Can Sporting KC repeat as MLS Cup Champions or will Houston Dynamo regain their place as the best team in the East? As Major League Soccer prepares to lift the curtain on another season, TSN. Discount Vapormax .ca presents the first of our five part season preview, taking a look at the American based teams in the Eastern Conference. Chicago Fire It was a tough 2013 for the Toyota Park faithful, as the Fire followed-up their first playoff season in three years with their lowest-ever finish in 15 MLS seasons. The disappointing finish was due in large part to a disastrous start that saw the Fire go 2-7-1 over their first 10 games. A strong May and an unbeaten home record from late July onward were not enough to salvage the season. A turnaround for the Fire could well depend on their last line of defence. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, 24, posted a save percentage of 70, which was fifth-best among MLS keepers that started at least 20 games. The American national will need to be stellar again to get the Fire back into the MLS Cup conversation. The Fire are going to California for their 2014 season opener, crossing conferences to meet Chivas USA. They meet up with the Impact on Apr. 12 for their first Canadian visit of the campaign. Whos In?: F Giuseppe Gentile (waiver draft), D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (trade with Seattle), D Patrick Ianni (trade with Seattle), M Benji Joya (weighted lottery), D/M Lovel Palmer (trade with Real Salt Lake), GK Kyle Reynish (free agent). Whos Out?: D Jalil Anibaba (trade with Seattle), M Corben Bone (option declined), D Shaun Francis (free agent), M Joel Lindpere (option declined), M Daniel Paladini (trade with Columbus), M Arévalo Rios (option declined), F Maicon Santos (option declined), GK Paolo Tornaghi (waived), D Michael Videira (option declined), D Wells Thompson (free agent). SuperDraft: D Marco Franco (1-13). Columbus Crew A year after missing the MLS Cup playoffs by a single point, 2013 was a disappointment in the Ohio capital. The Crew dropped to eighth in the East, missing the playoffs once more. Six losses in seven mid-summer games would be the Crews undoing, despite strong seasons from Argentine striker Federico Higuain and team goal-scoring leader Dominic Oduro. The Crew have shuffled the deck in net, sending Andy Gruenebaum to KC and hoping that one of Matt Lampson or new acquisitions Steve Clark or Brad Stuver can carry the load. Columbus visits the minnows of the 2013 MLS season D.C. United to open their 2014 campaign. They get a return date with their Eastern rivals from Toronto in their first Canadian visit on May 31. Whos In?: GK Steve Clark (trade with Seattle), D Waylon Francis (discovery), D Giancarlo Gonzalez (transfer from Valerenga), M Hector Jimenez (trade with LA Galaxy), M Daniel Paladini (trade with Chicago), D Michael Parkhurst (rights acquired from New England), GK Brad Stuver (waiver draft). Whos Out?: D Drew Beckie (option declined), M Eddie Gaven (retired), D Glauber (option declined), GK Andy Gruenebaum (trade with Kansas City), F Aaron Horton (waived), D Kyle Hyland (option declined), D Chad Marshall (trade with Seattle), D/M Danny ORourke (option declined), M Matías Sanchez (waived), M Konrad Warzycha (option declined), GK Daniel Withrow (waived). SuperDraft: D Ben Sweat (1-14). D.C. United Fans in the U.S. capital would probably be best served to forget that 2013 ever happened. A season removed from the third-best record in the League, United dropped to dead last in the table, posting an all-time MLS low of just three wins for a season. The off-season overhaul was of particular note to Canadas MLS clubs as United acquired Montreal Impact captain Davy Arnaud via trade. A week later, though, D.C. sent one of its premier players back home, leaving Dwayne De Rosario unprotected in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, allowing him to be snatched up by Toronto FC. If Arnaud and Portland acquisition Eddie Johnson can reignite the United offence and if Chris Pontius can rediscover his scoring form, 2013 may prove to be an aberration. But a season that poor is a tough one to wipe clean from a fan-bases memory. D.C. opens at home on Mar. 8 against the Columbus Crew. Theyll face a rejuvenated Toronto FC in front of an undoubtedly-raucous BMO Field crowd in the teams home opener on Mar. 22. Whos In?: M Davy Arnaud (trade with Montreal), D Nana Attakora (re-entry stage 2), D Bobby Boswell (Re-entry stage 1), F Conor Doyle (transfer from Derby County), F Fabian Espindola (Re-entry stage 2), D Christian Fernandez (free agent), F Christiano Francois (waiver draft), D Sean Franklin (re-entry stage 1), F Eddie Johnson (trade with Seattle), D Jeff Parke (trade with