MLS Preview and Prediction: New York Red Bulls vs Sporting Kansas City

Competition: Major League Soccer – New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City 

Venue: Red Bull Arena – Saturday, April 9 – 19:00 EDT (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: New York Red Bulls 1/1 – Draw 5/2 – Sporting Kansas City 13/5

Match Preview

New York Red Bulls welcome Sporting Kansas City to Red Bull Arena on Saturday night with the hosts looking to end a sorry run of form which has seen them lose three of their first four matches of the new season.

They are yet to keep a clean sheet and all of their goals this season came in the 4-3 win over Houston Dynamo. Furthering their problems, Felipe will miss the game through suspension and star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is yet to score this term.

However, the most worrying problems seem to be the lack of defensive options available as four first-team defenders are injured in some way and Karl Ouimette is the only fit central defender available to Jesse Marsch.

Jesse Marsch New York Red Bulls

Turning things around this weekend looks a tough ask for the Red Bulls, though the home support should give their chances a significant boost.

Sporting Kansas City on the other hand started the season with a 100% record until the 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake last weekend.

They have so far scored in every game and have quickly set themselves a good platform for success this season.

Their early-season form will need to carry on if SKC are to challenge at the top end of the Western Conference and they will fancy their chances of beating an injury-plagued Red Bulls team here.

Embed from Getty Images

They have a huge upcoming month with three of their next four fixtures away from home. So this clash is the start of a tough run for the Kansas City squad.

These sides met just once last term, playing out a 1-1 draw in Kansas City. The Red Bulls won the most recent meeting at Red Bull Arena in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs, before SKC were transferred back over to the Western Conference.

Team News

New York Red Bulls will be without three first team defenders as their defensive crisis continues to cause Jesse Marsch serious selection problems. Damien Perrinelle, Gideon Baah and Ronald Zubar are all still out, while Kemar Lawrence is a doubt with a knee injury picked up last week. Gonzalo Veron is also out and Felipe is suspended after being sent off against New England Revolution.

Sporting Kansas City are missing Justin Mapp and defensive star Matt Besler. Paulo Nagamura is a doubt with a calf strain.

Key Points

New York Red Bulls’ form: L/L/W/L

Sporting Kansas City’s form: W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Including postseason meetings, SKC have failed to beat the Red Bulls on the last six occasions. The Red Bulls have won four of those last six meetings.

Key Player: Dom Dwyer – English-born striker Dwyer is the lone attacker in SKC’s current system and the impressive start to the season has shown signs that he will have plenty of service this year. It’s only a matter of time before they start flying in regularly for Dwyer and he will be a threat here.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

New York Red Bulls 2-2 Sporting Kansas City – After a good start from SKC and a poor start from Red Bulls, this clash is hard to call. We are expecting goals and quite an even battle. However, the Red Bulls’ defensive options are limited and SKC will set out to earn three points. A score draw looks likely, though this really could go either way.

Advertisements

MLS Preview and Prediction: DC United vs Colorado Rapids

Competition: Major League Soccer – DC United vs. Colorado Rapids

Venue: RFK Stadium – Sunday, March 20 – 21:00 GMT (17:00 EDT)

Match Odds: DC United 13/10 – Draw  11/5 – Colorado Rapids 11/5

Match Preview

DC United welcome Colorado Rapids to RFK Stadium this weekend in a game which sees two sides looking for goals go head-to-head, both only managing to score once so far this term.

DC are obviously struggling with a lack of depth up top with Colin Doyle and Eddie Johnson both leaving the franchise during the offseason and so goals won’t be as easy to come by this season.

They do have an impressive defensive unit however, that will be tested without USMNT international Bill Hamid for the coming months and we expect Colorado to test them this weekend.

Embed from Getty Images

DC’s 0-0 draw with New England last week was a solid result but they will now hope to win their home opener and start to climb the Eastern Conference.

Colorado are very much a side that are efficient in what they do. They rarely concede goals at home but equally aren’t the most threatening side in attack.

They showed their defensive qualities last week as they beat LA Galaxy 1-0, thanks to a 95th minute winner. Colorado held the Galaxy to a pass completion percentage of just 64.9%, proving how tough they are to break down.

To add to this, Rapids ‘keeper Zac MacMath has only faced four shots on target in the two games so far this term, highlighting the defensive displays Colorado have been putting in.

Embed from Getty Images

Team News

DC United are missing both Bill Hamid and Andrew Dykstra so third choice ‘keeper Travis Worra will be between the sticks. Chris Korb remains out with an ACL tear and Markus Halsti and Fabian Espindola are doubtful.

