Ahh yes, the week before the MLS season starts. So much hope, so much optimism fills the air around teams in the league. Anything seems possible, after all a league built around parity surely means that any team can win MLS Cup no matter how bad their roster, coach, and front office is. That seems to be the guiding assumption of some teams in the league and the amount of delusional self-confidence is always a joy to take in. Join us as we take you through the remaining Eastern Conference teams as we wrap up our misguided attempts to assess literally anything correctly about the upcoming season in an equally delusional effort. You probably won’t enjoy this preview but at least it’s the last one.
As one commenter eloquently put so long ago:
“This was a waste of time folks. Nothing to see here.”
DC United spent 2017 essentially trying to do what they had always done in MLS: let their manager’s seething hatred of goals, scoring, and nice looking soccer fill their cold veins with ice water as they choked the life out of every game they played in. It was an unsuccessful strategy as the team ended the year as the worst team in MLS. DCU earned 32 points while scoring just 31 goals while letting in just two goals short of double that number.
They’ve already forgotten that 2017 happened apparently.
Asad’s 7 goals in the black and red last year would have been the most scored on their entire team, but that’s none of my business.
DC’s problems last year boil down to the fact that they could not defend and could not score on teams not called Atlanta United. They added a few new pieces to give some attacking potency to Luciano Acosta and Paul Arriola who joined last year. Yamil Asad figures to play on the wing, but surely Olsen plans on utilizing his defensive work rate to help crush any joy and happiness out of matches or Asad’s games - his ambitious passes will look for Acosta and generally be wasted on whoever starts at striker for DCU.
Speaking of strikers, Patrick Mullins joins from NYCFC and will add an inconsistent and statistically misleading option for Ben Olsen. Darren Mattocks came in from the Portland Timbers - fresh off of a four goal season where he featured heavily once Fanendo Adi went out with injury. DC also added Venezuela national teamer Junior Moreno as a defensive midfielder. They did lose their best player when Bill Hamid decided to take his talents to Central Jutland and replaced him with Vancouver Whitecaps cast off David Ousted.
Another new addition will be a stadium built just far enough from public transit to be inconvenient for DC sports fans to get to. The construction of the new digs means that DCU will start the season with 12 of their first 14 matches on the road while they play just two home games in temporary stadiums to begin the year. Needless to say, the away matches to start they year may put them in a hole so deep they can’t dig out of it in the very competitive East.
DC made some marginal improvements and should be better in attack, but without a striker they will be forced to either to play Mattocks or Mullins or put a player out of position as a false nine, a tactic Ben Olsen may be unfamiliar with as it does not include instructions for a player to kick the ball 80 yards in the opposite direction of the DCU goal. The fact that they play so many away games to start the year will put them in a massive hole as the only easy points during that stretch will come against Atlanta United. Look for DCU to finish toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference, miss the playoffs, and still fail to play Chris Durkin for some reason, while Ben Olsen makes angry Ben Olsen faces all year.
After trying to play something resembling soccer to begin the year with the new fancy attacking pieces, Olsen reverts to the anti-soccer he is ever so fond of. Moreno locks down central midfield, and David Ousted is revitalized by being closer to the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean, filling in for Hamid with ease. Despite the bonkers schedule to begin the year, DC catches fire at home and they latch onto a 6th playoff spot in the East like a leech, draining the fun and excitement out of the typical endless drudgery of the MLS Playoffs.
After making the playoffs in 2016, the Union came crashing back down to Earth in 2017 as the East became the best conference in MLS. Their odd brand of MLS Moneyball really deflated as the team lacked desperately for a no. 10 while overpaid arbitrator of how much the USWNT should get paid Alejandro Bedoya occupied a DP slot and their best player Haris Medunjanin had an impressive season as the team’s best player.
The Union got a no. 10 and now they’re going to be a team that should threaten for the playoffs, in fact Philadelphahahahahahahahaha - no, that’s not true. They got a flashy winger in David Accam and should either make the team better or cause the same kind of tension he did in Chicago while also making CJ Sapong less of a scoring threat. This team made some mostly irrelevant moves but is possibly starting a 18 year-old attacking midfielder, Anthony Fontana who was signed to a homegrown contract last year. They also got a center back named Auston Trusty who is so good that he took the spot of the extremely inconsistent Richie Marquez.
Accam is a nice addition and having something in central midfield should allow Medunjanin to play a bit deeper to shield the backline more so than he did last year when he was tasked with being a deep-laying playmaker more than defensive mid. That along with Trusty will solidify the backline, make Philly lethal and fast on the counter with Accam and Fafa Picault tearing down the wings and finding Sapong for goals that come against the run of play. If Andre Blake turns out to really be the best keeper in the league, maybe just enough could go right for the team to make the playoffs.
This team stays completely irrelevant, the 18 year-old CAM isn’t any kind of an answer in that role, Trusty betrays them in central defense, and while scoring a healthy number of goals, the backline continues to be an issue. Any injury to a starter in this squad could also be a huge challenge that they aren’t equipped to overcome and the Union end up trying not to be worse than the Revolution in 2018.
