MLS returns this Saturday for its 19th season as a top flight league in the United States. There’s plenty to look forward, but here are 5 reasons in particular to be excited about the opening weekend:
1. Michael Bradley – When reports first surfaced on Twitter that Michael Bradley may be heading back to Major League Soccer, there was a nervous excitement. The star central midfielder for the US Men’s National Team, Bradley oozes class on the ball and would be an improvement for every team in the league bar none. The end of his time in Europe may disappoint those who wish to see US players compete at the highest level, but when you consider the influence he may have on players in MLS, it’s hard not to get excited all over again. A real conductor in the centre of midfield, his first game for Toronto marks the beginning of a new phase in the club’s history. Sink or swim, Toronto will be an interesting watch this season.
2. FC Dallas — A new coach, a clutch of new players, things are all change in FC Dallas this season. After watching Oscar Pareja nurture some exciting young talent in Colorado, you would be forgiven for being interested to see what he’ll do with the Hoops. Seeing Fabio Castillo joined by Andres Escobar and David Texiera, FC Dallas have arguably the most exciting young forward line in Major League Soccer. Although Texiera is still a few weeks away from being ready to start regularly, his clever off the ball movement should mesh well with the pace and athleticism of Escobar and Castillo. If you’re looking for a dark horse to keep track of this season, start by catching Dallas against Montreal.
3. Chivas USA — Schadenfreude, it’s a German word that means to take joy from the sadness of another. Watching Chivas USA last season usually meant engaging in schadenfreude or masochism, depending on your stance. With the owner Jorge Vergara now long since gone and a new owner sought, it will be interesting to see how the squad and Wilmer Cabrera do. They’ve picked up a prominent South American star of MLS in Mauro Rosales along with veteran Bofo Bautista. Whether that will see an improvement of fortunes remains to be seen, but it provides an interesting sub-plot to the 2014 season.
4. Eddie Johnson v Seattle: who was right? – Self praise is no recommendation. Thankfully for Eddie Johnson, he also led the Seattle Sounders scoring chart last season, otherwise he may have struggled to negotiate his DP contract with D.C. United. The forward has been impressive since returning to MLS, but there are just as many column inches on his divisive nature as there are on his goalscoring habits. Now the star attraction is in our nation’s capital, Johnson should have the space with which to grow as an individual. The problem however is that the majority of the club’s attacking hopes hang on the 29-year-old. If he fails, D.C. fails, and after a poor campaign in MLS last year, the club can ill afford another sub-par regular season performance.
5. New York Red Bulls — Last season was a strong start from Mike Petke. A former Red Bull, his delivery of the Supporters’ Shield gave New York a tear jerking moment that will forever live in the memory. Failing to make the MLS Cup final however, Petke made few off-season additions to his squad. That indicates he trusts the guys he has, which could forge a strong understanding and togetherness in New York. However, if they start the season poorly, questions will be raised over why more fresh recruits weren’t sought in the off-season. Still with space for one more Designated Player, there remains potential for a shock acquisition, making New York an interesting watch during the early weeks of the season. RBNY begin their season with a tricky match away against Vancouver.
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