2010 MLS Preview: Eastern Conference

2010 MLS Preview: Eastern Conference

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 23, 2010
  • 4 Comments
  • 2010 Season Previews

The Columbus Crew are still the top dogs in the Eastern Conference. (Getty Images)

The Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer may be the toughest to figure out. A number of clubs had big changes in coaching or just general overhaul of the roster this winter. While others just added pieces to the puzzle and are hoping the little things work out. Then you have an entirely new team in Philadelphia that no one can really figure out just yet.

I won’t lie, writing this wasn’t easy because after the top two I wasn’t set on anyone else. That’s how wide open the eastern conference will be this year. Not one team stands out as a quality three or four just yet to me but I do stand by these selections.

Below is my prediction for the Eastern Conference, expect a similar one up for the Western Conference either later today or tomorrow.

(below is a projected order of finish)

1. Columbus Crew (2009 Record: 13-7-10)

Ins and outs: They lost Alejandro Moreno via the expansion draft to Philly but they did go out and sign Colombian forward Sergio Herrera, who some believe may be a better fit in the Crew’s system as a striker than Moreno.

Who to watch for: Two guys that stand out for me that need another big year are Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers. Marshall has to lead the defense once again while Rogers needs to start producing and in a big way this year.

Final thoughts: They may have lost in the first round of the playoffs last year but I don’t see that taking place again this year. With what could be Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s last season (he turns 37 this year) the Crew will have to make the most of every chance. I still have trouble betting against this team and I know they’ll be out to re-group after last year’s early playoff exit.

2. Chicago Fire (2009 Record: 11-7-12)

Ins and outs: Well we know what they’ve lost: Blanco, Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares, Jon Busch. But they’ve gained a decent bit too with Collins John, Julio Martinez, and Krzysztof Krol. Let’s not forget they easily had one of the best drafts in recent memory this past January when they landed guys like Corben Bone and Sean Johnson.

Who to watch for: Just as I’ve mentioned in previous posts I see Marco Pappa having a big breakout type season. I also think it will be interesting to see if Justin Mapp returns to the stage and produces like we once thought he would.

Final thoughts: Going into the new calendar year I thought the Fire were in real trouble but even with a new coach that has no MLS experiences I think they’ll be fine with what they’ve done this winter. The bigger question for me is if they can figure out how to be consistent at home this year. If they play like they did on the road last year and put it together at home you can count on them to get another deep playoff run this year. Also, I have a feeling their late preseason drop of keeper Jon Busch may bite them in the ass when it counts most.

3. D.C. United (2009 Record: 9-8-13)

Ins and outs: Lots some heavy weight in Luciano Emilio and Christian Gomez but I see this as addition by subtraction. They did gain some quality players in Danny Allsopp and Christian Castillio. However new manager Curt Onalfo did bring over some faces from his old KC side (Adam Cristman and Kurt Morsink), some moves that I really could care less for here.

Who to watch for: For me it has to be Santino Quaranta. If he finds a way to make D.C. fans forget they don’t have a true No. 10 in the midfield then this club will be all the better for it.

Final thoughts: After the Crew and Fire I get a weird feeling about D.C. To me they are the best of the rest in the east, which right now for me isn’t saying a whole lot. Onalfo isn’t the greatest choice for their head coach but I’m hoping for United fans that he is out to prove to the league that he is a better coach then what he did in KC.

4. New England Revolution (2009 Record: 11-10-9)

Ins and outs: They lost Jay Heaps and Chris Albright, midfielders Jeff Larentowicz, Steve Ralston and Wells Thompson and backup keeper Brad Knighton. Yes they lost all of that. They did pick up Cory Gibbs, a move I really like and Preston Burpo. One has to wonder if Steve Nicol found another gem in Africa with Senegalese midfielder Joseph Niouky.

Who to watch for: If Taylor Twellman can return to form and produce then its easily him. Until then it will have to be MVP Shalrie Joseph. Then again even with a healthy Twellman so much of this club will still depend on Joseph.

Final thoughts: I nearly had them over D.C., here but something tells me they will dip a bit in 2010. I right now still like them better than what’s below them but I honestly don’t know how long that will last.

5. Toronto FC (2009 Record: 10-11-9)

Ins and outs: With Preki in charge there was more outs than ins for the Reds this winter. Carl Robinson is gone, so is Amado Guevara, Adrian Serioux and now possibly Ali Gerba. Its a gamble to dump that much salary going into a new year when you hardly replace it with anything.

Who to watch for: Its an easy one, this club will run through both Julian de Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario. One controls the defense more while the other handles the offense. Both are areas that are of concern for TFC fans going into this season.

Final thoughts: I still believe Preki and Toronto are about two or three defenders and two strikers away from really having a roster that will be tough to beat in 2010. I know they’re waiting on the summer transfer window now to do anything with all that cap space. No doubt if they can get to June and July and not be below .500% they’ll be just fine. I just worry they may have a rougher go of things then most would like.

