After my stunning analysis of the Western Conference, I make my much anticipated come back for the Eastern Conference . Having grown up in the Midwest of America, I have many biases against many of the cities that I will write about. Some of them have nothing to do with soccer, in fact most of them are tied to NFL and NCAA gridiron football grudges, but I am not the kind of person who leaves grudges at the wayside. No sir, I carry them with me everywhere I go. Nothing makes me more happy than taking the piss at cities I actually despise. You have been forewarned, and with that I enter into the wonderful world of the MLS Eastern Conference style.
The first team I will discuss is the most talented in MLS, well at least on paper, and really only due to the fact that they have the greatest striker to ever play the game in England. That’s right everyone, Andrew Cole has given up retirement to score goals for the New York Redbulls. That’s not true, its not Andrew Cole, its Thierry Henry! The former Arsenal and Barcelona man will lead the attack for New York this season. He has spent the off-season training in London with his former club Arsenal and by all accounts should be ready to go.
There should be plenty of opportunities for him to handball some goals in the MLS, as the league loves the huge market teams to advance in the playoffs, kind of like FIFA and France. They also picked up former Barca defender Rafa Marquez and stuck him in the midfield, because he must have more technical ability than any other player they could put in midfield, because he played at Barca. It doesn’t matter that he cannot run, if he was a tire the metal would be sticking out the ends, he might be the only guy capable of passing the ball to Thierry in a dangerous area.
Last season the Red Bulls won the East with 51 points. As with most MLS teams, the Redbulls were good at home and terrible on the road. Henry was out for most of the season, because like most old European players, they break down about halfway through the season. They got rid of their top goal scorer from last year, Juan Pablo Angel, and replaced him with some rookie NCAA player named Corey Hertzog. Corey scored 20 goals in NCAA last season, but the step up to the MLS can be daunting for most. Not to mention he has one of the best strikers to ever play next to him. The best off-season move was convincing Rooney to come and play in the MLS. Just don’t tell NY fans that its not Wayne Rooney. No its his scrubby brother John, who was just released from the bastion of English football clubs Macclesfield Town.
He scored a whopping three goals in 41 appearances. What a get for their club, Redbulls fans were through the roof when they saw the headlines “Rooney to Redbulls”, the online store was pushing jerseys out as fast as they could make them. Then one of the New York fans who can actually read broke the bad news to the rest of the fan base. Talk about a bummer. Anyway, they have a pretty good goalkeeper and an OK defense, most teams will not push forward in fear of Henry blasting them on the counter. So I expect them to take the East again, if I was a betting man, I would bet on the over 2.5 goals a match on the regular.
Next we have the wonderful city of Columbus (pause as I throw up a bit in my mouth). My dislike for the town comes from a vicious rivalry between my beloved Michigan Wolverines and their very crap Buckeyes. I don’t care that they have killed us the last decade, they are still crap. Seeing fans in the soccer stadium wearing Ohio State gear just confirms my feelings that Ohio sucks. The colors of the Crew are black and yellow, yet the fans feel the need to display the colors of the scarlet and gray. Mostly because this is the only thing that Ohio has ever had that they can be proud of.
The Crew did win the MLS Cup in 2008, beating the Red Bulls 3-1 in a very good match. Then coach Sigi Schmid bailed on the team immediately, he left to go takeover the Seattle Sounders, and who could blame him for leaving? Seattle or Columbus? hmmmmmmm. I wonder how many times Columbus wins that decision? The Crew have lost their best player over the past few years in Argentinian midfielder Guiermo Schelotto. They have replaced him with a striker from Dallas named Jeff Cunningham, who had a good season last year netting 11 times. He is old though and his pace is wearing, the most they can get out of him is a good year or two. They also have U.S. international Robbie Rodgers to play in the middle of the park. His international career has kind of fizzled out some, he needs to put together some good performances to get back into the team. They also have the lazy one, Eddie Gaven, who plays like that stoner in the park that took fifty bong loads before he he came to play. They finished second in the East last season, managing 50 points. They have kept their goalie from last term, William Hesmer, who allowed 1.1 goals a game in 33 appearances. I suspect the loss of Schelotto will be too much to overcome for this team. He was the heartbeat of the franchise and led them to the MLS in 2008. They have some young talent, but the roster is mostly comprised of just bodies at the moment. They will be strong defensively at home, so watch for home game unders and wins.
