Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

MLS: 2010 Season Preview – part 2

Posted in North and Central American Football by peterbein on March 23, 2010
Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew, seen here winning the 2008 MLS Cup final, will be amongst the favourites in 2010

The new Major League Soccer (MLS) season is upon us. Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders, the league’s two newest franchises, face-off against each other on Thursday, March 25th to get things underway. In the second part of the “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” preview to the 2010 season we focus here on the eight teams that comprise the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Crew have been one of the most consistent teams in the league in the last couple of years. In 2008 the Crew topped the Eastern Conference and the overall standings for the league as a whole, thus securing the MLS Supporters’ Shield, and then went on to win their first MLS Cup defeating New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the final. In 2009 they repeated the feat of having the best record in the Eastern Conference and the league generally but were ultimately knocked-out of the MLS Cup by the team who would go on to usurp them as champions Real Salt Lake. American legend and club captain Freddie Hejduk will again be a pivotal figure with his many years of experience at the back as well as the goals from Argentinian Guillermo Barros Schelotto up front. With the club suffering disappointment in the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals recently the club will want to get back to winning ways once the MLS season begins.

D.C. United, the most successful club in Major League Soccer history with four MLS Cup wins (1996, 1997, 1999, 2004), haven’t enjoyed the best time of it in the last two years. The club finished 6th in the Eastern Conference in 2008 and only marginally improved to finish fourth last year but on neither occasion has qualified for the play-offs. United are still dependent on the goals of Bolivian striker Jaime Moreno who, at 36 years of age, doesn’t have many more years at the top remaining. The club has also done plenty of trade both in and out so it is difficult to predict how they might perform with so many comings-and-goings. Chicago Fire have improved in the last three years with one fourth-place and two second-place finishes since 2007 but they’ve been unable to get past the semi-finals of the MLS Cup in that time. In fact the “Fire” has found it hard to live up to expectations since their inaugural season in 1998 when they won the MLS Cup and US Open Cup double. The club will depend on another one of the many veterans who are still making a living in the MLS, namely Brian McBride for whom it could be the last chance he has to bring the cup back to his hometown club before the end of his career.

In the rest of the east all eyes will be on newcomers Philadelphia Union who have appointed experienced coach Piotr Nowak hoping that his previous success with Chicago Fire and D.C. United will stand them in good stead. Naturally for a new team the Union have had to draft in a roster of players who have come from other MLS outfits and will hope to get a perfect blend of youth and experience. Their opening day fixture against Seattle Sounders will prove to be an exciting test for the league’s newest franchise who will hope to emulate their opponents’ achievements from 2008. New England Revolution, under the leadership of former Liverpool FC player Steve Nicol for the eighth consecutive year, have been the “nearly men” of Major League Soccer in the last decade having reached four MLS Cup finals (in 2002 and from 2005-07) and lost them all. The last two MLS campaigns have seen the Revs finish third in the conference standings with the club going on to lose in the play-offs at the first hurdle.

The New York Red Bulls have never won the MLS Cup despite being one of the league’s founder members but did come close in 2008 when they lost out to fellow easterners Columbus Crew. Their Colombian star Juan Pablo Ángel has never quite hit the heights his talents have deserved since leaving Argentinian giants River Plate but he has been the Red Bulls’ top scorer for the last three seasons. However New York’s aspirations in 2009 were to win the MLS Cup but they ultimately finished as the worst side in the league at the end of the regular season and will believe that things can only improve on last season’s dismal showing. Kansas City Wizards, MLS Cup champions in 2000, are another one of the big boys who didn’t qualify for last year’s play-offs having finished in a disappointing 6th in the Eastern Conference finishing eight points ahead of the Red Bulls. Finally Canadian side Toronto FC are another recent expansion team whose inclusion has been justified by their high crowds with the second highest average in the MLS last season behind Seattle Sounders. However in the three years that they’ve participated in the league Toronto’s form has been less successful with finishes of 7th, 7th and 5th in the Eastern Conference since 2007. Can they qualify for the MLS play-offs this time round?

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER 2010 OPENING FIXTURES

Philadelphia Union v Seattle Sounders

Colorado Rapids v Chivas USA

Toronto FC v Columbus Crew

Houston Dynamo v FC Dallas

Chicago Fire v NY Red Bulls

D.C. United v Kansas City Wizards

Real Salt Lake v San Jose Earthquakes

New England Revolution v LA Galaxy

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