The 2017 Major League Soccer season is underway. As new teams enter the league and returning favorites look to push for a chance to win the MLS Cup, there is no denying that the heat is officially on.
Here is a handy guide to help you navigate the new season.
Manager: Patrick Vieira
World Cup winner Vieira returns as “The Mister” for City as they enter their third season. Returning favorites David Villa and Andrea Pirlo will look to be the protagonists again following the retirement of Frank Lampard in the offseason.
NYCFC is looking to build on a promising 2016 campaign that ended with a 5-0 drubbing by Toronto FC in the Playoffs. The club trimmed the fat by sending Mix Diskerud on loan to Sweden after a dismal 2016 season. Jefferson Mena was shipped over to Ecuador’s Barcelona S.C.
After making their first MLS Cup playoffs last year, NYCFC are out to prove they can perform in the big games. Adding former Juventus and Atalanta player Maxi Moralez to the midfield is filling the void left by Lampard. It also gives Pirlo more creative options.
“Obviously, there are a lot of expectations for me. I want to show that on the field, especially with what [coach] Patrick [Vieira] is asking from me,” the Argentine Designated Player told the New York Post early in the season.
Aside from Moralez, NYCFC have added 11 new players to the roster including: Ugo Okoli, Sean Johnson, Miguel Camargo, Jonathan Lewis, Kwame Awuah, Alexander Callens, Alex Ring, Yangel Herrera, Rodney Wallace, John Stertzer and Ben Sweat.
The club still needs to tighten their defense and work on their goalkeeping but Vieira has solid talent at his disposal with the likes of Tommy McNamara, Yangel Herrera and young starlet, Jack Harrison.
In what could be Villa and Pirlo’s final season in New York, the club is going to do whatever it can to make sure these two legends go out in style.
New York Red Bulls
Manager: Jesse Marsch
The O.G. New York soccer club looks to make sure their history and play do the talkin’.
Led by manager Jesse Marsch, the Red Bulls have been bucking the last few seasons thanks to their youth academy development and Bradley Wright-Phillips who has been delivering Muhammad Ali-style one, two punches to his opponents. The team, which once boasted superstars like Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez, and Juan Pablo Angel, has found much success with their home grown talent in recent years. This approach has become a major differentiator from their rivals in the Bronx. That, and the 7-0 from last season. Yikes.
The club added Norwegian Fredrik Gulbrandsen from their sister club Red Bull Salzburg in Austria and he has already embraced the NY Red Bulls and their loyal fanbase, telling reporters: “The fans were amazing the whole game and I was really motivated when I saw them. It’s a bit different from Austria. There’s a lot more crowd here, so it was nice.”
As vets like Sal Zizzo, BWP, Gonzalo Verona, and Sean Davis return, keeper Luis Robles is making history, playing every minute of every game since 2012.
“I remember July 2012 when you guys didn’t know who I was,” Robles told MLS.com. “I was just sitting there thinking [that] it was a good run, it’s time to move on. Though my parents were definitely supporting me, my wife was hounding me, like ‘It’s not done yet, we need to give it one more try. Do whatever it takes, bypass an agent, Google ‘Major League Soccer.’ I really think you’re going to regret this if you don’t give it one last try.’ So it was with her encouragement and motivation I pursued it and I couldn’t [have] thought of it being something like this.”
Orlando City SC
Manager: Jason Kreis
Like NYCFC, Orlando City SC are in their third season of play. The team celebrates the 2017 season with a brand new, state-of-the art stadium that is about as beautiful as Kaka’s free kicks.
With Kaka out for the next few weeks after picking up an injury during their opening game against NYCFC, the team are stepping up to fill his void and make sure his absence doesn’t hurt them in the long run. Following the 2016 season, Kaka said he was going to hang up his boots but as the new year came around, the Brazilian World Cup winner had a change of heart and wanted to be back in the action with his team.
“I think all of our players this year should be going about this with the mentality that this is an opportunity for us that will go away unless we grasp it,” Kreis told the team’s website. “That we have a different hunger level this year, to perform every single game and to give back to the fans what they’ve given us the last two years.”
As players like Antonio Nocerino, Carlos Rivas, Giles Barnes, and Conor Donovan return for action, the club hopes to make the playoffs after missing out last year.
Their fanbase is going to rival that of Red Bull, Portland, and Seattle this season as Orlando have sold-out nearly every single game in their new arena. Ratings have skyrocketed according to ESPN’s ratings of their home opener which show a 14 percent increase than last year’s first game on the network. The fans of Orlando are going to be their 12th man and any team coming to the city known for Mickey Mouse is going to have to pull the sword from the stone at the Magic Kingdom in order to battle the purple club.
Manager: Gerardo Martino
It is the first year for Atlanta United and they are under the management of former Argentina and Barcelona coach Tata Martino. Martino, a man with a prestigious record is not going to take lip from anyone as he fights to make sure this new team makes some noise in their first season.
While they don’t have iconic players like Kaka, Pirlo, or Villa, that doesn’t seem to bother their fans as they have sold-out nearly every game. The team currently play in Bobby Dodd Stadium before moving to the state-of-the-art Mercedes Benz Arena in the summer where they will share it with the Atlanta Falcons.
Martino was the smartest coaching choice the club’s owners could have made. Former USMNT and Chicago Fire hero Carlos Bocanegra is the club’s technical director. He has been crisscrossing the globe grabbing fringe players from other clubs and hoping to turn them into new heroes.
With their front office all set and ready to do whatever they can to help, designated players Miguel Almirón and Héctor Villalba are leading the pack as Atlanta United looks to make the city the bedrock of soccer in the South.