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2018 MLS Eastern Conference Preview

Will Toronto reclaim their spot atop the East?

MLS: D.C. United at New York City FC Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The other day we looked at the Western Conference in Major League Soccer to help catch you up on what each team has done this winter, today we look to the East.

Toronto FC

Italy v Netherlands - International Friendly Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

2017 Conference Finish: 1st

Main Transfers In: Gregory van der Wiel, Caleb Patterson-Sewell, Nicolas Hasler

Main Transfers Out: Armando Cooper, Steven Beitashour, Benoit Cheyrou

The 2017 MLS season could not have gone any better for Toronto FC. The Canadian club finished the season with the league’s best record of all time, a Community Shield, and the MLS Cup Final. Now, the championships are back in 2018 to defend their trophy. Major offseason moves saw starting wide man Steven Beitashour move to LAFC in the expansion draft, which left a hole out wide. However, TFC easily filled that void with the signing of former Paris Saint-Germain defender and Dutch International Gregory van der Wiel. Toronto continued to make a lasting impression on the league with their signings and van der Wiel’s arrival could ensure them another historic season.

New York City FC

2017 Conference Finish: 2nd

Main Transfers In: Cedric Hountondji, Jo Inge Berget, Anton Tinnerholm

Main Transfers Out: Jack Harrison, Khiry Shelton, Andrea Pirlo

The offseason was a bit underwhelming for NYCFC. The Eastern Conference’s runners-up saw themselves lose first-team stars Jack Harrison and Andrea Pirlo to Manchester City and retirement respectively. These departures left huge voids in NYCFC’s lineup, but it appears head coach Patrick Viera and his organization got to work and signed adequate replacements. Sure, none of these replacements have the star power of Pirlo but they do possess the European experience fans look for. NYCFC should have another great season but it will not be as publicized as recent years.

Chicago Fire

MLS: Eastern Conference Knockout Round-New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Conference Finish: 3rd

Main Transfers In: Rafael Ramos, Jon Bakero, Aleksandar Katai

Main Transfers Out: David Accam, John Goossens, Joey Calistri

The 2017 season was a great return on investment for the Chicago Fire. Splashing the cash to sign World Cup champion midfielder Bastien Schweinsteiger paid off in dividends. The German sparked new life and culture into the organization and got them back to the playoffs. Instead of making another huge offseason signing, Chicago went a bit reserved with their transfers. Instead of boosting their current team, they elected to get rid of bad apples. Winger David Accam finally departed after enduring transfer rumors every second the minute he arrived in Chicago. Now that that case is over with, Chicago can breathe easy and focus on team chemistry and development.

Atlanta United FC

MLS: Preseason Friendly-Nashville SC vs Atlanta United FC Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Conference Finish: 4th

Main Transfers In: Ezequiel Barco, Darlington Nagbe, Sal Zizzo

Main Transfers Out: Bobby Boswell, Tyrone Mears, Yamil Asad

When Atlanta United joined MLS, they took the league by storm. The team’s ambition was clear from the very start with their coaching and player picks. Although their season ended in playoff disappointment, their season was definitely a success – and it didn’t end there. During the 2018 offseason, Atlanta continued to bolster their roster by signing USMNT midfielder Darlington Nagbe and MLS record transfer free breaker Ezequiel Barco. With even more firepower this season, the year might be considered a failure if the club cannot retain any silverware.

Columbus Crew SC

2017 Conference Finish: 5th

Main Transfers In: Gyasi Zardes, Mike Grella, Ricardo Clark

Main Transfers Out: Kekuta Manneh, Waylon Francis, Justin Meram

The most talked about event over the offseason was the announcement that the Columbus Crew could be on their way to Austin, Texas. The news shocked the league and caused mayhem throughout North America. Even with all of the drama, the Crew still exist and continue to do work to this day. Over the offseason, they lost key figures such as Kekuta Manneh, Ola Kamara, and Justin Meram but were able to replace with USMNT veterans Gyasi Zardes and Ricardo Clark.

New York Red Bulls

2017 Conference Finish: 6th

Main Transfers In: Tommy Redding, Carlos Rivas, Kaku

Main Transfers Out: Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella

It is hard to say if the New York Red Bulls enjoyed their offseason. After a long battle to sign their Kaku, the club was finally able to reveal his arrival early this month. However, this offseason saw key stars such as Sacha Kljestan and Mike Grella depart the team. This gaps left by the team’s leaders may be hard to fill and may cause Red Bulls to drop next season.

New England Revolution

2017 Conference Finish: 7th

Main Transfers In: Wilfried Zahibo, Gabriel Somi, Cristian Penilla

Main Transfers Out: Kei Kamara, Je-Vaugh Watson, Xavier Kouassi

When the New England Revolution announced that Brad Friedel would become their newest coach, plenty of fans were left scratching their heads. The former USMNT goalkeeper only had minimal coaching experience behind his belt but somehow, he got the job – perhaps for publicity reasons. Nevertheless, his offseason has been boring. The only exciting antics to happen over the offseason involved whether or not Lee Nguyen would stay or not. Sadly, for now, he is a part of the Revolution.

Philadelphia Union

2017 Conference Finish: 8th

Main Transfers In: David Accam

Main Transfers Out: Chris Pontius, Giliano Wijnaldum, Roland Alberg

Much like the New England Revolution, the Philadelphia Union’s offseason was boring. Nothing too fascinating happened during the offseason except for the arrival of David Accam. The Union endured another harsh season last year and will want to turn it around this year, but it looks like they might not have done enough to do that.

Montreal Impact

2017 Conference Finish: 9th

Main Transfers In: Zakaria Diallo, Clement Diop, Saphir Taider, Michael Petrasso

Main Transfers Out: Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman

The Montreal Impact had an odd 2017 season. They appeared to have a strong team full of European experience, but it did not convert well to MLS. The club made plenty of transfers this offseason to help boost themselves for next season, yet it doesn’t feel like they have done enough to push them to the next level. I’d expect another playoff-less year.

Orlando City SC

MLS: Real Salt Lake vs. Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Conference Finish: 10th

Main Transfers In: Oriol Rossell, Stefano Pinho, Justin Meram, Dillon Powers, Sacha Kljestan

Main Transfers Out: Cyle Larin, Giles Barnes, Kaka

Orlando’s hottest story of the offseason was their loss of Cyle Larin to Turkish side Besiktas. Whether it was someone’s fault or not for the odd transfer, Orlando still has to move on. In addition to the loss of Larin, the Lions lost their all-star midfielder Kaka to retirement. Although these departures may weaken the club, Orlando did a great job of replacing their lost players. They signed strong MLS veterans who will make an immediate impact for the Lions. I would not be surprised to see the Lions make their first playoff appearance in club history this year.

D.C. United

2017 Conference Finish: 11th

Main Transfers In: Yamil Asad, David Ousted, Russell Canouse

Main Transfers Out: Bill Hamid, Lloyd Sam, Sean Franklin

D.C United’s 2017 season was underwhelming. It was surprising to see Ben Olsen retain his job following the season’s end but here we are. He is still in charge and not much as changed. Over the offseason, D.C. disposed of their old players while losing goalkeeper Bill Hamid to Europe. United was able to fill the gaps by signing former ATL UTD star Yamil Asad and former Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. With the firepower of Paul Arriola, United may look to this year’s dark horse team.