2018 Key Transfers: Sporting Kansas City

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Sporting Kansas City and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

Sporting Kansas City will class the 2017 campaign as a successful one. Yes, they failed to get beyond the Knockout Round for the fourth-straight year. But they did win the US Open Cup in September and also boasted the league’s best defence, conceding just 29 in 34 games. The aim this year will be to remain tight at the back but improve the attack. They had the third-worst offence in 2017 and will hope their busy offseason work can help them in front of goal…

Key Signings

Khiry Shelton: Shelton joins Sporting KC from New York City FC, where he had been since being drafted with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. He was mainly used as an impact player off the bench for NYCFC – a role he might have to accept at SKC too. But in 54 appearances, he managed six goals and 10 assists. He’s still only 24 and will hope a change of scenery can spark his MLS career into life.

Johnny Russell: Scottish attacker Russell made the move from English Championship side Derby County to Sporting Kansas City for an estimated £250,000. His contract was due to expire in the summer after five seasons with the Rams and he decided to make the move to MLS in time for the new season. He should be fresh, having only started 13 games during Derby’s 2017/18 league campaign. Expect the 27-year-old to slot in on the wing for SKC this season in a key role.

Brad Evans: MLS veteran Evans joins from Seattle, where he spent the past nine seasons, winning the MLS Cup in 2016. He is unlikely to find his way into the starting XI on a regular basis but he is a great option for depth in a number of positions. Plus, his experience will prove invaluable in the dressing room over the course of the season.

Yohan Croizet: Sporting KC have brought in the 26-year-old Croizet as a Designated Player ahead of the 2018 season, in the hope he can fill the void left by Benny Feilhaber’s departure. The Frenchman joins from Belgian side KV Mechelen, where he scored five goals and assisted seven in 54 games. He is expected to be a key man for SKC in 2018 and fans will hope he can settle quickly into the league.

Felipe Gutierrez: Another Designated Player signing expected to add a real spark to Sporting KC’s attack is Felipe Gutierrez. The 27-year-old Chilean midfielder joins after leaving Real Betis and could prove to be one of the signings of the season. He has 35 Chile caps to his name and is incredibly experienced, having played well over 200 games for four clubs in four different nations. He should adapt quickly to MLS and will either shine in the No. 10 role, or as a box-to-box midfielder, if Croizet is preferred in the No. 10 position.

Notable Departures

Benny Feilhaber: Sporting Kansas City waved goodbye to a real fan favourite, sending Feilhaber to expansion side LAFC in return for $400,000 in allocation money. SKC fans were quick to panic following the 33-year-old’s departure but he was in the final year of his contract and so cashing in now makes sense. He registered 29 goals and 41 assists in five seasons with Sporting KC, also winning MLS Cup in 2013. No doubt, he will be missed on and off the field.

Latif Blessing: Following Feilhaber to LAFC is 21-year-old attacker Latif Blessing, who was also something of a fan favourite in 2017. He only spent one season with SKC, but did score three goals and add one assist in what was a promising campaign for someone so young. The Ghanaian was selected in the second round of the 2017 Expansion Draft after being left unprotected by Sporting KC.

Erik Palmer-Brown: U.S. Under-20 international Palmer-Brown completed a move to Manchester City this winter. He wasn’t a regular in the SKC team but he is a player with huge potential, hence why Man City have decided to make a move for him. The youngster has since be loaned out to Belgian First Division A club KV Kortrijk until the summer. The centre-back played a total of 20 games in his four seasons with SKC, while he spent 2016 on loan at FC Porto.

Advertisements

MLS 2017 Season Preview and Predictions

The 2017 MLS Season is here at last. A record-high 22 teams will battle for this year’s MLS Cup in what is Major League Soccer’s 22nd season. Two new expansion franchises enter the league this year, with Atlanta United joining the Eastern Conference and Minnesota United joining the West, while Orlando City’s brand new soccer-specific stadium will host MLS matches for the first time too. The top six in each conference will make the playoffs once again, but with 11 sides now in each, things are sure to be more competitive than ever before in what could be the most unpredictable season in the league’s history.

