New York City FC 2017 Season Preview by Benjamin Bellman

After earning the club their first playoff appearance in year two, expectations continue to rise for NYCFC. Coach Patrick Vieira is seen as one of the best young coaches in MLS, and the team appears to have added even more talent in the offseason. Still, their superstars continue to age - can they still be relied on to carry the team in terms of workload and minutes in 2017?

2016 in review

Last year was a tale of two seasons for NYCFC. The first half was a continuation of the struggles of their inagural season, and NYC managed to earn only 18 points in their first 15 games. The nadir of that stretch was the now-famous 7-0 loss at home to their neighboring-state rivals. Skeptics began to question if Vieira would even last as long as his predecessor Jason Kreis did.

But that 7-0 humiliation was also the season debut for Frank Lampard, and his return (symbolic or not) coincided with dramatic improvement in form. Over the remaining 19 games of the season they averaged almost two points per game and went from being well out of the playoff race to finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference. Lampard certainly added something to the midfield, as his 8.17 expected goals and assists were 2nd best on the team, despite his playing only 1342 minutes. With Lampard’s return, what had been a chaotic and inconsistent series of lineups from Vieira found some stability as the team’s form improved.

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L.A. Galaxy 2017 Season Preview by Phil Luetchford

“Cozmo, do you take Giovani Dos Santos to be your lawfully wedded superstar, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until contract’s end do us part?”

“I do.”

“You may now high-five the superstar.”

The LA Galaxy’s 2017 season is married to Dos Santos’ performance.

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Toronto FC 2017 Season Preview by Aaron Nielson

After years of ineptness Toronto FC finally has become a competitive club in MLS. Never afraid of spending the money, the Canadian side's results on the field never reflected the club’s ambitions for making the playoffs. They finally made it for the first time in 2015 and followed that up in 2016 by hosting the MLS Cup Championship game, though they lost to the champions Seattle. Toronto FC's success relied and will continue to rely on their three DPs: Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. The three players have a combined salary of over $20,000,000 per season and Toronto FC will be dependent on them if they expect to repeat their success in 2017.

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Seattle Sounders 2017 Season Preview by Benjamin Harrison

One is tempted - given the Seattle Sounders' dramatic recovery of a seemingly lost 2016 season to seize a playoff berth, and, ultimately, the MLS Cup - to take those last 14 games (plus the playoffs) as the best sign of what the team has to offer in the coming season. But with new acquisitions bolstering the bench, players developing in key positions, others returning from injury, and still others adjusting adjusting to the league, the team could easily see improvements over the championship campaign. Designated Player Clint Dempsey was available for only four games of Seattle's stretch run thanks to a heart condition, but is now cleared to play. Brad Evans struggled with injuries throughout the last half of the season. Young starters Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan are a year older and more experienced. Left back Joevin Jones is entering his physical prime. Even if the Sounders have not put the dire days fully behind them, this is a team that should expect to make the playoffs and contend in the postseason.

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D.C. United 2017 Season Preview by DCU Exile

The 2016 season was a story of two very different halves for the black and red. The first half of the season saw DC United struggle mightily to produce goals (and wins), and they were 5-6-6 by the halfway point in the season. Although coach Ben Olsen had most of the same players at his disposal from 2015 and the addition of Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta on loan from Boca Juniors, the team just could not find their form. United was still largely depending on the flat 4-4-2 of the last two seasons, and Acosta wasn’t able to find his way into the starting lineup amongst Olsen’s veterans from the year prior. DC was the third least productive team in the league in 2015 (averaging only 11 shots per game), and that carried through into the start of 2016.

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Sporting Kansas City 2017 Season Preview by Jason Poon

The 2016 campaign for Sporting Kansas City ended on a .500 note (13-13-8), but it was not a team that went through the season that picked up wins, losses or draws on a consistent basis. It was a campaign that saw the team enjoy the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and everything in between. 

