MLS  Major League SoccerMLS  In Association with Amazon.com

feedback

ESPN

SoccerTimes
front page

Fight injury delays Franchino from taking Costa Rica flight with Revs.

Red Bull reportedly pays over $100 million for MetroStars package.

Galaxy GM, president Doug Hamilton dies on flight home.

Houston discards 1836 moniker and becomes Dynamo; MetroStars sale nears

D.C. United chief denies Nowak directed racial remark at opponent.

Dallas re-signs Ruiz to lucrative contract; MetroStars get Arvizu.

D.C. United, MLS deny any talks to send Adu to Chelsea.

FC Dallas signs Cooper; San Jose expansion hopes are dealt blow.

All 12 teams start preseason training.

MLS Cup returns to Pizza Hut Park in November.

Chivas USA acquires Razov from MetroStars, trading away Martins.

Real Salt Lake snaps up Rowland second in supplemental draft.

RSL continues shakeup, acquiring Klein from Kansas City.

Columbus adds Rozental, gets Ward from MetroStars for Henderson.

Indiana, UCLA each lose two underclassmen to Generation adidas.

Gutierrez is acquired by Chicago, sending John to Kansas City.

MLS preview

Twelve teams start pursuit with single goal in mind.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Friday, March 31, 2006) -- Now that its gotten its names straight, Major League Soccer commences its 11th season tomorrow, a campaign that will include playing games during the World Cup which runs for a month this summer in Germany.

MLS Cup 2006 will be played November 12 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Tex., the second straight year the title match will be played at the new stadium that serves as home to FC Dallas.

The San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston where the club was briefly named 1836, before protests from the Latino community led to a new name -- the Dynamo. Then, the MetroStars were sold to the company that makes the Red Bull "energy" drink and the team was christened the New York Red Bulls.

MLS has two new coaches -- Bob Bradley of Chivas USA and Sigi Schmid of the Columbus Crew -- though both have coached in MLS before. Mo Johnston, who didn't have prior experience as an MLS head coach, led the former MetroStars to a 2-0-1 record to close the regular season and a playoff berth after replacing Bradley on October 4.

Approximately 10 of MLS's best American players will be missing for several weeks when chosen by manager Bruce Arena for the United States World Cup team. The squad assembles for full-time preparations in May with the Americans' Group E matches being played between June 12-22. The more successful the U.S. is, the longer the players will be absent from MLS.

Western Conference

Both 2005 expansion teams -- Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA -- were assigned to the Western Conference last year and neither was very good. This meant that the four established teams in the West pretty much had free passes to the playoffs.

Both Salt Lake and Chivas made major changes in the offseason. Whether they will be more successful remains to be seen.

The Houston Dynamo, which had the best record in the league last season as the San Jose Earthquakes, and the MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy -- look again to be this year's dominant teams in the conference.

The Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas look to be a clear step behind. It probably will take a while before it can be seen if Chivas or Salt Lake can catch them.

Eastern Conference

The New England Revolution and D.C. United finished 1-2 in the Eastern Conference last season. Most teams kept their rosters pretty much intact and look to be the stay at top of the conference. The difference is New England could be hurt from losing several players to the U.S. World Cup effort, while United probably won't lose anyone, possibly one player at most.

The Kansas City Wizards and Chicago Fire made key acquisitions, while Columbus and the Red Bulls remade their squads. The East looks deeper than the West with the race for the conference's four playoff spots probably going down to the end of the season.

A capsule preview of the league's 12 teams follows.


Western Division

Chivas USA

Last season: Sixth place 4-22-6, 18 points.
Coach: Bob Bradley (first season)
Departed: D Armando Begines, MF Hector Cuadros, F Thiago Martins, F Isaac Romo, D Douglas Sequeira, MF Christian Jimenez
Newly arrived: D Claudio Suarez, MF Jesse Marsch, F Ante Razov, D Jason Hernandez, D Carlos Llamosa.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Brad Guzan. Defenders - Jonathan Bornstein, Carlos Llamosa , Claudio Suarez , Lawson Vaughn. Midfielders - Jesse Marsch, Francisco Mendoza, Juan Pablo Garcia, Sacha Kljestan. Forwards - Ante Razov, Francisco Palencia.
Outlook: Chivas has abandoned for now the all-Mexican approach that was such a disaster last season and has allowed new coach Bradley to bring in a number of MLS veterans he knows and has coached before. The team will have the oldest back-line in the league with Suarez (38) and Llamosa (37). There seems little doubt this teams will play harder than last year and, if Razov is reborn, this team will do some damage. As this is written, a trade is looming that could bring Herculez Gomez to Chivas. Gomez is potentially a huge acquisition for Chivas and could give it the scoring punch it has been lacking.