Embed from Getty Images

The New Boys

It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta and Minnesota, with both sides dealing with the challenge of building a squad that can jump straight into MLS and compete. No expansion side has made the playoffs at the first attempt since the Sounders did in 2009, and that will undoubtedly be the aim for both of this year’s new sides in 2017.

Atlanta have splashed the cash to build a team that, on paper at least, looks good enough to earn a place in the postseason at the first attempt. Former Barcelona head coach Tata Martino is the man in the hotseat tasked with getting a talented young group of players to deliver on their preseason promise. Three south American Designated Players have been signed – all under the age of 23, with each expected to get fans off their seats from the first whistle.

They’ll be plenty of fans in those seats too, given the fact Atlanta have already sold a staggering 30,000 season tickets before a ball has been kicked. Expansion sides tend to flatter to deceive in their first campaigns, but Atlanta looks like the sort of team ready to make a real splash.

By stark contrast, Minnesota United have been much more careful in terms of spending. They have not signed a single DP ahead of the opening weekend, with any big spending likely to take place in the summer once the squad has found its feet. Instead, Targeted Allocation Money has been spent to build the squad, along with some clever trading to bring in the likes of Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino. Molino in particular is expected to shine under former Lions boss Adrian Heath, who has his second chance to get an expansion side into the playoffs at the first attempt this season.

Embed from Getty Images

The Loons have also kept a host of names from their NASL days, and they now have to hope that their trust in those players pays off in what is sure to be a fiercely competitive Western Conference. There have been some suggestions that this Minnesota side will be one of the worst in MLS history, but they look to have enough about them to prove those critics wrong.

Standout Signings

As always, there have been a host of changes to squads over the course of preseason. But unlike any other year, MLS clubs have started to look for younger talent as it has become clear all 22 sides are starting to prioritise longer-term goals. Atlanta’s trio of young DPs have already been mentioned, but they weren’t the only side to splash the cash on younger Designated Players this winter. FC Dallas have added striker Cristian Colman, Real Salt Lake have landed Albert Rusnak, Vancouver have brought in Yordy Reyna and Sporting Kansas City have moved to sign Gerso Fernandes. All of those names are sure to make an impression in 2017, along with a host of more ‘traditional’ DPs that have joined the league, although the following five are all still under the age of 30.

Embed from Getty Images

LA Galaxy have added some raw pace by bringing in Roman Alessandrini from Marseille, NYCFC have added creativity by signing Maxi Moralez to replace Frank Lampard and Chicago have added firepower by bringing in Nemanja Nikolic. On top of that Portland have signed Sebastian Blanco, while Fredy Montero is back in MLS after four seasons abroad. He has joined the Vancouver Whitecaps and will be hoping to pick up where he left off with Seattle, where he scored 47 goals in 119 regular season games.

What’s for certain is that the new DP signings will give MLS a fresh feel in 2017. More quality should mean more entertainment and more goals. Oh, and more selection dilemmas for MLS Fantasy managers…

Emerging Stars

With MLS getting younger this year, there will be plenty of focus on some of the league’s emerging talents. Some were here last season and left an impression, while others are looking to prove their worth as early as possible. The average age of squads in MLS this season is now 26.3, with FC Dallas boasting the youngest squad with an average age of 24.31. Walker Zimmerman will look to continue his improvement as an MLS defender, but will also be hoping to make an impression on the international stage if he can keep getting better. Elsewhere, the likes of LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison will be looking to have breakout seasons so long as they can nail down regular starting roles.

Jack Harrison, MLS: NYCFC vs. LA Galaxy

Cody Cropper will be hoping this is the year he can become a standout goalkeeper. He had struggled for game time in England in the past but is now in New England, where he’ll expect to impress. While in New York, Sean Davis has the seemingly impossible task of trying to fill the void left by Dax McCarty’s departure to Chicago. But he should be giving the time on the field to prove his worth and will be looking to help lead the Red Bulls to the top of the East once more.

Who Will Be MVP?

