Once again TFC has grabbed the lion’s share of the winter headlines. The costly additions of Sebastian Giovinco and US striker Jozy Altidore will doubtless help offensively.
With Michael Bradley now running the show from midfield, the less heralded arrivals of French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou and French/Polish defender Damien Perquis could be key to beefing up the club’s traditionally leaky defence. Seven successive road games to start the season will certainly test its metal.
The Whitecaps aim to build on solid foundations. Coach Carl Robinson has been rewarded with a new contract to continue where he left off in 2014. Once again he’s looking to South America to make his team more competitive.
Uruguayan striker Octavio Rivero has been brought in to complement the talents of Pedro Morales (Chile) and Matias Laba (Argentina). Vancouver needs more goals to keep pace with its Cascadia rivals in a conference that has consistently outperformed its Eastern counterparts in recent years.
It has been an early, but so far successful start for Montreal. Coach Frank Klopas has rebuilt from the back in an effort to bring solidity throughout his roster. The initial signs are encouraging with the Impact advancing to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League at the expense of Mexican opponents.
A new defensive corps led by Belgian veteran Laurent Ciman looks promising while the experience of Italian midfielder Marco Donadel and the creativity of Argentine Ignacio Piatti will be pivotal to an Impact revival.
The big picture
Twenty teams for the 20th season. Nice and neat for a league that is growing up slowly but surely. An expanded Major League Soccer is ready for launch with new markets, new stars, a new logo and a new deal signed in the nick of time.
We have said farewell to Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry and Marco Di Vaio, but are ready to welcome a new wave of global stars. Kaka, Villa and Giovinco are just a few of the names of which much is expected in 2015.
MLS is going back to Florida and back to New York in search of success both on and off the field. Orlando City will try to flourish where others have failed. The Sunshine State has been in an MLS vacuum since 2002.
No shortage of money or potential in the Big Apple. Stand by for soccer at a baseball stadium. A collaboration between the Yankees and Manchester City FC has given birth to New York City FC. New York has been a part of MLS since Year 1 but the league believes there’s room for two franchises in one city.
It never worked in Los Angeles. The stakes in NYC are even higher.
The new stars
A pair of World Cup winners headlines the expensive acquisitions ready to grace MLS in 2015.
Kaka is no longer Brazil’s elegant playmaker. At 32 he’s drifted out of the international scene but his silky talent and experience cannot be questioned. Keane, Henry and Di Vaio have proved age is no barrier in MLS and Orlando’s expansion year prospects will be tied to Kaka’s influence.
David Villa has had plenty of time to get used to his new surrounding. Spain’s all-time leading scorer has hardly kicked a ball since last year’s shocking World Cup exit after which he retired from international duty. Despite the inactivity, only a fool would bet against Villa resuming normal service for New York City FC early in the year.
The aforementioned Giovinco is the complete package. In Toronto, at 28, he may have finally found a stage on which to perform. The pint-sized Italian never fully established himself as a starter with his hometown Juventus – now he’s set to become the face of the Canadian franchise. If he justifies the exorbitant salary, expect plenty of firepower from Giovinco.
A pair of veteran Englishmen will soon be with us. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard remain in the thick of the chase for Premier League honours with Liverpool and Manchester City, respectively. The midfielders will join in mid-season by which time it will be hot, they’ll be tired and despite their pedigree, fatigue is likely to take its toll – this year at least.
And the winner is…
Despite the hullaballoo in Orlando and New York City – history is against any expansion franchise winning the MLS Cup. I don’t expect that to change in 2015. Toronto FC has made more big splashes but there is simply no guarantee the team will gel.
In all likelihood the usual suspects will be sniffing the silverware. The LA Galaxy is there to be shot at, but Bruce Arena is well on his way to building a dynasty in Carson, Calif. The Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, the New England Revolution and a handful of others have realistic MLS Cup credentials.