The offseason is all but over, and the 2018 MLS campaign is upon is. Roster moves have been made, and all 23 clubs that will compete this year, including the new expansion side, are eager and excited to get the ball rolling.
Some with good reason. Some without.
The 2018 MLS season will kick off this weekend, and all the teams and their fans are heading into the year with that offseason twinkle in their eyes. Squads have been retooled and reconstructed, and right now everyone believes their side has what it takes to reach the playoffs.
The upcoming games will soon put an end to that. While some clubs will thrive and build confidence in the next few weeks and months, others will falter as the losses pile up. Not all rosters are made equal, and we will soon see who has the quality to move and who will be toiling in the basement.
Here is a look at the most hopeful and hopeless clubs ahead of the 2018 season:
Talk about a face lift.
Orlando City just about completely reshaped its group this winter, with head coach Jason Kreis opting to bring players that he believes suit his ideal way of playing. Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram, Uri Rosell, and Josue Colman have been added to the roster to complement the likes of Dom Dwyer and Yoshimar Yotun, and that combined with defensive reinforcements like Mohamed El-Munir and Lamine Sane have given the Lions a more talented starting lineup and overall depth.
It might sound crazy to say or read given the impressive trajectory of his career, but the departure of Kaka is also addition by subtraction given that Orlando City will have younger and fresher legs on the field that can better contribute to the overall collective effort. The Lions may not be MLS Cup contenders just yet, but they should make the playoffs for the first time in 2018.
Rather than live up to its big dreams for 2017, FC Dallas endured a big setback. The club, despite boasting much of the same talented squad that won two trophies the year prior, somehow failed to make the playoffs. A combination of factors played into that, of course, including the likes of Mauro Diaz and Cristian Colman not playing up to their potential on a consistent enough basis.
Lightning does not strike twice, however. Dallas has kept its group largely in tact because the club knows that the players are talented and deep enough to make the jump back into the upper echelon of the Western Conference. What’s more is that FC Dallas made some noteworthy signings this winter, adding quality via winger Santiago Mosquera and veteran defender Reto Zeigler to ensure that this talented bunch does not let another season go to waste.
The LA Galaxy are accustomed to being one of the top teams in the league. They were anything but that in 2017.
LA had an abysmal campaign last year, finishing almost unfathomably in last place in the league with an overall record of 8-18-8. A lack of overall quality hurt the club as did the attack’s inability to find the back of the net, even with the talented duo of Giovani dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini on the books.
To correct those issues, the Galaxy have brought in a proven goal-scorer in Ola Kamara that should finish off chances and open things up for other teammates. They have also added holding midfielder Perry Kitchen, veteran Venezuelan defender Rolf Feltscher, and goalkeeper David Bingham to try and address their issues at the back. It must also be said that LA will get a full season out of Jonathan dos Santos, who should be better adjusted to the league now with a campaign under his belt. This LA side might not be championship material, but it is talented enough to make it back into top half of the west.
It was abundantly clear last year, especially early on when goals were being stuffed down its throat, that Minnesota United needed help. Lots of help.
Well, that help has not come. Minnesota United has barely added players this offseason. A young Cameroonian defender has arguably been Minnesota’s biggest acquisition, and the roster that finished third-to-last in the Western Conference, with 70 goals against, remains largely the same. Christian Ramirez showed last year that he can be a piece to build around, but Minnesota has not built anything of worth around him.
A new head coach in Anthony Hudson may have been brought in, but the Rapids still have the makeup of a team that will try and grind out results with stout defensive performances. Colorado has done little to address its attacking deficiencies, unless of course you think the likes of Jack McBean and Caleb Calvert are going to raise the level of the club’s front line after mostly toiling in lower divisions for much of the past few years.
The Rapids’ roster lacks difference-makers, and the one player who gets paid to be that, goalkeeper Tim Howard, looks to be equal parts disinterested and badly out of form. Combine all this with the club’s lack of offensive punch and it looks like it will be another long and dull season in Colorado.
The draft-day acquisition of David Accam turned plenty of heads and the late acquisition of Borek Dockal has given them a needed upgrade at the No. 10 position. Still, the Union needed to add more than just two capable players. They haven’t.
Admittedly unable to keep up with the bigger spenders in the league, Philadelphia added very little to a squad that was very run of the mill in 2017. The starting lineup all of a sudden looks pretty solid on paper with the introduction of Accam and Dockal, but that is fool’s gold. The Union have no real depth, which is a necessity to successfully navigate the long MLS season, and the club’s starting back line is basically a ragtag bunch of complementary players. Philadelphia could improve slightly this year, but another playoff-less season seems to be in the cards.