Philadelphia). Whos Out?: M/F Syamsir Alam (option declined), M Dwayne De Rosario (option declined), F Christiano Francois (loaned to Richmond), D Dennis Iapichino (out of contract), D Dejan Jakovic (transfer to Shimizu S-Pulse), M Collin Martin (loaned to Richmond), F Lionard Pajoy (option declined), D James Riley (option declined), F Carlos Ruiz (option declined), M Marcelo Saragosa (option declined), M John Thorrington (option declined), D Ethan White (trade with Philadelphia), GK Joe Willis (loaned to Richmond), D Daniel Woolard (option declined). SuperDraft: D Steve Birnbaum (1-2). Houston Dynamo Houstons run had to come to an end at some point. After two straight trips to the MLS Cup both defeats at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy the Dynamos season was once again derailed by the eventual Champs. This time it was Sporting Kansas City who took their aggregate Conference Final 2-1 at Sporting Park. That said, the Dynamo did what they do best once again and saved their best play for when it mattered most. A fourth-place showing helped show that they belonged with the best in the East and their playoff moxie once again came through for them. All-time leading scorer Brian Ching called it a career after the season, meaning Will Bruin can likely take full-time ownership of the face of the franchise mantle. With New York City FC on the way in 2015, this season could well be Houstons last in the Eastern Conference. Will they give the Conference one more run for its money? The Dynamo open at home on Mar. 8 against the team that forced them into the 2013 MLS Cup Knockout Round game by virtue of goal-differential, the New England Revolution. Their first Canadian test comes later in March, in Vancouver on the 29th. Whos In?: M Tony Cascio (loan from Colorado), D David Horst (trade with Portland). Whos Out?: D Bobby Boswell (out of contract), F Calen Carr (out of contract), D Mike Chabala (option declined), F Brian Ching (retired), M Alex Dixon (option declined), F Cam Weaver (option declined). SuperDraft: D A.J. Cochran (1-16). Sporting Kansas City Sporting got off to a roaring start in 2013, losing just one of its first six matches and that a surprising upset at the hands of Toronto FC in the latters home opener. They would pick up that pace once more to finish the season by winning six of eight (6-1-1) and coming within one point of the Supporters Shield. While they narrowly missed one piece of hardware, the Leagues most rabid fan-base was rewarded with the franchises second ever MLS Cup after a thrilling penalty-kick victory over Real Salt Lake in the Final. One of the faces of that triumph has left KC, as goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen has hung up his gloves. Losing arguably the leagues premier keeper hurts, but the addition of Columbus Andy Gruenebaum might salve that loss. The team will also be hoping for even greater leadership out of sophomore striker Dom Dwyer, midfielder and team MVP Graham Zusi and DP Claudio Bieler, who led the team in goals with 10 in 2013. Kansas City opens on the road in Seattle on Mar. 8 and make their first trip to Canada with a May 10 date with the Impact at Stade Saputo. Whos In?: GK Andy Gruenebaum (trade with Columbus), M Sal Zizzo (trade with Portland). Whos Out?: F Teal Bunbury (traded to New England), D Kyle Miller (waived), GK Jimmy Nielsen (retired), D Brendan Ruiz (waived). SuperDraft: F Adnan Gabelic (2-38). New England Revolution Something had to give eventually at Foxborough. After two straight years in the MLS basement, the Revs finally got back to good in 2013, racking up 14 wins (the same total as their prior two seasons, combined) and qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009. The difference-makers for the Revs were the young, dynamic offensive pairing of Kelyn Rowe, in just his second MLS season, and Diego Fagundez, a then-18-year-old Uruguayan somehow in his third. If those two can click once more, then the upward trend should prove to be more than just a one-year aberration. The permanent addition of Charlie Davies should also help the Revs depth up front. The Revs open up with a visit to the Houston Dynamo on Mar. 8 but dont hit a Canadian pitch until May 3 when they visit Toronto FC. Whos In?: F Teal Bunbury (trade from Sporting KC), F Charlie Davies (transfer from Randers), M Paolo DelPiccolo (waiver draft), GK Brad Knighton (trade with Vancouver), M Daigo Kobayashi (rights acquired from Vancouver), D Jossimar Sanchez (Supplemental Draft). Whos Out?: F Juan Agudelo (out of contract), F Chad Barrett (option declined), D Bilal Duckett (waived), M Ryan Guy (option declined), F Matt Horth (waived), M Gabe Latigue (waived), D Tyler Polak (option declined), GK Matt Reis (retired), M Clyde Simms (option declined), M Juan Toja (option declined). SuperDraft: F Steve Neumann (1-4), F Patrick Mullins (1-11). New York Red Bulls A nearly-winless March was cause for concern for the Red Bulls in 2013, but things turned out alright in the end. Two huge streaks seven unbeaten in April and May and eight unbeaten to finish the season propelled the Red Bulls to their first Supporters Shield in a tight race with Kansas City. Sadly, an Omar Cummings extra-time marker stunned Red Bull Arena and sent the Houston Dynamo on to the Eastern Final instead of the Bulls. The playoff result has to come as a sting, especially since it was Cummings who struck in injury time in the first leg to salvage a draw. The Bulls were clearly concerned about their back end in the off-season, bringing in Spanish full-back Armando Lozano and acquiring Richard Eckersley from Toronto via trade. Will a better D be key to a better finish? The Red Bulls season starts on Canadian soil as they will be forced to begin their campaign in front of a boisterous BC Place crowd in the Vancouver Whitecaps opener on Mar. 8. Whos In?: D Armando (free transfer), M Bobby Convey (trade with Toronto), D Richard Eckersley (trade with Toronto). Whos Out?: D Brandon Barklage (option declined), D David Carney (option declined), F Fabián Espíndola (option declined), GK Kevin Hartman (retired), D Markus Holgersson (contract terminated), D Heath Pearce (out of contract). SuperDraft: D Chris Duvall (2-22). Philadelphia Union The Union finished just three points out of the MLS Cup playoffs and maybe locking down the last 10 minutes of their final three games all of which saw them concede an equalizer or winner might have been that difference. Jack McInerney seventh in league scoring certainly did his part scoring late ones of his own in two of the three, but time would run out on the Union. McInerney was excellent early in the season and clearly turned it on again at the seasons end. The Union are hoping theyve found him some help, but will a return to the States prove a jump-starter for Maurice Edu? The 27-year-old has seen little of the pitch over two years with Premier League side Stoke City and it has led to fewer appearances with the U.S. national side as a result. The Unions season begins with a tall task, the team being handed the reigning Western table-topping Portland Timbers on the road to start the season. Philly will hit Canada for the first time on Apr. 26 when they visit Montreal. Whos In?: M Corben Bone (re-entry stage 1), M Maurice Edu (loan from Stoke City), GK Brian Holt (free), M Cristian Maidana (free transfer), M Vincent Nogueira (transfer from Sochaux), D Ethan White (trade with Philadelphia). Whos Out?: D Chris Albright (retired), F Don Anding (waived), M Michael Farfan (transfer to Cruz Azul), M Greg Jordan (waived), M Kleberson (waived), GK Oka Nikolov (waived), D Jeff Parke (trade with D.C. United), D Mikaël Silvestre (contract terminated). SuperDraft: GK Andre Blake (1-1), MF Pedro Ribeiro (1-15). Nike Air Force 1 Clearance . Al Harrington, another former Knicks forward, scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime for the Nuggets, allowing them to withstand Anthonys attempt to rally the Knicks after his poor shooting had them behind until the final minutes of regulation. Anthony finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, missing 20 of 30 shots in the Knicks sixth straight loss. Nike Air Max 720 Wholesale . Freddie Roach said if the Rios fight "does not go well, we will seriously talk about his retirement," but that Pacquiao was training as well as ever for the Nov. http://www.brandshoescheaponline.com/wholesale-nike-air-vapormax-china.html .com) - Markus Granlund scored the game-winning goal as the Calgary Flames used an early offensive flurry to defeat the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, on Monday.Saturday had a weird feel about it for Toronto FC at BMO Field. One would think advancing in the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday would have left some positive residue in the atmosphere. Team-wise, there was momentum contributing to the positive result, a 2-0 win over one of Major League Soccers glamour clubs, the New York Red Bulls. The energy, or lack thereof around the stadium had another feel entirely. We shall call it the remnants of a history of failure. Some level of disillusionment, distrust, and negativity still float around to a certain degree. A new culture isnt created overnight. And thus, a change in perception is as much a work in progress as the team on the field Three straight league losses heading in, Michael Bradley away on World Cup duty, and an unpopular trade amongst some Toronto FC supporters made for