What to Watch For: MLS 2021 Season

Photo via SI

What to Watch For: MLS Top 10

  1. Austin FC
    • Let us start with the obvious. There is a new team on campus, Austin FC. After years of the city of Austin pushing for a new club, they were met with their reward. This is a side that has great potential to make waves in the Western Conference. This club was put together with a great mix of MLS veterans and key Designated Players with the biggest signing being Tomas Pochettino, who tore up the Argentine Primera Division. Austin FC could be a force to be reckoned with and their first match will be a must-watch.
  2. The Return of King Josef
    • After missing all of the 2020 season with an injury, Josef Martinez will make his way back to the pitch with his first match in Orlando. The 2018 Golden Boot winner and prolific striker for the five stripes will look to take this season by storm. While he has struggled with the departure of Pity Martinez and Miguel Almiron, he is as true as a number nine as a striker can be. Atlanta has made key signings to help support the experienced Venezuelan. Atlanta United will be looking to have a much better season by their standards. After a finish in 12th place in the East, the 2018 MLS Cup winners will look to hit the ground running at Exploria Stadium.
  3. Defend the Crown!
    • The Columbus Crew demolished the Seattle Sounders en route to winning the 2020 MLS Cup. Their club MVP and superstar signing, Lucas Zelarayan carryied them to the title. After ending the season on a high, the Crew will look to maintain focus and defend their title. Their quality of play has caught the eye of many, and they will have a target on their backs in the Eastern Conference. The front office was able to make the right signings and keep the majority of that winning lineup. But can they maintain the same quality they showed in the 2020 season, or will the defending champions find the East to be a tough hill to climb?
  4. Started from the Bottom, now they are where?
    • To say that FC Cincinnati have had a rough start to their MLS Campaign would be an understatement. Leading into their third season, the club decided to make some real moves that could possibly pay off and show they belong in this league. Their glaring issue since their inception to the league has been their lack of offense. But with the signings of Luciano Acosta and Brenner Souza da Silva, Cincy could start to find the back of the net more frequently. The biggest issue they could be facing is that the rest of the East has made plenty of moves to put their name beyond the playoff line. Did FC Cincinnati do enough?
  5. Looking to continue raving
    • After losing their second MLS Cup in quite a fashion, the Seattle Sounders found themselves in an out-of-body experience. While they have struggled in the previous finals, the league had never seen them get kicked around they did in Columbus, Ohio. The Sounders have lost some key players that have led them to their success, layers like Jordan Morris (injury), Gustav Svensson (transfer), Kelvin Leerdam (transfer), and a few others. Head coach, Brian Schmetzer will look to rebound quickly from dramatic loss and show that Seattle can still be a force. But the rest of the West will be salivating at the opportunity to pick on a wounded club.
  6. Not to be Loony
    • Minnesota United took a massive blow against the Sounders as Seattle mounted an incredible comeback in the 2020 Western Conference Final. Minnesota will be looking at that match as a learning lesson. They were the better club for the first 70 minutes of the match, then Seattle happened. But Adrian Heath has helped make fantastic moves for the club with the loan signing of Ramon Abila. While they have lost Kevin Molino, who was their undeniable superstar in the postseason, the Loons will look to keep that fire in the bellies that was lit on that night in Seattle.
  7. Not yelling Timber
    • After a dramatic loss at Providence Park on penalties, the Portland Timbers saw themselves on a bitter drive back to their homes as they were quickly knocked from the MLS Playoffs. They lost Sebastian Blanco due to injury and never really quite recovered. But now they have healthy players, just dominated their CONCACAF Champions League opponent and found the appropriate roles from some of their signings from last season. The Timbers could find themselves a real contender in the West. Yimmi Chara has dominated in the CONCACAF Champions League with a hat trick in his last match. Diego Valeri continues to show why he is one of the most elite midfields. The biggest thing to watch for with Portland is their defense. They were in the higher end of goals allowed in the Western Conference and with the fire power in the West, that could be their downfall.
  8. All he is quacked up to be
    • The Lions in Orlando finally saw their first playoffs only to see themselves dispatched to the New England Revolution. With Daryl Dike on loan to Barnsley, Orlando needed a new striker. Well after months of speculation and teasing on social media, they made the big announcement of signing Alexandre Pato. The well-traveled Brazilian will look to show why he was worth the signing. After having different stints with Chelsea, Villarreal and Sao Paolo, Orlando wanted to take a chance on the 31-year-old. While not performing like he was in his early days, he is hoping to have a similar type of impact that Zlatan Ibrahimović or Carlos Vela made upon their signings. While Daryl Dike is drawing interest from European clubs, they have yet to actual sell him. Could they be keeping him on the backburner in case Pato does not work out?
  9. Wondo Watch
    • There was speculation that the MLS All-Time leading goal scorer could have played his last season last year in San Jose. Not so fast MLS because Chris Wondolowski resigned a one-year contract with the Earthquakes. San Jose made a great push for the playoffs and after an exciting match against Sporting Kansas City, they sadly were their own worst enemy as three poorly-taken penalties were easily saved and SKC moved on. Wondo will be looking to add at least another trophy to his case and go out with a bang. Keep an eye on him because you could be watching the final season of an MLS Legend.
  10. On the hunt for 30
    • The plans for Sacramento Republic to join the league were put to a halt after their primary financial supporter pulled out of the deal. MLS Commissioner, Don Garber wants this league to have 30 clubs. He has recently announced that St. Louis and Charlotte will soon join the league, where will he turn to find that number thirty? Could it be in the Valley of the Desert in Phoenix? They have shown plenty of promise after winning the Western Conference in the United Soccer League last season. What about San Diego? Yes, it would be another California club but any team that is coached by the GOAT of MLS in Landon Donovan does get their say. Whoever it will be, the next big move for the Commissioner will be promotion/relegation. Could we see it happen in our lifetime? Who knows?

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