MLS Eastern Conference preview capsules
A team-by-team look at Major League Soccer for the 2018 season:
Coach: Alan Koch
2018 Record: Expansion team for 2019
Key Players: F Fanendo Adi, MF Fatai Alashe, D Kendall Waston
Lowdown: Cincinnati joins MLS as the league’s 24th team. The club is coming off a tremendous season in the USL, finishing with a 28-8-3 record to claim the league’s regular-season title. The team signed Adi as a designated player just a month after MLS awarded Cincinnati the franchise. Adi had three goals in 11 matches with the USL team last season. Cincinnati has an established fan base and drew more than 31,000 in its USL regular-season finale.
Coach: Greg Vanney
2018 Record: 10-18-6, ninth in the East, missed the playoffs.
Key Players: MF Michel Bradley, F Jozy Altidore, D Justin Morrow.
Lowdown: Toronto let Sebastian Giovinco go in the offseason. The team’s all-time leading scorer wanted a longer-term deal with the club but didn’t get it. Also departing was Victor Vazquez. But the 2017 MLS Cup champions still have a solid core and they shored up the backline with the addition of Laurent Ciman, who played last season for LACF and is returning to MLS after a short stint with Dijon. The Reds, who pulled off a historic treble in 2017, will want to put last season’s slump behind them as soon as possible.
Coach: Frank de Boer
2018 record: 21-7-6, second in the East, won the MLS Cup championship.
Key Players: F Josef Martinez, MF Julian Gressel, GK Brad Guzan
Lowdown: Coach Tata Martino left last season’s league champions to take over Mexico’s national team for the cycle ahead of the 2022 World Cup. New coach de Boer has a wealth of talent on his squad, including the reigning MLS MVP Josef Martinez. Besides the coach, a notable departure on the team was attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, who went to Newcastle United. But the team added South American Player of the Year Pity Martinez to replace him. Expect Atlanta to pick up right where it left off.
Coach: Veljko Paunovic
2018 Record: 8-18-8, 10th in the East, missed the playoffs.
Key Players: MF Bastian Schweinsteiger, MF Dax McCarty, F Nemanja Nikolic.
Lowdown: The team re-signed Schweinsteiger as a DP for this season, retaining a fan favorite. They also added veteran goalkeeper David Ousted, Brazilian defender Marcelo and attacking midfielder Przemyslaw Frankowski of Poland. They finished third in the East back in 2017, but fell to 10th last season. The team’s strength is its attack, but they’ll need to shore up a defense that allowed 61 goals last season.
Coach: Caleb Porter
2018 Record: 14-11-9, fifth in the East, lost in the conference semifinals.
Key Players: GK Zack Steffen, F Gyasi Zardes, MF Federico Higuain.
Lowdown: Gregg Berhalter is now coach of the U.S. men’s national team, so the Crew brought in former Timbers coach Caleb Porter, who once coached the Akron Zips. Porter led the Timbers to the MLS Cup in 2015, beating the Crew in the final. The Crew have put the uncertainty of the team’s future in Columbus in the past with new ownership. Steffen will be with the Crew to start the season but he’s off to Manchester City in July. The team brought Joe Bendik to pick up the slack in goal.
Coach: Ben Olsen
2018 Record: 14-11-9, fourth in the East, lost in the knockout round.
Key Players: F Wayne Rooney, MF Luciano Acosta, GK Bill Hamid.
Lowdown: D.C. United experienced a dramatic turnaround last season with the arrival of Rooney, as well as the opening of a new stadium. The resurgence resulted in a return to the playoffs after a disappointing finish in 2017. United lost just twice when Rooney started. The team this season added veteran midfielder Chris McCann from Atlanta, and up-and-coming midfielder Lucas Rodriguez of Argentina.
Coach: Remi Garde
2018 Record: 14-16-4, seventh in the East, missed the playoffs.
Key Players: MF Ignacio Piatti, F Maxi Urruti, MF Saphir Taider
Lowdown: The Impact missed the playoffs last season for the second straight year. But Montreal acquired Urruti in a trade with FC Dallas, which should alleviate the team’s struggles up top. The 28-year-old Argentine is a proven MLS starter who had eight goals and 11 assists last season in Dallas. Fellow Argentine Piatti said at the end of last season that this will be his last in MLS. He scored 16 goals and had 13 assists in 32 matches last season.
Coach: Jim Curtin
2018 Record: 15-14-5, sixth in the East, lost in the knockout round
Key Players: F Marco Fabian, MF Alejandro Bedoya, D Auston Trusty.
Lowdown: The Union lost a key contributor in midfielder Borek Dockal, who had 18 assists last season while on loan. Philadelphia also traded Keegan Rosenberry to Colorado and C.J. Sapong to Chicago. But the Union added a proven playmaker in Marco Fabian, a regular with Mexico’s national team who played last season in the German Bundesliga. Last season’s team set club records for points, wins, and road wins.
ORLANDO CITY SC:
Coach: James O’Connor
2018 Record: 8-22-4, 11th in the East, did not make the playoffs
Key Players: F Dom Dwyer, MF Nani, MF Sacha Kljestan
Lowdown: The Lions have failed to make the playoffs in their four seasons. This will be O’Connor’s first full season in Orlando after replacing Jason Kreis. They gave up a league-record 74 goals last season. The team added former Manchester United winger Nani on a transfer from Sporting CP, but lost midfielder Yoshimar Yotun, who was sold to Cruz Azul.
NEW YORK RED BULLS:
Coach: Chris Armas
2018 Record: 22-7-5, first in the East, lost in the conference finals.
Key Players: F Bradley Wright-Phillips, MF Kaku, GK Luis Robles.
Lowdown: The Red Bulls won the Supporter’s Shield with the best regular season in league history last season but fell to eventual MLS Cup winner Atlanta in the conference finals. It will be Armas’ first full season after replacing Jesse Marsch last season. The Red Bulls lost Tyler Adams to RB Leipzig but added 18-year-old Danish forward Mathias Jorgensen.
Coach: Domenec Torrent
2018 Record: 16-10-8, third in the East, lost in conference semifinals.
Key Players: MF Alexandru Mitrita, MF Maxi Morales, F Valentin Castellanos
Lowdown: Former Spanish star David Villa has gone to Japan’s Vissel Kobe, and midfielder Yangel Herrera has also moved on. NYCFC has gone younger in its first full season under Torrent, who took over when Patrick Vieira went to Nantes. Mitrita, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder, has played the past two seasons with Romania’s top division Universitatea Craiova, scoring 18 goals in 32 appearances.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION:
Coach: Brad Friedel
2018 Record: 10-13-11, eighth in the East, did not make the playoffs.
Key Players: MF Carles Gil, F Juan Caicedo, D Edgar Castillo
Lowdown: The Revolution have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons. The team let go of attacking midfielder Kelyn Rowe in a trade with Colorado and picked up Edgar Castillo. He’ll shore up a backline that will be without veteran Chris Tierney, who retired after 11 MLS seasons, all with the Revs. New England also made key acquisitions in Carles Gil, a midfielder from Spain, and forward Juan Caicedo, on loan from Independiente Medellin.
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