Minnesota United 2018 Season Preview by Ian L.

Minnesota United entered the league in 2017 to very low expectations and still barely managed to meet them. While occasional flashes of quality may rightly gives fans hope for 2018, more still needs to be done if they’re to be considered a serious contender in the Western conference.

2017 in Review

“Well, that didn't wind up being as bad as we thought it was going to be” is about as lukewarm a review that one could proffer, but it certainly fits. While I certainly don’t think many people would have given Minnesota any chance at making the postseason in their first year of Major League Soccer, the Loons sure gave us all a pretty big scare by opening the campaign conceding 20 goals in their first five matches. Minnesota’s inauspicious start led to many people wondering if they were going to be not just the regular amount of bad, but historically bad, like worse than Chivas bad.

Read More

Montreal Impact 2018 Season Preview by Aaron Nielson

After a poor 2017 season, Montreal has added both youth and talent to their roster. Unfortunately, it has been matched by an even greater exodus of talent. The Impact will certainly look different in 2018, but they probably won't look any better.

2017 in Review

A year ago in my preview I called Montreal the most under-the-radar club in MLS. Going into 2018 this is even more true, partly because of the disappointing season for the Impact in 2017. They missed the playoffs and finished ninth in the East, which encouraged hands-on owner Joey Saputo to start a rebuild. That process began with the firing of manager Mauro Biello at the end of the 2017 season.

Despite not making the playoffs in 2017, ASA's expected goals model suggests Montreal was quite lucky to finish the season with only a -5 goal differential, as our xGD had them closer to -14, tied for third worst in the league. A major part of this xG discrepancy was because of the 17 goals scored by Montreal's best player, Ignacio Piatti, which was 7.65 more than his expected goals. That was the biggest difference for any player in 2017, a stat that becomes even more worrying when you account for the fact that Piatti was also one the of highest goalscorers in terms of unassisted goals (33.8% of his shots were unassisted). If Montreal wishes to compete in 2018 they need Piatti to continue to generate goals for himself at an elite level.

Read More

Colorado Rapids 2018 Season Preview by Benjamin Bellman

Well, that didn't go the way I thought it would. After the Rapids were one week away from winning the Supporter’s Shield in 2016, 2017 saw them finish third from bottom in MLS with 33 points, and brought the end of Pablo Mastroeni’s tenure as head coach. Anthony Hudson, previously the manager of the New Zealand men’s national team, will now lead the club at the beginning of a new era in many ways, as Colorado’s front office has also seen major turnover. Club president Tim Hinchey and technical director Paul Bravo both left in the last year or two, and Pádraig Smith, who first arrived in 2015, now runs the show as “Executive Vice President and General Manager.”

2017 In Review

The third game of 2017 foreshadowed the colossal disappointment of the rest of the season. Minnesota United, after losing their first two matches by a combined score of 11-2, managed their first ever MLS point, down a man in Commerce City, drawing 2-2. Then, the Loons further swindled the Rapids by trading for defensive stalwarts Marc Burch and team captain Sam Cronin. Colorado received Josh Gatt and Mohammed Saied, but in hindsight, this was the moment their season ended. After letting in fewer than a goal a game in 2016, the Rapids let in 51 goals in 2017, and posted a fourth-worst xGA of 52.94. Injuries took their toll. Axel Sjöberg, a finalist for defender of the year in 2016, struggled to stay on the field (1,637 minutes, down from 2,772). Sheklzen Gashi, who made some real magic happen out of slim pickings in 2016, could only muster two goals and 1,034 minutes as one of the Rapids’ Designated Players.

Read More

Orlando City SC 2018 Season Preview by DCU Exile

Orlando City has rebuilt their roster with several blockbuster trades and signings this off-season. As they embark on their 4th MLS season, they finally look like a playoff-caliber team.

2017 in review

Orlando City came out of the gate guns blazing last March. The Lions started with a 7-1-0 record before things fell apart, and finished with a 10-15-9 record overall. Yes, that’s right. After starting the 2017 season with the strongest record in the league, Orlando City managed to secure just 3 more wins across the remaining 26 games. Curiously, their fall from grace apparently started in Week Eight, which is when former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka returned from injury and was re-inserted back into the lineup. It is both inaccurate and unfair to pin Orlando City’s poor 2017 season on him alone, because they had issues all over the field. But when a $7.1 million per year Designated Player can’t raise the level of a team, he is either past his prime or the team has far more problems besides him. For Orlando City in 2017, both were true.

Read More

LA Galaxy 2018 Season Preview by Harrison Crow

One of the defining characteristics of storied franchises such the Lakers, Celtics, or Yankees is that even in times of struggle and departure from their usual dominance they've managed to come back around, regroup, and use new ways to find success. Usually that's due to executive leadership and deep pockets.

