2018 MLS Eastern Conference preview

Grabbing Saad Abdul-Salaam from Sporting for Khiry Shelton was an excellent move, as was hanging on – unexpectedly – to Yangel Herrera.

Between Herrera and Alex Ring, plus the likes of Rodney Wallace and Ronald Matarrita, NYC has bite. They don’t overwhelm teams, exactly, but they’re consistent. They’ve been beating the Red Bulls the last two years too.

What’s Not To Like: David Villa’s age. The captain has always been spry, and he’s showed no signs of slowing, but he’s 36 this year and NYC is hugely reliant on him for goals.

Compared to Atlanta and Toronto, and even Chicago last year, NYCFC was playing with finer margins. Their goal difference was good, but it was only one better than Houston’s.

There’s also the fact, down the line, but relevant, that this team has flamed out in the first round of the playoffs each year Vieira has been in charge. That’s a trendline that has to change.

Watchability: The team is good, Joe Tolleson is great, but Yankee Stadium is an absolute killer. Games there are unwatchable. It’s a terrible look for MLS.

Projection: It’ll be another good year for NYCFC, but it’ll be judged by what they do in the postseason.

 

4. New York Red Bulls

What’s To Like: Jesse Marsch continues to do his thing. The Red Bulls traded their captain again this winter, sending Sacha Kljestan to Orlando, and they may be sending another franchise cornerstone, Felipe, to Vancouver.

No one is untouchable in Harrison, where the system – and, these days, Tyler Adams – are king.

What will the system be this year? It’s anyone’s guess. The high press will be involved, but whether it’s a 3-3-3-1 or a 4-2-2-2, it’s going to be innovative and it’s going to force teams to get creative.

Marsch is an excellent coach, and he’s going to mold a competitive team. He’s going to need Kaku to be worth the wait, but with or without Felipe, the spine of the team is younger and very well might be stronger than it was last season.

What’s Not To Like: Moving on from Kljestan is a big gamble. This is a player who had 37 assists in the last two seasons and 51 in his Red Bulls career. He was really, really good for this team. Without him last year, they couldn’t create any offense.

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