As with any season, making a prediction like this before the first ball has even been kicked is brave stupid, but why not do it again? There are a host of new unpredictabilities all over the league this year but the same star names will expect to be challenging at the top end of the scoring charts, and for the MVP award too as a result. Sebastian Giovinco was probably shocked not to pick up the 2016 MLS MVP award, with David Villa instead scooping that award, and both attackers will once again be tipped to dominate defences from day one.

Embed from Getty Images

Strikers have dominated the MVP award over the past five seasons, but playmakers such as Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti and Sacha Kljestan will fancy their chances of making a case for the honour if they can have standout campaigns.

But it’s impossible to overlook Giovinco. The Atomic Ant has scored 39 goals and picked up 31 assists in 61 regular season games and is arguably the greatest player to ever play in Major League Soccer. If he stays healthy, he’s surely going to be MVP.

Embed from Getty Images

Who Will Win MLS Cup?

The only thing that’s even more brave stupid to predict than the MVP is picking the team that will lift MLS Cup nine months on from now. But hey, why not give that a go too? The way the Sounders marched to MLS Cup glory last season from a seemingly lost position in the summer was incredible, but is unlikely to be repeated this term given the increased competition and quality in the league. No side has retained the trophy for four seasons but the Sounders still have the tools at their disposal to put up a strong defence. LA Galaxy are usually in the mix but they are set for a transitional year and don’t look to be in a position to go and get their hands on a sixth title this year.

MLS Cup Final 2016 - Toronto vs Seattle Sounders

What does look likely is that the winner will come from the Western Conference for the eighth time in nine seasons. FC Dallas have still never lifted MLS Cup, which seems insane considering they’ve finished top of the West for two-straight seasons. They have all the tools to go all the way this year. Mauro Diaz is out for the first four months of the new season, which is a huge blow, but he’ll be back at a key time of the season and will be able to help Oscar Pareja’s men go all the way in 2017.

Embed from Getty Images

Vancouver Whitecaps also look like contenders this year, as the addition of Montero should make them much more of a force this term. Toronto FC were one shootout away from winning the title last term, and if Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, they will likely be there or thereabouts again.

Galaxy set to add pacey DP as Alessandrini flies in to LA

LA Galaxy are set to add some serious pace to their midfield with French winger Romain Alessandrini flying into Los Angeles on Sunday to finalise details of a move to StubHub Center.

Alessandrini has been with Marseille since the summer of 2014 and has scored 11 goals in 65 appearances for the Ligue 1 club. The 27-year-old has never played outside of his homeland but is now set for MLS.

He was pictured on Sunday morning ahead of a flight from London to Los Angeles, where he is expected to meet with Galaxy officials to put pen to paper on a Designated Player contract that will reportedly see him earn around $1.4 million per year.

Known for his pace and quick feet when dribbling, Alessandrini will be a key addition for a Galaxy side that will have a new feel about them in 2017.

And although he’s not a prolific goalscorer, the right winger has shown that he has a dangerous left foot when given space in and around the box, as seen in the second of the two clips below.

 

Alessandrini has two-and-a-half years left on his Marseille contract so the Galaxy will need to pay a transfer fee to complete a move, but that is only expected to be around $1.7 million (£1.35 million).

The Ligue 1 side have already got a replacement coming in for the pacey winger, with Dimitri Payet set to return after West Ham accepted a £25 million bid from Marseille on Sunday afternoon.

That deal means Alessandrini is surplus to requirements and he will now be looking to join up with the Galaxy squad as they prepare for their season opener against FC Dallas on March 4.

Is Romain Alessandrini a good signing for LA Galaxy? 

Matt Miazga turned down ‘multimillion dollar’ DP contract to join Chelsea

Matt Miazga is no longer a New York Red Bulls player, having completed his move to Premier League side Chelsea FC today, though the MLS club can’t be blamed for not trying to keep hold of their academy star.

In the wake of the move, it has become apparent that the Red Bulls attempted to make Miazga the first Homegrown Player to sign a Designated Player contract, according to Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis via Grant Wahl.

