2018 MLS Eastern Conference preview

There’s also this to consider: losing Dax McCarty last year hurt. The Red Bulls were still good, and a mighty tough out in the playoffs, but they weren’t nearly as good as they were in Marsch’s first two seasons.

The Red Bulls should be trying to win now. But it feels like they’ve made lateral moves two winters in a row.

Watchability: The Red Bulls are a fun team to watch, if only because they are tactically more interesting that just about anyone else in MLS, and they reliably play hard.

The broadcast is largely enjoyable, but you do wonder how much better the atmosphere at Red Bull Arena would be if it had 5,000 fewer seats.

Projection: Similar to last year. This is a really well-coached team with some strong characters, and they’ll be in the mix. But it likely isn’t championship material.

 

5. Orlando City

What’s To Like: This was a tour de force of an offseason for Orlando. They’ve brought in the reigning assist king, a star winger, a championship-winning defensive mid, a Bundesliga center back, the reigning NASL goal king, and a 19-year-old DP playmaker.

No team was more aggressive this winter with TAM than the Lions, and the result is a stacked roster. The Lions have upgraded nearly every position on the field, and finally evened out a roster that was bloated with big, underperforming contracts in 2016 and ’17.

Kljestan and Meram are better players than anyone Orlando started last season with, while Jason Kreis is extremely high on that young DP Jouse Colman. Stefano Pino, who lit up Orlando in the Open Cup last year with Miami, is going to be important to supplement Dom Dwyer.

What’s Not To Like: How is everyone going to fit on the field? A lot will depend on where Kreis decides to line up Kljestan and Coleman. Either way, one will be playing slightly out of position.

Kreis could go with the diamond, which would likely see Kljestan in a wide role, or he could play with two holding midfielders to get more defensive cover with Christian Higuita or Will Johnson in the lineup alongside Uri Rosell.

There’s always pressure in Orlando, and there’s even more pressure right now with the team having missed the playoffs in three straight years. If the Lions get off to a slow start, things could go downhill fast.

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