New year, new hopes, dreams and yes, wishes.
With 2018 finally here, we look at every MLS team and one wish for the year ahead.
Atlanta United: Sealing the Barco deal
How can Atlanta improve on what was a pretty impressive debut season? In part, by bringing in a precocious attacking midfielder with a Copa Sudamericana title under his belt in Ezequiel Barco, who would extend the Five Stripes' reputation as perhaps the best in the league at recruiting young prospects from South America. Will the rumors finally come to fruition?
Chicago Fire: A solution at goalkeeper
A total of three goalkeepers split time between the pipes for the Chicago Fire in 2017: Jorge Bava (8 matches), Matt Lampson (24 matches) and Richard Sanchez (2 matches). Who will be the starter in 2018? The question remains up in the air, and amidst rumors Spanish legend Iker Casillas could be in the mix, the priority for Chicago is to find their man and settle the question.
Colorado Rapids: A game-breaking forward
Expect a new-look Rapids side in 2018 under manager Anthony Hudson, and with a good defensive base in place, what this side has cried out for over the past several years is a forward who can score often and bend games to his will. Easier said than done, but that kind of player would transform the Rapids.
Columbus Crew SC: A USMNT starter
With the future of Crew SC still to be determined, what's for certain is that Zack Steffen enters 2018 with heightened expectations. After what we saw during the stretch run of 2017, there's no reason to believe Steffen can't also challenge for the No. 1 spot on what should be a new-look USMNT.
D.C. United: Open Audi Field in style
RFK Stadium was an institution for D.C. United and MLS overall, but moving into a brand-new soccer stadium inside the city limits in Audi Field should help the club kick off a long-awaited era in its history. Results have been mixed in recent years, but a good campaign and the excitement of the new stadium could make 2018 a true season to remember for one of the MLS originals.
FC Dallas: Mauro Diaz back to his best
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Fitness has always been a concern for the Dallas playmaker, but with more than a year passing since his torn Achilles, perhaps 2018 will be the year he'll get back to the form in 2015 and 2016 that saw him on the cusp of being in the MLS MVP discussion. And while 2017's struggles for FCD went beyond Diaz, it seems like a good rule of thumb to consider the team's fortunes very much in line with their best player's.
Houston Dynamo: The emergence of Tomas Martinez
We know what Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto can do, but what might mean the difference between a playoff contender or championship contender in Houston is whether Tomas Martinez can join the ranks of elite playmakers in MLS. Playing just under 1,000 minutes combined in the regular season and playoffs for the Dynamo, the 22-year-old posted two goals and an assist in 14 appearances, but perhaps more importantly, he went through the acclimation period mid-season and improved as he went, which should bode well for the future.
LAFC: Matching buzz in Atlanta
MLS has made leaps in recent years in large part due to the influence of new expansion teams setting new standards. Atlanta United did this in a big way in 2017, and while LAFC won't be able to compete with their attendance record due to a more intimate stadium setting in downtown LA, they'll aim to raise expectations across the board in just about every way.
LA Galaxy: A career year for Gio
The Galaxy are in the process of transforming their roster after a dismal 2017 season, but don't forget the mercurial talent that is already there: Giovani dos Santos. If Sigi Schmid and Co. can put the pieces around Gio to get a career year out of him, the team will be in far better shape in the standings, Mexico will be stronger for it at the World Cup in Russia and the player could finally find himself in the reckoning for MLS MVP.
Minnesota United: A productive international signing (or two)
The Loons promised a long-term vision when they entered MLS, and it is one that has not involved the signing of a Designated Player thus far. DP status or not, MNUFC can't afford to miss on their bigger money international signings as they did in 2017 if the club is going to make a true push for the MLS Cup Playoffs in their second season in the league.
Montreal Impact: Academy products bearing fruit
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Anthony Jackson-Hamel began to establish himself in 2017, and so did Canadian teenager Ballou Tabla, whose season was derailed in the second half by an unexpected request for a move that never materialized. The Impact have been relatively high volume in signing players from their academy, but its time for the production to match the faith shown. With Tabla and AJH leading the way, will the Impact academy become the envy of MLS?
New England Revolution: Brad Friedel, coaching sensation
Few talked about the US legend and former broadcaster as an MLS head coach despite his recent time with USA Under-19s. He is experienced and highly motivated to prove he can do the job with the Revs and he has as close to a blank slate as you can get with only 16 players under contract and Kei Kamara traded away.
