2018 Season Preview

#MLSisBack! Here's your complete 2018 season preview

#MLSisBack and the 2018 season will kickoff on Saturday in Toronto. Given that, we asked our experts for their quick takes on each of the 23 teams heading into the season. You can also find a link to your team's unofficial depth chart based on our own evaluations and preseason matches. In addition, there's my prediction for where every team will finish in their conference.

Atlanta United

The Five Stripes are everyone's hot pick to take a big step forward in 2018, and that's understandable. They spent big to bring in 18-year-old Argentinean DP Ezequiel Barco, and splashed out TAM + GAM to pry Darlington Nagbe from the Timbers. That's a lot of flair and off-the-dribble skill. The problem might be that they're unbalanced now, as linchpin midfielder Carlos Carmona headed back to Chile and, as yet, there's no replacement for his midfield steel. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Ezequiel Barco

KEY LOSS: Carlos Carmona

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 3rd in East

Chicago Fire

Chicago brought back their biggest star this winter in Bastian Schweinsteiger but lost one of their most productive players when they traded winger David Accam to Philadelphia on draft day. The Fire signed a promising Accam replacement in Serbian attacker Aleksandar Katai, but still need some help in a few spots – center back and No. 10 being two – if they want to build on last year’s third-place Supporters’ Shield finish. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Aleksandar Katai

KEY LOSS: David Accam

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 7th in East

Colorado Rapids

It's a new era in Colorado, with new head coach Anthony Hudson and the front office overhauling the Rapids roster hoping to wash away 2017. The additions are plentiful, with many coming from England and New Zealand, and Hudson will be hoping his 3-5-2 can provide enough in the attack for a team that has struggled to score goals. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Jack Price

KEY LOSS: Mohammed Saeid

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 11th in West

Columbus Crew SC

Crew SC almost upset the best team in MLS history in the Eastern Conference Championship, but getting to that point again will be a tall task for Gregg Berhalter's team. Star attackers Justin Meram and Ola Kamara were traded away in the offseason, with only maligned striker Gyasi Zardes brought in to replace their star production (so far). Columbus will likely be relying on an intact defense and a rising star in between the pipes to get them back to the playoffs. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Milton Valenzuela

KEY LOSS: Ola Kamara

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 6th in East

D.C. United

The level of optimism around D.C. depends on how you see the half-filled glass. On the positive side, D.C. upgraded in multiple positions, including the acquisitions of Ulises Segura, Junior Moreno, Frederic Brillant and Yamil Asad. The lineup could be both sturdy and electric, all to go with a brand new stadium. On the downside, they have a crazy schedule, front-loaded with road games and then extra congested on the back end. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Yamil Asad

KEY LOSS: Bill Hamid

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 9th in East

FC Dallas

Last year we were talking about Dallas pushing for MLS Cup. Then they had one of the worst collapses in MLS history. Now we are wondering if they are even a playoff team. From Point A to Point B, they have almost exactly the same team. They struggled to replace Fabian Castillo in 2017, but this winter they got Colombian attacker Santiago Mosquera. If they can sort through their late-2017 issues, Dallas should be pushing for trophies again. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Santiago Mosquera

KEY LOSS: Walker Zimmerman

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 4th in West

Houston Dynamo

Was 2017 a playoff mirage or did the Dynamo re-establish themselves among MLS’s upper echelon? We’re about to find out. Houston sold their leading scorer (Erick "Cubo’" Torres) in the offseason, and that might be a good thing since it opens a spot for Mauro Manotas, one of four young attackers Wilmer Cabrera will set free on the counter. Speed kills, but the rest of the league knows what’s coming. Can the Dynamo find another gear? Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Alejandro Fuenmayor