Sporting roared at the start of the season, picking up four wins out of five, seemingly ready to put behind the demons of that gut wrenching penalty playoff loss to Portland in 2014. But after flying out of the gates, SKC immediately washed away those gains by picking up just one win in the next 11 matches. SKC would limp into the playoffs as the fifth seed, only to be knocked out by the eventual MLS Cup winners (again) on a late header from Seattle Sounders' forward Nelson Valdez.

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Montreal Impact 2017 Season Preview by Aaron Nielson

Montreal is maybe the most under-the-radar club in MLS, highlighted by amount of times (or lackthereof) they are included in national broadcast games. Even if you attend games in Montreal the atmosphere is more like a lower league game in Europe than traditionally the experience of MLS. These aren't insults - they've been an advantage for the Impact as the environment has allowed them to recruit both senior and youth players to their club that other MLS clubs would struggle lure.

2016 would generally be regarded as a success for the Impact, although their final game in Toronto was a huge disappointment, as they were up two goals and held the away goals tie-breaker, only to collapse in Toronto and miss out on the MLS Cup Final. Montreal's older legs and defense capitulated, allowing Toronto to score five goals and ending the Montreal's season. With limited moves in the off-season these issues are still concerns for Montreal going into the 2017 season as well.

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New England Revolution 2017 Season Preview by Coleman Larned

 It was a disappointing 2016 campaign for the New England Revolution, as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Starting slow out of the gates with one win in their first 11 games, the Revs' instability was found at both ends of the pitch.

The back line was consistently unsettled, which resulted in the interchanging of central and wide defenders out of their native positions. Conceding 54 GA (6th worst in MLS) out of a predicted 55.5 xGA (3rd worst in MLS) was a product of a constant search for a comfortable, defensive mixture. Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves and London Woodberry all took their turns at CB, with Kelyn Rowe even taking a stab at the RB position.

Offensively, coach Jay Heaps struggled to find the right combination within their talented pool. Three of the Revs' attackers were in the bottom 25 players of G-xG (Teal Bunbury -3.96, Kei Kamara -2.3 and Juan Agudelo -1.68) representing almost eight goals unrepresented on the pitch. Although these numbers might incrementally be negligible, amassed as a whole eight goals could propel a team into the playoffs. It's hard to say if that was just a bit of unluckiness, or if it was a product of Heaps' system for attack.

The streaks of poor performances defined last season for the Revs. Not only were they slow to start, but in a crucial run in the middle of the competition saw the club post a record of 2-2-8. Although Agudelo and Kamara started firing toward the end of the season, the hole was too deep to dig themselves out of.

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Philadelphia Union 2017 Season Preview by Jared Young

The Earnie Stewart era in Philadelphia has been marked by change but the Union haven’t quite been able to emerge from their history of mediocrity and underperformance. Change, mediocrity and underperformance - remember those words. They underpin the state of the Union. First let’s take a look at a picture of pure mediocrity - a history of the Union, through the results of their three coaches across seven years.

Fancy graphs after the jump.

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Real Salt Lake 2017 Season Preview by Jason Poon

After not making the post-season for the first time since 2007 in 2015, RSL made small improvements to sneak into the playoffs in the 6th and final playoff position. The return of striker Yura Movsisyan to Utah brought high hopes that RSL could relieve some of the offensive burden that was placed upon Joao Plata after Alvaro Saborio's departure after the 2015 season. Movsisyan's nine goals were respectable, but certainly not enough to recapture his 2009 form (his last stint in RSL) where he managed 0.42 goals per 90. His 2016 returns were a paltry 0.37 G/90. 

Plata still carried the bulk of the offense, nearly pulling a double-double in goals and assists (9 goals, 12 assists) and took the bulk of RSL's shots. However, his returns were even worse than Movsisyan's as Plata only managed 0.32 G/09 when compared to his breakout season in 2014 of 0.59 G/90.

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