2019 MLS Preview
Soccer Ball designed by Richard Biver
Atlanta United FC; 63 points
-In two short seasons, the ATL has quickly become the gold standard of MLS. Even with Gerardo Martinez gone, Frank De Boer, who has won four championships in his native Netherlands will look to ride roster depth, which includes incomers Gonzalo Martinez and Brek Shea, back to the top of the league. Josef Martinez will look to provide an encore to his record-breaking season last year. The club’s participation in the CONCACAF Champions League will be something to keep in mind if the players are in midseason form early.
New York Red Bulls; 61 points
-It is highly unlikely that the Red Bulls wwill continue to reach the stratosphere of points after the last two seasons. An all-time MLS record number of points in a season was not enough to get them over the hump, so they will need to regress in that department a little to go forward. With star midfielder Tyler Adams gone, it will be up to Aaron Long and Tim Parker to provide distribution for Bradley Wright-Phillips and newcomer Mathias Jorgensen. The Red Bulls have loudly knocked on the door several times in recent years and they just might break in this year.
Philadelphia Union; 58 points
A lot went right for the Union last year in getting back to the playoffs. Even though CJ Sapong and David Accam didn’t have a very productive year last year, Cory Burke picked up the slack with his ten goals. With Sapong now in Colorado, the club can build around Burke and Chilean Sergio Santos to help rise to their potential as a contender. The key will be to build on their hot streak at the end of last year and the Union are quite capable of doing that to play deep into the fall.
DC United; 58 points
The team that basically came out of nowhere last year suddenly has a blinding future ahead of them and could become perennial contenders once again. The full completion of that ride will have to wait at least another year, but United are very much in good shape with Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta leading the way and a full season at Audi Field, where they won all but four of their seventeen matches last year. The club will have to do significantly better on the road, where they only won once all year, to make a dent in the East.
New England Revolution; 55 points
-In making an uncharacteristic splash in inncoming roster moves, the Revolution could have enough ammunition in their tank to return to postseason play. Spanish midfielder Carles Gil and Colombian forward Juan Fernando Caicedo join an already loaded attacking corps for coach Brad Friedel to utilize and defender Michael Mancienne will use his expertise to patch up the team’s defense which conceded goals at an alarming rate the last two years. How the changes will impact the club’s long-term makeup will depend on getting positive results this year.
New York City FC; 52 points
David Villa is now working for Vissel Kobe in Japan and Patrick Vieira has returned to his home country to manage Nice. Having undergone a roster purge and with a full season under Domenec Torrent, the City might be in for a relatively difficult season. The club’s average age is 24 years, and a lack of veteran presence to help mentor those players might mean the lower end of the playoff bracket for this season.
Toronto FC; 51 points
-After two dream seasons, TFC made a descennt down the standings and out of the playoffs. Sebastian Giovinco has left the club following a nasty falling out with management and as a result, there are now more questions than answers. For a club that was on the verge of MLS regal status, the impetus is on the Reds’ core of Bradley, Osorio and Altidore to get back to respectability and for everyone on the team to remain healthy for another shot at a crown.
Columbus Crew SC; 49 points
-With their future in the capital of Ohio nnow secure, the Crew must focus on work on the pitch to get back to relevancy. New coach Caleb Porter inherits a team that still has their core of Zardes, Trapp, and Higuain. But there were no significant roster changes to speak of and the club simply standing pat will end up costing them. Nevertheless, fans of the Crew should be happy with the direction their team is headed following over a year of off the field headaches.
Montreal Impact; 45 points
Roster stability can be a good thing and that’s what the Impact are hoping for this coming year. Several players in the starting eleven return to Quebec for another chance at returning to the playoffs. The most notable is Ignacio Piatti, who scored 16 goals last year and he will do his best to lift the club. The playoffs are unlikely though as big-name additions are something that could have helped them.
Chicago Fire; 43 points
The Fire weren’t able to go anywhere last year as their players couldn’t find any kind of consistency to return to the playoffs. Nemanja Nikolic needs to keep his goal scoring touch for a long period of time to help the club. Raheem Edwards and Dax McCarty have to do their job in the midfield to give the club a chance to score some goals. It’s difficult to see this team making the leap above the line.
FC Cincinnati; 40 points
-Unlike Atlanta and LAFC, it is tough to immagine Cincinnati making too much noise in their inaugural MLS campaign. With the exception of Kendall Waston and Darren Mattocks, the players that manager Alan Koch has to work with aren’t very capable of doing damage to other teams. They do have Fanendo Adi coming over from Portland and he brings some championship experience to help out. If Southwestern Ohio is to become the next soccer hotbed, better supplemental players will need to be brought in to develop that foundation.