KEY LOSS: Erick Torres

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 10th in West

LAFC

They say one should temper expectations with expansion teams – even Atlanta in 2017 finished 4th in the East – but that's not the mentality manager Bob Bradley is taking into the season. He's gone to the world market for top-end talent in Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi and blended it with proven MLS contributors like Benny Feilhaber, Walker Zimmerman, Laurent Ciman and Steven Beitashour. The first 13 on the roster looks like it could compete with anyone. Like most expansion clubs who need to build from scratch, if Bradley needs to dig deeper, he could be in trouble. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: N/A

KEY LOSS: N/A

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 9th in West

LA Galaxy

They were the worst team in the league last year, so by definition nobody had more work to do. And so work they did, pulling in international defenders, a fringe USMNT defensive midfielder and goalkeeper, and one of MLS's most consistent goalscorers. There's a lot to like about this group, but there's no guarantee all of the above will be enough if Gio and Jona dos Santos don't start playing like the stars they're supposed to be. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Ola Kamara

KEY LOSS: Gyasi Zardes

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 5th in West

Minnesota United FC

This really is gonna be a slow build, eh? While most of the rest of the league was pulling in TAM or DP-caliber players from overseas, the Loons pretty much stood pat (except for adding three more wingers, because of course they did). The prize signing of their offseason at this point looks to be 35-year-old journeyman right back Tyrone Mears, and it remains unclear who's going to be the playmaker. It looks like they'll need serious improvement from within. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Tyrone Mears

KEY LOSS: Johan Venegas

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 12th in West

Montreal Impact

The Impact have yo-yoed in and out of the playoffs during their six seasons in MLS. In former Lyon boss Remi Garde, Montreal hope they’ve found a head coach who can foster more consistency and tap into the talent coming through the academy. Garde wasted no time turning over the roster and getting younger. Losing Blerim Dzemaili hurt, but Saphir Taider arrived in return. If all else fails, just give the ball to Ignacio Piatti. Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Saphir Taider

KEY LOSS: Blerim Dzemaili

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 8th in East

New England Revolution

With a new coach comes, presumably, a new philosophy. We haven't yet seen how that'll work for real, but so far it seems to be geared toward finding new positions for a bunch of mainstays. Diego Fagundez has been used as a playmaker, and Kelyn Rowe as a box-to-box No. 8. Meanwhile it's unclear where Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen – who held out for a month before reporting – fit in. And the defense is, as always, an open question. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Cristian Penilla

KEY LOSS: Kei Kamara

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 10th in East

New York City FC

NYCFC are clearly one of the top contenders for MLS Cup entering the season, even after selling Jack Harrison to Manchester City. David Villa will be hunting for a trophy in what could be his last season in the Big Apple and reinforcements have been added all across the field. The midfield trio should be one of the best in the league, with young star Yangel Herrera likely getting more playing time after a breakout year. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Jesus Medina

KEY LOSS: Jack Harrison

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 1st in East

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls traded their captain (again), but did so with a purpose. The red side of New York is going all-in on the press, and that requires young legs, which arrived via DP Kaku, the Kljestan trade and a cadre of Homegrown and Red Bulls II graduates. Tyler Adams should take another big step, this time in central midfield, but the old heads will still be expected to lead the charge. Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Alejandro Romero Gamarra

KEY LOSS: Sacha Kljestan

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 5th in East

Orlando City SC

Has anyone in MLS history had as active (and, frankly, impressive) an offseason as the Lions? They added the two-time reigning assist king, a Best XI-caliber winger, a high-priced young DP playmaker, an in-his-prime MLS Cup champion d-mid, a Bundesliga starter at CB, the best college midfielder, the college assist king, and the NASL MVP/Golden Boot winner. This team is deep and LOADED, and now Jason Kreis has to make the pieces fit. No excuses in 2018. Matt Doyle

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Josue Colman

KEY LOSS: Cyle Larin

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 4th in East

Philadelphia Union

Union fans seemed ready to riot in December, then the club spent big to acquire David Accam. Accam has the ability to turn any game and immediately lifts any team to the next level. Is it a playoff level? It could come down to how well their No. 10s perform in creating goals and if any of the young center backs on the team — Jack Elliott, Josh Yaro, Auston Trusty or Richie Marquez — can become consistent performers. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: David Accam

