Column: Miles DeGrazia's second part of his MLS preview
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 23:02
New England Revolution – After a streak in the mid 2000’s that saw the New England Revolution get to four of six MLS Cup finals, the club has had recent struggles finishing 6th, 9th and 9th in the Eastern conference the last three seasons respectively. Head coach Jay Heaps is in his second season now and must expect an improvement over last season if he wants to keep his job. New addition Kalifa Cissé will anchor the midfield and allow Lee Nguyen to create down the left side. The Revs will struggle in 2013 unless they find someone who can consistently score goals.
New York Red Bulls – The New York Red Bulls still haven’t won a MLS Cup title and are hoping season 18 will be their lucky year. In typical Red Bull style, the off-season saw a whole raft of changes from a new general manager in Jérôme de Bontin to fan favorite Mike Petke being named head coach. In addition to the off the field changes, the Red Bulls got rid of Jan Gunnar Solli, Teemu Tainio, Stephen Keel, Sébastien Le Toux, Rafael Márquez, Joel Lindpere and Kenny Cooper and brought in Fabián Espíndola, Jámison Olave, Kosuke Kimura and ex-Olympique Lyon star Juninho. In Juninho, the Red Bulls finally have the attacking midfielder they have been calling out for, but the question is if first year head coach Mike Petke get all these pieces working together. If Petke can get it together, the Red Bulls have a good shot at lifting MLS Cup next fall.
Philadelphia Union – In their first three seasons in MLS, the Philadelphia Union have failed to live up to expectations, finishing 7th, 3rd and 8th in their first three seasons. 2013 will be head coach John Hackworth’s first full season after being named head coach halfway through 2012. The Union didn’t lose much in the off-season – only midfielder Gabriel Gómez, who rarely plays his best while in Philly, and they gained two MLS veteran strikers in Conor Casey, and Sébastien Le Toux who has already scored 28 goals for the club from 2010 to 2011. The Union have a mostly young team, but they should have the ability to make a strong playoff push.
Sporting Kansas City – Sporting Kansas City has become one of the best run and most consistent clubs in MLS, finishing 3rd, 1st and 1st in the Eastern Conference in the last three seasons. Continuity has been key for SKC in the last three seasons. This off-season, they only lost Roger Espinoza to Wigan Athletic and have sent Kei Kamara to Norwich City on loan while bringing in Benny Feilhaber and Ike Opara. Sporting has been consistently close to winning MLS Cup, and if they get solid play out of Aurélien Collin, Graham Zusi, Teal Bunbury and Benny Feilhaber there is no reason to believe 2013 will not be their year.
Toronto FC – Toronto FC’s history makes for rather depressing reading to anyone, especially TFC fans. In the five seasons of their existence, Toronto has finished in 5th once, 7th twice and 8th twice, never making a playoff appearance. In addition, attendance has been down in each of the last three seasons. In the off-season Toronto brought in Kevin Payne from D.C. United to become the president and general manager, and Ryan Nelsen, who less than a month ago was playing for Queens Park Rangers in England, as head coach. Toronto also brought in Justin Braun and Danny Califf and promising USMNT center back Gale Agbossoumonde. Toronto wont challenge for MLS Cup in 2013, but a possible playoff birth isn’t out of the question.