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2013 Eastern Conference Preview

With the season fast approaching it is time to take a look at the opposition the Portland Timbers will face in 2013.

Mike Stobe

The Portland Timbers will face each Eastern Conference team only once during the season, which is unfortunate as there are some fun teams to watch. There are also a couple of teams, *Cough* Toronto FC *Cough*, who might not be so fun to watch. As a reminder is how the standings ended up at the end of 2012:

1 Sporting Kansas City 63 34 1.85 18 7 9 42 27 15 22 10 20 5
2 D.C. United 58 34 1.71 17 10 7 53 43 10 37 20 16 -10
3 New York Red Bulls 57 34 1.68 16 9 9 57 46 11 34 16 23 -5
4 Chicago Fire 57 34 1.68 17 11 6 46 41 5 27 9 19 -4
5 Houston Dynamo 53 34 1.56 14 9 11 48 41 7 31 19 17 -12
6 Columbus Crew 52 34 1.53 15 12 7 44 44 0 28 7 16 -7
7 Montreal Impact 42 34 1.24 12 16 6 45 51 -6 31 12 14 -18
8 Philadelphia Union 36 34 1.06 10 18 6 37 45 -8 22 2 15 -10
9 New England Revolution 35 34 1.03 9 17 8 39 44 -5 23 8 16 -13
10 Toronto FC 23 34 0.68 5 21 8 36 62 -26 15 -10 21 -16

For the previews I will be listing in the order they finished 2012

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting's success lead to some of their better players earning moves to other leagues and this meant they needed to look for replacements in Benny Feilhaber and former La Liga player Claudio Bieler. In all the brought in 2 new players into their starting line-up and have 9 returning which makes them the favorite to repeat as the top team in the East.

The only way SKC does not repeat is if Feilhaber and Bieler cannot reproduce what Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara brought to SKC.

DC United

Ben Olsen took over a once storied club that was in shambles and took them to the playoffs in his second year in charge and his third year could be just as good. In order to get back to the playoffs they need to find production up front from someone other than Dwyane De Rosario and to address this they signed Carlos Ruiz and a Brazilian forward, Raphael.

The loss of Andy Najar may hurt some but DC got in on Chivas USA's gringo fire sale and obtained James Riley for peanuts to bolster their defense. In the end DC's hopes rest on being injury free upfront and that Chris Pontius also stays injury free.

New York Redbulls

The list of players going in and out of New York during this off season is about as long as Portland's and with that change comes a lot of uncertainty. Last year the Red Bulls looked stacked and poised to take their first trophy ever but Hans Backe and company crashed and burned in the playoffs. The length of time it took to appoint a coach is a cause for concern but then they finally settled on Mike Petke.

With all the change I would expect the Red Bulls to act a lot like an expansion team with some good wins and some really baffling loses. If Thierry Henry can stay healthy they might be able to overcome the loss of Kenny Cooper's 18 goals.

Chicago Fire

While Chicago had a relatively quiet off season they could be considered the real winners of the off season in the East. They bolstered their midfield with the additions of Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka. Adding these additions to an already good defensive team and Chicago could really be a force in the east.

The only question surrounding this team is where will the goals come from? Maicon Santos was one of their acquisitions to bolster their attack but while he started strong last season he faded and did not find the back of the net towards the end of the season.

Houston Dynamo

Houston is a lot like the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA in that they have a system and they can just plug and play. Of course they have solid players who know the system like Brad Davis and added a good play maker in Oscar Boniek Garcia. Defensively Houston has always been a tough team to break down but their offense has been a bit sporadic with goals coming in bunches followed by barren stretches.

Houston traded for Omar Cummings to put speed next to Will Bruin up front in the hopes that the two can pair nicely while being fed by Davis and Garcia. If Houston can consistently score they will look like solid choices to make it out of the East and to the MLS Cup for a third year.

Columbus Crew

Columbus had a terrible first half of the season in 2012 but they turned it around in the second half and just missed out on the playoffs. Their mid-season acquisitions of Frederico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta will now have an entire year to showcase their talents and with their off season acquisitions they look like a team that will challenger for a play off spot in the East.

Their biggest acquisition this off season was Matias Sanchez from Estudiantes and his signing has some fans hoping he can become their next great Argentine midfielder. Even after all of these signings and the added talent in the starting XI the Crew are razor thin at spots and a couple of injuries can derail them.

Montreal Impact

Montreal played just about how you would expect an expansion team to with some good games at home and some bad games on the road. A big surprise was the mutual parting of ways with Jesse Marsch early in the off season but this was probably expected as Marsch more than likely had a different vision than Italian centric owners. While there were not major players in the off season their new coach, Marco Schällibaum, is trying to implement a variations to the formations.

Continuity might be the biggest off season theme for the Impact as they saw very little turnover but their aging DP will need to stay healthy if they want to push for the playoffs.

Philadelphia Union

Finally a team that had a bigger soap opera than Portland's Franck Songo'o episode with the Freddy Adu Episode. Philly no longer wants to utilize Freddy Adu and no one in MLS is willing to attach themselves to his huge contract and so he is getting paid to not play. Not only are they not going to play Adu they also signed a player, Damani Richards, to fill a need at Left Back only to release him after a few weeks.

Philly also tried to right a wrong by trading for Sebastian LeToux and they also added Conner Casey to help put the ball in the back of the net. The roster still looks a little light compared to other Eastern Conference teams and it might be a rough year for Philly as they continue to rebuild from getting Nowaked.

New England Revolution

New England showed some signs of being a decent side but had a tendency to give away leads much to the dismay of coach Jay Heaps and to combat this they signed Jose Goncalves from Swiss club FC Scion. They also unloaded under performing Benny Feilhaber and added a couple of midfielders from the English leagues. Kellyn Rowe will also have a full season under his belt and looks to build upon a decent rookie campaign.

New England looks like the took some steps in the right direction but only time will tell if they can correct their late game collapses and earn enough points in a tough East to challenge for a playoff spot.

Toronto FC

I don't know where to start to describe how lost Toronto might look this season especially after signing a coach who was still under contract as a player in the EPL. GM Kevin Payne's plan was to complete unload the roster and start from scratch, in fact when last checked they had 1 healthy strike, Justin Braun, and only 21 players signed. It looks like it will be a long season in Toronto as the eternal rebuild continues.

My Completely meaningless Predicted standings

  1. Houston Dynamo
  2. Sporting Kansas City
  3. Chicago Fire
  4. DC United
  5. Montreal Impact
  6. New York Redbulls
  7. Columbus Crew
  8. New England Revolution
  9. Toronto FC
  10. Philadelphia Union
How do you think the teams in the East will do?