Houston Dynamo 2018 Season Preview by Drew Olsen

Last season was a solid if unspectacular one for the Dynamo, as they exceeded expectations in the regular season and made a surprising run to the Conference Finals. With more important subtractions than additions in 2018, they'll hope to tread water in an improved West.

2017 in review

Last year was a surprisingly smooth one for the Dynamo. As evidenced by the mostly slow and steady incline of the season progression chart above, Houston was the Little Engine That Could. They made BBVA Compass Stadium a stronghold, eked out results on the road, and found their way to the Western Conference Finals.

At home, the Dynamo were offensive juggernauts. Buoyed by the best goal celebration in MLS, they averaged 1.8 xGF per game and only 1.04 xGA on their way to 12 wins and only one loss at BBVA. The 40 points they earned were second only to Toronto and their 41 goals and +25 GD at home were both best in the Western Conference. When they turned it on, they seemed unstoppable.

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Atlanta United FC 2018 Season Preview by Tiotal Football

It’s obvious Atlanta United’s expansion year was a success. You’re probably tired of reading about that. Quickly though, and then I’ll get into the more descriptive soccer things and a look to next year. In 2017, ATLUTD finished 4th in a strong East and were inches from 2nd and a first round bye with plenty of weird bounces that could've gone either way. That’s a successful first year (before you even talk about the goals and the attendance and the merchandise sales). It’s the sort of expansion year that a team might just want to consolidate around and make incremental improvements to, heading into the next season (Ron Howard voice: they would not do this).

Key Team Features in 2017

Atlanta United’s most distinctive attribute was the high press. Atlanta disrupted its opponents’ own-half buildups at a rate bested only by the New York Red Bulls. Atlanta’s opponent’s in turn passed the ball in their own half less than any other team in MLS, frequently opting to bypass the press and go long with lower percentage passes and more direct play. Only Red Bulls were forced to defend a higher percentage of long balls relative to other passes.

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Sporting Kansas City 2018 Season Preview by Kevin Shank

The 2017 campaign saw Sporting Kansas City bring home silverware in the US Open Cup while simultaneously having a confusing, and ultimately disappointing MLS season. On the back of a rebuilt attacking corps, they're hoping for a return to MLS Cup in 2018.

2017 in review

It is hard to define the 2017 season as a success or failure because SKC was a team that had the league’s best defense but was also paired with an underperforming offense whose top attacker was traded midseason. In addition, Kansas City backed into the playoffs and lost their fourth straight knockout round playoff game, but all in all, they still managed to win a trophy.

Let’s start the 2017 season analysis with the impressive SKC’s defense that led the league with 33.77 xG conceded and 27 goals against (excluding own goals). Looking at the backline, SKC was the only team to allow fewer than one expected goal against per game by limiting their opponents to few and low-quality shots. The graphic below shows just how good the defense led by Goalkeeper-of-the-Year Tim Melia and an injury-free Ike Opara was compared to the rest of league.

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Columbus Crew 2018 Season Preview by Jason Poon

It was a tumultuous season for Crew SC in 2017, as a quality and entertaining product on the field was overshadowed by confirmation that the team is considering a move to Austin. With arguably their two best players gone, it's going to be a challenge for Columbus to replicate last season's on-field success.

2017 in review

The Columbus Crew ended 2017 with a lot of promise and uncertainty. On the field, the Crew made a great postseason run and came within a goal of making it to the MLS Cup Final, losing out to eventual winners Toronto FC. Off the field, there was the controversial announcement that ownership is interested in relocating the team.

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San Jose Earthquakes 2018 Season Preview by Kevin Minkus

San Jose made big strides in 2017 to go from the second worst team in the West to a playoff team. After adding more talent, and some youth, they’ll hope to build on that for 2018.

2017 Recap

The 2017 San Jose Earthquakes ended the season with a -21 goal differential, the worst ever of any team to make the playoffs. But, they did make the playoffs, as the 6th seed in the West. And, after missing out every year since their Supporters’ Shield winning 2012, that was rightfully cause for celebration among Quakes fans, despite bowing out to the Whitecaps 5-0 in the knockout round.