Colorado Rapids are only without Sean St. Ledger and John Berner who are out with knee and wrist injuries respectively.

Key Points

DC United’s form: L/D

Colorado Rapids’ form: L/W

Key Stat: Colorado haven’t beaten DC in their last five meetings in MLS, a run which started in May 2011.

Key Player: Lamar Neagle – Utility forward Naegle was a great pick up from Seattle in the offseason and he has been leading the line in the absence of Espindola. He will be wanting to get his name on the scoresheet on Sunday night and should be a threat.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

DC United 1-0 Colorado Rapids – DC need to kick start their season and will look to build on last week’s draw with New England, in which they were very hard to break down, Colorado have been good so far and will keep the game low-scoring, but we see DC just edging this one.

2016 MLS Season: MLSGB predicts final standings

With the 2016 MLS Season just a few days away, the excitement is really starting to build. Preseason preparations are all but over and so it’s time for all 20 clubs to get serious as they look to start the new campaign on the right foot.

We’ve been publishing out 2016 MLS Season Previews over the past couple of weeks and below you can find our predicted league standings.

This predictions are based on how good we think each side currently looks heading into 2016. It’s almost impossible to guess how MLS sides will perform over the 34 regular season games but we’ve had a good go at it anyway.

Click on any team name below to read their 2016 season preview and let us know what you think of these predictions in the comments section below, or on Twitter.

Eastern Conference

1

Columbus Crew Logo

Columbus Crew

2

New York Red Bulls Logo

New York Red Bulls

3

Toronto FC Logo

Toronto FC

4

DC United Logo

DC United

5

Montreal Impact Logo

Montreal Impact

6

New York City Logo

New York City FC

7

Orlando City Logo

Orlando City SC

8

New England Revolution Logo

New England Revolution

9

Philadelphia Union Logo

Philadelphia Union

10

Chicago Fire Logo

Chicago Fire

Western Conference

1

LA Galaxy Logo

LA Galaxy

2

FC Dallas Logo

FC Dallas

3

Portland Timbers Logo

Portland Timbers

4

Seattle Sounders Logo

Seattle Sounders

5

Vancouver Whitecaps Logo

Vancouver Whitecaps

6

San Jose Earthquakes Logo

San Jose Earthquakes

7

Sporting Kansas City Logo

Sporting Kansas City

8

Houston Dynamo Logo

Houston Dynamo

9

Real Salt Lake Logo

Real Salt Lake

10

Colorado Rapids Logo

Colorado Rapids

2016 MLS Season Preview: Vancouver Whitecaps

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Vancouver Whitecaps will be hoping to achieve this season.

The 2015 season was the Vancouver Whitecaps’ best to date. Supporters will be thrilled with their team’s performance as they finished second in the Western Conference after racking up their highest points total in what was their fifth season in MLS. The playoff exit to eventual winners, and Cascadia rivals, Portland Timbers will have hurt but they will be pleased with how last year went and now face the tough task in trying to repeat their achievements over the course of 2016. That will be difficult in an ever-competitive Western Conference, and with teams around them strengthening, Vancouver need to improve again if they are to challenge as high up as they did last term. Carl Robinson is a great coach and has built a young, hungry squad in Vancouver. There have been some key changes to the squad this offseason and so trying to hit the ground running will be vital.

Last season’s finish:

Western Conference – Position: 2nd – P34 – W16 – D5 – L13

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps Pa-Modou Kah

What needs to change this year?

The Whitecaps don’t need to change much to be successful in 2016. But the biggest challenge will be replicating their performances from last season. The Whitecaps conceded the fewest goals in MLS (36) in 2015 and will need to try and remain tight at the back once again. They also picked up the most points away from home (24), although their form at BC Place could have been better. They will hope to take more from home games this year, while starting well will be important. Vancouver ended the 2015 regular season with just one win from their last six and so they will hope that was just a temporary dip in form, rather than anything more long-term.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Masato Kudo – Forward, Christian Bolanos – Midfielder, Fraser Aird – Defender, Cole Seiler – Defender & Blas Perez – Forward

Outs: Steven Beitashour – Defender, Robert Earnshaw – Forward, Gershon Koffie – Midfielder & Mauro Rosales – Midfielder

Key Player:

Photo: MLSSoccer.com

Photo: MLSSoccer.com

Kendall Waston – Defender – Perhaps a surprise choice as the Whitecaps’ key player, but Kendall Waston was consistently good in 2015 and was one of the key reasons they had the best defensive record in Major League Soccer. The Costa Rican defender scored two goals, proving his effectiveness at either end, and led the team in interceptions with an average of 4.2 per game. He is a great reader of the game and is vitally important to Vancouver. 