NYCFC: Advancing to MLS Cup
David Villa has proven to be one of the greatest signings in league history during the last three years at NYCFC, but he won't be around forever. He's definitely back for at least one more year in 2018 and a trip to MLS Cup would cap a memorable run for the 2016 MVP. With Maxi Moralez and new signing Jesus Medina feeding the attack, they should be in better position than ever to make a run at their first trophy.
New York Red Bulls: It is Tyler Adams' team
Putting the team on the 18-year-old's broadening shoulders may seem like a huge leap, but with Sacha Kljestan reportedly set to move on and Adams showing his versatility in his first full season in MLS, he could be ready to show truly how ready he is to take over the midfield mantle for the Red Bulls.
Orlando City: A playoff berth
Believe it or not, but Orlando City's three-season streak of missing out on the playoffs is the longest in MLS right now. The passion is there in Orlando, but a season that's consistent wire-to-wire, capped off with a playoff ticket (and maybe beyond) is the overwhelming wish for the Lions right now.
Philadelphia Union: Finding the perfect No. 10
The club's been on an eternal quest for one, but Roland Alberg didn't work out and Ilsinho is not a 34-game player. Rumors have the Union in the market for an Argentine one, but whichever the country, they need one. In the new MLS you can't expect to go far with hard work alone.
Portland Timbers: Help for Diego Valeri
Fanendo Adi's absence due to injury in the final months of the 2017 season was not nearly as catastrophic as it should have been, as eventual MVP Diego Valeri seemed to do the work of two players to lift the Timbers to the top spot in the Western Conference. With the departure of Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks, new head coach Giovanni Savarese will be on a mission to find the help that Valeri needs.
Real Salt Lake: Sticking with youth
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RSL came this close to making the postseason in 2017 after a bad start, and the likes of Albert Rusnak, Justen Glad, Jefferson Savarino, Brooks Lennon, Danny Acosta, and Bofo Saucedo showed they were capable of hanging with anyone in the league. With a year's experience, they could be the young guns that every team fears when they see them on the schedule.
San Jose Earthquakes: A record-breaking season for Wondo
Chris Wondolowski sits 11 goals behind the MLS all-time regular season scoring mark of 145 set by Landon Donovan. Time will surely catch up with the 34-year-old Wondo at some point, but he's on a streak of eight straight seasons with at least 11 goals scored. If he continues the output, the record could be his in 2018.
Seattle Sounders: Jordan Morris returns to form
The Sounders nearly repeated as MLS Cup champions, in spite of Jordan Morris enduring an injury-marred year. Yes, he made his mark in the Gold Cup final, but three goals in 23 regular season games for the Sounders in 2017 is not even close to what was expected from him. 2018 will have to be a true bounce-back year for the Homegrown striker.
Sporting Kansas City: Goals
Sporting KC were a defensive juggernaut in 2017, but if they want to avoid the Knockout Round trap and win a playoff game in 2018 the real work needs to be done in the attack, where they finished fifth from bottom in scoring in the league. Dom Dwyer and Latif Blessing are gone, and Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi and Gerso showed promise, but not nearly enough consistency. Goals – whatever the source – have to be the priority in the new season.
Toronto FC: CONCACAF Champions League glory
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How do you build on the best season in MLS history? Immediately follow it up with a run at the elusive continental prize. We all know the track record of MLS teams is mixed at best when it comes to the knockout stage of the CCL, but Toronto can continue to write history if they can become the first MLS team to win it all under the current format.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC: A goal-scoring forward
The Whitecaps have needed consistent scoring for years, and they moved quickly in the offseason to try and rectify that, signing Venezuelan import Anthony Blondell and trading for MLS stalwart Kei Kamara. If the duo can score regularly, Vancouver will not only be a Western Conference favorite, but possibly even a contender for MLS Cup.
ExtraTime Radio Podcast
LISTEN: It's New Year's resolution time on ExtraTime Radio, and the guys run through all 23 teams in MLS (plus the US and Canada) as the calendar turns to 2018. Plus, Matt Doyle breaks news, Ben Baer makes a bold 2018 #Baerantee and MLS lullabies break out. Subscribe so you never miss a show! Download this episode! Have something to say? Call or text the #HotTakeHotline at 401-206-0MLS.