1: Sporting Kansas City
Got to give the champs their due, as they look deep and balanced all over the field. Problem is they’ve looked very sluggish defensively this preseason.
Head Coach: Peter Vermes (6th Season)
Key Additions: Andy Gruenebaum (GK), Sal Zizzo (M)
Key Losses: Teal Bunbury (F), Jimmy Nielsen (GK)
This Week: Saturday at Seattle
2: Portland Timbers
The Timbers seem to have upgraded their defense with the addition of Norberto Papparatto, and Gastón Fernández should be a consistent threat up top. No obvious weaknesses to speak of, save for a clear-cut go-to goalscorer.
Head Coach: Caleb Porter (2nd Season)
Key Additions: Gastón Fernández (F), Steve Zakuani (M)
Key Losses: Andrew Jean-Baptiste (D), Ryan Johnson (F)
This Week: Saturday vs. Philadelphia
3: LA Galaxy
Getting a pair of target forwards should solve the “bottling up” issues the Galaxy faced against the likes of Portland and RSL. But the real key is having Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan both at 100 percent fitness from day 1.
Head Coach: Bruce Arena (7th Season)
Key Additions: Rob Friend (F), Samuel (F)
Key Losses: Sean Franklin (D), Hector Jimenez (M)
This Week: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake
4: Real Salt Lake
Jason Kreis is gone, but all the important on-field talent returns. For the kids – Luis Gil, Chris Schuler, Devon Sandoval and a handful of others – it should be “older and better.” But what does it mean for the 30-something brigade that still makes up the backbone of the team?
Head Coach: Jeff Cassar (1st Season)
Key Additions: NA
Key Losses: Lovel Palmer (D)
This Week: Saturday at LA
5: New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls had an incredibly quiet offseason by their standards, bringing in two probable new starters and that’s about it. The idea is that cohesion and chemistry can turn last year’s Shield winners into this year’s MLS Cup champs.
Head Coach: Mike Petke (2nd Season)
Key Additions: Bobby Convey (M), Richard Eckersley (D)
Key Losses: Fabián Espíndola (F), Markus Holgersson (D)
This Week: Saturday at Vancouver
6: Seattle Sounders
Nobody in MLS has a hotter seat than Sigi Schmid. He’s got a ton of talent, and probably not a ton of time to get all the pieces working right. The most important is probably Clint Dempsey, who just hasn’t been himself since last summer. It’s a worry.
Head Coach: Sigi Schmid (6th Season)
Key Additions: Kenny Cooper (F), Chad Marshall (D)
Key Losses: Michael Gspurning (GK), Eddie Johnson (F)
This Week: Saturday vs. Kansas City
7: Toronto FC
Michael Bradley still needs a partner in central midfield and the defense still needs to show that they can recapture their late-season form from last year. But with Jermain Defoe they have something most MLS teams lack; a top quality goal scorer.
Head Coach: Ryan Nelsen (2nd Season)
Key Additions: Michael Bradley (M), Jermain Defoe (F)
Key Losses: Robert Earnshaw (F), Matías Laba (M)
First MLS Game: March 15 at Seattle
Head Coach: Jay Heaps (4th Season)
Key Additions: Teal Bunbury (F), Daigo Kobayashi (M)
Key Losses: Juan Agudelo (F), Matt Reis (GK)
This Week: Saturday at Houston
9: Houston Dynamo
We’re unconcerned by the questions in central defense and dazzled by the amount of attacking goods on display. They do need Will Bruin to take another step forward to contend with the best, however.
Head Coach: Dominic Kinnear (9th Season)
Key Additions: Tony Cascio (M), David Horst (D)
Key Losses: Bobby Boswell (D)
This Week: Saturday vs. New England
10: San Jose Earthquakes
Don’t forget that the Quakes had the league’s best record over the final 14 games of 2013, and upgraded their central midfield in the offseason. They’ll probably be happy to scrap for respect this season after crashing as favorites in the first half of last year.