One to Watch:

Christian Bolaños – Midfielder – Vancouver’s biggest offseason acquisition was that of Costa Rican playmaker Christian Bolaños. The 31-year-old joins the Canadian club in a transfer from Saprissa and will hope to make an immediate impact in MLS. He will bring experience to a young squad and is capable of scoring goals from almost anywhere. He will be an exciting player to watch, so long as he can find his feet quickly.

Predicted Finish:

Western Conference – 5th – The 2016 season should be another promising one for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but finishing as high as second seems tough to envisage heading into the new season. The squad has changed over the offseason, with the losses of Steven Beitashour and Gershon Koffie likely to have an effect. They ended 2015 in poor form and will need to try and start quickly. They can be expected to make the playoffs again, but might have to settle for a lower finish than second.

What are you expecting from Vancouver Whitecaps in 2016?

2016 MLS Season Preview: Toronto

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Toronto will be looking to achieve this year…

A sixth placed finish in 2015 would’ve been a slight disappointment for Toronto, given how good they were at times. But there were mitigating circumstances, as eight of their first nine games were away from home due to expansions and upgrades to their BMO Field stadium. Five defeats, a draw and just three wins from those nine fixtures immediately put them behind schedule, so they did well to recover. Had they not lost their final two games of the regular season though, they could’ve finished second and avoided the conference knockout round, showing how little there was between the Eastern Conference sides. It meant they faced Canadian rivals Montreal Impact in the MLS Cup knockout round and suffered a disappointing 3-0 defeat. The margins between success and failure were paper thin in 2015, and the 2016 campaign is likely to be a similar story – fine tuning the minor details will be key.

Last season’s finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 6th – P34 – W15 – D4 – L15

Embed from Getty Images

What needs to change this year?

The Reds were exhilarating going forward in 2015, thanks in most part to Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore who bagged 35 of Toronto’s 58 goals between them. As a result, Greg Vanney’s side had the second most lethal attack in MLS – only New York Red Bulls managed to score more (62). As good as they were offensively, they were equally as bad at the other end of the pitch. They leaked far too many goals (58) meaning they had the worst defensive record in the league alongside Chicago Fire and New York City. If they have aspirations of finishing higher up the conference and thus having a better seeding come the postseason, they must tighten things up.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Clint Irwin – Goalkeeper, Drew Moor – Defender, Steven Beitashour – Defender, Will Johnson – Midfielder

Outs: Joe Bendik – Goalkeeper, Chris Konopka – Goalkeeper, Ahmed Kantari – Defender, Jackson – Midfielder, Robbie Findley – Forward, Luke Moore – Forward

Key Player:

Embed from Getty Images

Sebastian Giovinco – Forward – The Italian was quite simply sublime in 2015. He became the first player in MLS history to top both the goalscoring and assists charts. He scored 22 and set-up 16 goals in 33 appearances and quite rightly scooped the 2015 MLS Landon Donovan MVP Award. Everyone will be eagerly anticipating the start of the 2016 season and hoping that Giovinco can replicate last year’s performances.

One to Watch:

Marco “Marky” Delgado – Midfielder – The youngster was a regular feature in the Toronto side last season, making 20 appearances and contributing three goals and three assists. At just 20 years of age, he’s an extremely exciting prospect and playing in a team with the likes of Giovinco, Altidore, Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou will only help both his experience and quality grow. 2016 will be another big year in his development.

Embed from Getty Images

Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 3rd – Unlike many of the teams in MLS, Toronto have done well to limit the amount of offseason activity in terms of players coming in and out of the squad – the main acquisition being Will Johnson from the Portland Timbers. It means they’ve kept things fairly stable and for that reason, they should be raring to go in 2016. These players have spent a significant amount of time together now and should have really developed a strong understanding between one another. It leaves them in a great position to push on to bigger and better things this season, so don’t be surprised to see them climbing the Eastern Conference. There’s no reason that Toronto shouldn’t be aiming for an MLS Cup win this year.

What are you expecting from Toronto in 2016?

MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

Embed from Getty Images

The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

Embed from Getty Images

The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

Embed from Getty Images

The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?

2016 MLS Season Preview: Orlando City

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Orlando City will be hoping to achieve in their second season.

