Kamal’s Major League Soccer Teams to Watch in 2013 Interesting storylines going into the new season
With Major League Soccer set to begin in a few months time I think it’s a perfect time to look at some of the clubs that will be intriguing to follow in 2013, this is not a ranking system of my top teams but rather it encompasses everything from overall look of the squad at this point, potential playing style and many other factors that will make them well worth following in the coming season.
Sporting Kansas City
In my opinion if there was one team that was worth the price of admission to watch or played in some of the more intriguing games on TV it was Sporting Kansas City, as unlike the big market sides in New York Red Bulls or two time defending champions Los Angeles Galaxy they played a style predicated on defence first and high work rate off the ball.
Seeing this side work under Coach Peter Vermes was a breath of fresh air and at times looked like a work of art, as they did so without any real star power and played the same back four consisting of Chance Myers, Matt Besler, Aurélien Collin and Seth Sinovic in front of goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Much of this team is returning but one of the more interesting aspects of this team will be how they play without midfielder Roger Espinoza, whom joined EPL side Wigan in the transfer window. This is also a team that will be competing in this seasons CONCACAF Champions League as winners of the 2012 US Open Cup, the added fixture congestion will test the clubs depth with them not having taken part in this competition since it was changed from CONCACAF Champions Cup.
Another intriguing team to watch this season will be the Portland Timbers and how they play under new manager Caleb Porter, as he has excelled coaching young players in the NCAA helping turn the Akron Zips into one of the best collegiate soccer programs and a major producer of MLS talent but this will be his first coaching job at club level. He has already made is intentions clear at to how he wants his team to play, which is quick ball movement, using wide areas and having the added ability of attacking teams on the counter.
The moves to bring in Canadian international Will Johnson, trading for tow solid players in goalkeeper Milos Kocic and forward Ryan Johnson to go along with the talent already assembled in the likes of midfielder and former Akron Zip Darlington Nagbe, forwards Danny Mwanga and Bright Dike as well as midfielder Diego Chara. Having come off a disappointing season finishing 8 th in the Western Conference and 17 th in the overall standings there is only one way to go, one of the aspects that work in the clubs favor is the home supports that could very well make Jeld-Wen Field a fortress.
As a Canadian as well as a Toronto FC fan it was a rough year to watch MLS, however if there was one bright spot as hard as it is to say it was watching the Montreal Impact have a solid inaugural MLS season and towards the end they grew into an enjoyable side to watch under Coach Jessee Marsch. However the ownership group decided to go in a different direction and instill more of a European culture within the club, the signs were apparent last season with the influx of Italian players coming over from Serie A and now has come full circle with the recent hire of Coach Marco Schällibaum.
The Swiss coach has years of experience and with the ability to speak both French and Italian is a major plus, however since he has only signed a one year contract the pressure to achieve playoff qualification as a minimum requirement is more than apparent. It still remains to be seen how this team will actually play once the season starts, however they do have some building blocks in arguably the most impressive newcomer last season in Brazilian midfielder Felipe Martins in combination with Canadian international and veteran Patrice Bernier to go along with the Italian contingent of forward Marco Di Vaio, defenders Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari and newest signing forward Andrea Pisanu.
The main concern going forward with these players is age, as with the exception of Felipe they are all in their mid to late 30’s, this is where the likes of last seasons top draft pick Andrew Wenger, midfielder Calum Mallace and defender Zarek Valentin amongst others will need to step up when called upon as Major League Soccer is a grind and the older players in the squad will need periods of rest.
If there is one new comer that caught my eye the most last season it was the Columbus Crew bringing in virtual unknown midfielder Federico Higuain, whom was best known as Real Madrid star Gonzalo Higuain’s brother. However his impact in the final 13 games of the season saw him score 5 goals and provide 6 assists, as even with the small swoon he had the combination he formed with forward Jairo Arrieta and Eddie Gaven were amongst the best in the league and it all saw the club narrowly miss out on the playoffs by a single point to eventual finalists Houston Dynamo.
Although in years past this club has played some of the most unattractive soccer in the league they’ve always managed to give other teams serious fits, however this seasons edition of Coach Robert Warzycha squad with a full season and training camp of Federico Higuain should be interesting to watch. For this team to make the playoffs and go deep this season they will still need to keep their defensive approach, however if the aforementioned Higuain, Arrieta and Gaven can stay on form as well as getting injury free contributions from the likes of midfielders Dilly Duka and Tony Tchani as well as defender and captain Chad Marshall their chances greatly improve.
Real Salt Lake
The last team that I believe will be interesting to watch in 2013 is Real Salt Lake, however unlike these other sides that I mentioned it’s for a completely different reason. This team has just made a major roster overhaul breaking up a side that had been part of the core group that won MLS Cup in 2008, as they’ve seen the likes of defender Jamison Olave, forward Fabian Espindola, midfielder Will Johnson all leave the club.
It will be interesting to see what General Manager Garth Lagerwey and Coach Jason Kreis does with the available cap space, as although they’ve managed to bring in depth players like midfielder Lovel Palmer and young defender/midfielder Aaron Maund as part of those aforementioned moves there is definitely more in the works and possibly a signing of a Designated Players. All of this shake up puts pressure on the clubs two remaining designated players in midfielder Javier Morales and forward Alvaro Saborio, as the former has struggled with injury problems in the past wile the latter will be relied upon as chief goal scorer.
Of course there are many other interesting storylines worth following in what should be an exciting 2013 Major League Soccer season, for example the appointment of José Luis Sánchez Solá also known as “Chelis” in a effort by owner Jorge Vergara to return make the club the true “sister club” of his Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara or the circus that has become the club I support in Toronto FC hiring a manager in Ryan Nelsen that is still a player with English Premier League side QPR and might miss the first 11 matches of the season.
However it ends up shaking out I’m personally excited for the start of the Major League Soccer season and will strive to bring more coverage of the league to Sports Chat Place.