With the season scheduled to kick off this Saturday, World Soccer Talk brings you the 2014 MLS Eastern Conference preview.
There might be a shift in powers in the East after a few clubs made some huge offseason splashes, but one thing is for sure, Sporting Kansas City is still one of the favorites to repeat as MLS Cup Champions.
Below is a preview for each team in the East, in no particular order.
2013 season: (14W – 13L – 7D) 49 Points, 6th in East
Key acquisitions: D Patrick Ianni, D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado
Key losses: F Maicon Santos, M Joel Lindpere
Chicago and the reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee were so close to the MLS Cup Playoffs last year they could have almost tasted it. However, thanks to home draws against inferior teams, Magee and the rest of the Fire watched the MLS Cup Playoffs from home.
The Fire have only reached the playoffs once since 2010. However, with the hiring of head coach Frank Yallop, the club strongly believes they have the right man to take them back to the promised land.
Yallop coached the San Jose Earthquakes to two MLS Cup championships in 2001 and 2003 in his first stint as the head coach. However, upon returning to the Earthquakes after the team’s reincarnation, Yallop was average, amounting to a record of 62-62-51 from 2007 until 2013. His high points during his second time at San Jose were a pair of playoffs appearances and the 2012 Supporters’ Shield.
Fire fans should enjoy what they get this season because unlike the rest of the Eastern Conference who got better this offseason, the Fire didn’t make the necessary moves to become a playoff contender. Nevertheless, having Mike Magee from the start of the season will help them a little, along with midfielders Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko. But other then that, Fire fans can just hope for the best.
2013 Season: (12W – 17L – 5D) 41 points, 8th in East
Key acquisitions: D Michael Parkhurst, M Hector Jimenez
Key losses: M Eddie Gavan, GK Andy Gruenebaum
After yet another playoff-less season, the Columbus Crew have been doing the right things to get back in the playoff contention. With homegrown talent signings, and a very good superdraft, the Crew look to build off the off-season momentum.
Columbus went out and inked a new coach, Gregg Berhalter, who last season was the head coach of Swedish club Hammarby IF. In doing so, Berhalter became the first American to ever manage a professional football club in Europe. His record there was a modest 18W-12L-16T as he engineered a rise to 4th place in the second flight Superettan but was fired in July 2013 for a lack of firepower.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the Crew as there have been rumors of a three-man back line for Berhalter, who will be running a club that features some familiarity with the return of dynamic attackers Dominic Oduro and Federico Higuain.