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Monday Morning Center Back: Who isn’t ready for the MLS season?

Good morning everybody. Hope you enjoyed your Easter weekend, though I’m sure Arsenal and Liverpool fans were probably not in the most festive mood.

We will get back to European soccer later today. For now, I want to point out that the lengthy MLS off-season is almost over and we are just a few days away from the start of the 2008 MLS season. The lack of pre-season buzz throughout the league means there isn’t much of a build-up to the weekend’s coming games, which is disappointing because there are so many story lines that the league could be promoting to boost the opening weekend’s appeal.

Perhaps more disappointing than the lack of buzz heading into week one of the MLS season is the fact that so many teams appear, at least on the surface, to still be lacking several pieces heading into the new year. This no doubt due to the league’s track record of allowing teams to overcome poor starts to the season. Having eight out of 12 or 13 teams make the playoffs has long meant that a team could pretty much tank the first month or so and still make a late run to the playoffs.

Will this be the case now that the league is up to 14 teams, meaning six squads won’t make the post-season? Several teams are hoping so.

So who isn’t quite ready for prime-time with the season just a few days away? Here are some prime candidates:


When a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs loses more useful players than it brings in you have to be concerned. The Red Bulls have added just one veteran player, Colombian striker Oscar Echeverry, and his deal hasn’t even been officially announced yet. The club still doesn’t have the playmaker, left winger and left-sided defender its own coach made clear it needs.

It may be a bit early to panic but the fact that the club’s first-team players failed to score a goal in any of the three games of the recent Carolina Challenge Cup is a cause for concern.


TFC fans have to be going crazy at the thought that a team that was so putrid in 2007 has yet to sign a single impact player, and has actually traded away one of the few players who could be considered a quality contributor  in Ronnie O’Brien.

So why isn’t Mo Johnston in panic mode? He realizes that his team suffered a bunch of key injuries last year, he knows he just had a monster draft and he also knows the club has a bunch of salary cap space to go find the playmaker the team needs. If Toronto succeeds in landing former MLS MVP Amado Guevara, things will suddenly look bright. If TFC doesn’t land Guevara, or some other impact playmaker, there will be trouble in Canada.


The Crew showed some good potential down the stretch of the 2007 season, with Argentine star Guillermo Barros Schelotto working his magic and some of the team’s young talents showing signs of blossoming. The good vibes heading into the off-season faded over time as it became clear that the club would not land an impact player in the off-season. There were the public flirtations with Maciej Zurawski, who spurned Columbus for Greece, but not much else to show for the long winter.

Is there reason to panic? Not completely. The addition of Nicolas Hernandez could provide a good spark although there is plenty of reason to doubt whether he can carry the goal-scoring burden. Crew management claimed it was ready to go big on the transfer market. We are still waiting.

These are far from the only teams who have unanswered questions heading into the season but just a few of the squads with major unresolved issues going into the new campaign. Will the delay in addressing these issues cost them the playoffs? We will find out in the fall.

What do you think about these teams off-seasons? If you are a fan of one of the above teams how worried are you about the lack of activity? Do you think your team will be fine? Is disaster approaching? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Sorry guys, but the crew need to move the team or something, their lack of fans and passion are just not what the MLS needs. Sorry crew-but you are the weakest link! MLS needs to cut the dead weight and move the team to hhhmmm maybe —> Montreal

  2. Tom- Team MedioCREWcy may battle for a playoff spot, but wont amount to anything… and their fan may want to get his season ticket refunded

  3. Eugene- then you failed in reading comprehension in school… i didnt say they were going to be good nor that they would be bad…

    i simply said i havent heard from or seen a RSL fan… therefore noone can boast about how many changes they’ve seen this offseason

  4. Crew is one finisher away from a great season. Gaven and Rogers have good chemistry and worked hard in the off season and Guille is back which is all good. I think this could be a decent year.

