MLS Eastern Conference Season Preview Capsules

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 7, 2014 at 6:20 pm •  Published: March 7, 2014
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A look at the Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference teams for 2014, in order of finish last season:

NEW YORK RED BULLS

LAST YEAR: 17-9-8 (First overall, first Eastern Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Thierry Henry, F Tim Cahill, F Peguy Luyindula, F Bradley Wright-Phillips, MF Dax McCarty, MF Eric Alexander, MF Jonny Steele, MF Lloyd Sam, D Jamison Olave, D Roy Miller, D Ibrahim Sekagya, D Kosuke Kimura, D Connor Lade, GK Luis Robles.

WHO'S GONE: D Markus Holgersson, F Fabian Espindola, D Heath Pearce, D Brandon Barklage

WHO'S NEW: D Richard Eckersley, D Armando, MF Bobby Convey.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Rookie coach Mike Petke led the Red Bulls to their first Supporters' Shield in the regular season and he has almost everyone back from the team that disappointed losing to Houston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Thierry Henry (10 goals) and Tim Cahill (11 goals) are up front for the league's top scoring team (58 goals), and they have depth with midfielders Jonny Steele and Lloyd Sam all capable of contributing. The biggest changes will be in the back with the additions of Spanish defender Armando and the acquisition of Richard Eckersley from Toronto, where he was a fixture for three years. Expectations will be high for the Red Bulls, who have never won an MLS title.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

LAST YEAR: 17-10-7 (Second overall, second Eastern Conference. MLS Cup champion).

WHO'S BACK: F Dom Dwyer, F Claudio Bieler, F C.J. Sapong, F Soony Saad, M Paulo Nagamura, M Graham Zusi, M Benny Feilhaber, M Oriol Rosell, M Jacob Peterson, D Aurelien Collin, D Seth Seinovic, D Chance Myers, D Matt Besler, D Ike Opara.

WHO'S GONE: G Jimmy Nielsen, F Teal Bunbury, D Kyle Miller, D Federico Bessone.

WHO'S NEW: M Sal Zizzo, M Jimmy Medranda, M Alex Martinez, G Andy Gruenebaum.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The MLS Cup champions will be busy this season. Not only will they be defending their league title, they'll also begin play in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, and then later in the year begin the next round of Champions League competition. There's also the U.S. Open Cup to worry about, and several players are likely to be called up for national team duty during the World Cup. Managing all of those minutes may be the biggest challenge for coach Peter Vermes, and it's why he spent considerable resources in building depth. Keep an eye on young players such as Dom Dwyer, a breakout star last season, and 16-year-old homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who has been receiving interest from English Premier League teams. The biggest question mark lies at goalkeeper, where captain Jimmy Nielsen has retired. Longtime backup Erik Kronberg will get the first shot at the job, though veteran Andy Gruenebaum was brought in to provide some competition and youngster Jon Kempin has loads of potential.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

LAST YEAR: 14-11-9 (Seventh overall, third Eastern Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Diego Fagundez, M Chris Tierney, M Lee Nguyen, F Kelyn Rowe, GK Bobby Shuttleworth, F Saer Sene, D Jose Goncalves, D Andrew Farrell, D Kevin Alston, D A.J. Soares, M Stephen McCarthy.

WHO'S GONE: F Juan Agudelo, GK Matt Reis

WHO'S NEW: F Teal Bunbury, M-F Steve Neumann, M-F Patrick Mullins, GK Brad Knighton, D O'Brian Woodline.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Revolution hope to keep building after reaching the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2009. They had an eight-match unbeaten streak (6-0-2) before losing in the semifinals against Sporting Kansas City. Bunbury, 23, should provide some offense after being acquired in a trade with Sporting Kansas City. He had 19 goals in his first three MLS seasons. Fagundez, just 19, is the team's primary offensive threat after finishing fifth in MLS with 13 goals last season. The defense also improved last year with rookie Farrell, a first-round draft pick from Louisville, and Goncalves, who played every minute of every match. The Revolution allowed just 38 goals last season. Shuttleworth was solid in his first season as first-string goalkeeper. With Matt Reis retiring after 16 MLS seasons, the Revolution brought in Brad Knighton from Vancouver to back up Shuttleworth.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

LAST YEAR: 14-11-9 (Ninth overall, fourth in Eastern Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Will Bruin, D Corey Ashe, M Giles Barnes, M Ricardo Clark, D Warren Creavalle, M Brad Davis, M Andrew Driver, M Boniek Garcia, GK Tally Hall, D Kofi Sarkodie, D Jermaine Taylor.

WHO'S GONE: F Brian Ching, D Bobby Boswell

WHO'S NEW: M Tony Cascio, D AJ Cochran, D David Horst, GK Michael Lisch, F Mark Sherrod,

WHAT'S AHEAD: This will be the Dynamo's first season without Ching after he retired after the 2013 season after a 13-year career, with the last eight coming in Houston. But aside from him and defender Boswell, the team which lost to Sporting KC in the Eastern Conference final remains largely intact. They will have a young squad but still have the veteran leadership from goalkeeper Hall, who started all 34 games last season, and six-time All-Star Davis. Bruin looks to bounce back from a tough 2013 and return to his 2012 form this year. They'll also need Taylor to step up and make up for the loss of Boswell, who went to D.C. They should be able to continue their annual run of reaching the playoffs.

MONTREAL IMPACT

LAST YEAR: 14-13-7 (11th overall, fifth Eastern Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Marco Di Vaio, MF Justin Mapp, MF Patrice Bernier, MF Felipe, D Matteo Ferrari, D Jeb Brovsky, D Hassoun Camara, GK Troy Perkins.

WHO'S GONE: OUT: D Alessandro Nesta, MF Paolo DelPiccolo, MF Maximiliano Rodriguez, MF Sinisa Ubiparipovic, MF Davy Arnaud, DF Zarek Valentin.

WHO'S NEW: Coach Frank Klopas, D Eric Miller, F Santiago Gonzalez.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Impact had an epic second-half swoon last season but still went to the playoffs in their second season. To address the shortcomings, Montreal made a change at the top, bringing in Frank Klopas from the Chicago Fire to replace Marco Schallibaum. The Impact's roster remains largely unchanged, with forward Marco Di Vaio leading the way. Di Vaio had 20 goals last season, but he'll miss the start of this season while serving a 3-game suspension heldover from last season's playoffs. Montreal was expected to reach agreement with former New York Red Bulls defender Heath Pearce, who spent training camp with the club. Pearce, 29, is coming off hip surgery. The Impact open at FC Dallas.

CHICAGO FIRE

LAST YEAR: 14-13-7 (12th place overall, sixth inEastern Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Mike Magee, F Juan Luis Anangono, F/M Patrick Nyarko, M Dilly Duka, M Jeff Larentowicz.

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