KEY LOSS: Chris Pontius

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 11th in East

Portland Timbers

New manager Gio Savarese inherits a group that finished the 2017 regular season top of the West, plus they added winger Andy Polo, defender Julio Cascante and striker Samuel Armenteros. The problem could be that his three key players — 2017 MVP Diego Valeri, linchpin Diego Chara and captain Liam Ridgewell — are all a couple years past 30. If everything clicks, Portland could cruise. If Chara and Ridgewell — or, god forbid, Valeri — break down, though, Savarese could be reeling. Bobby Warshaw

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Andy Polo

KEY LOSS: Darlington Nagbe

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 6th in West

Real Salt Lake

They couldn’t quite overcome a slow start to sneak into the playoffs, but RSL closed 2017 as one of the hottest teams in all of MLS. Their young core of Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino and Homegrown Players Justen Glad, Danny Acosta and Brooks Lennon is as exciting as they come and has plenty of folks tabbing RSL as a trendy pick to contend in the West. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Damir Kreilach

KEY LOSS: Chris Wingert

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 1st in West

San Jose Earthquakes

A new year, a new era in San Jose. The Quakes took a European turn this winter, with Swiss GM Jesse Fioranelli hiring Swede Mikael Stahre as the club’s new head coach and signing Swedish striker Magnus Eriksson to a Designated Player deal. How the two Swedes adapt to MLS will do a lot to determine if San Jose can improve on a 2017 in which they made the playoffs but had a negative-21 goal differential. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Magnus Eriksson

KEY LOSS: Victor Bernardez

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 7th in West

Seattle Sounders

Continuity is the buzzword on the Puget Sound heading into the season. Seattle, who had significant turnover after winning MLS Cup 2016, are bringing back almost everyone from the team that fell short in the final in Toronto in December. Will that core be enough after an offseason that saw most of the other Cup contenders make big moves? The Sounders are betting on it. Sam Stejskal

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Magnus Wolff Eikrem

KEY LOSS: Joevin Jones

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 2nd in West

Sporting KC

If defense wins championships, how come Sporting KC can’t seem to get past the Knockout Round? Another year of playoff disappointment prompted Peter Vermes to break out the TAM and DP slots to replace the traded Benny Feilhaber, augment the league’s best backline and keep pace with the rest of the league. What Vermes hasn’t done (yet) is land the forward #SKCnation yearns for. Are Khiry Shelton and Diego Rubio enough to make KC a top contender? Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION(S): Felipe Gutierrez

KEY LOSS: Benny Feilhaber

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 3rd in West

Toronto FC

Could Toronto do the quadruple? It's certainly possible after the best team in MLS history had few changes over the short offseason. Already off to a good start in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Reds could make a run in the continental tourney before setting their sights on retaining their three other trophies. Keep an eye on Greg Vanney's lineups though, as he will not want to wear out his team before the stretch run. Ben Baer

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Gregory van der Wiel

KEY LOSS: Steven Beitashour

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 2nd in East

Vancouver Whitecaps

The Whitecaps favorite ride is the Forward Carousel, and Kei Kamara is the latest to climb aboard. With Kamara and Kendall Waston attacking dead balls, Vancouver ought to dominate on set pieces … but can they step out of their direct shell and go toe-to-toe with the league’s best? The answer in the playoffs was a resounding no, and the likes of Yordy Reyna, Efrain Juarez and Alphonso Davies will have to prove this version of the ‘Caps is different. Andrew Wiebe

assignment 2018 DEPTH CHART

KEY ADDITION: Efrain Juarez

KEY LOSS: Fredy Montero

BEN BAER'S 2018 PREDICTION: 8th in West

 
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