The Crew finished the regular season with 54 points. The total would have won the Western Conference, but in the East Columbus came into the playoffs as a 5-seed and needing to perform extremely well on the road to have any shot at a cinderella MLS Cup run. They must have won their first-round playoff game despite me having zero recollection of that ever happening. The Crew then advanced past NYCFC thanks to a 4-1 home shellacking of the Fightin’ David Villa’s that sealed the tie. They came up one goal short of sneaking into MLS Cup after pushing the Toronto FC juggernaut to the wire.
All this despite their owner being a total moron.
The owner is still a total moron. And his moronic plan appears to be “tank and then complain about no one showing up to my terrible soccer team so I can move to Austin where even less people will show up to watch my terrible soccer team.” You know, like a moron.
The Crew shipped off Justin Meram (14 goals, 6 assists) to Orlando and Ola Kamara (19 goals, 4 assists) to LAG. Their leading returning scorer is 33-year-old Federico Higuain (9 goals, 10 assists) before it drops off to...
Oh, ok, yeah, it’s Josh Williams. He is a defender. He started in 19 game. He had three goals. Only two other Columbus players had more than one goal last season. Jonathan Mensah, also a defender, and the newly acquired Gyasi Zardes, barely a soccer player.
They also brought in MLS veteran Ricardo Clark from Houston and Mike Grella from NYRB. Neither of them scored a goal last season.
Columbus did win the Carolina Challenge Cup and Zardes somehow scored like forty goals this preseason. Maybe they’ll be good???
They will not be good. But they may be better than I’m giving them credit for. I counted them out in the playoffs last year and they proved me wrong. I’ve been wrong a whole lot. Zack Steffen is amazing in goal. Maybe they play cohesively enough to sneak into a playoff spot in an extremely loaded East???
They will not sneak into a playoff spot in the extremely loaded East. There just isn’t enough talent, and #SaveTheCrew inspiration can only take a team so far over 34 games. I hope they do well. They will not do well.
Will We Beat Them?
The Five Stripes will absolutely beat Columbus on the road on June 13 and at the Benz on Aug. 19.
Orlando City.....actually nah I’ll come back to it.
David Villa is good at soccer. He was not good enough at soccer to keep NYCFC from losing to Columbus in the second round of the playoffs.
David Villa is likely still good at soccer, and they might have brought in another attacking player who is also good at soccer.
The most (and only) significant loss is midfielder Jack Harrison. Harrison is now
a starting midfielder for Manchester City on loan at Middlesbrough. To replace him and the retired (like he wasn’t already) Andrea Pirlo, they’ve brought in ultra-hyped 20-year-old Jesus Medina from Paraguay. Medina has already spent five years playing for Paraguayan first division Libertad and is expected to do big things this year. His highlight reel is.......impressive.
They also added Swedish League Defender of the Year Anton Tinnerholm to take over a right back, as well as filled some important depth spots around the roster.
This is a really good team. In a loaded east they’re going to be at or near the top at the end of the year. They’ll have a chance to overtake Toronto in the top spot in the conference. They won’t. But they’ll have a chance to.
They trailed off at the end of last season. NYCFC won just one game in their last seven before being bounced by Columbus. If they continue struggling to click and Medina doesn’t live up to lofty expectations they could find themselves stuck on the fringe of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams. They’ll definitely be above the red line though.
Will We Beat Them?
Yeah probably. Almiron > Medina and he’ll prove it at home on April 15 and on a baseball field on June 9.
Orlando City................nah I’ll come back to it......wait this is it? There are no more teams left? Ugh. Well if I have to......................
This trash af, dumpster fire of an organization that began as a club in 2015 (history!) and has still never made the playoffs did what you would expect of a bunch garbage players in an incompetent organization encouraged by a bunch of jean short wearing, purple Juggalos from the state voted most likely to bring back typhus. Stadium is nice though.
Highlights include but are certainly not limited to:
and so did this:
Orlando City did not make the playoffs. Again.
They have completely revamped last year’s awful team. They may have had the best offseason in MLS. Their fans still dress like this:
They’ll make the playoffs for the first time ever. They will be knocked out by a late Tito Villalba goal.
Jason Kreis does Jason Kreis things. Four players are arrested after drunkenly trying to steal the (fake) gold treasure from Pirates of the Caribbean and then demand to move to Besiktas before just leaving and no one doing anything about it because who can blame them for not wanting to be in Orlando. Smash Mouth cancels their tour date in Orlando and the fan base, unable to cope, falls into a deep depression. Sales of jean shorts, skull bandanas, fedoras and other essential pieces of the Orlando economy drop drastically as do ticket sales. With no support and most of the team suspended or in Turkey, they fail to make the playoffs. You know, same old, same old.
Will We Beat Them?
At least three times. May 13 on the road, June 30 at home and Aug. 24 in Florida.
Sam and I really thank you for reading these. They were fun to write and we wanted to thank everyone for joining us on this ride.