awkwardness. There was tension throughout an unusually quiet crowd, somewhat predictable considering possession stats heavily favouring the visitors while the prospects of another dreaded late goal conceded lingered. The heartbreaking goal against didnt come. Contrary to usual script, it was the Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips with all the wrong moves, missing an absolute wide-open sitter. Simply a brutal miss by MLS top goal scorer. Despite waves of pressure, the Red Bulls put only one shot on target, a testament to Toronto FCs stout defensive structure and blue-collar effort. The commitment shown by the Reds is something to rally around, isnt it? Ill take this work in progress over anything weve seen before at BMO, thank you very much. Four wins through eight matches should be entirely pleasing. The MLS standings are misleading with Toronto FC sitting 7th but playing a league-low eight games thus far. Its the 1.5 points earned per game that tells a more positive tale; tied for the third best rate in the Eastern Conference. Progress. There will be no convincing a fan base to fully commit to a product without reason for true conviction. Apprehension cannot simply be whisked away. The negative response to Issey Nakajima-Farran being traded to the Montreal Impact Friday (on his birthday) came as a surprise. Issey did fine as a member of Toronto FC. But the trade for Collen Warner is not a negative move for footballing reasons. Its the perception Issey was hard-done-by, with he and his agent reportedly not told of the deal beforehand, leading to the player taking to Twitter to call the move "#Inhumane". Perhaps my definition of Inhumane is entirely different. Its this kind of nonsense, the petty name-calling and lack of communication that can easily be resolved and need be remedied. Issey is a fine player, but lacked the defensive team play/awareness demanded by the manager. Issey could have remained a squad player in Toronto, and that would have been fine. Acquiring a player in Warner who can fill a specific role as a defensive midfielder is preferable. The wing positions still need upgrading. That would have remained on the to-do list even if Issey were not moved. The entire deal was blown out of proportion based on perception rather than anything tangible about team direction. So what is Toronto FCs team identity? Although it continues to be asked in the press box and through the rafters, through eight games it seems abundantly clear: a team difficult to break down defensively and one reliant upon the counter-attack. Those looking for expansive, attack-oriented football will remain disappointed for the time being. Thats not happening with this squad as currently constructed. Spare me style points, the 2-0 win was trademark Toronto FC. Here are my five thoughts: 1) The Defoe Effect - Jermain Defoe remains emotional about his exclusion from the 23-man England World Cup squad. Its a tough spot for Jermain. The questions asked about his decision to join MLS playing a role in his exclusion are completely unfair. He was never going to be picked not playing regular minutes at Tottenham either. Defoe was excluded because Roy Hodgson decided to name only four strikers and a glut of attacking midfielders. Is Defoe worthy of selection over Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge or Ricky Lambert? No chance. Thats no disrespect to Jermain. From the sounds of it, the lumbering Andy Carroll is the preferred striker on standby too, putting Defoe sixth in the pecking order. Its understandable why Ryan Nelsen warned post-match, "... England will miss him dearly, I think, come World Cup time." Defoes 12th-minute goal was a thing of beauty: an unstoppable strike after finding space behind the Red Bulls backline (which he did all afternoon). Defoe took one touch before unleashing a shot of the highest quality, top corner. Unstoppable. The power and placement top class, decisive and clinical. Its the type of finish that separates him from most in MLS. Defoe makes Toronto FC a constant danger as long as hes on the field, no matter how the team plays behind him. Make it four goals in just five games for Defoe, while no other TFC player has scored more than once. 2) Moore is More New Toronto FC striker Luke Moore loves BMO Field. The Englishman sscored a hat trick against TFC in a 2007 summer friendly while at Aston Villa. Fake Air Force 1 For Sale. Moore made it two-for-two in games scoring goals at BMO after coming on as a second half substitute in his home debut. Moore capitalized on goalkeeper Luis Robles and defender Chris Duvall colliding, making for an easy tap-in time added on to guarantee the three points. It was a productive 40 minutes of action for Moore, doing