Colorado Rapids

Last season: Third place, 13-13-6, 45 points.
Coach: Fernando Clavijo, second season.
Departed: MF Nat Borchers, D Richie Kotschau, F Jeff Cunningham.
Newly arrived: MF-F Clint Mathis, F Nicolas Hernandez.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Joe Cannon. Defenders: Mike Petke, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman. Midfielders: Pablo Mastroeni, Eric Denton, Terry Cooke, Clint Mathis, Dedi Ben-Dayan. Forwards: Jovan Kirovski or Nicolas Hernandez, Jean-Philippe Peguero.
Outlook: After a fairly good 2005, this team made some questionable changes. How it plays out will make or break the season for Colorado. The Rapids are strong in goal with Cannon and a healthy Mastroeni will be back after limited duty last season because of injuries. But the fate of this team will depend on whether Clavijo can work something of a miracle with Mathis and return him to the form he once displayed, on whether Peguero will have a big year and whether newly signed Argentine striker Hernandez can become an MLS scorer. If even two out of three happen, this could be a very tough team.


FC Dallas

Last season: Second place, 13-10-9, 48 points.
Coach: Colin Clarke, third season.
Departed: F Eddie Johnson, GK Scott Garlick, MF Carey Talley.
Newly arrived: F Kenny Cooper, MF Dax McCarty, MF Justin Moore.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper: Jeff Cassar. Defenders: Chris Gbandi, Greg Vanney, Clarence Goodson, Bobby Rhine. Midfielders: Arturo Alvarez, Richard Mulrooney, Ramon Nunez, Ronnie O'Brien. Forwards: Carlos Ruiz, Roberto Mina.
Outlook: The fate of FC Dallas this season probably rests on the shoulders of Ruiz. When Dallas dealt away Johnson and signed Ruiz to a contract that will pay him huge bonuses if he has a record year, it was making a statement. Supporting Ruiz is a very strong midfield, perhaps the league's best. Were it not for the fact that Dallas' defense and goalkeeping are somewhat questionable, one would rate this team on a level with the West's top teams, Houston and Los Angeles. The stealth acquisition for Dallas is veteran Argentine goalkeeper Dario Sala. Cassar will start the season, but Sala could move in quickly. This is a team that will score goals and, if it gets decent play in the back, could challenge for the top of the conference.

Houston Dynamo

Last season:: First place 18-4-10, 64 points.
Coach: Dominic Kinnear, third season.
Departed: D Danny Califf, MF Mark Chung.
Newly arrived: D Adrian Serioux, MF-F Marcus Storey.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Pat Onstad. Defenders - Kevin Goldthwaite, Craig Waibel, Eddie Robinson , Kelly Gray (D). Midfielders - Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Wade Barrett, Dwayne DeRosario. Forwards - Brian Ching, Alejandro Moreno.
Outlook: The big question for the Dynamo is whether the move from San Jose will bring the same success to Houston. As the Earthquakes, San Jose was all but unbeatable at home in the tiny confines of Spartan Stadium. Can the team be nearly as invincible at Robertson Stadium on Field Turf. The Dynamo lost a key defender in Califf, but regained a healthy Ching. This team should score goals, but goalkeeper Onstad will have a less experienced defense in front of him. It's hard not to say the team that last year won the Supporter's Shield for the best regular-season record, will not be just as strong this year, but a final judgment will be decided on the field. The franchise should see more faces in the stands, but it must be determined how that translates to wins and losses.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Last season: Fourth place, 13-13-6, 45 points (Won MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles)
Coach: Steve Sampson, second season.
Departed: F Guillermo Ramirez, D Michael Umaņa
Newly arrived: None
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Kevin Hartman. Defenders - Chris Albright, Ugo Ihemelu, Tyrone Marshall, Todd Dunivant. Midfielders - Cobi Jones, Peter Vagenas, Paulo Nagamura, Josh Gardner. Forwards - Landon Donovan, Herculez Gomez.
Outlook: If the now rumored trade that will bring John O'Brien to the team materializes, it could add a final piece to Sampson's puzzle. O'Brien could well settle the Galaxy's midfield, though it will probably come at the cost of Gomez. That loss would be offset if Donovan performs to the best of his ability. The defending double champion returns every starter except, except Ramirez. If the Galaxy should be a favorite to repeat, especially if O'Brien is acquired and he can return to form after a long layoff for injuries. One question is who will do the scoring when Donovan's is lost to the World Cup, assuming Gomez is dealt.

Real Salt Lake

Last season: Fifth place, 5-22-5, 20 points.
Coach: John Ellinger, second season.
Departed: D Brian Dunseth, MF-FClint Mathis, GK D.J. Countess, F Jordan Cila.
Newly arrived: F Jeff Cunningham, MF Chris Klein, MF-D Douglas Sequeira, D Carey Talley, GK Scott Garlick, MF Mehdi Ballouchy, F Atiba Harris
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Scott Garlick. Defenders - Daniel Torres, Eddie Pope, Carey Talley, Gustavo Cabrera. Midfielders - Douglas Sequeira, Mehdi Ballouchy, Chris Klein, Andy Williams. Forwards - Jeff Cunningham, Atiba Harris.
Outlook: With so many changes, this team bears little resemblance to last year's inaugural edition. With a new cast come many questions. With the arrival of Cunningham and the preseason play of rookie Harris, Ellinger can wait for striker Jason Kreis to get fully fit after offseason surgery. The team will lose both Pope and Sequeira to the World Cup and this could really hurt. In the end, it will come down whether all the newcomers can develop a chemistry. Ellinger has his work cut out.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Fire

Last season:: Third place, 15-13-4, 49 points.
Coach: Dave Sarachan, fourth season.
Departed: MF Jesse Marsh, F Lubos Reiter, D Samuel Caballero, F Will John.
Newly arrived: MF Diego Gutierrez
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper Zach Thornton. Defenders - C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Gonzalo Segares, Logan Pause. Midfield - Diego Gutierrez, Justin Mapp, Ivan Guerrero, Thiago. Forwards - Chris Rolfe, Chad Barrett.
Outlook: No team in MLS will have as strange a start to the new season as Chicago. It will open with a nine-game road trip while awaiting the opening of the club's new Bridgeview Stadium. The Fire is also starting the season with four players out with injuries: Midfielders Chris Armas and Tony Sanneh, and forwards Andy Herron and Nate Jaqua. If Chicago can survive the first half of the season and its younger players produce, the Fire could be the surprise team of 2006.

Columbus Crew

Last season:: Sixth place 11-16-5, 38 points.
Coach: Sigi Schmid, first season.
Departed: D Robin Fraser, MF Simon Elliott, MF Chris Henderson, F Cornell Glen, F Edson Buddle.
Newly arrived: MF Eddie Gaven, MF Sebastian Rozental, D Marcos Gonzalez, D Tim Ward, D Ritchie Kotschau, F Jason Garey, F Kei Kamara, D Joel Kitamirike, D Chris Leitch
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Jon Busch. Defenders: Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Marcos Gonzalez, Ritchie Kotschau. Midfielders: - Kyle Martino, Sebastian Rozental, Danny Szetela, Eddie Gaven. Forwards - John Wolyniec, Kei Kamara or Jason Garey.
Outlook: Last season's biggest mysteries was what happened to the Crew. It had the league's best record in 2004, but last season had the worst record among the 10 non-expansion teams. New coach Schmid has blown up the roster with many new players, including a couple of international veterans. The rebuilt team might take some time to develop some level of chemistry. The defense seems solid, now anchored by Hejduk and Chilean newcomer Gonzalez. Still questions abound elsewhere. Can Rozental, a 35-year-old Chilean midfielder, produce? With Wolyniec and rookies Kamara and Garey on the front line with the trade of Buddle, can the team score?

