One other area to watch: this team has also picked up a ton of muscle injuries in the last year – Dwyer is the latest victim – to the point that it’s likely not merely coincidence. It’s something Kreis has to figure out.
Watchability: Orlando was absolutely rocking when the team opened its new stadium with all of those wins in the spring, and it should be that way again this year. It’s easily a top-five atmosphere in the league.
Orlando has been a tough watch because they’ve been so slow on both sides of the ball in recent years, but that’s going to change this season if they rebuild goes as expected. The broadcast, unfortunately, is one of the league’s worst.
Projection: Kreis hasn’t had a winning season between two clubs since 2013, but this is the team to break that run. Orlando gets to the playoffs for the first team.
6. Columbus Crew
What’s To Like: Gregg Berhalter, who, at this point, is MLS’s hottest coach. Berhalter has been credibly linked with the Galaxy and Timbers in the last two offseasons, but – along with the rest of his team – is in Columbus for at least one more year.
To his credit, Berhalter handled a difficult winter about as well as he could. He had two stars – Ola Kamara and Justin Meram – ask for trades, and his responsiveness to those requests netted him Gyasi Zardes, a ton of allocation money, and a roster full of committed players.
Two of those players Berhalter did very good business to bring in – young Milton Valenzuela as a DP fullback to replace Waylon Francis, and Artur on a permanent, DP deal.
What’s Not To Like: Between Kamara and Meram, the Crew have lost 31 of the 53 goals they scored last season. No matter how big the system is, that’s a ton of production to replace.
You also have to worry – though this will be the least of Crew fans’ concerns – about the competitive effect of relocation. If Anthony Precourt announces he’s taking the team to Austin in September, the season very well might fall apart. We’ve certainly seen that happen in other American sports.
Watchability: MAPFRE is outdated and half-full, and the broadcast is poor. That said – as the last six months have proven – the love for this team in Columbus runs incredibly deep. No one with a heart in American soccer wants them to lose their team.