No American sports franchise ever seems to be successful in Toronto. The Bluejays are terrible, the Raptors are rubbish and Toronto FC has not been good either. Yet, the fans continue to show up and support their club. They were the best fans in MLS a few seasons ago, but the constant losing has taken its toll on the fan base. Toronto finished fifth in the East with 35 points. They won just three road games last season and only managed six at home. Canadian international Dwayne DeRosario went from a MLS Cup winning team in Houston to Toronto to try and turn around the franchise. He was the top scorer with 15 goals from the midfield position and still they could not win regularly. They have imported a Dutch striker to try and get some goals in their attack. Not being able to take their chances in games has hurt them since they came into the league. The defense is also quite shocking. The goalkeeper does all he can to keep them in matches, allowing 1.32 goals a game, but his back-line does him no favors. They have picked up former Sounders man Nathan Sturgis to try and rectify the problem. I have always been a fan of Julian DeGuzman in the midfield. They have to figure out a way to stop getting overrun in the midfield to alleviate some of the pressure on the back-line. I would stay away from this team until you get a decent sample size.
The Chicago Fire are from another part of the U.S. I don’t care for. Growing up in Green Bay, I despise anything Chicago. I can’t tell you how happy I was to beat them at Soldier Field for the right to go, and win, the Super Bowl this year. Happy enough to rub it in this article anyway. :-p This team is full of young players that should have developed into decent MLS players by now. They haven’t. Which is funny to me, but not to Fire fans. Every since Blanco left, there has been little excitement for the franchise. In fact, the most excited they get is when Manchester United come to town and destroy them in a training match. They finished last season fourth in the East with 36 points, with a better away record than a home record. As a player, you can only play better when you are away from that city I’m sure. They have a couple of promising players, but I think I have had all the Chicago talk that I can handle for today. I only would bet the Fire to lose every game, that way, at the end of the year, I can brag to any Chicago fans I know that I made money off their shit team. Cheers.
Sporting Kansas City, or Sporting KC as they prefer to be called is another franchise that few people outside KC care about. They finished third last season with 39 points and were OK at home and crap on the road. They spent most of the season getting their teeth kicked in, but they have some players on that team with some heart. Around twelve players on their roster are 24 or younger, most had their first experience in MLS last season. Leading assist man Ryan Smith came over from England to get his first taste of MLS, he did quite well making seven assists and scoring three goals. He should get a bit better this season. Team leader in goals was Kei Kamara with 10. Former Danish goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson, who has a 1.17 goals against last season, will be back to guide the young talented defense. Most of last year’s team will be at it again this season, I think they might have a good go at it this year too. I would look for their form to improve at home, so I would look at home match-ups to score some coin.
The Houston Dynamo has been a very successful team under Dominic Kinnear, winning back-to-back titles under his guidance in 2006 and 2007. Since then it has not gone that well for Houston. They finished second bottom in he Western Conference last season with 33 points. They were then moved to the Eastern Conference this season to allow the expansion teams to come in the West. They suffered from losing two key players to Europe during the 2009-2010 season in Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark. They were terrible on the road only winning three games and were slightly better at home with six wins. They did draft Akron defender Kofi Sarkodie from Akron with their first-round pick. He should help them at the back immediately. They still have Briang Ching up front in the attack and new hit man Will Bruin should help tally some goals for the Dynamo. Ching managed to be the top scorer with only seven goals last term. They do have a rather weak midfield though. Brad Davis was the one shining light in the midfield, providing 12 assists and five goals last season. It’s full of young players that have yet to reach their peak at the MLS level. They had issues stopping play last season in the middle of the park, it could still be an issue for them this season. Veteran goalie Pat Onstad has left the organization to be a coach/player with DC United, leaving the team with two rather inexperienced goalkeepers in the net. One is a Dynamo youth project and the other is a former Danish goalkeeper that has seen little starting time since arriving. This could be another issue in the squad since they shipped 49 goals last season. I think that this team will struggle again this season. The East is not as hard of a conference as the West, but I think there will be lots of draws for them this season.
