2021 MLS Preview
Predictions by Stephen Mulvoy
New England Revolution; 58 points
On April 17, the Revs will pick up where they left off last fall in the East Finals. With much the same roster as last year, including Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil, with some crucial additions, the Revs will be very capable of going two steps further in the playoffs to help erase a frustrating championship reputation.
Orlando City SC; 56 points
Finally! The Lions reached their potential and put together a solid season for a nice future. A frustrating loss in the playoffs should only make their core of Mauricio Pereyra, Nani, and Junior Urso that much more determined to make Central Florida the place to watch soccer deep into the fall on a consistent basis.
Columbus Crew SC; 53 points
The defending champions have a lot more to look forward to. With their new stadium set to open in July, the Crew still have Darlington Nagbe and Gyassi Zardes, among others, to make a legitimate bid for back-to-back MLS Cups. And to think this club came within an eyelash of relocating to Austin.
Philadelphia Union; 52 points
Rising to their full potential after their dramatic playoff with the year before, the Union have a tough act to follow. Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie are now in Europe, and the deep talent in their academy needs another year to develop. With the Supporter’s Shield comes a big target on your back and this club is about to find that out.
Toronto FC; 50 points
After living in MLS’s upper echelon the last several years, TFC is due to take a step backward. With new coach Chris Armas taking over for Greg Vanney, Toronto’s key players are on the wrong side of 30, and the stunning loss to Nashville in the playoffs should cast some doubt on the club.
New York City FC; 50 points
Unless something changes in their roster construction thinking, dark clouds are on the horizon for NYCFC. Maxi Morales is now into the tail end of his career, and management hasn’t done any meaningful tweaking to help him or bring in a player who could make a difference.
Atlanta United FC; 47 points
Last year was the ATL’s first venture in the depths of MLS’s abyss. They shouldn’t stay there long, though, with Gabriel Heinze coming in to lead the way and Josef Martinez’s return from an ACL injury should boost Atlanta’s confidence that they can put last year’s debacle firmly behind them.
Nashville SC; 47 points
This team made a very impressive display in their inaugural season, defeating Toronto FC in a shootout and pushing the eventual champions Crew to extra time. They’ll come up a little short this year, but with Walker Zimmerman and Dax McCarty, the foundation is laid for a dangerous Music City club in the years to come.
Chicago Fire FC; 45 points
After a retrenching of the club on just about every facet from imaging and marketing all the way down to the stadium, the Fire came up just short of the playoffs. They haven’t made any major additions to help get over the line and that almost always causes teams to take a step backward.
CF Montreal; 43 points
The season this year should look as bland as the new look for Montreal. With Thierry Henry having stepped down, the young club doesn’t look capable of going above the playoff line, even with Romell Quioto. Montreal fans might be saying to themselves this year, “C’est ne pas bon.”
Inter Miami FC; 42 points
A new sporting director in Chris Henderson and new coach Phil Neville is a good start to get Miami going in the right direction. With Gonzalo Higuain as their main player and Robbie Robinson developing nicely, this club could at the very least make a push to another playoff spot, but other teams will prevent that this year.
New York Red Bulls; 41 points
It is time for the Red Bulls to look to the future. Aaron Long is a great defender for the team and he can lead the way for the young players such as Caden Clark to bloom into a star player, but Tim Parker’s trade to Houston will hurt the Red Bulls this year.
FC Cincinnati; 39 points
Hey, we said earlier there was nowhere to go but up for FCC, and that remains the case now. Only four wins last year and the loss of Kendall Waston leads to a bleak immediate future for Cincinnati, and fans entering their brand new stadium in May will have to be patient for the new additions to make a difference.
DC United; 30 points
This is a club that is headed for another bad season. Hernan Losada is a new coach working with mostly new players, and the only player who can help right now is Edison Flores. The seeds for a forgettable season are planted, and the Black-and-Red fanbase will have next nothing to look forward to.
Minnesota United FC; 61 points
As one of the teams to finally make their arrival to MLS’s spotlight, the Loon’s are looking to take the next step. Emanuel Reynoso and Roman Metanire are still the face of the club that came within a game of MLS Cup and might very well get there this year, marking a total transformation as a club.
Sporting Kansas City; 59 points
Always a threat to win a championship, SKC looks to make amends for a disappointing playoff loss to Minnesota. The addition of two young French players in Remi Walter and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin will go a long way in supplementing their defense to provide their goal scoring to win many more games this year.
Los Angeles FC; 5+6 points
With a bounce-back year from Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, LAFC should easily turn things around and get back to the upper half of the West. The rise of Christian Torres will be vital as well, as he will provide depth for Los Angeles to make a leap back into contender status.
Portland Timbers; 55 points
The MLS is Back Tournament winners remain a very potent and high-octane team that could go very far. The two Diego’s, Valeri and Chara, provide a solid tandem, and Sebastien Blanco’s return from an ACL injury will make the Timbers a team to be reckoned with this year.
Seattle Sounders FC; 52 points
While still very good, the perennial West powerhouse has company atop the conference now. Nicolas Rodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz have their hands full to do their part to keep the competition in the West at arm’s length from the Sounders. Four out of five MLS Cup appearances are terrific, but other teams are catching up to them now.
Colorado Rapids; 51 points
Slowly but surely, the Rapids are making their way back into the mix of MLS contenders. With a full season to guide his troops, coach Robin Fraser looks to utilize the steady play of Kellyn Acosta and Cole Bassett to help the club make the next step in the playoffs.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 48 points
The Whitecaps are well-positioned to make a nice rebound from a less than memorable year. Lucas Cavallini scored six goals in the last 13 games last year, and if he keeps that up, he and homegrown player Michael Baldismo can become a potent one-two tandem that will help the British Columbia team back to playoff contention.
FC Dallas; 45 points
With Bryan Reynolds now playing for AS Roma, FCD will have to continue to rely on their homegrown talent from their academy to make a difference. The defense of Matt Hedges and youngster Tanner Tessmann will really have to step up if Dallas is to make another playoff appearance.
LA Galaxy; 43 points
Greg Vanney, the new boss for the Galaxy, was a hero for the club in his playing days, and he has an unenviable task of turning the club around. With Chicarito and Jonathan Dos Santos being key cogs in the wheel, the talent is there, but the chemistry needs to be developed the right way, and that will be Vanney’s job.
Houston Dynamo; 41 points
Darwin Quintero was the lone bright spot in an otherwise tough season for the Dynamo last year, with his seven goals leading the way. Tab Ramos will have to look deep into his bench with some of his trades like Tim Parker if the Dynamo are to get back into the playoffs.
Real Salt Lake; 38 points
After finishing in 11th place last year, it will be tough to see Salt Lake making any meaningful traction for improvement this year. Corey Baird and Kyle Beckerman are no longer with the club, and with nobody to fill their place, it could be a very long year in Utah.
San Jose Earthquakes; 33 points
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 2001 MLS Cup-winning season, Earthquakes fans will wish they could go into a time machine back to those days. Only Christian Espinosa and 38-year-old Chris Wondolowski are the faces of the team, and that’s nowhere remotely near enough to help the team.
Austin FC; 32 points
As always, with expansion teams, it’ll be hard to know what to make of Austin FC in their inaugural year. As there is now a Texas Trifecta of clubs, sporting director Claudio Reyna and coach Josh Wolff will have to work extra hard to put together a team to put a soccer mark in the capital city of the Lone Star State.