MLS' Eastern Conference is generally thought of as the weaker of the two conferences and with the schedule/play-off overall for this year they no longer have to worry as much about playing against the tougher teams from the West. Even with all the changes the East has 2 great teams 6 middle of the pack teams and 2 not so good (I am trying to be nice) teams.
With that in mind lets take a look at the teams and if you didn't get a chance to check out Andrew's Western Conference Preview go here. I broke the teams in to three categories: Contenders, Middlings, and Bottom Dwellers. Contenders are those I think have a chance of not only winning the East but contending for an MLS Cup. Middlings could make the playoffs but will not make any noise in the playoffs and Bottom Dwellers should be self explanatory.
New York Redbulls
The Good: The New York Red bulls are a lot like the Vancouver Whitecaps because they seem to like to stockpile forwards. One of those forwards, Luke Rogers, however may not make it back into the country due off the field issues and that causing his visa troubles. Juan Agedulo has languished on the bench for much of the last year but with Rogers gone and he has a shot at beating out Kenny Cooper for the other starting position. Any way you look at it the Red Bulls have a lot of offensive fire power (and I didn't even mention Dane Richards or Joel Lindpere!)
The Bad: They are counting on a Rookie Keeper and a backline that at times looked like it was duct taped together. If their Goalie and Defense fall apart they would need Thierry Henry and Company to out score their opponents.
2011 Finish: 5th
2012 Prediction: 2nd
The Good: After a really rough start to the year, due the all the road games they had to open the year with while waiting for their stadium to be finished, Sporting really came on strong towards the end of the year. They have a lot of youngsters who really started to preform last year, Graham Zusi and CJ Sapong, and only faltered in the Eastern Conference finals when a more experienced Houston Dynamo team out muscled them. One more year of experience will do wonders for this team.
The Bad: They are a young team and wilted under the pressure in the end. They may not be able to handle the pressure of having the target on their back as most people have them as their team to beat.
2011 Finish: 1st
2012 Prediction: 1st
The Good: TFC finally started to look like a team that belonged in the playoffs towards the end of last year and it was all due to the fact that Danny Koevermans was amazings. Koevermans had 8 goals in 10 MLS games last year and if he can get even close to that kind of strike rate TFC will be in the playoffs. Aron Winter also has more time to implement the 4-3-3 and bring in players more suited to play this formation.
The Bad: The are TFC. They have looked good at times and looked terrible at times. They need to be consistent or the playoffs will forever be a goal and not a reality.
2011 Finish: 8th
2012 Finish: 5th (They will make the playoffs)
The Good: They are a physical team that punishes opponents and this will always get results in this league. Those results may be a lot of draws but it does mean Houston is a tough team to beat. They are returning some stalwarts on the defensive side, especially Geoff Cameron, which for a team that only gave up 41 goals that is a good thing.
The Bad: They are relying on some unproved forwards and an aging Brian Ching, as well as the hope that Brad Davis can return to an MVP type player after his injury he suffered at the end of last year. If Houston can't score they will just have to hope their defense will be under even more pressure than last year.
2011 Finish: 2nd
2012 Prediction: 3rd
The Good: They brought in a goal scoring machine in Chilean Milovan Mirosec and hope he will continue this trend in MLS play. They also signed one of the better talents from the College ranks in Ben Speas. If they can be the kind of players Columbus thinks they will be Columbus will be a much improved offensive team.
The Bad: They are relying on two in their defense, Chad Marshall and Danny O'Rourke, who have a history of injuries and if this trend continues Columbus is in for a long year. They are also one of the teams who has had the most roster turnover which usually means a down year.
2011 Finish: 4th
2012 Prediction: 8th (Just too much roster turnover)
The Good: They really added a lot of young talent to an already talented roster and if that talent produces like they think the Union think then the Union will be a good team for a long time to come. Their defensive core also remains mostly intact and they only allowed 36 goals all last year.
The Bad: The let go a proven goal scorer in The Cough, Sebastian Le Toux, and replaced him with unproven young talent Josué Martínez and Allocation Money. Le Toux accounted for 55% of the Unions offense over the last 2 years (that is counting his assists and goals) and that is always a hard thing to replace.
2011 Finish: 3rd
2012 Prediction: 7th
The Good: The Fire seem to be on the upswing again and really pushed for a playoff spot late in the last season. They also added a much needed defender in Arne Friedrich, a German National Team Pool Player, and are looking to capitalize on Dominic Orduro's breakout 2011.
The Bad: Even though the Fire made the late push for a playoff spot the stumbled their last few games when the pressure mounted. The fire have a young squad and will have times when the pressure is on. How they deal with that pressure will determine what kind of season the Fire will have.
2011 Finish: 6th
2012 Prediction: 4th
The Good: They have arguably the best offensive player in the league in Dwayne DeRosario. If DeRo can continue his MVP form in 2012 DC will have a great offensive year. They also added much needed help in the midfield with the addition of Danny Cruz.
The Bad: For the past two seasons DC United's backline has leaked like a sieve. They gave up 47 in 30 games in 2010 and 52 in 34 games in 2011. Until you can stop that leak United will always be on the outside looking in.
2011 Finish: 7th
2012 Prediction: 6th
The Good: A team with great history has almost been the laughing stock of the league the past few years. This year will be no different and it is hard to find positives for this team. The biggest positive is the signing of Frenchman Saër Sène and the much needed excitement he will bring to the team.
The Bad: A new coach always takes a little time to get the kind of players he wants to implement his system and a coach who used to be a player can be either a hit, see Jason Kreis, or a totally failure. The failures far out weigh the hits.
2011 Finish: 9th
2012 Prediction: 10th
The Good: They have a Portland like feel to them with how they went about building their roster. They looked for young talent who could grow with the team, with the exception of the Brian Ching debacle. The best thing for this team is they play in the East and only see the tougher teams once this year.
The Bad: As we saw with Portland's expansion year it takes time for a new team to gel so expect growing pains, especially with a young team. They have the possibility of being as good as Portland was last year or being like Vancouver.
2012 Prediction: 9th