6. Kansas City Wizards (2009 record: 8-13-9)

Ins and outs: Boy let’s talk about those ins for a moment. The big ones are Jimmy Nielsen taking over in goal for Kevin Hartman (who’s now in Dallas). Herculez Gomez is lighting things up in Mexico so Birahim Diop, Igor Kostrov, or Craig Rocastle will have to fill in. Then there is the hope that Teal Bunbury has a good rookie campaign.

Who to watch for: This club is streaky all over but they’ll need guys like Josh Wolff to be more consistent in 2010 if they want a shot at the playoffs.

Final thoughts: Peter Vermes ripped the interim tag off his title and really went at it this winter. There is a big buzz around this club but a lot of folks believe most of these moves will do little for the product on the field. We’ll see though if one or two of these new additions pays off it may be enough to bump them up here.

7. New York Red Bulls (2009 Record: 5-19-6)

Ins and outs: Out with the old crap that didn’t work and in with some new flare that may pay off. Joel Lindpere could end up as the Newcomer of the Year with the way he was looking in preseason. Roy Miller will help their defense in a big way and let’s not leave out the biggest addition of all Red Bull Arena (yes I’m counting this one). New boss Hans Backe looks to have pulled the right strings so far.

Who to watch for: Once more it has to be Juan Pablo Angel carrying this club offensively. I think they’ll be improved with Lindpere in the midfield facilitating the offense but it comes down to the goal scorers at the end of the day, if Angel produces like he did a couple years ago the Red Bulls will easily move up this chart.

Final thoughts: Even though they had a wonderful preseason and there is a lot of buzz with them because of the new stadium I still have to rate them here. Too many question marks until the season gets going for them. I don’t like their keeper situation at all (Bouna Coundoul really? Greg Sutton is his backup? come on!). Hans Backe will do well with this club but I’m still going to wait this one out. I didn’t get on the bandwagon with them last year at this time when people were picking them to do well, and I don’t again this year.

8. Philadelphia Union (2009 record: n/a)

Ins and outs: They’re all new here so no need to list them all out.

Who to watch for: The keeper battle will be interesting between Chris Seitz, Brad Knighton and Brian Perk. Seitz should win that battle out. After that I’m looking at the midfield lead by Fred and probably Sebastian Le Toux. If those two can be as productive as we’ve seen in the past then this could be an exciting team to watch.

Final thoughts: Peter Nowak has a lot of work to do but so far he’s done an excellent job building this club. They’re at the bottom because of the expansion tag but I could see them even as high as forth in the east. The thing is offensively they have too many question marks right now. As young as they are built I’d think they’ll hit a block some time during the summer months. I expect them to take more bumps along the way than Seattle did last year but I don’t see them finishing as the worst club overall.

  • Nick

    Toronto will be below NY and KC. Toronto is a disaster, Preki & Mo got rid of the best (or better) players on the team and doesn't replace them?! And they don't address their lack of a true and reliable forward…? Makes me think Lalas is actually in charge of this team 😉
    I actually think even Philly will be above Toronto.

  • joshuadrollins

    I'm not just playing it loud for the home team here, but I think this Crew squad is as solid as they've ever been. Replacing Moreno shouldn't be too hard. I think Lenhart could be the diamond in the rough for us this season. The way he played against Toluca in the first leg really impressed me. I think the true test for us is on defense. Hejduk is getting older, same with Padula. Marshall has to step up, which I'm certain he will. I also expect big things from Jed Zayner this year as well. It's make-or-break time for Eric Brunner and Andy Iro.
    My player that is going to have the breakout year, with exception of Lenhart is Eddie Gaven. People seem to forget about Eddie behind Robbie, GBS and Marshall. I think this year he really shows himself to be a star and a leader on the pitch.

  • Nick

    Toronto will be below NY and KC. Toronto is a disaster, Preki & Mo got rid of the best (or better) players on the team and doesn't replace them?! And they don't address their lack of a true and reliable forward…? Makes me think Lalas is actually in charge of this team 😉
    I actually think even Philly will be above Toronto.

  • joshuadrollins

    I'm not just playing it loud for the home team here, but I think this Crew squad is as solid as they've ever been. Replacing Moreno shouldn't be too hard. I think Lenhart could be the diamond in the rough for us this season. The way he played against Toluca in the first leg really impressed me. I think the true test for us is on defense. Hejduk is getting older, same with Padula. Marshall has to step up, which I'm certain he will. I also expect big things from Jed Zayner this year as well. It's make-or-break time for Eric Brunner and Andy Iro.
    My player that is going to have the breakout year, with exception of Lenhart is Eddie Gaven. People seem to forget about Eddie behind Robbie, GBS and Marshall. I think this year he really shows himself to be a star and a leader on the pitch.