D.C. United

Last season:: Second place, 16-10-6, 54 points.
Coach: Peter Nowak, third season.
Departed: MF Dema Kovalenko.
Newly arrived: MF Justin Moose, MF Devon McTavish, MF Rod Dyachenko, MF Jeff Carroll.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Troy Perkins. Defenders - Brandon Prideaux, Facundo Erpen, Bobby Boswell. Midfielders - Ben Olsen, Freddy Adu, Christian Gomez, Santino Quaranta, Josh Gros. Forwards - Jamie Moreno, Lucio Filomeno.
Outlook: United resisted the temptation to make major changes after its early exit from the playoffs. The only loss from last year's squad is Dema Kovalenko who was offered a pay cut and returned to Ukraine, opening playing time to Freddy Adu. United will start the season with two starters shelved with injuries: goalkeeper Nick Rimando and defender Bryan Namoff. The team will hope to get a big lift up front with Argentine Lucio Filomeno and the return from post-concussion problems by Alecko Eskandarian, who will start the season sidelined after sports hernia surgery. United will probably not lose any players to World Cup duty. If Jaime Moreno can have another stellar season, United can contend for the championship.

Kansas City Wizards

Last season: Fifth place, 11-9-12, 45 points.
Coach: Bob Gansler, seventh season.
Departed: MF Diego Gutierrez, MF Chris Klein.
Newly arrived: F Eddie Johnson.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Bo Oshonyi. Defenders - Jose Burciaga, Jimmy Conrad, Nick Garcia, Matt Groenwald. Midfielders - Kerry Zavagnin, Sasha Victorine, Jack Jewsbury, Josh Wolff. Forwards - Davy Arnaud, Eddie Johnson.
Outlook: Few teams in MLS will have the potential fire power of Kansas City, at least until the possible World Cup call-ups of Johnson, Wolff, Conrad and Zavagnin, If most or all of them are headed for Germany 2006, no club will be hurt more, except possibly New England. Johnson could be headed for Europe during the summer. The Wizards should be a contender if roster disruption doesn't derail title hopes.

New England Revolution

Last season: First place, 17-7-8, 59 points.
Coach: Steve Nicol, fifth year.
Departed: None.
Newly arrived: None.
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Matt Reis. Defenders - Joe Franchino, Daniel Hernandez, Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst. Midfielders - Tony Lochhead, Andy Dorman, Clint Dempsey, Steve Ralston. Forwards - Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman.
Outlook: With Twellman, Dempsey and Noonan all possible World Cup call-ups, the Revolution faces disruption during the midseason. Otherwise, New England looks to be MLS's strongest team, having held together the entire roster that won finished first in the Eastern Conference and advanced to an MLS Cup final loss to Los Angeles. The team must hope the fight between Dempsey and team captain Franchino, which left Demspey suspended for two weeks and Franchino with his left eye swollen shut, doesn't lead to chemistry problems. /FONT>

New York Red Bulls

Last season: Fourth place, 12-9-11, 47 points.
Coach: Mo Johnston, first full season.
Departed: MF Michael Bradley, D Jeff Agoos, F Ante Razov, M Adrian Serioux.
Newly arrived: MF Chris Henderson, D Marvell Wynne, D Peter Canero, F Jordan Cila, F Thiago Martins, M Danny O'Rourke
Projected opening-day lineup: Goalkeeper - Tony Meola/ Defenders - Carlos Mendes, Taylor Graham, Marvell Wynne. Midfielders - Chris Henderson , Mark Lisi, Amado Guevara, Danny O'Rourke, Peter Canero. Forwards - Youri Djorkaeff, Edson Buddle.
Outlook: In Red Bull Co. Ltd., the new Austrian owner, the former MetroStars have an owner with deep pockets who probably does not have a lot of patience, so general manager Alexi Lalas and coach Mo Johnston are under considerable pressure to win right out of the gate. This is a team that has been a chronic underachiever. The big three on the attack, Amado Guevara, Youri Djorkaeff and newly-acquired Edson Buddle will have to quickly develop some level of chemistry. Guevara says he has patched up his running feud with Lalas. The back-line, featuring rookie Marvell Wynne and developmental player Taylor Graham is questionable, as is whether goalkeeper Tony Meola in goal has another year in him. An equally big question is whether midfield newcomers Danny O'Rourke and Peter Canero can make a meaningful contribution. A potential problem is a lack of depth. At forward, for instance, castoffs Jordan Cila and Thiago Martins are the reserves.

Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent. E-mail Robert Wagman.

Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.

©Copyright 2006 SoccerTimes.com. All Rights Reserved