  5. I was disagreeing with you! I think RSL are going to be good this year and that their many changes have actually been very positive for the team

  6. Actually I disagree. I think RSL will be significantly better this year and will likely make the playoffs without a problem. They’ve got a great young team with up-and-coming talent for MLS.

    For the Eastern conference, I think DC, NE and Chicago did well for themselves in the off-season. We’ll have to see about the Wizards considering they replaced veteran defenders with rookies. Columbus and NY haven’t done much and Toronto is still a work in progress.

    For the Western conference, RSL and Colorado did well for themselves in the off-season. Dallas got stronger in defense while Houston got some reinforcements and will give their younger players more minutes. Chivas USA may have gotten stronger, but will likely pick up from where they left off last year. LA is a mess and San Jose will start off with a stingy defense.

    I’m excited! Just not for NY.

  7. Coach- the difference between this topic and the Olympic topic is that it was a running commentary topic…. many many many posters posted multiple times…. here, once you voice your opinion on the topic you can only sit back and disagree… but my question is, what has anyone said thats up to disagree??

    someone mentioned lack of depth in houston… a couple of us responded and disagreed… outside that, everyone has expressed how their team really hasnt done much to change (excluding DC fans)… and while i have yet to ever meet or even chat to a RSL fan (as i feel they truely dont exist) noone can boast about their many changes over the course of a year…

  8. Ives,

    What have you heard about the supposed interest of Metro in 22yo Venazeulan #10 Ronald Vargas, imo he looks better than anything Metro have at the playmaker role, does this rumor hold weight?

  9. Not only was the off-season uneventful for the Red Bulls, but the team also managed to waive Santino Quaranta and Randi Patterson.

    Who? Within months Quaranta got back into shape, tried out for and successfully got back in DC United. What compensation did Red Bull get? Zero. Could have used that striker/winger Juan Carlos! Randi Patterson was waived in February without ever having played for the first team. Within a month Patterson got capped by Trinidad & Tobago and scored twice against Toronto FC in Charleston. What compensation did Red Bull get? Zero. Could have kept developing that player Juan Carlos!

    Oh but NY did pick up four newbies with zero league experience for our developmental roster. Makes sense. Toss out the guys you’ve been working on and start from scratch.

  10. It seems like the national media isn’t ready for the MLS season either. I realize college basketball and baseball will dominate coverage at this time of year but it would be nice to see some minimal season previews on ESPN, in Sports Illustrated, etc. Correct me if I’m wrong but casual fans probably have no idea that the season is starting. Like everyone else on here, I have to make an effort to find MLS coverage (and soccer coverage in general) unlike, for instance, the NBA which I only marginally follow but I still have a pretty good idea about what’s going on. While I get excited about the start of a new season (especially because it looks like Arsenal have thrown the Prem title away), it’s also somewhat depressing to truly see in such stark terms soccer’s inferior status on the American sports landscape.

  11. It seems like the national media isn’t ready for the MLS season either. I realize college basketball and baseball will dominate coverage at this time of year but it would be nice to see some minimal season previews on ESPN, in Sports Illustrated, etc. Correct me if I’m wrong but casual fans probably have no idea that the season is starting. Like everyone else on here, I have to make an effort to find MLS coverage (and soccer coverage in general) unlike, for instance, the NBA which I only marginally follow but I still have a pretty good idea about what’s going on. While I get excited about the start of a new season (especially because it looks like Arsenal have thrown the Prem title away), it’s also somewhat depressing to truly see in such stark terms soccer’s inferior status on the American sports landscape.

  12. Coach – Its hard to get pumped when the teams i enjoy to watch the most (NE, NJRB, TFC), really havent done much in the offseason to grab my attention. I’m afraid until the CBA comes through the majority of offseasons are gonna be like that.

    When teams have cash to flash there will be more hype with the offseason/season opener.

