether they can execute when it counts is another matter altogether.
New England Revolution 53 points
A knockout round loss to DC United constituted a step back for the Revs the year after coming within a crossbar of winning MLS Cup. The key for them to get back will be consistency and avoiding protracted summer losing streaks as they had the last couple of years. Led by Lee Nguyen, Bobby Shuttleworth and their core, the Revs look to make the playoffs again.
Toronto FC 50 points
At long last, TFC has a playoff appearance to their credit. Reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco’s 22 goals and 20 assists last year helped the club to a knockout round date with Montreal. Giovinco will be away for a good chunk of the summer as he joins Italy or Euro 2016. Who will step up in his absence? Boss Greg Vanney will rely on Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley to do what they can to lead TFC to another playoff spot.
D.C. United 47 points
The club had a negative goal difference of -2 last season, but they still managed to reach the second round of the postseason. Bill Hamid has an injured knee and will be out for a while, which will have a big detrimental effect on United’s defense. They will need one of Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe and Alvario Saborio to step up and take charge of the goalscoring and keep the ball in the attacking end of the pitch to relieve the pressure on the team’s defense.
New York City FC 47 points
The honeymoon is over in the Bronx. Now that a successful inaugural season at the gate in Yankee Stadium is history, it’s time for NYCFC to show staying power on the pitch. French World Cup winner Patrick Vieira takes over for Jason Kreis after the club’s stars of Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Frank Lampard failed to impress with results. With a full season in the City, they should be able to help the rest of the team show improvement to reach the playoffs for the first time. They had several close losses last year, so finding ways to turn those into wins will be a priority.
Montreal Impact 45 points
It was unknown for a long time in the offseason whether or not Didier Drogba would return to the Impact for this year. After discussions with Chelsea, his former club, broke down, he confirmed that he will indeed be back in Montreal. We will have to see whether or not his future plans play a role in his on-field performance. The only other notable player for the Impact is club MVP Ignacio Piatti, whose nine goals last year led the team. But it will take more players to make an impact (pardon the pun) and a concentrated Drogba if they want to build on last year.
Orlando City SC 39 points
Copa America will take place in the United States this year and Kaka will be all in for Brazil for that and South American World Cup Qualifying, meaning much of the summer will be spent without him in Orlando. This will hurt the Lions’ playoff chances as they also had to deal with organizational turmoil. On the field, sophomore Cyle Larin needs help to continue his impressive run, but it won’t be enough to get the club over the playoff line.
Philadelphia Union 38 points
To help the club start to shed their perennial status as an MLS underachiever, the Union brought in US World Cup veteran Earnie Stewart from his Dutch club AZ Alkmaar as president to run the club’s operations. The Union’s fortunes on the field will not improve overnight and this will be another tough season, but thanks to the organizational changes, they are clearly headed in the right direction, as they need to draft smart to build around Chris Pontius and CJ Sapong.
Chicago Fire 33 points
Once the class of the East, the Fire have fallen on very tough times as they finished in dead last in MLS last year and appear headed for the basement again this year. They do have new manager in Veljko Paunovic and GM Nelson Rodriguez, but little else to get excited about. A dramatic turnaround like Leicester City is having this season only happens once in a blue moon.
FC Dallas 61 points
Last year’s meteoric rise to the top of the West was only the start of FCD’s journey. Their young core, helped along by veterans Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo, will continue to use a strong home field advantage to lead the way. The club should be encouraged by the fact that every key player has a year under coach Oscar Pareja’s system is a big plus and the Hoops will be the team to watch out for.
Seattle Sounders FC 59 points
Will the Sounders ever get to lift the one trophy that has eluded them in their short but sparkling history? The answer to that question will lie with sophomore Jordan Morris who will take the place of China-bound Obafemi Martins. Clint Dempsey will help him lead the way as the Puget Sound club is hungrier than ever to obtain MLS’s ultimate hardware.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 57 points
The Whitecaps have a young and deep club that should carry themselves to another decent season and playoff run. Their lack of experience and durability cost them against Portland in the second round last fall, but they will use that setback as motivation to go further than last year. The stacked West will have something to say about that though.
Sporting Kansas City 51 points
You can bet that SKC will use the disappointment of a seemingly interminable shootout loss to Portland, which included a double post shot which would have won it, as motivation to do well this year. Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber are the usual suspects for the club and they will groom veterans Justin Mapp and Brad Davis to fit the mold and redeem themselves in postseason.
Portland Timbers 49 points
The unlikely championship would not have even happened last year had Saad Abdul-Salaam’s penalty kick broke a fraction of an inch to the goal side of either post. It’s that luck that spurred them onto the top of the heap. To make a bid for a repeat, Diego Chara will need to have another strong campaign and Darlington Nagbe will need to stay in form. It’s possible, but not probable that they will do it again.
LA Galaxy 45 points
The Galaxy are now an old squad that has seen stars depart and arrive in the offseason. Names such as Juninho and Omar Gonzalez are no longer with the team and Ashley Cole and Nigel de Jong are in. Both incoming gentlemen are on the wrong side of 30 and while LA still has some younger players left from their championship run, they will be lucky this year to slide into the last playoff spot.
Real Salt Lake 42 points
What could go wrong did go wrong for RSL last year under new coach Jeff Cassar and the philosophy he brought with him. Key men Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales did not benefit from this change and there is not much indication things will improve this year. Cassar will have to smartly utilize Yura Movsisyan, who helped RSL win the championship in ’09, if the club is to gain any traction for future progress.
San Jose Earthquakes 40 points
Dominick Kinnear will be hard pressed to improve the fortunes of the club that finished seventh in the West last year and doesn’t appear to be moving up. Chris Wondolowski scored 16 goals last season, but he can’t do it all by himself and Simon Dawkins will need to help carry the load. The Earthquakes have shown in the past they are capable of surprise seasons, but it won’t happen this year.
Houston Dynamo 37 points
Losing longtime captain Brad Davis to Sporting Kansas City is a major blow for the Dynamo and it is unrealistic and unfair to ask newcomer Christian Maidana to replace him. Will Bruin exemplifies the Dynamo’s lack of identity and they will have a difficult time getting back to the top six unless they are able to establish that identity.
Colorado Rapids 31 points
The Rapids finished in the cellar in the West last year and expect them to stay there this year. The club has been linked to goalkeeper Tim Howard, but that will do hardly anything to improve the club. Boss Pablo Mastroeni will have his hands full once again with no notable names and without a clear path to go up.