The entire MLS Digital crew sends its very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2019 to all the MLS club supporters who screamed and celebrated with us throughout the last year.
But Bobby Warshaw has a very specific, extra special new year's wish for each of your clubs (well, maybe not every club):
For Michael Parkhurst to stay young.
He’ll be 35 at the start of next season. He’s not the type of player who uses his athleticism, so I’m not worried about his performances declining. But every year older makes a muscle strain more likely.
Atlanta have the depth to withstand an issue at most positions, but Parkhurst might be their one irreplaceable.
A center back.
They just signed Marcelo from Sporting CP, but it sounds like out-of-contract Johan Kappelhof could be on his way out of Chicago. The last time Chicago only had one central defender they trusted, they tried to move midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger there in 2018, and it wasn’t exactly ideal. A new starting-caliber central defender in Chicago could upgrade two positions for the Fire.
Fanendo Adi to be in a good mood. It’s that simple.
When Adi is focused, he’s one of the best strikers in the league. When he’s disinterested, he’s an impediment. And it’s always been 50/50 on which Adi shows up for a game. FCC knew what they were gambling on when they traded for the Nigerian.
They’ve done a nice job putting together their roster so far (in my opinion, at least), but they probably won’t have the money to sign another elite attacker, so a huge burden falls on the one they have.
Colorado have dealt for a few really nice pieces in the last 10 months: Kellyn Acosta, Keegan Rosenberry, Diego Rubio, and Kei Kamara. And I firmly believe Jack Price could be a really good MLS player on a decent team.
The midfield diamond looked effective at times in 2018, as well. But the diamond doesn’t work if you don’t have center backs who can pass, and the Rapids currently don’t have any center backs who can pass. Give them a say, Tim Ream-type player, and I’d buy stock in that team.
Columbus Crew SC
(Assuming the Caleb Porter deal gets done…) That Porter digs up the “death by one thousand passes” coaching book he buried the last time he left Ohio.
When Porter coached the University of Akron, his teams played exceptionally gorgeous soccer. Exceptional is reductive here, too. He never got to the same heights in Portland, even when they won MLS Cup.
If the Akron Porter returns, then favorite the Crew on your ESPN+ account.
Lucho Acosta to show up to preseason happy.
He wants a new contract. It’s understandable why he would feel that way, especially after watching Real Salt Lake’s Albert Rusnak get a new deal. Acosta was one of the best five players in his position in 2018 and he's looking to get paid like it, playing out his contract concerns via social media.
It seems like Acosta will be on D.C. in 2018. Hopefully for D.C. fans, he also wants to be there.
Two more Reggie Cannons – kids who make it from the academy to first team, and then to the national team. Ideally attackers, something Dallas have yet to successfully get through the pipeline.
For the culture.
For Tigres to underestimate them.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself, since both Houston and Tigres need to win a series before they play each other in the Concacaf Champions League. But Houston might be perfectly built to make a run in Champions League – combative midfielders with Concacaf and South American experience, two wingers who can make something happen, and a striker who will take his chances.
Tigres will have the advantage on paper, but they have been known to overlook opponents at times. If Tigres show up flat, Houston could find themselves pushing for a Champions League medal.
Los Angeles Football Club
That Walker Zimmerman really likes living in Los Angeles.
The USMNT center back is out of contract with the league. Reports have already surfaced of interest from Liga MX and Israel. I’d bet there are others around the world.
Zimmerman was vital for LAFC. Bob Bradley’s system puts a huge demand on his central defenders, and there are not many players who have the natural ability to meet them. One of the most basic rules of business: It’s cheaper to keep a client than to attract a new one.
A resolution to the Gio dos Santos saga.
Seriously, make it end, please. I’ve always loved watching Gio play (even when it hurt), and this is getting sad. Maybe Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the exact player Gio probably would want to be, can get through to the incredibly talented Mexican attacker.
Or maybe the Galaxy front office finds a resolution to buy out Gio’s contract – a not-so-farfetched scenario, since the club needs the DP spot after giving Zlatan a raise.
Minnesota United FC
A functional defense. Pretty please.