    Thats how it is for me anyway

  13. I gotta say its nice to see so many other supporters as worried as i am (or we are in the Toronto Camp). Really our wings and playmaking is handsdown our weakest point and as a result our scoring will suffer until we sign somebody (or several somebodies). Until then you can guarantee that we are all frantic up north. God I hope we destroy Columbus on Saturday, otherwise itll be a long ride home (especially for me as i despise Columbus).

  14. Who isn’t ready for the MLS season? The fans (or lack thereof).

    Let’s see: 100+ comments on a meaningless Olympic qualifier, 90 on the roster for a meaningless friendly, 30-something on MLS.

    Not hating on the US Nats; I’m a supporter and been on my share of road trips, etc. Just saying there’s something wrong somewhere if there’s that much of a disparity between interest in the national teams vs the national league.

    More on topic: without reinforcements, RBNY look shaky and will miss Dane early in the season when his speed would have been more likely to catch people off guard again.

  15. Ives-

    How did the Red Bulls let a prime left footed, left back like Palguta slip through their fingers? All I heard was how great of a trial he had, they dragged him along for 2 months, trained his butt off, and then just let him return to Rochester. What’s up with that?

  16. RK, I’m not a fan of either Houston or DC, but to suggest that their lack of depth may allow Cbus to make the playoffs at the expense of one of them is laughable. Packed schedules might prevent them from finishing first in their conferences, not making the playoffs.

    As a Red Bull fan, I’m kind of depressed because there’s nothing particularly exciting about the start of the season. I feel like our season won’t really begin until we’re a month in and JCO decides to finally sign some players.

  17. I’m not exactly comfortable sitting here in Dallas, either. So what bothers me? Lets see…moving to a three man back line where all three starters have yet to play together (much), no proven goal scorer (love KCjr, but so far all he has is a great rookie season, a broken leg last year, and a lot of “potential”), and about 20 midfielders (and most of them are of the defensive/holding/linking type) on a 28 man roster.

    I think Peter’s article on 3rd Degree this morning just about sums it up:

  18. OZ, what exactly am I sugar-coating with regards to Mo Johnston? I did include Toronto in this list, didn’t I? And I happen to think Toronto has compiled a nice collection of talent and are just one or two key positions away from being a threat. That’s my opinion, you’re entitled to your own, just don’t tell me I’m sugar-coating something because I don’t agree with you.

  19. Ives, how much responsibility does Jeff Agoos shoulder in any potential signings / lack thereof, or is it entirely on JCO?

  20. I’d have to add LA to the above list. Added Ruiz but have done little to shore up the defense and are counting on unproven rookies to fill a few holes left in the starting lineup. Guys like Tudela and Randolph exceeded expectations last year and aren’t yet fully proven. Klein and Xavier are aging. Cronin may be good, but doubtfully as good as Cannon. Guys like Allen, Jordan, and Gordon are good for depth but unlikely to be good starters this year. Martino and Gray may have been overpaid, but they need to be replaced. LA is still 2-3 players away from being competitive and that’s barring any injuries.

  21. RK- see i disagree about Houston having lack of depth….

    they had Superliga, Champions, and Gold cup to deal with last season… they had players step up then… outside of Jaqua and ngwenya, houston hasnt truely changed that much… plus with this 21yr old import, they could be looking to 3 peat

    i dont know much about DC’s bench… i know they had to clear out some space for the imports they brought in this season… along with the new keeper, i dunno how they’ll be able to cope with the busy season….

  22. I’ve been saying that I’m not too worried about this year, as a NYRB fan, but I’ve got to say seeing them in the Carolina Cup (preseason, I know) and seeing DC and Houston in their preseason tournaments was a bit unsettling. Not waiting for big signings, etc., but looking at the general drive, heart, whatever that these different teams are bringing to the field. Regardless of competition. RBNY should have made it a goal to SPANK the competition, jus cuz. They did not. Sure JCO, sign some hot shots, but make sure the team has an identity too…I know, it’s early, but it’s early for DC and Houston, and they look ready for the season, and also have work to do…

  23. Your better clubs — Houston, DC — are going to suffer from packed schedules and lack of depth. This could allow a team like Columbus to sneak in — Schelotto was an outside MVP candidate last year, after all.

