Monday Postgame: New year, new hope for nine MLS teams
There are surely those among us — maybe Tony Robbins, or José Mourinho — who maintain a year-round standard of excellence and thus have no need for New Year’s resolutions. But for the less gifted majority, the end of the year is a time for drawing up lists of commitments and improvements we hope to make in the New Year.
It’s the same for Major League Soccer teams — especially the ones that failed to make the playoffs the previous year. They’ll be looking ahead to new beginnings as December turns to January. Here’s the Monday Postgame’s guesses at some of the Monday resolutions for 2013 being drawn up in the front offices of teams that missed the 2012 postseason.
Resolution(s): To rejuvenate the club’s culture, starting by cutting down on goals conceded. The Reds coughed up a league-highest 62 in 2012.
Groundwork: Acquired experienced center back Danny Califf with the first pick in Stage 2 of the 2012 Re-Entry Draft, and landed former US youth international defender Gale Agbossoumonde via weighted lottery. Irish international Darren O’Dea, 25, who signed with the club in August 2012, is also in the fold.
Prognosis: How the well-traveled 21-year-old Agbossoumonde will pan out is anyone’s guess, but these three should produce a healthy competition for TFC’s starting center back spots.
Resolution(s): To paraphrase their new coach, the English language doesn’t have enough verbs for what needs to be done at Chivas USA. They netted a paltry 24 goals last year — three fewer than San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski scored — while giving up 58, second highest total in the league. So yeah: The Goats have problems.
Groundwork: Uh, they hired fiery Mexican coach José Luis Sánchez Solá (b/k/a Chelís) and Dutch sporting director Dennis te Kloese, who has years of experience in North American soccer, including a stint working alongside countryman Hans Westerhof — one of the least successful managers in MLS history. Can’t wait to see what te Kloese and Chelís (right) make of the SuperDraft on Jan 17.
Resolution(s): To deliver a product worthy of their passionate fanbase.
Groundwork: Hired ex-University of Akron coach Caleb Porter, who they hope can coax more consistent brilliance out of midfielder Darlington Nagbe, a former Akron star. Acquired steady midfielder Will Johnson from Real Salt Lake and Jamaican international striker Ryan Johnson from Toronto FC.
Prognosis: They don’t have to win MLS Cup, but they do have to contend for the playoffs. They’ll need defensive help in the wake of center back Eric Brunner’s departure, but there’s cause for optimism in Portland.
New England Revolution
Resolution(s): To finalize plans for their own soccer-specific stadium, and, on the field, to at least not backslide from Jay Heaps’ mediocre first season in charge.
Groundwork: The Revs traded 2010 World Cup veteran Benny Feilhaber and brought in defensive midfielder Kalifa Cissé and former Rev Andy Dorman, among many other changes. The Kraft Group narrowed potential stadium locations down to Somerville and Revere, both within 10 miles of downtown Boston and accessible by mass transit. Then South Coast cities Freetown and Fall River threw their hats in the ring. They’re both long shots.
Prognosis: On the field, it could be a long season for New England. As for their SSS, the Revs were targeting 2015 to be up and running, but said if they hadn’t settled on a site as 2012 turned into 2013, then the target date would be pushed back to 2016.
Resolution(s): Restore a more perfect Union, reestablish tranquility, insure stability, and provide for the club defense….
Groundwork: Installed John Hackworth as coach, helping to settle the dust after the odd personnel decisions and messy divorce that marred the Peter Nowak era. Reacquired Sébastien Le Toux, who led the club in scoring in 2010 and ’11, added solid center back — and local product — Jeff Parke. Also snagged Conor Casey (right).
Prognosis: Surprisingly good. The Union took a huge step backward in 2012 after making the playoffs in ’11. But they corrected many things under Hackworth. They still need to figure out what to do with Freddy Adu and his gigantic salary, though.
Resolution(s): Recommit to coach Oscar Pareja’s 4-3-3.
Groundwork: Acquired former US international Edson Buddle to play up top. Incorporated 2012 acquisitions Martín Rivero and Hendry Thomas into the midfield alongside Jeff Larentowicz.
Prognosis: 50-50. Any team that offloads Casey and Omar Cummings in one offseason has some significant rebuilding to do. The Rapids also need to improve their defense, which leaked 50 goals in 2012.
Resolution(s): To get — and stay — healthy in 2013.
Groundwork: Acquired former New York defender Stephen Keel and Brazilian striker Pipico to bring more depth to Big D.
Prognosis: Midfielder and 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira — the straw that stirs FCD’s drink — is 33 and he’s suffered two significant injuries since April 2011. Central defenders Ugo Ihemelu and George John both struggled with the injury bug in 2012, and Brek Shea battled both injury and attitude woes all year. And yet Dallas nearly made the playoffs. It would be unwise to bet against coach Schellas Hyndman to pull his group back together in 2013.
Resolution(s): To hire a coach.
Groundwork: No word yet after the somewhat surprising departure of Jesse Marsch (right), who kept the expansion Impact in the playoff conversation through the summer, leading them on a 6-1-0 run from July 18 to Aug 25.
Prognosis: The new coach will have to implement a new system with a bunch of players unfamiliar to him, and he’ll have eight weeks at most before the Impact’s opener on March 2.
Resolution(s): To rebuild their backline.
Groundwork: The Crew parted ways with defenders Sebastián Miranda, Julius James, and Carlos Mendes (as well as Rich Balchan and Nemanja Vukovic). They’ve yet to replace them at this point in the offseason.
Prognosis: Given their recent track record, we’d bet Columbus land the right defensive parts to complement their sparkling O, led by smash-hit 2012 signings Federico Higuaín (the Newcomer of the Year) and Jairo Arrieta, along with Crew vet Eddie Gaven.