A new season is just days away now and with the CBA issue put to rest we can finally get back to enjoying some MLS again. Today in my on-going 2010 season preview I wanted to take a look at each club and pose a single thought or question to each. Sure some have more questions than others but since there is 16 clubs now in the league I really didn’t want to take the time to do two or three for each.
The new season will start on Thursday night as we all know as the Seattle Sounders FC host new kids on the block Philadelphia Union. No doubt the new season is sneaking up on us quickly here. I plan on having a lot more preview material the rest of the week including the preseason Power Rankings and a few other things.
So below is my thought or question with each club going into the new year. Excuse the order that these come in, I kind of put the more important questions and thought near the top with the rest filling in the blanks underneath. It doesn’t mean the questions or thoughts at the bottom aren’t as important or big to me but it mainly means I thought of them after everything else.
1. What will Red Bull Arena really do for New York?
I think the exhibition to open the new palace of soccer last weekend showed us what the new stadium means to the fans in New York but what it means to the players actually playing on the field for the Red Bulls is another story. Let’s be real for a minute this club will be better than the 2009 edition that really stunk up the place but I don’t believe this building will help get them into the playoffs right away. New manager Hans Backe’s club has done well in preseason but let’s not forget how well Juan Carlos Osorio’s club did in last year’s preseason too.
No, I’m not saying it will be the same path but until we know their defense is fixed (which it isn’t) and their offense is consistent (it won’t be with an unhealthy Juan Pablo Angel) we can’t say this year’s Red Bulls will be back in playoff contention. I will say this though, their schedule most certainly is better than last year’s which put them on the road a lot early on and for long stretches of time. This year’s schedule won’t do that one bit.
2. Sophomore slump in Seattle?
A good amount of folks are betting on a sophomore slump for the Seattle Sounders FC. But count me in as one that isn’t at this point. Sigi Schmid’s club didn’t lose any big pieces this winter and I believe they’ll only get stronger as the year goes on. They have to get consistent with their scoring for sure but if they do that they may very well win the west in 2010.
3. Can Dominic Kinnear pull out his best coaching job yet in 2010?
Not many can say they’ve lost the amount of talent in the last couple of years other that Dominic Kinnear has (though Steve Nicol is a close second). Losing Dwayne de Rosario before last year when he was traded to Toronto was tough but Kinnear managed with Stuart Holden. But now that Holden and defense midfielder Ricardo Clark are gone what will Kinnear do? What he always does best, replace from within. Geoff Cameron steps in for Holden while other moves were made to make sure the defense wouldn’t miss a beat. I see this club being in a lot of tight games early on but expect the usual from this club in 2010.
4. Will all the international additions pay off in KC?
Its hard to convey sarcasm on a blog, my comments last week about the amount of new faces in KC may have upset a few folks but it wasn’t meant to. Still I do wonder a lot if these new faces in KC will pay off for Peter Vermes and company. We’ve seen it before in the league when a club goes out and brings in a lot of new faces from overseas, they typically don’t do that well. I think KC will be a different story but I’m still not planning on them crashing the playoff party in 2010, that is unless these new additions find a way to impress me early on.
5. Can Real Salt Lake repeat in 2010?
We know the schedule will be larger this year for RSL but do they have the gas in the tank to do it again in 2010? We’ll see. Let’s keep in mind for a moment that they were a sub-.500% team in 2009 that barely made it into the playoffs. They did however go on a nice run to win the Cup but for a majority of the year they weren’t the best team in the league at all. I do think the Cup will change a lot of things within that locker room though and the inconsistent play on the road will only get better. It has to or else they won’t be lifting a Cup in 2010.
6. Chivas USA is better off without Preki…
In a small way this winter was addition by subtraction for Chivas. They had a coaching change when Preki decided to leave for Toronto. In return long-time assistant Martin Vasquez steps in as the new boss, a move I absolutely love. I do feel Preki ran his course in Chivas long enough and that Vasquez will be the right man for the job. He’s been around the club long enough for the players to know him and his style. Not to mention they shouldn’t miss much of a beat going into a new year. Now it is a wonder if they’ll get over the hump and get out of the first round of the playoffs.