Wahl took to Twitter to reveal the details from a conversation with Ali Curtis. Information included the fact that Miazga was unwilling to sign a new deal with the Eastern Conference side because he was so keen on securing an immediate move to Chelsea.

The fact that the Red Bulls were willing to make Miazga a DP is significant and indicates just how highly rated the 20-year-old defender was by those within the organisation.

The academy product was reportedly offered a “multimillion dollar” DP contract to stay in New York, but he rejected that offer as his desire to move to the Premier League was too strong.

Curtis described his move as “bittersweet” but revealed that the funds acquired from the move will be reinvested into the club, with a significant amount being put into the club’s youth setup.

“It is a bittersweet day for the New York Red Bulls,” he told the Red Bulls’ official website.

“We are very happy for Matt to get the opportunity but it is tough to see him leave after coming through our academy to the first team – there is a different feel when one of your homegrown players leaves.

“We tried everything we could to keep Matt but we understand and respect his desire to play in Europe. Moving forward, we’ll either reinforce the team from within our existing player pool or we will acquire a player from the international market. Additionally, the proceeds of this transfer provide us with greater resources to put back into our youth system.”

“We will cheer for Matt from Red Bull Arena. He will always be a part of our family and we wish him the best,” Curtis added.

Getting Stuck In: Time to put the “D” in DP

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into whether MLS clubs need to invest in more defensive Designated Players to enjoy success.

By Dave Lewis

So why should you read this gas bag talk about MLS? Well, my analysis wouldn’t help you win a bet in Vegas, but it might help you understand where MLS teams are coming up short. First, a disclaimer: I am not one of those Moneyball, sabermetric nerds that can take the amount of touches a centre back takes during a game, divide that by his passing completion rate, multiply it by his weekly salary and surmise his true value. Instead, I use the highly advanced method of the eye test. And the level of defense in MLS isn’t passing it.

As we know there is nothing sexy about being a central defender. The glory positions are in attack. The forwards get the commercials, the big wages and the women (John Terry being the exception – sorry Wayne Bridge). For MLS teams, shoring up the backline is an afterthought. In LA you have midfielder Robbie Rogers starting on the backline. DaMarcus Beasley, a winger most his life, starts in the back for Houston. And what is Brek Shea doing for Orlando City? You can’t just throw anyone back there.

Embed from Getty Images

There are two teams with huge defensive deficiencies who tanked in the playoffs. Toronto, who fizzled out of the first round because they spent close to $16 million on three attacking players (Altidore, Bradley and Giovinco) with no regard for defense. And then there’s the Galaxy, who let in five goals at home to Portland just prior to their first round playoff exit to Seattle. LA, like Toronto, spent an ungodly amount on their three DPs (close to $15 million) while losing their star keeper, Jaime Penedo, over money. They replaced him with an over-the-hill Donovan Ricketts in the second half of the season who let in goals at an alarming pace. As my old man once told me: “It’s expensive to be cheap.”

Here’s my theory: If you take one of those attacking DP slots and use it on a defender or ‘keeper that is quality, experienced and young(ish), your MLS team might score less, but give up less. Defense wins championships, no?

Ok, maybe it’s unfair to pick on the two expansion teams since expansion teams rarely make the playoffs their first go around, but a little dirt kicked their way may wake them up.

Adding “D” will help NYC with the “Ws”

NYCFC  plays on the silliest looking, most awkwardly laid out pitch in MLS (and maybe the world?), with horrible sight lines and huge walls meant for baseball (wait, it was meant for baseball). The field is small in width, length and history. With the Manchester City money behind them, the club goes for flash: Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. Attacking players. Big name DPs. But what if they took one of those high priced players and put the money on a DP defender (they were tied for last for most goals given up in the league in 2015).

What if they took Lampard’s $6 million and gave it to let’s say Leighton Baines. He is 29. Still plenty left in the tank. He is a left-back with grit, great on set pieces and is a forward-like penalty taker (he just signed a new deal with Everton so not going to happen, but you get the idea). Or if you want a commanding centre-back, offer Martin Skrtel $7 million and the chance of living in the US, and he might leave Merseyside.