Orlando City SC; 35 points
-It’s been four years now and the Lions havve yet to make a pounce to MLS’s upper level. After last year’s monstrosity of a season, James O’Connor most definitely has a difficult task of getting his team in the right direction. Portuguese playmaker Nani joins the fold, but that will hardly inject any life into the club as they will continue to be nowhere near playing soccer deep into the fall.
Sporting Kansas City; 57 points
Coming to within a goal of MLS Cup, Peter Vermes has to be anxious to get his team over the hump and back to the championship game. Bringing in Kelyn Rowe from New England and Rodney Wallace from New York City will help offset the loss of Ike Opara. Usual playmakers for the club including Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Tim Melia return to help lift the team to greater heights. They might have to worry about fatigue as they will have played in several tournaments this season like previous years.
Los Angeles FC; 54 points
It has been an exciting time to be a sports fan in Los Angeles the last couple of years and LAFC is more than ready to get into the act. All of their key players from last year’s stunning run such as Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande returning for another go-round and Walker Zimmerman is back to provide defensive help. So, the team has the capability to rise even higher this year and make the city their own.
Seattle Sounders FC; 53 points
The Sounders should be motivated after their narrow loss in the playoffs last year. The strong end to the year is a good springboard for this year and the club must bank on a run of good health to go further. In particular, Jordan Morris is a vital key to the Sounders’ cog and a full season with Raul Ruidiaz will do a lot to keep the team’s streak of never missing the playoffs.
Real Salt Lake; 52 points
This team has a lot to build on for this coming year. They have a very strong attacking core led by sophomore Corey Baird who scored eight goals last year to compliment captain Kyle Beckerman’s leadership. The only concern is that Beckerman and goalkeeper Nick Rimando are now on the wrong side of 30 and there is some degree of uncertainty about their futures. But the youth that Mike Petke has to work with should propel RSL further than last year.
FC Dallas; 50 points
Under former academy director Luchi Gonzalez, FCD has a nice blend of veterans and youngsters to help the team go forward. Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler return to the club to provide leadership for younger homegrown players. It should be expected that they will be able to continue what Oscar Pareja started and should overcome a slow start to the year.
Portland Timbers; 50 points
Time to hit the reset button in Oregon. Despite winding up in MLS Cup last year, the Timbers are not getting younger and a rebuild in on the horizon. If there’s going to be a return to the championship game, the club will have to sign a big-name player to help Diego Valeri and Diego Chara. The two of them aren’t able to carry the club by themselves so they need someone to compliment them.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 47 points
After winding up in a disappointing eighth place in the West last year, the Whitecaps appear to be rudderless this year. New boss Marc dos Santos takes over a club that on the surface looks not much better than the dysfunctional squad from last year that underachieved and became victims of infighting. Of the Whitecaps’ roster changes, the most painful loss will be Kendall Waston who is now in Cincinnati. It will be up to Freddy Montero to save the Whitecaps and bring them back to the playoffs.
Houston Dynamo; 47 points
Taking a step back in MLS play last year, the Dynamo look to make the leap back up to the playoffs. A US Open Cup victory should boost the morale of the team, but that can only go so far. Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis will each need to repeat their success from last year. But Elis might be going across the pond during the summer, and with the defense not being retooled enough, the Dynamo will just barely miss out on postseason.
Colorado Rapids; 45 points
After a terrible 2018 campaign, the Rapids did their part to right the ship by bringing in players such as Diego Rubio and Kei Kamara. They also have Benny Feilhaber and Kellyn Acosta in the midfield who are proven performers as well as Keegan Rosenberry. The problem is that the results will not come easily for the club as the other teams in the West have better roster chemistry. The playoffs will be close, but the Rapid will watch from home.
LA Galaxy; 44 points
The Galaxy will be playing this season with heavy hearts following the Christmas Day passing of coach Sigi Schmid. To help them out of their playoff absence, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will need to replicate his ridiculous goal scoring total of 22 from last year. But at age 37, is that realistic? Ola Kamara will have to back him up and do his part to get his name on the scoresheet. With a full season of Ibrahimovic’s leadership, the galaxy will need team chemistry to get up over the line.
San Jose Earthquakes; 43 points
It would be too polite to say that the Earthquakes last year were not a good team. So, they must start fresh and look ahead to better times. For starters, Daniel Vega is a proven goalkeeper from different tiers of the American soccer pyramid. He can be a short-term fix for that position while the awful defense from last year got a reboot. Better days are ahead for the Earthquakes, but it’s going to be a long and painful road back there.
Minnesota United FC; 41 points
The corner that bad teams are expected to turn is nowhere in sight for the Loons, at least not yet. This team has attempted to fill some holes on the roster including Ike Opara and Francisco Calvo, but it won’t do any good. They lack a proven and effective goal scorer to take charge and that will wind up hurting them. The club’s first game at Allianz Field will come on April 13 against NYCFC and it will be interesting to see how much progress the team will have made.