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Stumptown Footy Eastern Conference Rundown

MLS: Toronto FC at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season is just about to begin, so let’s take a look around the league, starting with the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Crew

Away on March 25th

Finish Last Year: 9th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: Ole Kamara lit it up for the Crew in 2016 and with Federico Higuain healthy and set to once again pull the strings in the center of the attack, he could be in for another big year. Of course, it will be up to players like Will Trapp and Tony Tchani to bring back the base to the midfield that made the Crew so successful in 2015.

New England Revolution

Home on April 2nd

Finish Last Year: 7th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: Everyone is all worked up about Juan Agudelo and with good reason after some stellar play down the stretch last season, but the real player to watch in this offensively loaded side is going to Kei Kamara; can he return to the goalscoring form from 2015 that made him one of the best strikers in this league? Or will Kamara lose ground to the other younger attacking options on the Revolution’s roster.

Philadelphia Union

Away on April 8th

Finish Last Year: 6th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: The performances of new forward Jay Simpson seem likely to be the best barometer for how good the Union will be this year: will the unheralded forward make waves or will Philly be left without a consistent goal-scorer up top once again? Of course, for a more entertaining watch, keep an eye on Andre Blake in goal as the young Jamaican keeper will almost certainly make some big saves this season.

Atlanta United

Home on May 14th

Finish Last Year: N/A

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: As with any expansion side, Atlanta are chock full of players to keep an eye on. On the back line, Michael Parkhurst will be looking to salvage his reputation as a quality MLS defender after presiding over Columbus’s collapse last season, while further up the pitch all three of Atlanta’s designated players — Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, and Hector Villalba — have a certain amount of buzz around them.

Montreal Impact

Away on May 20th

Finish Last Year: 5th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: Ignacio Piatti is really, really good. There might be other people on this team, but now that Didier Drogba is gone, there is really no way to tell. When watching Montreal now it is all Piatti, all the time.

Chicago Fire

Home on July 5th

Finish Last Year: 10th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: Michael Harrington, Arturo Alvarez, Dax McCarty (and Taylor Peay on trial)

Players to Watch: The return of Juninho to MLS and the addition of Dax McCarty to the midfield are the two most important additions to the Fire this season, but neither are going to bring the flash to the side. Instead let’s go with David Accam, who was nasty last year despite having very little to work with around him. Now, with some proven players and a few overseas additions to the side, Accam could be a very fun player to watch.

Toronto FC

Away on August 12th

Finish Last Year: 3rd place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: The big three are back in Toronto and everyone should be expecting big things from Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley , and Sebastian Giovinco, but it will be the play of Drew Moor and the TFC back line that will decide if Toronto are at the top of the East or mired in the middle come time for the playoffs.

New York Red Bulls

Home on August 20th

Finish Last Year: 1st place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: Aaron Long, Sal Zizzo

Players to Watch: The Red Bulls haven’t really added anyone super interesting over the offseason, so let’s just go with Sacha Kljestan or maybe Gonzalo Veron? The guys who did good stuff last season will need to do more good stuff this season for the Red Bulls.

New York City FC

Away on September 9th

Finish Last Year: 2nd place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: Rodney Wallace

Players to Watch: Rodney Wallace. You might think that the proper answer would be one of NYCFC’s young, exciting wide attackers like Jack Harrison or Jonathan Lewis, or one of NYCFC’s old guys like Andrea Pirlo or David Villa. But you would be wrong.

Orlando City SC

Home on September 24th

Finish Last Year: 8th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: Joe Bendik, Josh Saunders, Will Johnson

Players to Watch: With all the uncertainty surrounding Orlando City in the Jason Kreis era, you might as well keep an eye on Will Johnson. Or, if counting is not your thing, you could look further up the pitch to the attacking triumvirate of Kaka, Cyle Larin, and Carlos Rivas, who have a good chance of combining for a whole lot of goals in 2017.

D.C. United

Home on October 15th

Finish Last Year: 4th place in the Eastern Conference

Former Timbers: None

Players to Watch: We have already selected the other two forwards names Kamara in the league, so let’s add Alhaji Kamara to the list for the Timbers’ final Eastern Conference opponents. Kamara is embarking on his first full season with United and could be a difference maker off the bench for the side. Also worth watching will be Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta, who will need to improve on his three goals and eleven assists from last season if D.C. are going to finish at the top of the East.

Which Eastern Conference team are you excited to see play? Let us know in the comments below.