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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Portland Timbers 2017 Season Preview by Drew Olsen

The Timbers are one of the biggest clubs (trust us) in MLS, and they have an owner, coach, and fan base with consistently high expectations. After winning the cup in 2015, very few changes were made to the roster and the league got better around them. They missed the playoffs last season and never found the spark that took them to the championship. Changes had to come, and some big additions (and subtractions) were made to improve the team. While it's too early to say if those moves were the right ones, one thing is clear: the Timbers want another MLS Cup.

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Orlando City 2017 Season Preview by DCU Exile

After failing to make the playoffs in their inaugural season, Orlando City began 2016 with Head Coach Adrian Heath already on the hot seat. An uninspiring 4-4-8 start to the season resulted in Heath’s dismissal on July 6 following a 4-0 shellacking at FC Dallas. Two weeks later, Orlando City hired former Real Salt Lake and NYCFC Head Coach Jason Kreis. While this gave some fans optimism that Orlando City could make a late-season push for the playoffs, it was not meant to be. The Lions finished the season 8th place in the East with 41 points, and were edged out of playoff contention by the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution (each sitting on 42 points). 

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Vancouver Whitecaps 2017 Season Preview by Aaron Nielson

As a Canadian the struggle of the Vancouver Whitecaps is probably more personal than someone who follows MLS from elsewhere. After Toronto FC became the joke of the league mainly through the miss-management of ownership, the Whitecaps expansion to MLS was a huge hope for Canadian soccer. Because of their past NASL, CPL and USL success, as well the Vancouver region being known as a Canadian hotbed for soccer, expectations were high. Whitecaps president Bobby Lenarduzzi might also be the biggest name in Canadian Soccer for his success with a number of Vancouver soccer teams and the Canadian National Team.

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Six Goalkeeping Narratives You're Dying to See Unfold by Bill Reno

Who Will Emerge in New England? - The biggest question mark within any team’s goalkeeper situation is easily New England. They appear to be leaning towards to Cody Cropper in preseason, which makes sense as Bobby Shuttleworth didn't exactly inspire confidence last season. It’s odd to think that New England was just in an MLS final a little over two years ago but they’re now trying to forget last season completely. Whoever they decide to start with, don’t be surprised if they give the second stringer a chance to win the job midseason. Cropper has looked good this preseason but a twenty-three year old goalkeeper has to be really outstanding to make it in this league.

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San Jose Earthquakes 2017 Season Preview by Kevin Minkus

2016 was another forgettable year among many (since 2012) for Quakes fans. The team finished with just 38 points, eight points out of the playoff race. That finish was good for 9th in the West, and 17th in the overall league table. The team actually got off to a decent start, with four wins in their first eight, but they couldn't keep that momentum going. From May 22nd to August 5th, the team won just one game, and then only two more through the rest of the year.

The team’s defense kept them in most games - they had the fifth best xGA in the league and the fifth best shots against. San Jose’s real problem was chance creation. They averaged just 12 shots per game, third worst in the league, and only 8.8 key passes per game - second worst in the league. Many of those chances came from balls lumped into the box from out wide - they averaged 21 crosses per game, second most in the league.

More Goonie talk below the jump.

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Columbus Crew SC 2017 Season Preview by Kevin Minkus

By most accounts, the 2015 MLS Cup runners-up had a pretty poor 2016. A team that was generally expected to contend for a Supporters’ Shield and a championship finished the season 9th in the East on 36 points. During a stretch to start the year that saw them win just two games in 11, they jettisoned their Best XI forward, Kei Kamara, for feuding with their best chance creator, Federico Higuain. Higuain then sat out 14 games throughout the rest of the season with injury issues stemming from a sports hernia.

In spite of this turmoil on offense, the team’s real problems were on the other end of the field. The Crew gave up three or more goals 11 times, and their 58 total goals allowed was second worst in the league, though they were only fifth worst in expected goals allowed. The fact that Columbus is a possession oriented team means that they generally surrender few shots- in 2016, they allowed only about 12 shots per game. But the shots they did give up tended to be higher quality chances.

Ola-tta more after the jump.

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Houston Dynamo 2017 Season Preview by Phil Luetchford

It was entirely predictable and avoidable. Houston fell flat on their face under the dreary command of Owen Coyle, collecting 11 points in 12 games. Under interim coach Wade Barrett, who wasn’t afraid to make big changes, there were glimpses of improvement. With Wilmer Cabrera taking the reins, and a number of intriguing South American signings, can Houston make the jump into the playoffs this season?

More after the jump.

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Chicago Fire 2017 Season Preview by Mike Fotopoulos

If it were truly possible to tank in the Major League of Soccer, the Chicago Fire have been making a valiant effort to test that theory in recent seasons. What was once only considered gross incompetence has been given a shiny veneer of professionalism with the addition of Nelson Rodriguez in 2016. By proceeding to sell everything that wasn’t nailed down for various forms of GarberBucks, the roster began to resemble the closest thing to a full rebuild that the club has desperately needed since the waning days of the Blanco era. The remaining question, as has always been the question in the annual reshuffle of the Men in Red, is will this process actually succeed? Is it even a process at all? If a team fails in the suburbs, does anyone even notice?

There is, however, cause for hope. Piles of league money, in various shapes, sizes, and colors, has slowly turned the roster from a collection of aged out journeymen and long-term projects to…a slightly more cohesive group of journeymen and slightly less speculative projects. The mysterious departure of Harrison “Don’t Call Me Justin” Shipp aside, the outlines of Rodriguez’ plan has been to build prudently through the draft and complement with a very specific type of experience. Everything outside of this, every scrap of dead money, wrung out to sale for as much as he can grab.

Dax is after the jump.

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