well holding up the ball. It must be questioned whether Moore is a preferable option short-term over misfiring Gilberto. The Brazilian missed another clear-cut goal scoring opportunity in the 19th minute. The ball fell to Gilberto on the back post, open inside the six-yard box. Instead of getting his body behind the ball and guiding it into the back of the net, Gilberto lunged and stabbed, with the ball bouncing awkwardly out of play for a goal kick. He has to capitalize on these kinds of chances. Missing sitters as such brings back ugly memories of Chad Barrett or Jeff Cunningham, but even worse because Gilberto is a designated player. The designation matters in our evaluation. Matias Laba was sacrificed by TFC to bring in another goal scorer. Laba could have made for an ideal centre-midfield partner with Bradley. I still stand by the reasoning behind the move for Gilberto TFC needs goal scorers to compliment Defoe. Can Gilberto be that guy? Its still far too early to make any grandiose proclamation. Thus far Gilberto has let down the faith of his general manager and head coach. More is required, or Nelsen should just roll with Moore for the time being. 3) Orr is More Bradley Orr has become Mr. Utility for Toronto FC. He has played four positions for the club, and as he puts it, is trying to be a good "squad player". There will always be a fit for a player like Orr, who was an absolute asset Saturday reading the play and helping out his backline. Orr rarely got forward from his central midfield position, and when he did he assisted on Defoes opener. Orr dropped deeper as the game wore on, basically sitting on top of Steven Caldwell and Nick Hagglund. He was like another defender, in position for help and support. Despite his standout performance, Orr is not suited to play the position full-time. His distribution isnt good enough for the holding role. This is the position Nelsen envisions for Warner. Your guess is as good as mine where Orr will land in his merry-go-round of positions. Nelsen seems ecstatic with Mark Bloom at right-back, Orrs natural position. So Orr will have to remain patient for his chances and continue to be that good squad player. Hes an asset Toronto FC will continue to call upon. 4) Hagglund over Henry The rookie out of Xavier has given plenty for his head coach to think about. Hagglund was preferred Saturday ahead of Doneil Henry at centre-back. Diving in for challenges and a lack of discipline have plagued Henry in recent weeks. Nelsen needs a more reliable, steady Henry to play alongside Caldwell. Credit Hagglund, who took full advantage of the opportunity. After some early jitters giving away possession twice cheaply in the opening minutes, Hagglund settled and his confidence grew as the match wore on, making better clearances and in control as the Red Bulls pressed. Its hard not envisioning Henry as the regular starting centre-back partner for Caldwell for the foreseeable future. Perhaps its best to have Henry watch a few more games from the sidelines, focusing on his defending tendencies in training, and not forced into game action until hes corrected his issues, namely staying on his feet and finding better defensive positioning on one-on-one defending. Hagglund is a serviceable option for the time being and beyond. 5) On the Defensive The 12th-minute goal was a blessing and a curse for Toronto FC. Playing with an early lead allowed TFC to fall back defensively for the duration, taking few chances and allowing the Red Bulls to dictate the flow of the game. Parking the bus wouldnt be the best way to describe it, but its not far off. The defensive shell and rotation by the fullbacks in support has been phenomenal, reflective in conceding just nine through eight games. Playing such a defensive game comes with risk. Sitting back far too much has cost Toronto FC conceding late in matches against Colorado, New England, and Dallas. The commitment remains high but there isnt enough of a concerted effort to get forward, attack, and find that all-important second goal. New York maintained 59 per cent of possession; a terrible number for TFC playing at home. Better ball retention and consistent build up is a necessity as the season wears on. This also has everything to do with getting Defoe involved as much as possible. The ability thus far to grind out results has revealed all kinds of character in the team. But its a fallacy to expect this kind of play will bring similar results over the long-term. Toronto FC pays a visit to reigning MLS Cup Champion Sporting Kansas City Friday night at 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt. (TSN/TSN 1050 Radio). Gareth Wheeler can be reached on Twitter: @WheelerTSNgareth.firstname.lastname@example.org ' ' '