That leads me into my planned Season Preview. normally I go through the roster by position but this year its fairly difficult to do that. The team has signed so many players who can play multiple positions that I couldn't tell you with any certainty where anyone will line up come Saturday. The players I am fairly confident of, like Pickens and Buddle, are likely to miss the game due to injury. I will attempt to break it down in basic terms though.
Goalkeeper: There's Pickens and then there's the other two. We're probably going to live and die in the early season on Matt's (and Travis'!) health. Ceus had a poor preseason and Irwin is untested at this level.
Defense: Strong but thin. I think we'll see our best 4 on the field in some format early. That being Mullan, Moor, Wynne, and Calderon. Yes, Mullan has officially moved to outside back at this point apparently. Any injuries are quickly going to reveal our weakness though. Kindle, Klute, O'Neill, Armstrong, and anyone else we may throw in all have minimal MLS experience and Wallace is coming back from missing almost all of the last two seasons.
Midfield: This is where is gets really foggy. Thomas will probably be the defensive backbone, but after that? Pablo is going to reclaim his spot early, but I don't expect he'll keep it if the midfield isn't working. Rivero's injured with Hill or Powers likely to take his spot. LaBrocca is just waiting to grab a starting spot from somebody. Lots of possibilities on the bench in Serna, Smith, and Sturgis, plus whatever attacking midfielders aren't being used as forwards.
Forward: The key to the whole season. If this group can't figure out how to find the back of the net its going to be a very long year. The big offseason move, Buddle, is likely to miss opening day with rookie DeShorn Brown looking like the replacement. Attiba Harris is likely to be the Edu/Folan of 2013, unfortunately. Castrillon would be the other starter but he's out until at least mid-year, so Cascio, Harbottle, and Akpan will all be challenging for his spot. Eloundou is a wild card, nobody's seen him yet due to visa issues.
If the back 5 can stay healthy early they can provide a stable base to build on. The midfield is probably the strongest position as there seems to be a good amount of quality, but a lot of question marks about everybody's role. IMO the season is going to hinge on the forwards finding their finishing boots. I don't think we're going to be able to win many 1-0 games, this squad is built to attack more than defend.
So, its prediction time. I went 2 for 6 last year, not great.
- The team will struggle early as players figure out their roles. With 3 tough road games in the first 4 we'll be lucky to have more than 4 points. Even after that we've got tough games against Seattle, Houston, and FSL in April.
- Due to this tough start we'll be near the playoff positions most of the season but fall out of the running before the final push, much like last year.
- We will, however, win the Rocky Mountain Cup back, finally
- More than one new-to-MLS player will claim a starting position this year and will be expected to be a starter going into 2014.
- The USOC will be a moderate success, with the team doing well enough to finally host a game before being eliminated by another MLS side.
- Buddle doesn't live up to his bidding, but does well enough to continue to start.
- As mentioned above, Harris will be the WTF signing of 2013.
- Pablo retires at season's end, possibly announcing it before the final home game.
- Despite missing the playoffs Bravo & Pareja will keep their jobs.