LAFC aims to defend its MLS Cup title in 2023
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 21-9-4, 1st in the West, won the MLS Cup.
COACH: Steve Cherundolo.
KEY PLAYERS: Giorgio Chiellini, Carlos Vela, Kellyn Acosta.
OUTLOOK: LAFC won the 2022 Supporters Shield and went on to lift the MLS Cup, defeating the Philadelphia Union on penalties. Coach Steve Cherundolo heads into his second year with those lofty expectations now in place. Gareth Bale, who scored the extra-time goal that sent the championship game to penalty kicks, has retired after his short stint with the team. One other key loss was Cristian Arango, who transferred to Pachuca in Mexico. There’s still a lot of firepower on the squad, and there were even recent rumors that the team is interested in Chelsea’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 16-10-8, 2nd in the West, lost in the conference final to LAFC.
COACH: Josh Wolff.
KEY PLAYERS: Maxi Urruti, Sebastian Driussi, Gyasi Zardes.
OUTLOOK: Sebastian Driussi was at times one of the league's best players last season, and wound up leading the club with 22 goals. He also had seven assists. Maxi Urruti was second on the board with nine goals. Austin was one of the league's surprise performers last season with a run to the conference finals after losing 21 games, second-most in the league, in the team's 2021 debut season. El Verde added free agent Gyasi Zardes in the offseason. Coach Josh Wolff has extra duties now that he's interim chief soccer officer after Claudio Reyna resigned amid controversy with the U.S. national team.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 11-13-10, 10th in the Western Conference.
COACH: Robin Fraser.
KEY PLAYERS: Diego Rubio, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett.
OUTLOOK: The Rapids finished atop the Western Conference in the 2021 season then failed to make the playoffs last year. Diego Rubio led the team with 16 goals last season, matching the franchise record. He leads the team all-time with 13 game-winning goals. Cole Bassett returns to the team after going to the Netherlands on loan. The Rapids also acquired Kevin Cabral from the LA Galaxy and center back Andreas Maxso from Danish club Bronby. One young player getting a lot of buzz: 18-year-old homegrown Darren Yapi.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 14-9-11, 3rd in the West, lost in the conference semifinal to Austin.
COACH: Nico Estevez.
KEY PLAYERS: Sebastian Lletget, Jesss Ferreira, Paul Arriola.
OUTLOOK: Dallas is loaded with talent, led by forward Jesus Ferreira, who scored 18 goals with the team last season. Ferreira made the U.S. World Cup team but didn't play until the round of 16 match loss to the Netherlands. Paul Arriola, who had 10 goals for Dallas last year, was not included on the national team roster for Qatar despite playing for the team during qualifying. Lletget was acquired by Dallas in the offseason from the New England Revolution. Under coach Nico Estevez, the team improved 20 points last season over 2021, the biggest one-year turnaround in team history.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 10-18-6, 13th in the West.
COACH: Ben Olsen.
KEY PLAYERS: Hector Herrera, Sebastián Ferreira, Franco Escobar
OUTLOOK: New head coach Ben Olsen is in the midst of a major rebuild. The team will rely on Hector Herrera, who is coming off his third World Cup with the Mexican national team. Herrera signed with the Dynamo last season as a designated player after spending three seasons with Atletico Madrid in Spain, but played in just 10 matches for Houston. The Dynamo also signed Franco Escobar, who was released in the offseason by LAFC, and more recently, free agent Will Bruin.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 14-12-8, 4th in the West, lost in conference semifinal to LAFC.
COACH: Greg Vanney.
KEY PLAYERS: Javier `Chicharito' Hernandez, Douglas Costa, Riqui Puig.
OUTLOOK: Right back Julian Araujo was headed to Barcelona for a reported $4 million transfer fee but the paperwork was processed 18 seconds too late and Araujo was in a strange limbo during the preseason. But the deal eventually went through. Coach Greg Vanney has an open designated player spot after the trade of Kevin Cabral to Colorado in December. The Galaxy will certainly look to get more out of Douglas Costa. The team added free agent Memo Rodriguez from Houston.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 14-14-6, 6th in the West, lost in the opening round to Dallas.
COACH: Adrian Heath.
KEY PLAYERS: Dayne St. Claire, Emanuel Reynoso, Luis Amarilla.
OUTLOOK: The Loons head into the season with uncertainty surrounding designated player Emanuel Reynoso. The Argentine has been suspended without pay for failing to show up for the preseason. He had 10 goals and 11 assists for Minnesota last season, and has signed with the team through 2026. Dayne St. Claire should start in goal after the offseason departure of Tyler Miller. The Loons are the only Western Conference team to appear in the playoffs for four straight years.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 11-10-13, 8th in the West.
