As the new campaign dawns, a familiar chase resumes for the 18 teams seeking to topple the reigning champions.1. Another year, another title defense for the Galaxy: Los Angeles will commence its quest for a third straight MLS Cup victory against Chicago on Sunday. David Beckham isn't a part of the squad and Landon Donovan won't link up with the team until the end of the month, but the Galaxy won't let their absences stop them from chasing their objective. And this group – already strong with Omar Gonzalez, Juninho and Robbie Keane in the mix and Donovan on the way back – will receive further reinforcements at some point down the line. Anschutz Entertainment Group president and CEO Tim Leiweke offered this quip to MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday about the club's search for a new Designated Player: “I promise you, trust me, the best one's coming.”
2. Domestic play or international glory?: Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle will weigh that quandary with MLS openers this weekend and CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first legs ahead in midweek. Rotation isn't necessarily a consideration at the start of the season, but the Dynamo, in particular, may have to ponder it with a home date against Santos Laguna ahead on Tuesday.
3. Waiting on DeRo: The news isn't all bad for the Dynamo: D.C. United may have to omit Dwayne De Rosario from its squad ahead of the trip to BBVA Compass Stadium. The ex-Dynamo schemer faces a ban from the Disciplinary Committee for allegedly headbutting Danny Cruz during a preseason match against Philadelphia on Saturday. De Rosario appealed the edict – expected to run for one or two matches – handed down by the Disciplinary Committee earlier this week, according to the Washington Post. If MLS commissioner Don Garber upholds the suspension, then United will have to alter its approach a bit – perhaps by returning to the 4-2-3-1 formation preferred at the end of last season or sliding Nick DeLeon or Chris Pontius into the middle – before heading to Texas.
4. Five new bosses take their bow: The fresh crop runs the gamut from seasoned European coaches (Marco Schällibaum) to rookie managers (Mike Petke). Although each recent hire brings his own set of qualities to his new job, one common bond unifies them: all five coaches will make their debut this weekend. Each of the five clubs involved will hope the adjustment period passes quickly.
5. Recent spate of signings underscores the changes ahead for some clubs: Opening day may arrive tomorrow, but the first game of the season does not mean that clubs have stopped tinkering with their squad. In just the past few days, Portland landed Frédéric Piquionne on a one-year contract, Toronto FC loaned Hogan Ephraim from Queens Park Rangers and paved the way for Robert Earnshaw to join from Cardiff City and Seattle wooed Levante striker Obafemi Martins. Moral of the story: an early setback or two may not indicate a team's fortunes over the long haul.
This season: 0/0 (0%)
Last season: 123/264 (47%)
Sporting Kansas City @ Philadelphia (4:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Expectations are high in Kansas City after the success of the past two seasons, but several offseason moves altered the core noticeably. It might take a few games – yes, even this seemingly winnable affair against a Union side with its own concerns – for new fixtures like Claudio Bieler and Benny Feilhaber to settle into their prominent roles.
Toronto FC @ Vancouver (6:30p.m., TSN/RDS 2) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: TFC coach Ryan Nelsen told reporters recently that he wished preseason could continue for another five or six weeks. He may want to amend the desired duration to 34 weeks after making a trip to B.C. Place with a thin squad and his backup goalkeeper (Joe Bendik) in the firing line.
Prediction: Vancouver win.
D.C. United @ Houston (8:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: De Rosario's likely absence takes a little luster off this Eastern Conference final rematch. Houston's looming CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Santos Laguna could impact matters, too. Even if Dominic Kinnear opts to rest one or two players, the Dynamo should still find a way to hold serve at home.
Prediction: Houston win.
Colorado @ FC Dallas (8:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: If FCD wants to book a berth in the postseason, then it must find a way to win this sort of match. One negative note for the home side: Blas Pérez will miss out through suspension.
Prediction: FC Dallas win.
Montreal @ Seattle (10:30p.m., TVA Sports) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: The MLS scheduling gurus could have handed Marco Schällibaum a warmer welcome to the league. Do not expect a repeat of the Imapct's romp at Stade Saputo here. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid will likely name Andy Rose in place of the suspended Osvaldo Alonso, but that switch shouldn't alter the outcome of this affair.
Prediction: Seattle win.
Columbus @ Chivas USA (10:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Intrigue is usually in short supply in this matchup, but the debut of El Chelis and his revamped Red-and-White adds a little spice. Unfortunately for the home side, spice does not necessarily translate to quality.
Prediction: Columbus win.
Chicago @ Los Angeles (5:00p.m., UniMas) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: The post-Beckham era starts with a visit from the improved Fire. Expect the Galaxy to rise to the challenges presented – including the absence of Landon Donovan – and start its title defense with a home victory.
Prediction: LA win.
New York @ Portland (7:30p.m., ESPN2) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: No match this weekend presents a wider range of variables. Both teams enter this season with new coaches in charge and new principles to follow. With the Timbers Army behind them, the home side may rely on its new approach to possession (and its wider field) to nick the points.
Prediction: Portland win.
Real Salt Lake @ San Jose (10:00p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Injuries will hinder both sides as they prepare for this encounter at Buck Shaw. The absence of Nat Borchers (quadriceps surgery in January) could prove most influential here with the canny Chris Wondolowski capable of taking advantage of any mistakes made by the RSL back four.
Prediction: San Jose win.
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