The New England Revolution was an organization that defined MLS for a good chunk of time. They were seen as the best run and best preforming organization. Injuries and player movement has put an end to all that talk though. Liverpool and Scotland legend Steve Nicol has been in charge of the club since 2002. He never managed to win the title, much like Liverpool as of late. He was MLS Cup runner-up in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. A very impressive run that is only surpassed by the Buffalo Bills of the 90s. He did manage to win the Lamar Hunt trophy in 2007. The club use to have one of the top attacks and defenses in all of MLS. That balance allowed them to shred teams. That balance is gone in this team. They finished third from bottom of the East with 32 points. They won just two games on the road last season, they had just seven at home. Not great form from a top tier club. Their top scorer last season was Marko Perovic with six. The top assist man was Kheli Dube and Sharlie Joseph with five apiece. They had to shuttle in three separate goalkeepers in the year due to injuries. Veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis gave up 1.79 goals a game. His counterparts did not do much better with 1.53 and 1.67 averages. All three are back again this season. The good news is that only two of the defensive back-line are returning. Both are young players that are just getting the taste for MLS football. They also drafted a defender in the draft this year. Nicol has brought in some veterans to sure up the back-line for this campaign though. He will place his faith in youth up front to compliment his attacking midfield this season. I don’t think they can turn it around this season. Could be better, but I don’t think they will make the playoffs. The Red Sox dominate the marketplace in summer, so home support is not as good. A team to shy away from if you like to win money. How do you like those apples?
The Philadelphia Union return for their second campaign in the MLS this season. They were an expansion team last year and were pretty dull to watch. Their coach, Piotr Nowak, has won the MLS Cup with DC United, but this project is far from being the finished article. They won two games and drew another on the road last season, that’s quite pathetic form. Their lone bright spot last season was French striker Sebastien La Toux, who scored 14 goals and had 11 assists last season. The next best player could only manage 7 goals. Goalkeeper Chris Seitz was the worst goalkeeper in all of MLS with a 1.81 goals against. They have replaced him with the Dragon. I love that nickname. Faryd Mondragon, a 39-year-old keeper from FC Cologne, is slated to take over the duties this season. They did draft a young goalkeeper in the first round of the draft as a back-up, Zac MacMath was the fixation of my worst draft picks of the year. He is talented, I would never, ever, spend a first round pick on a keeper. They did, and passed on some good talent in the process, so they must be praying that he pans out. This team is full of MLS retreads like Danny Califf, Carlos Ruiz and Justin Mapp. It does have an element of youthful promise though. Young players like Michael Farfan, Roger Torres and Danny Mwanga have a chance to lift the team to some wins. I think they get better at home and on the road, which isn’t that difficult of an achievement, but I would wait to see a large sample size before I try and capitalize on them.
DC United has been the most successful club in the history of MLS. The fans probably cannot wait for their return to glory, and quite frankly they can’t go anywhere but up from here. They finished rock bottom of the East with 22 points. They had a total goal difference of -26, winning just three times both at home and on the road. Their two top goal scorers had only five goals. Their top assist man had three. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins gave up 1.68 goals a game. Quite pathetic stats really. They started to rebuild this team from the back with the drafting of Akron’s Perry Kitchen, who I had rated as the best player in this year’s draft. They also drafted his team mate Chris Korb to add continuity of some sort. U.S. international Charlie Davies has been brought in to fix the goal issue. Even though he has recovered from his horrific car accident, he has not had a steady diet of games, so his impact is not well known. Forty-three year-old keeper Pat Onstad makes his return to goal as a coach/player. That will be interesting. Even the choice to appoint famed former defender Ben Olsen as coach is intriguing. They have cut most of the dead weight that kept the club down over the past few seasons. I think they will start to rise from the bottom, just not that fast. They will be better this year, I wouldn’t stake my money on them to win, maybe a few draws on the road though.