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:
NEW YORK RED BULLS
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.