2016 MLS Season Preview. Eastern Conference
Shit, the season’s about to start isn’t it? League wide previews are the thing to do, so I guess I should get on that at some point. Here we go then, starting with the East. As always, this is done with minimal research, just my basic impressions from last season and what off season action made enough of an impression to stick in my brain. So without further ado, this is how the east will go down this year, print this out and get to your local bookmaker quick sharp! Here’s last year’s, boy was I wrong about the Red Bulls. aside from that though, not too bad.
- DC United: They’re a very up and down team but I think they’ve still got most of a fairly solid defence and though losing Perry Kitchen is a blow, Marcelo Sarvas is a good MLS proven replacement, and I really like the Lamar Neagle signing as well. Basically though, the only way this number one prediction happens is if Luciano Acosta is good. Boca Juniors is an impressive club to have on your resume and the little I saw of him in CCL action he looks good so there’s a chance it could work. Of course the Big Bumper Book Of British Footballing Stereotypes tells me that skillful Latino players can’t be trusted for any kind of consistency. If he’s good though, DC should do ok for the first half of the season then really get it together when Bill Hamid comes back from injury and surge to first place, though not a supporters shield. They’ll then lose in the conference final.
- New York Red Bulls: Good solid team last year, not a particularly busy or exciting off season but should still be good enough to be a very consistent team. Losing Matt Miazga will hurt, but at the very least his replacement has an absolutely fantastic name, that I look forward to giggling at every time commentators mention it. Baah! Gideon Baah! Beautiful, if there isn’t some kind of ‘video killed the radio star’ based chant, then Red bulls fans are doing it wrong. Is he any good though? That’s really the key to this 2nd place prediction, that and Bradley Wright Phillips continuing to bang in the goals, the rest of the team I’ll confidently predict will maintain it’s level from last year and those 2 players will be the difference between 2nd and falling into the mushy wild card middle of the conference. They’ll get to the final this year, then lose.
- Columbus Crew: Not much going on in the off season, though they added another Kamara, and did pony up the big bucks to make sure their original Kamara decided to commit as well. I don’t see why Kamara the first can’t continue his goalscoring exploits, helped out by their midfield from last year returning intact. Question is can they maintain their attacking flair and also figure out a way to be a bit better defensively. If they could then I’d have them at first, but I doubt they will, they’ll once again be one of the more entertaining sides in the league and will end up 3rd. They’ll win their wild card game, then lose in the conference semis.
- New England: Were very inconsistent last year, and definitely worse off without Jermaine Jones, but I really like the Gershon Koffie signing to replace Jones in midfield. Koffie, Caldwell, Rowe, Nguyen and one of Fagundez or Bunbury is a hell of a midfield, solid defensively and potentially explosive up front when at their best. If only they had better options up front than Agudelo and Davies. If Jose Goncalves can have another good year in defence, they’d be a solid option for winning the east, but overall I don’t think the defence and attack is good enough so the awesome midfield will be wasted and they’ll muddle along into 4th. They’ll beat TFC in the wild card game before losing in the conference semis.
- Toronto FC: I’m going to be optimistic here and hope that the 4-3-3 can work out, and we’ll look more like a proper team that knows how to defend, where the forwards will conscientiously do their bit to help out their beleagured full backs, where the midfield will be an effective shield, and where the new and improved defence lives up to it’s billing and looks like it has in fact played defence before and knows what it’s doing, and where the goalie’s competent and has occasional moments of brilliance more often than his flaws are exposed. Ideally the attack will also look better, less reliant on one man, hopefully Altidore will remain fit more often than not and will defer less to Giovinco and thus average more than 1.5 shots (not shots on target, that’s attempted shots!) per game, and a wide variety of midfielders will chip in with a few goals here and there and thus the team as a whole becomes a lot harder to defend. Ideally Greg Vanney will finally show that he belongs at this level and will be able to make all that happen as well as make all the adjustments necessary over the season to keep things fresh. If all those things happened, I’d expect TFC to be at 1 in this list, but no team’s going to do everything right are they? I think enough of those things might happen that they might actually be able to get themselves a positive goal difference for the season, though that’s probably reliant on injuries not being too bad, the first team has definitely been improved (on paper at least, and most of the signings are the proven in MLS types that I feel like we don’t really need the on paper qualifier but hey, it’s TFC) but the depth is scarily reliant on the young kids showing they can do it at this level. I’d expect anywhere between 4th and 6th, and like I said, I’ll be optimistic and 5th it is, and much like Danny Koevermans, they’ll be killed off at Gillette Stadium in the wild crad round. Annoyingly enough, they won’t be good enough to be properly enjoyable, but not bad enough for Vanney to get fired, so more of the same next year I guess.
- Orlando City: Mainly due to me not thinking much of the other 4 teams really. I’m intrigued to see if Nocerino was worth the fight and the payoff for Sigma South, I’d guess he will be just often enough for them to grab the last wild card spot. Cyle Larin may well look like a better player this year, but I think he’ll end up with fewer goals, and overall it’ll be a struggle all year, with no consistency ever to be found. But if they avoid the injury crisis that felled them last year, they should have enough. They’ll lose handily in the wild card round though.
- Chicago Fire: Johan Kapelhoff and John Goosens are two fantastic names to have brought in, whether their talent matches their comedy potential is yet to be seen. I’m very confused by them dumping Harry Shipp. New coach Veljko Paunovic is a very intriguing hire but basically I think their playoff hopes will come down to whethere they can get any kind of consistent goalscoring from their 3 dps, Igboanike, Accam and of course Ol’ Gil himself. I’d love them to do well and make the playoffs but I think that’s asking a bit much, I’d be surprised if any of those 3 breaks 10 goals and thus they won’t have enough to be properly mediocre.
- Montreal Impact: Harry Shipp’s a nice addition, but Justin Mapp’s loss more than offsets that in my eyes. Still though, Ciman, Shipp, Piatti, Drogba, there’s plenty of talent there. If Drogba is actually interested enough to play hard when the games on grass happen, if Piatti can stay fit for the season and if Ciman can avoid too many suspensions they could do alright and make this prediction look silly. But I think Drogba will be Beckham 2008 interested at best and it’ll drag the whole thing down and it’ll be a very entertaining shambles. Every now and then they’ll look very good, but not often enough.
- New York City: Speaking of entertaining shambles, I’m very much looking forward to Patrick Viera’s team going down in flames, with Pirlo and Lampard regularly looking terrible. I feel bad for Poku and Mcnamara, who both deserve better, but barring some talented Man City kids being brought in on ridiculously cheap loans and saving the day, this is going to go horribly wrong, and I relish that prospect. A lot. Frederic Brillant is an excellent name to have brought in though, kudos for that.
- Philadelphia Union: Despite NYCFC going horribly wrong, they still won’t be worse than Philadelphia. If Andre Blake stands on his head, if one or two of their draft picks works out then maybe they might be ok, but I don’t see it happening, maybe next year, who knows. Get your money on Jim Curtin to win the MLS sack race this year.
So there we go, that’s how the East will work out this year. Tomorrow, the West.