Embed from Getty Images

Orlando is a keeper (away)

Ok, the goalkeeper position wasn’t the main problem in Orlando. But they did let in 56 goals with very few clean sheets to reflect on. Not all the fault of Tally Hall et al. Orlando has plenty of attacking players (see Larin). And they needed Kaka and his MLS leading salary to sell tickets in their inaugural season. But what if you took that Kaka money, or even half that amount, and put it on a ‘keeper? A star-studded stopper. Let’s say they signed Keylor Navas before he went to Real Madrid (he’s making Real fans forget about De Gea). Man, that would’ve put Orlando’s Mickey Mouse “D” to rest. Plus, he comes from Costa Rica where he would be closer to home, making it easier to make national team call-ups.

Embed from Getty Images

True, there are some great young defenders in the league (the Whitecaps Kendall Watson and the Red Bulls’ Matt Miazga come to mind). But when I do my highly scientific analysis and get on FIFA 16 to play NYCFC versus Toronto, I have to watch Andoni Iraola, the highest rated MLS defender (according to EA) mark Giovinco, and that sure doesn’t pass the eye test.

Clearly the focus needs to be on “D”.

Former Spurs attackers reunited in MLS as LA Galaxy secure Giovani deal

LA Galaxy’s capture of Mexican international Giovani Dos Santos is a huge one for the club and few seemed more excited about the deal than Robbie Keane.

The former Spurs attackers will link up once again for the first time in five years and Keane is tipping Giovani to go on a “become a superstar” in Major League Soccer.

“I’m very excited to have him here,” Keane said on Wednesday. “We had a good relationship when he came to Tottenham. He came to Tottenham as a young kid who couldn’t’ speak English so I made sure that he was looked after.

“I looked after him when he came over, and we’d stayed in contact since. He’s here to win. He wants to make sure that he takes the Galaxy to the next level.”

Dos Santos joins the Galaxy from Spanish side Villarreal in a deal worth around $34 million (or £21 million). He won’t link up with his new teammates until early August after Mexico’s CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign but Keane is buzzing to play alongside the tricky playmaker once more.

“I think that he’s going to be a superstar in this league,” the Irishman added. “There’s no question about it. He has the right mentality, he has the flair, and I’m sure that Galaxy fans are going to be excited to see him play.”

As well as linking up with Keane in LA, Giovani will be able to play alongside fellow new arrival Steven Gerrard in what is looking like the strongest Designated Player trio in MLS.

Embed from Getty Images

“It’s certainly looking like exciting times for the Galaxy,” Keane finalised. “I think that everyone is looking forward to getting the group on the field and developing chemistry.”

Gerrard has yet to make his MLS debut but is expected to do so in Friday night’s contest against the San Jose Earthquakes, while Dos Santos’s debut could come at home to the Seattle Sounders on August 9.

Have LA Galaxy got the best trio of Designated Players in MLS?

LA Galaxy sign Giovani Dos Santos in huge deal worth around $34m

LA Galaxy confirmed the signing of Mexican international star Giovani Dos Santos from Villarreal yesterday in what is a huge deal for both the club and Major League Soccer.

Dos Santos joins the Galaxy as a third Designated Player alongside Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane, with the new Targeted Allocation Money being used to lower the budget charge of Omar Gonzalez’s contract so he is no longer a DP.

At 26, Giovani is a huge capture for MLS and offers further proof that the league is continuing to grow at an alarming rate, with stars from across Europe all keeping tabs on the development of North American soccer in the hope of a move.

The club did not confirm details of the contract but Giovani is believed to be set to earn around $6 million per year on a four-and-a-half-year deal that will keep him in LA through the 2019 season.

On top of that the club had to pay a transfer fee to Spanish side Villarreal to sign him. That fee was reportedly near the $7 million mark, taking the total cost of the deal up to $34 million ($27 million salary and a $7 million transfer fee).