  24. Ives,

    Why must you always sugar coat things when it comes to Mo Johnston? I realize he is one of your contacts, but call a spade a spade man.

  25. According to a report in the Venezuelan press, Giovanni Red Bull manager Juan Carlos Osorio has been in Caracas, Venezuela to look at Ronald Vargas a 22 year old midfielder/forward who currently plays his club football for for Caracas FC. Vargas has been highly recommended by former NY/NJ MetroStarsSavarese. Vargas recently scored a goal against Argentine club San Lorenzo in the Copa Libertadores……………………………………………anyone know anything more about this kid?

  26. KingSnake- sadly i wouldnt be surprised if it happened…. Houston has some wicked chemistry…. personally this is my choice for “team to beat” in the MLS… while DC seems to be adding loads of talent, the question of actual team chemistry comes into play

  27. the Fire are up in the air with success this season… i dont expect anything stellar, but anything is possible…

    we bulk up the attack with Herron and Frankowski… Herron has established himself as a goal scorer for the fire before, and Frankowski is also a proven goal scorer… but with a not so stellar season with the Crew and lack-luster season recently in europe, one must ask themselves if they’ll actually add anything to the attack… as i said, it could go either way

    the Midfield has no new faces, just experienced average to above average players with Blanco in the middle… the best part about the midfield is they all have experience some way or the other in this league…

    the defense isnt new either… however, with Conde showing he wants to go to NY i hope he actually keeps his performance high… as he only has 1 year left, another solid year could see an inc. in his pay when going to NY (assuming he would still plan to leave)…

    goalie is a spot thats also up in the air… i have confidence in Busch but hopefully they can go ahead and sign Cervi…

    as i said, the season can either go well or it can be stagnant again, fighting for a spot in the playoffs…. hope for the best, expect the worst -.-

  28. LA Galaxy

    Inexpirienced keepers (Cronin, Wicks), turtlespeed central defense (Xavier, Vanney), 3 Stars (Becks, Ruiz, Donovan), decent MLS players (Klein, Tudela), a bunch of good Rookies (Allen, Franklin, Valentin, Jordan) and not good enoughs (Roberts, Vagenas, Pires)

    What makes me optimistic appart the normal “new season is our season” thing is that all MLS teams have some problems, even Houston, DC.


    In preseason LA showed big improvments passing, playing, scoring wise compared to last year.

  29. AS a Fire fan it is my fervent desire to see the fears of RBNY fans come true in spades, and to hear tirades from them about JCO and his failure to swipe Conde or Marmol from Chicago.

    That said, I have my own doubts about the season, though I’d like to predict months of creative attacking soccer that puts ticks in the win column. Our ‘keeper situation is disconcerting (still haven’t signed Cervi!), as is the ongoing Marmol affair and Conde’s open dissent during the off-season. Who can say if Mapp and Rolfe will stay healthy, how Frankowski will settle in, if Barrett will finally learn how to hit the side of a barn? Who can predict anything about Blanco? *Sigh*

  30. I hope you’re right gimmi.

    I think the Crew gave up more than they received in the off-season, but I’m hoping the younger guys step up big-time. Robbie Rogers in particular.

  31. The biggest signing for the Red Bulls was Osorio and he seems to be pretty good at taking an underperforming team with a talented roster to a higher level (e.g. Chicago). Red Bulls still have a lot of talent though they are still suspect in the back line and at goal.

  32. As a Red Bull fan, I think it’s funny that everyone who was complaining about the lack of signings was told to stop panicking and shut up. Well, here we are, less than a week from the start of the season (less than two for New York), and the Red Bulls are probably the least prepared team in the league for their opening match. For an off-season that started so well with the hiring of Juan Carlos Osorio, NOTHING has happened in terms of personnel moves. Except for salary cap exile.

