Another Major League Soccer season is about to start and the First Kick will be on March 2. It’s the post David Beckham era and the league is looking for its’ next so-called media superstar but that’s for another discussion. Preseason is done and now it’s time to take a quick look at the three Canadian squads and where they might finish. I will spend an entire column on each club throughout the week but for now let’s take a small peak into how each club will fair this season.
Toronto FC, the old guard of the Canadian teams in the league, have gone through a major backroom shakeup. The Paul Mariner era is over at TFC and in comes Kevin Payne. Payne brings experience and hopefully some of his wins with him from D.C. United. His first move was to bring in first time coach Ryan Nelsen. Nelsen has his work cut out for him. The squad is thin, very thin. Many have left and few have been brought in. Strikers Eric Hassli and Ryan Johnson are gone with designated player, the only real striker left on the club, Danny Koevermans on the shelf until June. Veteran forward Justin Braun and center-back Danny Califf are the top of the few that have been brought in. Payne continues his vow to bring in more squad players but all he does is bring in no-name trialists. The news hasn’t gotten any better with Torsten Frings set to the leave the club as well. Not enough depth, not enough talent and not enough goals will keep TFC rooted to the bottom of the standings this year much like last.
The Montreal Impact had a successful first season in the league. They developed an identity and made life tough for every team they played. The club went through a coaching change in the off-season with Jessie Marsch being replaced with Italian-Swiss coach Marco Schallibaum. This goes hand in hand with the franchise’s move towards an Italian style of play. No real talent left the squad other than the retirement of Bernardo Corradi. Two imports come in on loan with Andrea Pisanu and Andres Romero vying for starting spots. Last season, until the last couple of weeks, the club had a shot at the playoffs but tailed off in the end. This year will be very different.
The Vancouver Whitecaps had the best season of any of the Canadian clubs. They finished the season in fifth place in the Western conference and only lost by a goal in the knockout round to eventual MLS Cup champions Los Angeles Galaxy. Designated player Barry Robson’s failed tenure with the Whitecaps ended this winter. The club brought in Daigo Kobayashi to fill some of Robson’s boots but the biggest capture of any of the Canadian clubs this off-season only occurred recently with the signing of Nigel Reo-Coker. The former England under-21 captain will be leaned on to provide leadership and a steadying influence in the middle of the park. The Whitecaps will be hard pressed to improve on last season but another playoff appearance is in the cards.
Overall it will be an exciting season for all three of the Canadian clubs in MLS. For TFC it will be exciting for the wrong reasons as the club will struggle again. If no new star players are signed a last place finish is in the cards again.
The Impact, as compared to last season, will now start the season with all their imports in the lineup. They will always be stout in defense and will make it tough for anyone coming into Stade Saputo. This year the club will challenge for a playoff spot and ultimately will end up fifth in the Eastern conference.
The Whitecaps are building for something special in the future. Their squad remains pretty much intact and therefore another fifth place finish seems likely this season.
Look for my club by club previews this week and my reasoning as to why I think Darren Mattocks of the Whitecaps will lead MLS in goals.
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