Head Coach: Mark Watson (2nd Season)
Key Additions: Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (M)
Key Losses: Steven Beitashour (D), Justin Morrow (D)
First MLS Game: March 15 vs. Real Salt Lake
11: Vancouver Whitecaps
Addition by subtraction? That’s the consensus, with newly minted head coach Carl Robinson replacing the far too conservative Martin Rennie. Now, whether it’s the case with replacing departed Golden Boot winner Camilo is another thing entirely.
Head Coach: Carl Robinson (1st Season)
Key Additions: Steven Beitashour (D), Matías Laba (M)
Key Losses: Camilo Sanvezzo (F), Lee Young-Pyo (D)
This Week: Saturday vs. New York
12: Philadelphia Union
This, after two years of dealing with Peter Nowak’s leftovers, is finally Team Hackworth. They’ve got two new DPs and a new formation, so don’t expect it to all come together quickly. But it should get there eventually.
Head Coach: John Hackworth (3rd Season)
Key Additions: Maurice Edu (M), Cristian Maidana (M), Vincent Nogueira (M)
Key Losses: Jeff Parke (D), Michael Farfan (M)
This Week: Saturday at Portland
13: Columbus Crew
Columbus had a pretty understated offseason after tabbing a new coach – something that usually means an overhaul is incoming. Instead they just added a new central defense and ‘keeper, and kept the attack revolving around Federico Higuaín. Good plan.
Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter (1st Season)
Key Additions: Steve Clark (GK), Michael Parkhurst (D)
Key Losses: Andy Gruenebaum (GK), Chad Marshall (D)
This Week: Saturday at D.C. United
14: Chicago Fire
The Fire look like they’ll be switching to something of a 4-1-4-1, which could put some strain on Jeff Larentowicz at d-mid and a partially rebuilt backline. Especially if Mike Magee can’t reprise his 2013 magic act.
Head Coach: Frank Yallop (1st Season)
Key Additions: Benji Joya (M), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (D)
Key Losses: Jalil Anibaba (D), Austin Berry (D)
This Week: Sunday at Chivas USA
15: FC Dallas
Oscar Pareja was in the running for Coach of the Year last season, and he’ll have to do a similar job in 2014 if he wants his new side to compete in a murderous Western Conference. The talent’s there, but the chemistry will need work.
Head Coach: Oscar Pareja (1st Season)
Key Additions: Andrés Escobar (F), Hendry Thomas (M)
Key Losses: Kenny Cooper (F), David Ferreira (M)
This Week: Saturday vs. Montreal
16: Colorado Rapids
Who’s in charge out there? The fact that it’s still a question less than a week til first kick is worrisome. The Rapids – like everyone else in the West – have talent. But do they have direction?
Head Coach: Pablo Mastroeni (Interim, 1st Season)
Key Additions: Marvin Chávez (M)
Key Losses: Tony Cascio (M), Hendry Thomas (M)
First MLS Game: March 15 at New York
17: D.C. United
Epic rebuild this offseason. D.C. stayed primarily within MLS to redo their roster, which now features (mostly fringe) national teamers at every stop from goalkeeper to forward. Time to shine, EJ.
Head Coach: Ben Olsen (5th Season)
Key Additions: Sean Franklin (D), Eddie Johnson (F)
Key Losses: Dwayne De Rosario (M), Dejan Jakovic (D)
This Weekend: Saturday vs. Columbus
Chivas TBD sounds better than Chivas USA, but in the history of the league there’s never been a team in as much flux. Through it all Wilmer Cabrera has been steady (so far), methodically adding pieces from front to back.
Head Coach: Wilmer Cabrera (1st Season)
Key Additions: Luke Moore (F), Mauro Rosales (M)
Key Losses: Mario de Luna (D), Gabriel Farfan (M)
This Weekend: Sunday vs. Chicago
19: Montreal Impact
Usually we’re pretty big on continuity and chemistry, but in this case it feels a little too much like Montreal stood pat. They’ll need Wandrille Lefèvre to be big right off the bat for starters, and hope that Andrew Wenger finds his shooting boots in Marco Di Vaio’s early-season absence.
Head Coach: Frank Klopas (1st Season)
Key Additions: Santiago González (F)
Key Losses: Davy Arnaud (M), Alessandro Nesta (D)
This Weekend: Saturday at Dallas