The success of the Galaxy hasn’t just been painted in the last eight years. The organization experienced great success in MLS 1.0, winning the Supporter’s Shield in 1998, the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000 (the second and last MLS club to win a CONCACAF tournament), both the Supporters Shield and MLS cup in 2002, and MLS Cup again in 2005. After some down years, they rebounded and won the cup and Supporter's Shield in 2011, then MLS Cup again in 2012 and 2014. They were dominant, struggled, and returned to dominance. In 2017 they struggled again. After one of the most disappointing seasons in team history president Chris Klein has been asked to rebuild one of the most storied organizations in MLS for the second consecutive season.

Read More

DC United 2018 Season Preview by DCU Exile

The 2017 campaign was a disaster for D.C. United. But a top-to-bottom roster rebuild and a brand new stadium in Audi Field should give United fans reason to be optimistic about the 2018 season.

2017 Recap

D.C. United came into the 2017 season riding the high of a late-season surge from 2016, but 2017 turned out to be a disaster. United finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with just 32 points, and second-to-last overall. A few key players succumbed to father time, several others could not stay healthy, and inadequate depth behind them made it a hard season for United fans to stomach.

Offensively, United was just not the same attractive, “total football” team that lit the league on fire in late 2016. They generated only 41.78 xG across 34 games (4th worst in the league). To make matters worse, United was only able to secure 27 of those, making it the lowest-scoring team in MLS. As much as the lack of goals was frequently pointed to as the main problem last season, United was also a mess defensively. They allowed 57 goals (2nd worst in the league) compared to 55.59 xGA (also 2nd worst in the league), which meant that the Black and Red finished with a -30 goal differential overall (the worst in the league).

Read More

Albert Camus, Don Garber, and the health of MLS by Jared Young

While all humans endeavor to seek truth, we are also drawn to the power of a good story. There is a potential conflict between a story and truth that gives a lot of power to the storyteller, as they can effectively communicate a truth through a story or they can choose to mask the truth, and it might be difficult to tell the two apart. Albert Camus said that, “[f]iction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Literature becomes classic when that truth resonates across cultures and generations, but as the #FakeNews and Russian hacker plot lines would indicate, this capacity to write fiction can also be harmful. Look no further than the sport represented by this website. The genesis of online fake news might well be the stories told during the European transfer market, where leverage seeking agents of information cohabitate to create what is generously referred to as “silly season.” Luckily, sports are harmless. Other areas of life are less so. So the dilemma persists: what is the best way to communicate truth?  Through the power of a story or with cold hard facts?

Read More

2018 MLS Combine Player Profile Crash-Course by ASA Staff

The 2018 MLS Combine started yesterday, with players coming to Orlando from around the world with the hopes that they might be taken in next week’s SuperDraft. Thankfully for SuperFans like us, tomorrow through Thursday the league will be streaming the games live. Because not everyone follows the college game, we've brought together three of the top minds in college scouting to give you scouting reports and profiles of many of the players invited to the combine. Each author has watched, been present for, and/or tracked data on multiple games involving each player they covered.

Read More

Expectation Management: Carlos Rivas vs Mike Grella by Harrison Crow

Three years ago I became a proud member of the ‘Congregation of Grella’.

As a tremendously under-appreciated winger in his time with the New York Red Bulls, Mike Grella has done just about everything a person could have asked him to do on his modest wage ($188,250 in 2017). His humble beginning, tremendous back story and journeyman career only add to the legend of a very successful stint in Harrison, New Jersey.

As the theme has gone the last few seasons, the Red Bulls are doing what they can to limit their risk with aging veterans. They have been cutting ties with those at the tail-end (or beyond) of their prime playing ability. They have been flipping those assets by turning them into opportunities for club.

Read More

Tim Howard, Frank Rost, and MLS' Abandonment of the Average American Player by Bill Reno

The offseason is a truly wonderful time for every backup player. Will this be the offseason their hard work is rewarded? Perhaps they'll receive a new contract with their current club. Maybe they will move up the depth chart or see greener pastures with a new team. The winter break changes teams’ concerns from what players have done last season to what the players could do next year. For backups and fringe starters, the starting of a new season offers hope in a variety of ways.

As ASA’s resident goalkeeper dude, the offseason carousel is truly a righteous ride. Each new year holds the potential of a Tim Melia: a goalkeeper who was passed on by every team in the league only to become the best. And then there are the Sean Johnsons and Joe Bendiks, players whose careers are finally ready for a positive turn with a new team. But don’t forget about the youngsters, like Alex Bono and Zack Steffen, who are given a chance to take the reins despite being a little green. With all these positive strides in the league, I was curious about the most important position’s payment for their services.

Read More