There will therefore be enormous pressure on Giovani to perform to his best ability and head coach Bruce Arena fills he will only get better in MLS.

Embed from Getty Images

“Giovani is a special player,” Arena said. “He has experience and success competing at the highest level and we believe he will only continue to develop. We are happy to add him to our roster and have confidence he can be an integral part of our success going forward.”

His move to MLS sees Dos Santos leave European football for the first time in his career, having started at FC Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy at the age of just 11.

After making his breakthrough with Barcelona, Giovani went on to play for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Galatasaray, RCD Mallorca and most recently Villarreal, where he scored 12 times in 58 league appearances over the past two seasons.

Embed from Getty Images

The tricky attacker won’t join up with his new teammates until Mexico’s CONCACAF Gold Cup run is over, so he is expected to make his debut in early August, with the home game against Seattle Sounders on the 9th looking likely to be the first time we see Giovani play for the Galaxy.

Is Giovani Dos Santos a good signing for MLS and LA Galaxy? How important will he be to the team?

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Montreal Impact

As the 2015 season beckons, we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what the Montreal Impact will be looking to achieve this year.

The 2015 season will be Montreal Impact‘s fourth year competing in Major League Soccer after joining from the NASL for their first taste of MLS in 2012. Montreal Impact fans won’t need reminding how poor they were last season. They were statistically the worst team, racking up just 28 points and finishing bottom of both the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings. So 2014 is a year they’ll want to forget quickly, but head coach Frank Klopas and his side can certainly use it as a learning curve for future developments.

Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 10th – P34 – W6 – D10 – L18

Embed from Getty Images

What needs to change this year?

It’s as obvious as it gets, but they need to stop losing so many games. Only Chivas USA suffered more defeats in 2014 and the defensive issues need addressing urgently. They will be hoping to replicate the 2013 campaign which saw them amass 49 points and qualify for the playoffs, but it’s going to take some serious hard work and plenty of hours on the training ground.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Kristian Nicht – Goalkeeper, Bakary Soumare Defender, Ambroise Oyongo Defender, Marco Donadel  Midfielder, Nigel Reo-Coker Midfielder, Eric Alexander Midfielder, Dominic Oduro Forward, Laurent Ciman – Defender, Donny Toia – Defender, Eric Kronberg – Goalkeeper, Victor Cabrera – Defender

Outs: Troy Perkins – Goalkeeper, Matteo Ferrari – Defender, Krzysztof Krol – Defender, Felipe Martins – Midfielder, Marco Di Vaio – Forward, Issey Nakajima-Farran – Midfielder

Key player: Eric Alexander – Midfielder

Embed from Getty Images

Acquiring the services of Eric Alexander from the New York Red Bulls is fantastic news for Montreal Impact. He was a key player at the heart of the Red Bulls midfield in 2014 and helped them to an MLS Cup Conference Final. A player of his quality arriving can give the whole camp a boost in morale as well as improve the performances of the team on the pitch.

One to watch: Ignacio Piatti – Midfielder

Ignacio Piatti is currently Montreal’s only Designated Player. The Argentinian arrived in August 2014, but only featured six times before limping off injured in September against San Jose Earthquakes. It transpired that Piatti was suffering from tendinitis in his left knee and required surgery, ruling him out for the rest of the season. He managed to notch four goals in his six appearances and could be crucial to the Impact in his 2015 return.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 10th

Unfortunately for Montreal, other teams are attracting big name players and building some formidable squads. Despite some shrewd offseason business, their squad simply doesn’t have the quality, nor strength in depth to be able to compete for a playoff position. It’s a harsh reality, but anything other than last place would probably be seen as a success this year.

How will Montreal Impact fare in 2015?

MLS 2015 Season Preview: LA Galaxy

As the new season draws ever closer we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what the LA Galaxy will be looking to achieve this year.

LA Galaxy head into the 2015 season off the back of one of the most memorable campaigns in the history of the club. They won a record fifth MLS Cup title and said goodbye to the legendary Landon Donovan following his retirement. The Galaxy must ensure that Donovan’s retirement doesn’t have a negative impact on their performances on the pitch. Deciding how they will set-up in order to get the best out of the team once new signing Steven Gerrard joins in July will be crucial. The aim for 2015 will be to achieve at least the same again in terms of honours.