    Red Bull fans should truly be outraged. Other than the league’s best strike tandem, there’s little to be excited about. And why even get excited about that? It’ll be difficult for Angel and Altidore to get the ball in a position to create chances.

    Just as disconcerting is the lack of depth which is a function of not signing any new players. Now, most MLS teams lack depth, but if the Red Bulls pick up another key injury (Richards already out, maybe Hunter Freeman as well), they could be in serious trouble…and by trouble I mean in danger of finishing dead last in the combined playoff table.

    I’m the kind of person who tends to be optimistic going into a new season. It’s very hard to stay in that frame of mind when you look at what this team has failed to accomplish in the off-season. Maybe Osorio is comfortable with what he has, but he’ll have to wave his magic coach’s wand to get the most out of these players and convince me (and plenty of other RBNY fans) that there’s enough talent in this roster to be competitive this year.

  33. The Revs will be going into the season with 2 empty senior roster spots yet again. I know 9 starters are returning so there may not necessarily be concern starting the season, but there is definite reason for concern as the season progresses and Superliga, US Open Cup and hopefully Champions League seriously test the depth, or the lack thereof, for New England. In addition, the team will be counting on some new guys to really step up and fill some big shoes from the loss of Noonan, Dorman and John.

  34. There might be a gap between the haves and have nots this year (though I doubt it will be that much of a gap).

    But don’t go putting the Bulls and Galaxy in the haves category. I think that status is reserved for the same 4 as last year (Houston, Chivas, DC & New England).

    Ha! Take that Premiership, MLS has a big four too! When’s Super Sunday?

    Seriously though, thank goodness opening day is here!!!!!

  35. As a crew fan, it was good to see the warm up against Metapan. The youth movement appears to be finally paying some dividends. There was good ball movement and a lot of possession we didn’t see last year. The scoring opportunities were there, which is more to say than last year. The finishing is still off though. Nico was working both the final third and the top of the middle, he linked up very well with Moreno and the wings. GBS was not there and will be interesting to see GBS, Nico, Moreno and Rogers play this year. Gaven should also add to the field when he is back.

  36. I’m a Crew fan and am very worried that this season we will once again miss the playoffs. Our roster, I think, has gotten worse this off-season and I really don’t see us pulling any moves this year to be much better. Nevertheless, I’ll be making the two hour trek to Columbus on Saturday.

  37. Chicago also seems to me to be a team in transition (what with Conde wanting out and their indecision about exercising their discovery or not).

    San Jose is in worse shape I think right now than TFC was at the same time last year.

    And LAG–I agree with the poster earlier. They took the worst defense in MLS and subtracted Cannon, Albright and Babayaro didn’t work out too well.

  38. Even is Guevara turns up, the roster on TFC has still regressed. Sure, we made some nice pick ups int he draft but how many rookies can we expect to step in and contribute? There’s not many Edu’s to a Superdraft.

    We lost more than we gained, and for a last placed team that’s a bad prognonsis for the season ahead.

    I know NYRB didn’t do much, but to be fair they weren’t anywhere near as bad as the likes of TFC and Columbus. They have 2 DPs – and LA essentially has 3. I think there could be a huge gulf between the haves and have nots this season.

  39. I am an LA Galaxy fan and with the money that we are spending on Becks, Lando, and Ruiz I could have built a team that could make it to the quarter finals of the Libertadores.

    Becks is untouchable, but Lando and Ruiz should go and make room for two or three quality Yanks, and another two or three South American imports. We could easily land two or three game-breakers from Argentina (for example) that would make any Galaxy fan forget Lando and Pescadito.

    But sadly, we are ran by whores who know d**k about soccer and are more interested in the marketing aspect.

    Here’s to another painful year for the Galaxy!

    And having to watch Posh Spice’s phony reactions to David’s goals only makes it more painful for me.

  40. Columbus and Red Bulls in the same boat – waiting for that big signing. I cant even preview the season in fear (hope) that we sign players at the very last minute. Columbus fans must be feeling the same way.


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