Eastern promises

When DC United started making all their numerous changes this offseason, I had it in my mind that I would NOT pick them to finish in first place, because there were just too many question marks. So I toyed for a while with putting Chicago in first, but then I realized that they had a new inexperienced coach, and Chad Barrett playing forward, so that wouldn't work. Then I flirted with putting New England in first place, but they just haven't done enough to improve this offseason. It even crossed my mind to put New York in first, but then I realized that I'm not a moron. So after eliminating all the attractive distractors, we'll just settle with...

1. DC United
Key addition (+): We've talked at length about United bringing in Marcelo Gallardo not to win the Supporters' Shield again (they could do THAT with Gomez) but instead to make the team more competitive in the C-Cup, Superliga, and even MLS Cup.
Key Loss (-): Brian Arguez. HA! No it's Troy Perkins. While starting all but one game in the past two seasons, Perkins was absolutely fearless, and emerged as one of the top keepers in MLS. Zach Wells will try to fill those shoes.
Player to watch (()): Will be interesting to see if Luciano Emilio scores another 20 goals, or if he suffers from a sophomore slump.
Result (=): United showed against Harbour View that they have the tools on offense and defense to dominate a lesser team. But how will they fare against more quality competition? With los Gonzalos, the team should be in the top 3 in defense again this year, but an aging attack with Gallardo, Moreno, and Olsen could stumble with the injuries and fatigue that result from being in so many competitions.

2. Chicago Fire
+: The Fire bring in experienced Polish international Tomasz Frankowski to add to an already strong attack.
-: The retirement of Chris Armas sees the end of the career of one of MLS's greatest defensive midfielders. The absense of this underrated player could do a lot of damage on defense.
(): Cuauhtemoc Blanco will continue to frustrate opposing teams, along with the referees. Makes you wonder if the most bruised legs in the MLS will last through the year.
=: This sounds cliché, but Chicago was on fire towards the end of last season, and I think they will keep it up in 2008. Look for Calen Carr also to play an emerging role.

3. New England Revolution
+: Mauricio Castro will be asked to add some more experienced leadership to a young midfield that includes Jeff Larentowicz and Wells Thompson. Steve Ralston could see his role diminish this year.
-: Two solid MLS attackers in Pat Noonan and Andy Dorman went overseas this offseason. New England will look for some young foreigners to step up.
(): How will Taylor Twellman react when the team blocked his move to Europe, but had no problem shipping off his partner Noonan?
=: The team really didn't do much to try to improve this offseason, choosing to rely more on their proven 3-5-2 formula with mostly the same players as last year. We expect mostly the same result as last year.

4. Columbus Crew
+: The Crew added left back Gino Padula, who should help to improve a defense that already includes Ezra Hendrickson and Frankie Hejduk.
-: Ned Grabavoy was found to be expendable and wound up in San Jose.
(): The Crew would be wise to expand on the role of Robbie Rogers this year. He's a young player with national team experience who should absolutely be in the team's starting XI.
=: We'll get to see what Schelotto can do with a full year. My prediction of the Crew finishing ahead of the Red Bulls is hinged on some other predictions that Jozy Altidore will leave the league and Brian McBride will rejoin the league in the middle of the season.

5. New York Red Bulls
+: It’s a sad state of affairs in New York when I'm claiming Zach Thornton as the team's best acquisition this offseason.
-: The team chose not to retain Dema Kovalenko for some odd reason. He's a foul machine, but he's about all the team had going for them in the play-breaking role.
(): Keep your eye on the forward combination of Juan Pablo Angel and Jozy Altidore. If Altidore gets a contract in Europe, how will Angel do alone up top?
=: With a pretty stout offense, and a lack of defense, look for the Red Bulls to be involved in a lot of 4-3 games this year. The team might start off strong again like they did in 2007, but will surely fade.

6. Kansas City Wizards
+: Sorry but I just don't see Claudio Lopez making a huge impact this year. He is also joined in the attack by Columbian Ivan Trujillo.
-: Lopez is a totally different player from the departed Eddie Johnson. We'll see how the rest of the team reacts to this change.
(): KC struggled in defense last year, despite the leadership of Jimmy Conrad. They will likely find themselves towards the bottom of the pack again this year.
=: This could be a year of transition for the Wizards, and I'm just not as high on them as a lot of people are. They have relied on Johnson too heavily the past couple of years, so I don't think they'll do well without him.

7. Toronto FC
+: Toronto made very few moves this offseason, but had a very strong draft with the selection of Julius James, along with finding Xavier Balc in the late rounds.
-: Fortunately, Toronto didn't lose much either. Chris Pozniak was a decent player for them in the midfield last year, but that's about it.
(): The reliable and versatile Maurice Edu will continue to develop, and if TFC is smart, they will allow him more freedom to make his own plays.
=: Toronto is building a talented young team, and probably one of these years we will start to see the results of that. But it won't be this year.

So not a lot of wholesale changes in the seeding of teams in the East. I do have United finishing in first, but I do NOT have them winning the Supporters' Shield. More on that we get to the Western Conference later (Hint: It won't be San Jose!)

There you have it. I made it through an entire post titled Eastern Promises without a single reference to Viggo Mortensen in a naked knife fight. Oh woops...

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