COACH: Giovanni Savarese.
KEY PLAYERS: Evander, Eryk Williamson, Diego Chara.
OUTLOOK: The Timbers missed out on the playoffs last season and made one big offseason move with the signing of Brazilian Evander. The club has been dealing with off-the-pitch issues stemming from the abuse and misconduct scandal in the National Women's Soccer League. Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, who also owns the NWSL's Portland Thorns, stepped away from an active role with the team last year. The Timbers recently named Ned Grabavoy as its new general manager, and Heather Davis as the club's new CEO.
REAL SALT LAKE
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 12-11-11, 7th in the West, lost in the opening round to Austin.
COACH: Pablo Mastroeni.
KEY PLAYERS: Carlos Andres Gomez, Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino.
OUTLOOK: Winger Carlos Andres Gomez was signed in January from Colombian club Millonarios. RSL reportedly paid the biggest transfer fee in club history for the 20-year-old, who had 10 goals last season. He won the Copa Colombia's Golden Boot with three goals during the competition. Salt Lake will look again to Rubio Rubin, who won MLS Goal of the Year honors in 2021. Captain Damir Kreilach appears to be healthy after missing much of 2022 with a back injury.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 8-15-11, last in the West.
COACH: Luchi Gonzalez.
KEY PLAYERS: Jeremy Ebobisse, Jonathan Mensah, Cade Cowell.
OUTLOOK: Luchi Gonzalez, who most recently was an assistant on the U.S. national team that went to the World Cup in Qatar, returns to coach the team that drafted him as a player in 2002. Gonzalez previously coached FC Dallas. The Quakes added defender Jonathan Mensah, acquired in the trade with the Columbus Crew. Defender Nathan will miss the season after a preseason ACL injury. Young player to keep an eye on: 16-year-old Cruz Medina, who signed with the team last year and has been making noise for the U.S. under-17 national team. He has yet to appear with the first-team Quakes.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 12-17-5, 11th in the West.
COACH: Brian Schmetzer.
KEY PLAYERS: Jordan Morris, Nicolás Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz.
OUTLOOK: The Sounders won the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League, snapping a run of 13-straight teams from Liga MX to win the title. As a result, Seattle became the first MLS team to appear in the Club World Cup. The team's debut in the tournament was short-lived with a 1-0 loss to Egyptian club Al Ahly. The Sounders have a strong side, again. The team locked Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan into deals that will keep them with the club through 2027. They added forward Heber in a trade with NYCFC.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 11-16-7, 12th in the West.
COACH: Peter Vermes
KEY PLAYERS: Alan Pulido, Graham Zusi, Willy Agada.
OUTLOOK: There are rumors that Alan Pulido may bolt for Chivas de Guadalajara in Liga MX. Sporting added Serbian defensive mid Nemanja Radoja and German left back Tim Leibold in the offseason. Sporting may have a battle for the starting spot at goalkeeper between veteran Tim Melia, who had hamstring issues last season, and John Pulskamp, who replaced Melia and performed well. Defender Kortne Ford ruptured his Achilles tendon in a preseason match and is out for the season.
ST. LOUIS CITY
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: Expansion team for 2023.
COACH: Bradley Carnell.
KEY PLAYERS: Joao Klauss, Indiana Vassilev, Roman Burki.
OUTLOOK: City has an experienced goalkeeper in Roman Burki, who came to MLS after a long career with Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga. Swedish international Joakim Nilsson, a defender who also came from the Bundesliga, will also be tasked with a leadership role. St. Louis also acquired midfielder Indiana Vassilev in the expansion draft from Inter Miami, where he spent part of the last two seasons on loan from Aston Villa. One young player to watch: 15-year-old Caden Glover, the team's first-ever homegrown player.
2022 RECORD AND FINISH: 12-15-7, 9th in the West.
COACH: Vanni Sartini.
KEY PLAYERS: Julian Gressel, Mathias Laborda, Yohei Takaoka.
OUTLOOK: Veteran forward Tosaint Ricketts, who also played for Toronto FC, retired from MLS but is now on Vancouver's staff as a club and player engagement liaison. The team is looking to add forward Sergio Cordova, who joined the team in the preseason, but the signing isn't official just yet. The Whitecaps added goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka and Uruguayan center back Mathias Laborda in the offseason. Forward Lucas Cavallini, who had been with the Whitecaps since the 2020 season, left for Tijuana in Liga MX.
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Anne M. Peterson, The Associated Press