Nov 8, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; D.C. United forward Fabian Espindola (9) yells at assistant referee George Gansner (L) after leg 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium against the New York Red Bulls. United won the leg 2-1, and the Red Bulls advanced 3-2 on aggregate. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
6. D.C. United
Ben Olsen’s D.C. United come into the preseason rankings ranked sixth by The View From Avalon. Last year, forward Fabian Espindola scored 11 goals and nine assists to lead D.C. He will have to sit out a few weeks—six, to be exact—to start the 2015 Major League Soccer season. Combined with forward Eddie Johnson (seven goals, three assists) sitting out a couple of matches, this means forward/midfielder Luis Silva will have to play a massive role in the club’s fortunes. Silva scored 11 goals while recording four assists last year.
Other notable players that will look for a solid 2015 campaign include midfielder/forward Chris Pontius, forward Chris Rolfe, goalkeeper Bill Hamid (the 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year), midfielders Perry Kitchen and Nick DeLeon and defenders Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin and Bobby Boswell.Jan 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The draft table of Columbus Crew at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft at Philadelphia Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
7. Columbus Crew
New logo, somewhat new name…same old Gregg Berhalter’s Columbus Crew. (Yeah, the View from Avalon will omit the pompous SC a la Orlando City. And Chicago Fire. Cop that.) Berhalter had a strong first season at the helm, and the foundation has been set for another exciting campaign at the current College Football Capital of America. (Wait, wrong code, sorry.)
It was a breakout season for midfielder Ethan Finlay, who recorded 11 goals and seven assists. Finlay will be boosted by the return of the other main provider and finisher on the team, fellow midfielder Federico Higuain. Gonzalo’s brother recorded the same number of goals and assists as Finlay in 2014. Other notable returnees include midfielder Justin Meram (eight goals), midfielder Tony Tchani (six assists), and defenders Waylon Francis (six assists) and Michael Parkhurst. Newcomers to watch include forward Sagi Lev-Ari and DR Congo midfielder Cedrick Mabwati.Jan 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The draft table of Real Salt Lake at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft at Philadelphia Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
8. Real Salt Lake
Another former managerial rookie that fared reasonably well in his first season was Real Salt Lake manager Jeff Cassar. The reason: production from RSL’s main corps of producers, most who are returning. Notable returnees to the club include midfielder Javier Morales (nine goals, 12 assists), forward Joao Plata (13 goals, six assists), forward Alvaro Saborio (eight goals), midfielder Luke Mulholland (six goals, seven assists), defenders Chris Schuler and Tony Beltran, and the expected incumbent captain, midfielder Kyle Beckerman (three goals, three assists).
Better production will be needed from forwards Sebastian Jaime and Devon Sandoval in order for RSL to make a push in the West. Two new faces that could get some minutes include Brazilian midfielder Wellington Paeckart and DR Congo defender Phanuel Kavita. The defense should get a massive boost with the return of Jamison Olave to Real Salt Lake.Jan 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The draft table of Vancouver Whitecaps FC at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft at Philadelphia Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
9. Vancouver Whitecaps
Carl Robinson’s Vancouver Whitecaps were rewarded for being the best-performing Canadian team last season with their first-ever appearance in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League. The 2014 MLS Newcomer of the Year, midfielder Pedro Morales, leads a strong Whitecaps contingent into this coming season.
Forward Darren Mattocks had six goals and three assists in 2014 but must produce more this season. Other notable returnees include forward/midfielder Erik Hurtado (five goals, three assists), forward/midfielder Kekuta Manneh (four assists), midfielders Mauro Rosales (three assists), Russell Teibert and Matias Laba, defender Steven Beitashour (three assists) and goalkeeper David Ousted (96 saves).Jan 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The draft table of Sporting Kansas City at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft at Philadelphia Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
10. Sporting Kansas City
Peter Vermes’s Sporting Kansas City took a huge step back after winning the MLS Cup in 2013. Now that they have climbed down the mountain, the onus will be on Sporting to scale the peak that is the 2015 Major League Soccer season. With 22 goals in 2014, forward Dom Dwyer is one of the key returnees to the side. Other notable players that will be looking to make their mark once again include defender Matt Besler, midfielder Graham Zusi (five goals, eight assists), midfielder Benny Feilhaber (four goals, six assists), midfielder Paulo Nagamura (two goals, three assists) and defender Kevin Ellis (three assists).
The club will need to make up for the losses of Soony Saad and Antonio Dovale, and they will do so with Honduran midfielder Roger Espinoza coming back for a second stint with Sporting. Midfielder Bernardo Anor, after a number of seasons with the Columbus Crew, joins Sporting this season, and three other names to watch include Hungarian forward Krisztian Nemeth, Colombian midfielder Jimmy Medranda and Haitian midfielder James Marcelin.