Orlando City will have undoubtedly enjoyed their first season in MLS last year, as they provided entertainment and drama throughout. They will obviously be disappointed not to have made the playoffs, but that should spur them on to go one better than their seventh place finish last season. Adrian Heath has made more changes to the squad this offseason and will hope that the whole club will improve following the experiences of their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer. The challenge this time around will be to start much better, as the Lions only won one of their first five games in MLS a year ago. But having ended 2015 with five wins from six, there is reason for optimism in Florida. Huge wins over LA Galaxy (4-0), Columbus Crew (5-2) and the Red Bulls (5-2) proved they can cope with the biggest clubs in MLS and so they could be dark horses for success in 2016.

Last season’s finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 7th – P34 – W12 – D8 – L14

Embed from Getty Images

What needs to change this year?

The Lions must try and shore up defensively. They conceded 56 goals – the second highest amount of in MLS – last term and need to work on shutting teams out more regularly, having kept just seven clean sheets in 34 games. They could also benefit massively from improving their home form. The Citrus Bowl became one of the loudest stadiums in MLS last year but the players let their fans down too many times on home soil. Orlando had the fifth-worst home record in MLS in 2015 and need to try and make the Citrus Bowl more of a fortress this season.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Joe Bendik – Goalkeeper, Richmond Laryea – Midfielder, Hadji Barry – Forward, Devron Garcia – Midfielder & Antonio Nocerino – Midfielder

Outs: Tally Hall – Goalkeeper, Corey Ashe – Defender, Eric Avila – Midfielder, Lewis Neal – Midfielder, Estrella – Midfielder & Danny Mwanga – Forward

Key Player:

Embed from Getty Images

Kaka – Midfielder – It’s impossible to look at anyone else as the key player for Orlando. Kaka is the captain and the most influential man in the team. He ended 2015 with nine goals and seven assists in 28 games and will expect to build on those numbers this time around. He is 33 years old now but still has the quality to create a chance from anywhere on the field. Orlando need Kaka to be at his best if they are to challenge high up the Eastern Conference this year.

One to Watch:

Devron Garcia – Midfielder – The 20-year-old Honduran international is one of six players to have been signed this offseason but is certainly one with plenty of scope for success. Garcia joins Orlando from Honduran side CD Vitoria, where he scored three goals in 39 matches, but it’s his contributions on the defensive side of the ball that really count. He thrives in the defensive midfield role and will hope to force his way into the first-team lineup quickly, despite competition for places in that area of the Lions squad. He has already represented Honduras at U17 and U20 levels and will be hoping to make an impression in 2016.

Embed from Getty Images

Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 7th – The 2016 season should be another exciting one for Orlando City and it would be a shock if they were to go backwards in their second campaign. We’ve predicted they will end the season in seventh place once again, but they have the potential to finish higher and will be expecting to make the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is set to be even more competitive this year and it will be fascinating to see how Orlando City perform in their second campaign. If Cyle Larin can repeat his fine season, and that’s a big ‘if’, they should do very well, while the addition of Antonio Nocerino is one that could prove to be an extremely good piece of business.

What are you expecting from Orlando City in 2016?

2016 MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Philadelphia Union will be looking to achieve this year…

Philadelphia Union endured one of their most disappointing year’s in MLS in 2015. A ninth placed Eastern Conference finish and 18th place finish overall is the lowest in their short history so far. The season started slowly with just one win from their opening 11 games and they never strung a run of games together in an inconsistent campaign. The Union did manage to reach the final of the US Open Cup, where they agonisingly lost on penalties to Sporting Kansas City. But in MLS, it was a year with few highlights to reflect on and it’s certainly a case of onwards and upwards from now on. All that has gone before needs to be brushed under the carpet so that head coach Jim Curtin can rebuild and focus on achieving better results in the future.

Last season’s finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 9th – P34 – W10 – D7 – L17

Embed from Getty Images

What needs to change this year?