The Loons had the worst defense in MLS history as an expansion team, and then it actually got worse in Year 2. That’s not a great trend!
Bubble wrap...all of the bubble wrap.
It’s Nacho Piatti’s last year in Montreal. If he gets hurt and misses time, I will cry.
We don’t usually get a warning of when we are going to lose someone we care about. This time we do, and I’m determined to properly appreciate it before it’s gone.
(Also, is anyone else really excited – or at least intrigued – by Piatti’s relationship with Maxi Urruti? It feels like an odd couple – the graceful butterknife with the harsh crab-cracker – but it makes sense for that team.)
New England Revolution
To learn that Michael Mancienne’s 2018 was growing pains.
He’s the highest paid defender in the league, according to the MLS Players’ Association. He played like… not that.
When the Revs signed Mancienne, I applauded it (though I didn’t know the salary figure at the time). His skill set appears to fit Brad Friedel’s pressing style. I haven’t given up faith yet.
New York City FC
They don’t get a wish right now.
I’m mad they didn’t build a wall around David Villa’s home to keep him from leaving. If they needed it, we could have sent Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to make sure Villa didn’t leave.
NYCFC is in the doghouse for a little.
New York Red Bulls
Florian Valot recovers from his knee injury and turns into a TAM-level player.
Another answer to this could be “sign a 3rd Designated Player,” but I’m not sure that’s who the Red Bulls are or want to be.
They (undoubtedly?) need another savvy attacker to win a tough playoff game. It would save the Red Bulls a lot of trouble if Valot is that player.
Orlando City SC
That we will one day write books about how Orlando 2018 was the wild case study of everything going wrong at the same time.
Uri Rosell, Sacha Kljestan, Josue Colman, Cristian Higuita, Lamine Sane, and Jonathan Spector were all better than they showed, right? What are the odds of a team having six key players all have the worst seasons of their career at the same time?
Most people thought that team would make the playoffs. There’s a case to be made that they would have, had they not been hit hard by bad luck.
Orlando are bringing back a decent chunk of that roster; it probably won’t be a full rebuild. Just by law of averages alone, they should be much better.
The witch who took David Accam’s ability to give it back.
The big thing with Philly all year was WHAT IF THIS TEAM COULD ACTUALLY SCORE! and Jim Curtin must have spent late nights by the fireplace like “Well yeah, we expected the guy with 14 goals and 8 assists in 2017 to have more than 1 goal and 0 assists in 2018.”
Both Diegos [Valeri & Chara] to find the fountain of youth.
Every single time I watch them, I worry that this is going to be the last year they’re going to be THIS GREAT. And man were they great in 2018. But they’re both well into their 30s now, and attackers tend to have a precipitous decline when it begins (See: Kaká).
Real Salt Lake
A one-year exemption from fines.
Give Petke a reprieve. (You’re welcome, world.) Also maybe a ground-covering defensive midfielder.
San Jose Earthquakes
New boss Matias Almeyda has *many* wishes he'd like to make, I’m sure. But for the rest of the MLS fans around the world, we have just one for them: two goals from Wondo.
The good guy of American soccer is one goal behind Landon Donovan for the all-time MLS scoring crown. I don’t know about you, but I have the champagne on ice in my house for when it happens.
Going into the New Year, Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey might have the biggest knot in his stomach of any league exec. Ozzie Alonso is out of contract.
Alonso is 33 with a history of injuries and a career of playing on turf. The Sounders need to move on at some point, and it’s better to make a decision like that too early rather than too late. But the team might not be ready for life without Alonso yet. The Cuban was still exceptional in 2018.
I’m making SKC’s wish for them: I want SKC to play a 3-4-3 diamond.
It’s the formation the great Total Football Dutch national team played at the World Cup in 1974. It’s largely disappeared since then, but Sporting have the players to do it (three center backs, four center mids, two natural wingers).
I haven’t seen a team do it in my lifetime (though Manchester City has used versions of it this year) and have been patiently waiting for a team to put together the right pieces. Sporting have them, so I’m making my wish clear.
The little pen from Men in Black that zaps your memory. Ain’t no one want to think about 2018.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC