EDITOR'S NOTE: It's the New Year and every MLS team has a clean slate in 2020. J. Sam Jones put together his New Year wish list for every MLS team.
Atlanta United: For gezelligheid
What does Frank de Boer have in store in his second year in Atlanta?
Gezelligheid is a Dutch word that roughly translates to a general feeling of well-being while among loved ones. Atlanta and Frank de Boer would love to have this after a season that saw players going out of their way to dismiss the culture and tactics created by the first-year manager.
As the Five Stripes go through a period of transition focused largely around finding personnel that will better fit de Boer’s vision for the team and exchanging the ones that didn’t, Atlanta’s fans will be hoping that the new pieces jell quickly with pieces that remain. A drama-free season won’t mean that this team will certainly meet the fanbase’s overwhelming expectations, but it will help ease some tension.
Chicago Fire FC: For this house to be a home
Ok, so you just moved in and the first thing you do is repaint your room and it’s definitely different and your friends don’t love it, but you like it and you think that in time it will grow on them. Oh, and also your room right now is lacking basic necessities like a dresser, a mirror and a Designated Player, but to be fair you did just get some cool, new Swedish furniture and you think that might be the key to really tying the room together.
Oh, and also you have a roommate that’s lived there for a long time. Lots of people come to visit your roommate, but you’re hoping that maybe now that you live there too, those people may come to visit you too. Even if that’s because they thought the other roommate was home at the time it still counts right?
Columbus Crew SC: For those HalcyAkron days
Darlington Nagbe and Caleb Porter are back together in Ohio. Ten years ago they won a national title together. Will the pairing have enough juice left in it for Columbus to make it back to the playoffs? Wait, no, I meant to say will it have enough Zip to it. For the whole Akron bit. Can we go back to the? No? Ok, moving on...
D.C. United: For the Ewing Theory to be extremely true
Bill Simmons’ famous Ewing Theory posited that the New York Knicks actually played better without Patrick Ewing due to the team playing as a more cohesive unit after being unburdened by the weight of making sure their superstar received the ball as much as possible. If Simmons was correct about the Knicks, then the theory could apply to other situations as well.
However, while it might work in some situations for basketball, the theory has, in my view, never once worked for soccer in any scenario I can think of ever. What does this mean for a team that just lost Wayne Rooney and Lucho Acosta? It means they need to either sign Patrick Ewing and bench him or they really, really need to have more than 18 players under contract for 2020 and a couple of them need to be really, really good. Godspeed.
FC Cincinnati: For everything to hurt less
There’s a pretty clear ethos to Cincy’s offseason moves. They’ve made a bold statement by saying “We would like to not give up an MLS record 75 goals again this year.” You have to applaud them for it.
The Orange and Blue brought in three new defensive pieces, including potential starting center back Tom Pettersson from Sweden. They also added Haris Medunjanin to facilitate their midfield, which should at the very least mean Ron Jans’ side can keep possession more consistently. And if the other team doesn’t have the ball, they can’t score, right? Someone tell them they’re right, they really need some good news.
Inter Miami: For loud noises
If you’ve got David Beckham involved, if you’re going to wear neon pink, if you’re going to promise star power, if you’re going to capture the attention of Miami, you better put on a dang show. Every game needs to be 6-5. Play without a 'keeper. Keep attempting to throw a second ball onto the field and then complain MLS is being held back by not allowing progressive, multi-ball soccer. Fire the starting lineup out of a cannon and into a net at the center of the field. Be everything you could hope for from a Miami team and worry about results later. America needs this. I need this.
Montreal Impact: For no Thierry Ennui
You’ve got our attention, Montreal. Don’t get complacent.
New England Revolution: For evolution, not Revolution
The Rev renaissance under Bruce Arena was one of the best stories of 2019. A team that started 2W-8L-2D made the playoffs. That’s kind of absurd even under an expanded format. The last half of the decade wasn’t kind to New England, but if they can continue to build on 2019 and be less...themselves, the first half of the 20’s might be bright.
New York City FC: For a home run hire
NYCFC are on their third manager in as many years. Dome Torrent put everything together until it was all derailed by a couple of tremendously irresponsible goals gifted to Toronto. Can the next person in charge get them over the hill?
Oh, and also the whole stadium thing.
New York Red Bulls: For Brian White Fill Ups (on goals)
Ex-Duke University forward Brian White in action for the New York Red Bulls | USA Today Sports Images
Daniel Royer led the way for RBNY in 2019 with 11 goals, but Brian White, who went to Duke, wasn’t far behind. White bagged nine goals in just 17 starts as the Red Bulls began to accept life without Bradley Wright-Phillips putting the ball in the net 20 times a year.
They’d love for Brian White, a Duke graduate, to continue to fill the void left behind by BWP. It’s a brave new world with Wright-Phillips and Luis Robles gone from Red Bull Arena, and the Red Bulls will be relying on their young talent like White, Tom Barlow, Kyle Duncan and Rece Buckmaster to become the team’s new stars and why are you looking at me like that. These are all real names of real people.
Orlando City SC: For the new coach to finally turn things around
The latest man in charge in Orlando is Oscar Pareja. He had a pretty good record in Dallas and he knows MLS as well as any manager. If he can't get it done ...
Philadelphia Union: For a new MedunjUnion
Ilsinho on the ball will be a good thing for the Union in 2020 | USA Today Sports Images
A very good team from last year lost a key figure in Haris Medunjanin. It’s possible new signing Jose Andres Martinez might be the replacement. It’s also unclear if Jamiro Monteiro, on loan from Metz, will return. They’ll need big things from a revamped midfield to match the highs of last season.
Or they could just give the ball to Ilsinho more. Please give the ball to Ilsinho more. Make the entire team out of Ilsinho actually. Why are we wasting time on other non-Ilsinho players? Ilsinho. (I know he fell off at the end last year let me have this.)
Toronto FC: For Toronto voodoo magic to continue to thrive
This team definitely made MLS Cup last year. Were they outplayed for a large majority of the playoffs? Yes. Did any of it matter? No, not at all. Am I bitterly writing this from Atlanta? Of course. They know how to be there at the end and their reign over the east will go as long as the magic does.
Colorado Rapids: For no one to get the plague
That’s all you can really ask for, right? The soccer team might be fun, too. They were only a few points away from the playoffs last year and have new leadership in Robin Fraser. But also. Don’t get the plague.
FC Dallas: For the kids to be more than alright
FC Dallas had the second-most minutes from academy products of any team. That team made the playoffs and took the eventual champions to the wire. There’s pretty much nowhere to go but up and a wish for the young roster to improve on what it did last year feels less like a wish and more like a sure thing.
Houston Dynamo: For Tab Cola
Darwin Quintero is in town to make the Dynamo entertaining | USA Today Sports Images
If Ramos can inject some life into Quintero and get Alberth Elis and company at their frenetic and dynamic best, then this team can at least be fun. Did everyone get what I did with the Tab Cola thing?
LA Galaxy: For everyone to believe them
Look y’all, it’s really going to be fine. Sure they lost some players who may or may not have been carrying the team and the fan base on their back. Everything will be fine though. Please believe this. What do you mean they gave up 59 goals? Oh man, they did didn’t they? Well, defense has always been more of like...a construct anyway. Please, please, please look at these Cristian Pavon highlights.
LAFC: For all these tournaments to stop being so tournament-y
Every LAFC fan has always believed in their heart that the Supporters’ Shield is the only true trophy in soccer.
Minnesota United: For Designated Players to be more...designated?
Darwin Quintero is gone to Houston after only scoring five goals over the last five months of the season and being relegated to the bench for the team’s first home playoff game. Angelo Rodriguez is still a Loon for now despite an even worse 2019. Minnesota’s steady climb from the cellar to a solid playoff team is one of the best stories of the last few years, but a DP worth being designated might push them into the league’s elite clubs.
Nashville SC: For noise-canceling headphones
Very important for sleeping on cross-country flights.
Portland Timbers: For anyone but Seattle
Time will tell if the Portland Timbers can bounce back in 2020, but getting Diego Valeri back is a good start.
What are Portland gonna do about it? Well, Diego Valeri is back after some uncertainty over his future. That’s not a bad start. Steve Clark is back, too, which could be huge depending on what Jeff Attinella has to say about it. But they still need to find a consistent goal-scorer. Brian Fernandez wasn’t the guy to do it and relying solely on Jeremy Ebobisse probably isn’t the answer.
Signing Diego Chara’s brother, Yimmi, might at least help stretch the field a little, but he historically hasn’t exactly been a poacher. Watching Seattle lift MLS Cup at the end of the year surely irks at everyone in Stumptown, but a path to knocking them off their perch isn’t readily apparent for a team that truly struggled down the stretch.
Real Salt Lake: For a new toy for the kids
RSL academy products played 12,265 minutes in 2019, the most of any team in MLS. RSL finished third in the west. That’s unreal. Freddy Juarez has the reigns now and will be tasked with continuing to build on an impressive 2019 made impressive in large part by his course corrections. That job could be a lot easier if RSL grabs an attacking player.
Like most things, Matt Doyle said it better than me.
“Beyond that, the true issue for RSL is that they're just a collection of good-to-very good players. Other than Herrera I'm not sure they have a single "he's a top five guy in the entire league at his spot" player on the entire roster.
Will they go out and get an attacker like that? It'd help. A lot.”
San Jose Earthquakes: For the same thing but better
In 2019 the Quakes were ahem FUN. AS. HELL.
Just do that again. But, ya know, win more games. They just missed out on the playoffs last year and in a single-elimination format, anything could happen with this team. Another year under Matias Almeyda and Matias Almeyda’s incredible hair should be enough to get them there. The biggest question is if they have enough steam to make it through another full season of essentially playing man-to-man defense. The Quakes went 2W-9L-1D over the last 12 games last year.
Seattle Sounders: For the playoff format to stay the same until Brian Schmetzer retires
Brian Schmetzer (left) and the Sounders have taken to the new single-elimination playoff format just fine.
There’s no coach I’d rather have than Schmetzer in a single-elimination format. Advancing in these things is largely about limiting your own mistakes more than forcing them from your opponent. Schmetzer’s Sounders are the undisputed kings of this. They’ll probably win every MLS Cup for the next 15 years and we just have to accept it.
Sporting Kansas City: For not that again
Come on, it can’t be that again.