Philadelphia Union have never been as defensively poor as they were in 2015. They leaked 55 goals, which is more than they have conceded in any other season previously. The offseason has seen the Union revamp their squad, giving it a very different look, with 15 players departing and 12 new faces coming in. They’ve signed six new defenders in an attempt to steady the ship and give themselves strength in depth at the back. But it isn’t just defensive issues that need addressing. They had the least potent attack in the Eastern Conference last year, scoring 42 goals – only four teams scored less across the whole of MLS. Jim Curtin must find a way for his side to be more competitive offensively as well.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Matt Jones – Goalkeeper,  Anderson Conceicao – Defender, Joshua Yaro – Defender, Keegan Rosenberry – Defender, Taylor Washington – Defender, Cole Missimo – Defender, Ken Tribbett – Defender, Chris Pontius – Midfielder, Walter Restrepo – Midfielder, Roland Alberg – Midfielder, Ilsinho – Midfielder, Fabian Herbers – Forward

Outs: Zac MacMath – Goalkeeper, Ethan White Defender, Steven Vitoria – Defender, Cristian Maidana – Midfielder, Andrew Wenger – Midfielder, Fred – Midfielder, Michael Lahoud – Midfielder, Zach Pfeffer – Midfielder, Fernando Aristeguieta – Forward, Conor Casey – Forward

Key Player:

Embed from Getty Images

Chris Pontius – Midfielder – The experienced 28 year old arrives at Philadelphia Union after six successful years with DC United. He’s just the type of player the Union need in the centre of the park and he will bring with him the kind of winning mentality that’s been missing. The likes of CJ Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux up front should benefit from having Pontius in the side.

One to Watch:

Roland Alberg – Midfielder – The Dutchman has signed from Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag where he made 105 league appearances, scoring 22 goals and making 16 assists. He’s likely to slot straight into the Union side and could bring valuable experience having played for a number of years in Europe. At the age of 25, he’s approaching the peak of his career, so the Union will be hoping they’ll see the best of him.

Embed from Getty Images

Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 9th – Philadelphia Union are certainly doing everything they can to make things work in 2016 with so much offseason activity. With so many changes, it’s going to take time for this team to gel. That’s not to say that things won’t fall into place eventually, but there are numerous other teams in MLS that appear to be in better shape than Philadelphia right now. It’s easy enough to point out the areas that need improving – they’re clear for all to see – but it’s a whole different task putting it into action and getting results on the pitch. The Union would be proving a lot of people wrong if they were to break into the top six this year, so it would certainly be a pleasant surprise if they could take the league by storm.

What are you expecting from Philadelphia Union in 2016?

2016 MLS Season Preview: Seattle Sounders

As the 2016 MLS season edges ever closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what the Seattle Sounders could achieve this season.

Seattle Sounders had a solid 2015 campaign, finishing 4th – nine points off top spot – but they will still be disappointed they fell short in the playoffs once again. They reached the Conference Semifinals, before being knocked out on penalties to eventual winners and fierce rivals Portland Timbers. The Sounders will expect nothing less than reaching the playoffs once again in 2016 as head coach Sigi Schmid has made some key additions to his squad. He has lost a talisman in Obafemi Martins but there is plenty to be positive about heading into the new campaign. Seattle ended the 2015 regular season unbeaten in eight games and will now hope to start 2016 in the same rich vein of form.

Last Season’s Finish:

Western Conference – Position: 4th – P34 – W15 – D6 – L13

Embed from Getty Images

What Needs To Change This Year?

Seattle need to lose less games – it’s as simple as that. They only won two more games than they lost, which ultimately cost them from potentially winning the Western Conference in 2015. The Sounders are a side quite capable of beating any opponent but they mustn’t rely too heavily on their key players. Clint Dempsey is obviously a massive influence on the side, so if in the unfortunate occurrence of him picking up knocks, they have to find a way of still picking up points. Schmid’s side have three of their first five fixtures at CenturyLink Field so they need to make that a fortress once again and get off to a flyer.

Key Changes:

InsTyler Miller – Goalkeeper, Joevin Jones – Defender, Jordan Schweitzer – Midfielder, Michael Farfan – Midfielder, Nathan Sturgis – Midfielder & Jordan Morris – Forward

Outs: Troy Perkins – Goalkeeper, Andres Correa – Defender, Leonardo Gonzalez – Defender, Michael Azira – Midfielder, Gonzalo Pineda – Midfielder, Thomas – Midfielder, Andy Rose – Midfielder, Lamar Neagle – Midfielder, Marco Pappa – Midfielder, Chad Barrett – Forward & Andy Craven – Forward

Key Player:

Embed from Getty Images

Clint Dempsey – Forward – The obvious choice. Dempsey is a standout performer for Seattle and deals amazingly well with the pressure of providing not only for his side, but also for the fans. His 2015 campaign was riddled with injury but the USMNT star was highly influential in the games he featured in – contributing to an average of a goal or assist per game (ten goals and ten assists in his 20 appearances). Seattle only lost three of the 20 games in which Dempsey played in so we can see how much he means to his side.

