Each year I’ve tried to come up with some new way to preview the new season. The last couple of years it was doing positional rankings. While those were a comment goldmine for the most part, they took forever to write up. I didn’t have the luxury of that kind of time this preseason to do that. So, some shorter kinds of preview posts have been coming out.
So far we’ve looked at homegrown players, newcomers and each MLS squad. Today I wanted to take a quick look at three clubs that I believe knocked it out of the part this offseason in preparation for the new year. On the flip side of that I will also look at four that struggled to really improve in the offseason.
Narrowing the two lists down to just four wasn’t easy. For the top groups it mainly came down to the little additions that I like more than the big ones. Items not actually seen in a transaction listing. On the other hand, the teams that I wasn’t thrilled about going into the offseason came down to moves that just made me scratch my head a bit or the lack of moves.
Also, this list is in no real order, so please don’t read into the first team being the top team or anything like that.
Not too many new faces in Houston. Dominic Kinnear was his old self though earlier this offseason when he landed Omar Cummings. Now the Jamaican isn’t 100% just yet but once he and Will Bruin get on the same page together, look out. This team will certainly be in the thick of things again in the East this season. I also really like the additions of Eric Brunner to the defense and Andy Driver on loan in the midfield. Both are smart additions that will go a long way in the end.
Losing Kei Kamara and Roger Espinoza is tough but landing a Benny Feilhaber and a Claudio Beiler isn’t too bad of a way to recover. Peter Vermes also added some talent in the draft with Mikey Lopez, a smart move that could pay off in the long run as he is looking to replace Espinoza. Lastly, I think the defense got even deeper than they were last year by adding Josh Gardner and Ike Opara. Two young and exciting defenders in my book, the Opara deal alone gave me reason to believe that this club has the chance to do extremely well in the USOC and the CCL this year.
It may come across as a homer write up here but stay with me. This club did shed a ton of dead weight and even Brek Shea loss is a plus for this club. For me, it is also the change of formation to start the season that gives me reason to believe in this club. Schellas Hyndman has his 4-4-2 now thanks to the additions of Kenny Cooper and Eric Hassli. Both are extremely happy to be in Dallas, which goes a long way in rebuilding the locker room. For the most part, everyone is healthy too. Lastly, don’t sleep on the additions of Je-Vaughn Watson from Houston, or Raul Fernandez the Peruvian national team keeper. Two clever pickups by Hyndman.
To be fair with Toronto, they really had no where else to go but up in their offseason. I did like the front office change with Kevin Payne and a few of their moves (Kyle Bekker will be a start folks). But I was unimpressed with the lack of additions on offense for this club, a team that absolutely struggled on offense last year. Also, the crazy hiring of Ryan Nelsen set the stage for a wild and weird offseason too. It would have played nicer with folks like myself had they hired him with the knowledge that he was already retired as a player.
Woah nelly that is a lot of change. While I do like some of the moves that were made this winter, for the most part the team got younger and less experienced in the league. Not to mention some of their key players in the attack will be out to start the season. I want to like where this club is going and maybe seeing them this weekend in Frisco will help me out with that but overall I think the build out that Oscar Pareja and his staff are doing here is going to just take more time. We don’t know if Edson Buddle can be his 2010 self and we aren’t sure if the midfield group of Pablo Mastroeni and Hendry Thomas will work. Not to mention I’m not sure Mastroeni can stay healthy all year either.
One thing I’ll say with regards to Chivas USA now under Chelis is that it will never be dull. They signed a bunch of players late in the preseason (even though they were there in camp for a while), sometimes uncertain elements like not knowing when you’ll sign can cause issues with players. Also, we don’t know how good this team will be with the influx of players on loan from the Chivas mothership. They currently have four players from Chivas de Guadalajara. Scoring will still be an issue with this team however, they may possess the ball like crazy but if Juan Agudelo struggles early on, look for the rest of the team to follow suit.