Last season’s finish: Western Conference position: 2nd – P34 – W17 – D10 – L7

Embed from Getty Images

What needs to change this year?

It’s not so much a case of what needs to change for LA Galaxy, but more how they can set about continuing from where they left off.  The 2014 season saw them lose just seven regular season games – the least out of any MLS team. Three of those defeats came in the opening eight fixtures, so a better start this time around will ensure they can be the early pacesetters.  The only disappointment from last year will be that they failed to win the Supporters’ Shield, so that will be one of their targets for 2015.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Steven Gerrard – Midfielder (Designated Player)

Outs: Landon Donovan – Midfielder/Forward, Marcelo Sarvas – Midfielder, Rob Friend – Forward

Key player: Robbie KeaneForward

Embed from Getty Images

Robbie Keane‘s contribution throughout the 2014 season was astonishing. He is the captain, a leader of men and possesses bags of experience. He will have achieved hero status after his performance last year, including the famous MLS Cup Final winning goal. He will need to continue to take responsibility and guide his team along the way.

One to watch: Gyasi ZardesForward

The 23-year-old is an exciting prospect. Gyasi Zardes was very much the unsung hero last season, due to the attention given to Landon Donovan’s farewell season and Robbie Keane’s superb efforts. He scored 16 goals in the regular season campaign and is growing in quality with every second he spends on the pitch. The recent inclusion in the USMNT will only give him further confidence to act as a springboard for 2015.

Predicted finish: Western Conference – 1st

Competition is going to be even higher in the Western Conference this season, but LA Galaxy still boast one of the strongest squads in Major League Soccer. They’re certainly one of the strong favourites for the Supporters’ Shield and will also expect to retain their MLS Cup title.

How will LA Galaxy fare in 2015?

MLS 2015 Season Preview: Houston Dynamo

As the new season draws ever closer we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what the Houston Dynamo will be looking to achieve this year.

Houston Dynamo goes into the 2015 season with a new manager in Owen Coyle and a lot of room for improvement. Following the departure of Dominic Kinnear, the Dynamo have signalled their intent that they need to do better. Houston is a team in transition but they have failed to impress in recent times and need to try and bounce back this year. They will be looking to make their mark in the Western Conference following their move from the East to make room for the new expansion franchises.

Last season’s finish: Eastern Conference position: 8th – P34 – W11 – D6 – L17

Embed from Getty Images

What needs to change this year? 

They need more points. For a team that boasts some highly talented players in DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Davis to name a couple, they need to be performing better. Owen Coyle will bring a British philosophy to this Houston side. And so they should hopefully be a lot better defensively this season and with it, increase their points output.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Erick Torres – Forward (Designated Player), Raul Rodriguez – Defender, Joe Willis – Goalkeeper.

Outs: Mark Sherrod – Striker, Andrew Driver – Midfielder, Tally Hall – Goalkeeper.

Key player: Brad Davis – Midfielder

Embed from Getty Images

Brad Davis is now the longest-serving player to stay with one club in MLS and he plays with pride every time he pulls on the orange of Houston and is a great leader for his side. Expect him to lead them again this season, while his threat from set-pieces is a great asset to the Dynamo. Davis is key to their season.

One to watch: Erick Torres – Forward

It may seem a controversial choice as Erick Torres is not expected to join up until June. However, expect him to have a huge impact on the productivity of this Houston attack. Torres scored 15 goals last term for a Chivas USA side that were below average. He is a natural goalscorer and great signing for the Dynamo. He will need to earn his Designated Player tag as soon as he rejoins MLS with the Dynamo.

Predicted finish: Western Conference – 8th

We’re not expecting miracles at the BBVA Compass Stadium this season and so a modest eighth-placed finish will be a good building block for a side that should be pushing for the playoffs the following year.

How do you think the Houston Dynamo will fare in 2015?