With the Timbers first game less than 10 days away it is time to start looking at the competition. This first installment will look at the Eastern Conference, the only reason I am previewing the Eastern Conference is because of the balanced schedule. For each team there will be a player to watch, a short analysis and a prediction of where they will end up in the standings.
Player to watch: Sean Johnson (GK), some say he is the next great USA keeper.
Analysis: Once the Fire were the model everyone was basing the MLS team off of but no more. The Fire have been on a downward spiral for the last few years and finally they have seem to hit rock bottom. They lost their heart and soul in Brian McBride and the defensive mastermind in CJ brown. These two losses bring about these two questions: Where will the goals come from? and Will they be able to stop the goals from raining down on them? Yikes those are two questions no team wants to have going into the season.
Prediction: 6th in the Eastern Conference with no chance of picking up a wildcard.
Player to Watch: Andres Mendoza (F) is a great pick-up for the Crew and could be too much to handle for some opposing defenders.
Analysis: The Crew are in a rebuilding mode as they just let most of the core from the championship roster either leave or traded them. The good news for the Crew is that most of the players the have left have tremendous upside and are young. Which means this year could be met with a lot of growing pains. Look for the Crew to really have an up and down year with win streaks and losing streaks.
Prediction:7th in the conference
Player to watch: Charlie Davies (F) is probably the most anticipated new comer to the MLS and fans of the USMNT hope he returns to form, except when he plays their team.
Analysis: No team has gone from "they will suck" to "the will be good" faster than DC United. The main reason for the change in perception is the play of Charlie Davies. He is being added to an already decent young attacking Corps of Andy Najar and Branko Boskovich which on paper will be a very potent attack. The defense is much improved with the addition of Dax Mcarty and Perry Kitchen but the question still remains will the give up goals at the same rate as last year?
Prediction: 4th in the Eastern Conference and will surprise quite a few early, they earn the only east wildcard.
Player to Watch: Geoff Cameron (M) is the engine of this team and if he plays well Houston plays well
Analysis: Houston was hit by the injury bug last year and finally looks to be fully healthy for the first time since the 2009 season. The defense has been totally revamped from last year and this years defense is built around speed and as you know speed kills, it just depends on who it will kill them or their opposition. If the defense is as good as promised they will not give up many goals and will pose a challenge for most teams. The attack as always will go through Brian Ching, if he can stay healthy they will put goals in the back of the net.
Prediction: 2nd in the East.
Player to watch: Omar Bravo (F) is a Mexican nation team player looking to rebuild his career in the MLS. Look for him to show his amazing skills and challenge for the golden boot.
Analysis: Sporting's mentality of attacking first and asking questions later will only be intensified with the addition of Bravo. However with the loss of their captain and their backline anchor Jimmy Conrad the defense has to step up. If the defense rises to the occasion this team is scary and not one you would want to be facing come play-off time. This teams chances hinge on putting the ball in the back of the net and that all comes down to if Bravo can stay healthy.
Prediction: 3rd in the East, earning the last automatic playoff spot.
Player to Watch: Shalrie Joseph (M) is a star lost in the Northeast on a bad team.
Analysis: New England gave up a league worst 50 goals last year and although they did pick up some MLS talent defenders they still have big question marks on defense. With the defensive woes the Revolution also had issues getting the ball in the back of the net, granted most of these came from the fact that Taylor Twellman could not make it back from multiple head injuries which caused him to retire. The Revolution did add some young attacking players they are unproven and still remain to be seen if they can actually put the ball in the net.
Prediction: 8th in the East
Player to watch: Juan Agudelo (M/F) may be the most drooled over young star in the league, hopefully he can live up to the hype.
Analysis: Despite having a lot of big name veterans, like Henry or Rafa Marquez, this team consists of mostly under 23 up and coming players. The big question is are these 23 year old men or just young men? After having the best record in the east last year look for these young men to grow up under the tutelage of Henry and Rafa and become a force to be reckoned with. Even their coach expects nothing less than the Supporter's shield.
Prediction: 1st in the East as well as winning the Supporter's shield. However with one injury all their hopes and dreams could be derailed.
Player to watch: Sebastien Le Toux (F) is our old USL nemesis but the biggest question is can he continue to produce at a high level.
Analysis: Peter Nowak had this team clicking at the end of the 2010 season and hopes are that this trend continues. They addressed some of their defensive with the addition of Colombian Carlos Valdes and Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. The rest of their starting line-up remains intact from the 2010 season and looks to improve. If the Danny Mwanga improves and Sebastien Le Toux continues he attacking prowess the Union will be a tough match-up for anyone.
Prediction: 5th in the East and the play-offs are a possibility if the West is not as good as advertised.
Player to watch: Julian De Guzman (M) is the star in waiting after Dwayne De Rosario.
Analysis: Talk about a team in disarray. Their star player trains with a Euorpean team without the consent or knowledge of the team and one of their better defenders is holding out in hopes of getting a better contract. Added on top of all of that and a new coach is brought in and asked to implement an Ajax style playing system. Ajax is a free flowing attacking style which is amazing to watch when executed correctly. Of course the style requires a certain type of player and the coach has had only one off-season to address the needs and bring in his own players. With all the changes it is looking like Toronto is going into their fourth year of a expansion year as they are still trying to find their identity.
Prediction: If Toronto FC finishes above dead last in the East it will be a season in which they overachieved.
Eastern Conference Standings Predictions:
- New York Red Bulls
- Houston Dynamo
- Sporting Kansas City
- DC United
- Philadelphia Union
- Chicago Fire
- Columbus Crew
- New England Revolution
- Toronto FC
Look for my Western Conference preview in the next couple of days.