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Here comes the season, Part 1

March 7, 2012 | 1:11 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

Coaching changes, personnel moves and the addition of an expansion franchise are about to be relegated to the land of off-season action as Major League Soccer kicks off the 2012 season this weekend.

In anticipation of the season start, here is a look at the league’s now 19 teams. We start with the Eastern Conference, we follow with the Western Conference and finish with a preview of the Colorado Rapids.

Let the games begin!

Montreal Impact: Following on the heels of cities that did well with squads in the USL, Montreal makes the move to Major League Soccer. The question now comes on whether they will look more like the successful Seattle Sounders, or less satisfactory model of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Looking at the Montreal roster, we see a team with a potential to score a lot of goals and to give up a lot of goals. Donovan Ricketts is stout in goal, but his defense is inexperienced and Ricketts is likely to see plenty of shots.

The midfield, however, is full of intriguing combinations. Davy Arnaud, late of Kansas City, will provide leadership and crosses. Justin Mapp is serviceable and watch Sanna Nyassi rise to a starting role as a midfielder/forward.

Up top, Justin Braun can provide some goals. It just seems unlikely that Montreal will be able to do enough scoring to win. It’s looking like a repeat of the growing pains Vancouver saw in its first season in the league.

Toronto FC: Staying north of the border, we go to a club that has been great at the ticket office and atrocious on the field. Toronto has underperforming in ways that are perplexing and wretched to watch.

Why believe that 2012 will be any different? This team will get ample chances to score. Any squad with Torsten Frings prowling the midfield will see quality chances increase.

The story for Toronto will be what it can do with those chances. Playing in a 4-3-3, watch for Toronto to find a deadly scoring streak, and just enough defense to keep it interesting. However, if the goals don’t come in the first-half of games, the Reds will be in trouble.

New England Revolution: Once one of the class teams of the league, the Revolution is looking for rejuvenation.

Oddly, that rejuvenation starts with one of its longest-tenured players, Shalrie Joseph. Joseph has made a career of being a defensive pest, but he has developed into a substantial offensive threat. How he works with Clyde Simms, an off-season addition, will determine how well the Revs move from defense to attack and back.

In the preseason, this tandem appeared to work. If it works in the regular season, the Revs are a threat for a playoff spot. If not, they will be playing out the string by Memorial Day.

D.C. United: While on the topic of past greats seeking new mojo, we look in on the nation’s capitol. What to make of D.C.?

As long as Dwayne De Rosario stays healthy, the attack will be lethal. But what else is there? Seriously, what else?

D.C. is counting on Hamdi Salihi to complement De Rosario, but the squad is otherwise built on spot starters. A mid-table finish and a spot in the playoffs would be exceeding expectations.

Columbus Crew: The squad Colorado dispatched in the playoffs the past two years starts the season in Commerce City on Saturday. After looking disjointed in the preseason, it’s unclear what the team in canary yellow will look like this weekend or this season.

The midfield is particularly interesting because of the lack of veteran presence. Columbus has added youngsters, but it remains to be see how they will perform at this level.

An exciting possibility may spend Saturday on the bench, but could prove invaluable. Ben Speas left a college career with two titles with two different teams and a nose for the goal. If he takes it to the next level, many of the deficiencies of this squad will be lost.

The Crew is not the Crew of three years ago, but the Ohio side should be in the playoffs, again.

Philadelphia Union: Sebastien Le Toux and Justin Mapp, the most consistent performers for the Union are gone. The story of the season will be on how much they are missed.

Philadelphia added no one to replace Le Toux’s scoring punch. The team is also lacking in leadership. For now, the side looks rudderless.

Philadelphia might stay in striking distance of the playoffs, but the Union is unlikely to make it without some scoring punch.

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