One to Watch:

Embed from Getty Images

Jordan Morris – Forward – There is a lot of expectation on the new signing. He has penned the highest paid contact for a homegrown player in Major League Soccer history. With the departure of Obafemi Martins, Morris has some huge boots to fill, but that could play to his advantage and the youngster could quite quickly become a fan favourite for Sounders. Morris is expected to come in and play on the right side of the attack and get at opposition defenders with his pace from day one.

Predicted Finish:

Western Conference – 4th – We expect another solid season from Seattle and they should make a playoff spot quite comfortably. Sounders fans may well be expecting more than 4th from their side but as we keep mentioning the Western Conference is extremely competitive. The loss of Martins may have some impact on Sounders but we don’t consider it to be crippling to them and expect a repeat of last season’s finish in the regular season.

What are you expecting from Seattle Sounders in 2016?

2016 MLS Season Preview: San Jose Earthquakes

As the 2016 MLS season edges ever closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what the San Jose Earthquakes could achieve this season.

The 2015 season saw San Jose Earthquakes move into their new Avaya Stadium but unfortunately, they were unable to make the postseason once again. It was a season of some fantastic highs but the ultimate low was missing out on the playoffs for a second-straight season – something head coach Dominic Kinnear will be desperate to fix. The Quakes finished four points behind sixth-placed Sporting Kansas City in the end, but ended relatively well and should push on this term. The loss of DP forward Innocent Emeghara was a bitter pill to swallow early in the season, but he should be back and will look to score the goals to fire San Jose into a playoff berth. Victories away at the likes of Seattle, SKC and DC United showed they could cope with the league’s best but they need to make that form last longer. Dominic Kinnear knows the formula to win MLS Cup, having won it twice with Houston Dynamo in 2006 and 2007 and he would love to lift the title with San Jose come the end of the 2016 season.

Last Season’s Finish:

Western Conference – Position: 7th – P34 – W13 – D8 – L13

Embed from Getty Images

What Needs To Change This Year?

San Jose must improve their away form, following ten defeats on the road in 2015. That’s just not good enough if you are looking to make the top six. Despite boasting the third-best defensive record in MLS last term, their offensive play let them down. They ranked third from bottom in terms of goal output, having netted just 41 times. More goals will lead to more success. Chris Wondolowski knows how to score goals and he keeps on getting them, having now reached over 100 in MLS – being the fastest to achieve this feat. But the rest of the squad need to chip in with their fair share to ease the burden on the American. Chad Barrett has come in from Seattle Sounders and will look to help, while Simon Dawkins will be tasked with getting assists. It has potential to be an enormous season for the Quakes if they can learn from last year’s deficiencies.

Key Changes:

Ins: Chad Barrett – Forward, Simon Dawkins – Midfielder, Andres Imperiale – Defender, Andrew Tarbell – Goalkeeper & Alberto Quintero – Midfielder

Outs: Mike Fucito  Forward, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi  Midfielder, Khari Stephenson – Midfielder, Paulo Renato – Defender, Tomas Gomez – Goalkeeper, Leandro Barrera – Midfielder

Key Player:

Embed from Getty Images

Innocent Emeghara – Forward – The Swiss striker will feel like a new signing for San Jose, having only made seven appearances last season before his season-ending knee injury. With 76 goals scored in his professional career, he will look to put the Earthquakes back on the map and into the playoff picture as he looks to win his first major honour. If he can stay healthy, he could prove to be one of the league’s deadliest strikers in 2016.

One to Watch:

Simon Dawkins – Midfielder – The ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has returned back to San Jose, having won the Supporters’ Shield with the club back in 2012. He could be the lucky omen that gets the Quakes into the playoffs once again and will hope to shine on his return to MLS. He has more than 50 MLS games under his belt and that experience should help Dawkins to settle straight back into the league. It’s now time for the 28-year-old to flourish again.

Embed from Getty Images

Predicted Finish:

Western Conference – 6th  This time round we expect the Quakes to make the playoffs. They are a team that is battling in a very tight and competitive Western Conference but they had the third-best defence in MLS last term and have strengthened this offseason. Chris Wondolowski will get goals, as will the likes of Quincy Amarikwa and Innocent. They have a fine manager in Dominic Kinnear, who knows the league inside out and things look good for the Quakes. The teams around them have done some very good business and San Jose will struggle to challenge high up the standings, but they should be able to secure a top six finish. Here’s to what could be a great season in San Jose, California.

What are you expecting from San Jose Earthquakes in 2016?