7. Will Columbus return to the top of the mountain?
Just like I told MLS Talk last week on their podcast, the Crew are a dangerous team to lookout for in 2010. I still believe they are a striker short of really being dominate again. But if rookies Dilly Duka and Bright Dike can work out for them then it won’t matter. Staying healthy this year will be key, especially for former-MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
8. Dallas the dark-horse in 2010.
Again, I hate to sound like a homer but something about Dallas sounds right for picking them as a dark-horse contender in 2010. As long as Jeff Cunningham or someone scores the goals for Schellas Hyndman’s squad they’ll be in the thick of things out west. They should be at least if you look at all the young talent they’ve collected these last few years, its about time that talent is cashing in for them on the field.
9 . No Becks, no problem in LA.
Sure the league and in a small way the Galaxy will miss David Beckham on the field this year but I don’t see Bruce Arena’s club skipping a beat here. They are a tad bit deeper and possibly a bit healthier going into this season. With a determined Landon Donovan back on this side of the pond I wouldn’t count them out as a MLS Cup contender in 2010.
10. Grass is greener in Toronto.
Its kind of sad when really the only good news going into a new year is that your stadium will now have natural grass instead of the fake stuff. That’s the issue with new manager Preki and Toronto FC. They’ve dumped a lot of salary but they really haven’t picked up much in return. If I were a fan in Toronto I wouldn’t be too happy with what has been done to this roster going into a new season. They haven’t gotten any deeper and they didn’t really address any key issues like their defense and their striker situations. Maybe the green grass at BMO Field will make us forget how bad the winter was for this club though.
11. Will a winner finally return to San Jose?
Last year I was on the Quakes bandwagon but the wheels fell off very quickly as the Quakes couldn’t defend and couldn’t consistently score. Manager Frank Yallop and GM John Doyle again went to work this winter and made quality upgrades all around including drafting Ike Opara and signing guys like Eduardo up top. With a deep west Eduardo will need to match Ryan Johnson in the goals department to give them a shot and Opara will need to slide in to a defense that gave up a lot of goals in 2009. I think having a healthy Jason Hernandez will go a long way in how this club plays this season.
12. Will the Fire be consistent at Toyota Park this year?
One thing is certain the Chicago Fire have to play better at home this year or they will have no shot at going back to the playoffs. With Carlos de los Cobos taking over I think the club will be a little different all around. Without Blanco and Chris Rolfe (and now Jon Busch) the club will have a different look and feel to it. Finding ways to win at home will mean a lot more now than they ever have.
13. Can Conor Casey and Omar Cummings get the Rapids in the playoffs?
Honestly the Rapids have no more excuses here. They’ve added a solid duo in the midfield in Jeff Larentowicz and Wells Thompson, plus drafting Andre Akpan should mean their offense has quality depth. But the bigger issue is getting Casey and Cummings back at their mid-2009 production when they were one of the best duos in the league. If they both reach their totals from a season ago and the midfield stays healthy this year look for the Rapids to crash the playoff party in 2010.
14. Just how good will Philadelphia be?
I love tracking expansion teams because we think they’ll be good but most typically are bad in their first year. Seattle was the bend to the rule last year but who’s to say Philadelphia won’t see similar success in 2010? They drafted well in the SuperDraft, picked up a couple quality players here and there to round out their defense and their expansion draft was better than most thought it was. I won’t say they’ll make the playoffs yet but they’ll certainly make it interesting in the eastern conference.
15. Will Curt Onalfo return D.C. to their old glory?
Here’s another fun team to watch in 2010. D.C. United haven’t really been the same these last couple years and they hope a former player can right the ship. Most still believe they settled for Onalfo in their coaching search but if he can get the most out of the young guys on the roster and get newcomer Danny Allsopp to produce then it isn’t out of the question that D.C. could contend in 2010. I still believe they have too many “ifs” going into the new year and that Onalfo really isn’t the best fit for them…but then again I’ve been wrong before.
16. Have the Revs lost too much?
Over the years the New England Revolution have lost a lot of quality players to overseas clubs or more recently to trades within the league. Still Steve Nicol will go out and put together a line-up that is gritty and finds a way to compete. I am a bit fearful that this is the year they drop a lot in the standings. Shalrie Joseph is still the man leading the way but he’ll have to put up super-MVP numbers to get them back in the playoffs and hope that Taylor Twellman returns from injury and produces as well.