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New York Red Bulls 2018 Season Preview by Benjamin Bellman

Whatever your opinions of the New York Red Bulls might be, you can’t accuse them of being boring. For the past three MLS seasons, the Red Bulls have consistently been one of the best attacking teams as measured by xG, ranking first in 2015, fifth in 2016, and third in 2017. But the real drama seems to happen off the field, and this winter was no different. Previously, after the 2016 season, Jesse Marsch pulled a power move over Ali Curtis, the man who controversially booted team legend Mike Petke to hire him, and traded team captain Dax McCarty to the Chicago Fire. Now he’s done it again, trading team captain and MLS assist master Sacha Kljestan to Orlando City. Throw in what was the most confirmed unconfirmed signing in memory, and you've got a recipe for some kind of 2018. Strap in, New York/New Jersey, it’s gonna be a wild one.

2017 IN REVIEW

In some ways, 2017 was slightly disappointing for Red Bulls fans compared to their 2016 success. After claiming first in the East in 2016 with 57 points, the Red Bulls landed in sixth in the East with 50 points without McCarty marshaling the midfield. In the beginning of the season, the trade seemed to cause problems and the Red Bulls lost six of their first 12 games. But the team got hot in the summer, notably winning every game they played in July, and despite going 0-3-5 between August 18 and September 30, they managed to hang onto a playoff berth. And while NYRB dropped some points during the regular season, they showed their true stripes in the postseason. First, they absolutely crushed McCarty’s Fire 4-0 in Chicago, and then they pushed the Greatest MLS Team Ever to the brink, falling to Toronto 2-2 on aggregate based on the away goals rule. While the season was ultimately successful, fans remember the shaky spring, and they will certainly expect more playoffs (and ultimately improvement) if they are to accept that trading Kljestan was the right thing to do.

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New England Revolution 2018 Season Preview by Ian L.

Before I get started I feel that I need to disclose two very important things for the sake of transparency. The first is that at the time of my writing, the Lee Nguyen situation has not resolved itself, and that’s obviously going to be a huge factor in whatever happens with New England in the forthcoming campaign. The second thing is that while I know it’s incredibly unlikely, I’m wishing with all of my heart and soul that somehow Lee Nguyen winds up at Roma or Torino for no other reason than I could then write something with the headline “Nguyen in Rome”.  Now that you know my qualifications, let’s begin. 

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Real Salt Lake 2018 Season Preview by Harrison Crow

The last 24 months for Real Salt Lake have been quite the saga. A solid CCL run in early 2016 ended in the semifinals against Tigres, which was followed by a disappointing 2016 season. That was followed by terrible start the 2017 season, but then led to an inprobable late run at the playoffs.

Gone are the years of peak Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando with a magnificent Javier Moralez leading a jewel of an attack. But here again are the days of a potent Real Salt Lake built upon a staunch defense force and skilled playmakers. Much of the cast has changed, but the style has been reborn.

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Philadelphia Union 2018 Season Preview by Jared Young

At 40-1 to win the MLS Cup the Philadelphia Union aren't extreme underdogs, but they aren't the darlings of prediction season either. The Union made just one significant signing this offseason as they gave cap space to the Chicago Fire in exchange for David Accam, who replaces the departed Chris Pontius. The Union lost two other reasonably important contributors in Oguchi Onyewu and Roland Alberg, and that pretty much sums up the offseason for the Union, and the reason why there is no buzz about the team.

But the unthinkable does happen in the world of soccer.

Two years back Leicester City caught the soccer world by storm by winning the Premier League after oddsmakers put their title hopes at 5,000-1. They did it with exceptional defense and a rigorous commitment to the counterattack. With the acquisition of Accam, the Union could potentially set up in a similar fashion and might just be the unthinkable surprise of the season. Here’s how.

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