With Major League Soccer’s 23rd season set to kickoff this weekend, here are five questions everyone should look to answer in week 1.
1. Can the Emerald City cope without Morris?
In the 83rd minute of Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League match against Santa Tecla, United States wonder boy Jordan Morris fell to the ground without any contact. Shortly after, speculation suggested that Morris had suffered a blown ACL in his right knee…these reports were later confirmed. There is no doubt that Jordan Morris has been an integral part of the Sounder’s organization since the first day he stepped on the field in 2016 but the team in green must move on. Without Morris’ presence, Seattle will have to look elsewhere for a forward up top. Clint Dempsey’s recent role and age have seen him shift further back in the field, suggesting that the time for former Houston Dynamo striker Will Bruin to shine, is now. Reports have speculated that general manager Garth Lagerway is seeking out a replacement for Morris, but if Bruin can make a lasting impression, Seattle may not have to splash the cash.
2. How will the Hoops fair without Acosta?
Last week, northern Texas side FC Dallas announced that 22-year-old United States Men’s National Team regular Kellyn Acosta is set to be sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks nursing a sports hernia. This injury has already seen the midfielder miss both of Dallas’ CONCACAF Champions league matches and will now also see him miss the team’s season and home opener. Acosta has played a huge role in FCD’s midfield over the past couple of years and the loss of a leader is never comforting. However, Dallas fans should not be frightened. FCD and Oscar Pareja can easily fill the void with the presence of Victor Ulloa. The Mexican midfielder has served as an honorable role player throughout his seven-year stint with the club and will be able to cover Acosta’s defensive presence. Perhaps, a strong showing for Ulloa could result in the midfielder finally earning the starting spot he has always desired.
3. Is LAFC ready for primetime?
Years in the making, Los Angeles FC is ready to make its first appearance in MLS this Sunday against the Seattle Sounders. Lead by head coach Bob Bradley and supported by the financial backings of Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, and Will Ferrell, Los Angeles’ second team is ready to make its impact on America’s top division. Laced with intelligent soccer veterans such as Carlos Vela, Benny Feilhaber, Lauren Ciman, LAFC has the potential to be exciting. The club will need to start the season off right as their small roster may begin to hurt them further down the season if injuries and national call-ups intervene. Bradley has discussed the potential worry and has stated that the club plans on adding new targets but for now, LAFC lacks depth. If they wish to make an impact much like Atlanta’ last season, they will need to remain fit and energized throughout the entire long MLS season.
4. Can the Galaxy find cohesion among the stars?
Under new management, LA Galaxy is ready to tackle the 2018 MLS season. The 2017 season was a fluke for Los Angeles as they had to recover from the loss of their long-time head coach Bruce Arena. Former Los Dos coach Curt Onalfo was unable to cope in Arena’s shadow and ultimately lost his job to Seattle Sounder’s legend Sigi Schmid. Now under the supervision of a respected MLS coach, the Galaxy will attempt to fuse their team’s big personalities together. Among the team’s icons are Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini, Ashley Cole, and Sebastian Lletget. On their good days, these players are superfluous but on their bad days, they look as if they can not even kick a ball. LA is a great team full of great players, but it will be up to Sigi Schmid and the Galaxy staff to see the team into the playoffs this year.
5. Will the Loons fail to take flight yet again?
While Atlanta United FC was riding high last season, fellow 2017 expansion side Minnesota United was enduring quite the opposite. Minnesota did not finish bottom of the league due to other disastrous seasons’ around the league, but they were near close. Under former Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath, Minnesota lacked the firepower and energy that many MLS playoff teams had. The club failed or didn’t attempt to sign a Designated Player and it showed. Although the team did well without any star power – besides Christian Ramirez – they suffered greatly at both ends, usually appearing to be the weaker side in every match. Now with limited reinforcements this season, it appears that Minnesota may be right back to where they started last year. It would not be surprising to see them sink to the way bottom this year.