The MLS season starts tonight, and all week Jason Davis has been introducing the combatants. Here are the last four; enjoy the season!
Yesterday you were introduced to the Houston Dynamo, formerly the San Jose Earthquakes before the league and their owners decided to relocate the franchise due to problems securing a stadium deal.
However, there is a new incarnation of the Earthquakes, and though those stadium problems are still not rectified, San Jose 2.0 will play its third season in 2010.
The Quakes' biggest names are ex-Reading winger Bobby Convey and new acquisition Eduardo (obviously not that Eduardo; this one's still Brazilian and last played in Switzerland), which certainly doesn't inspire confidence.
And they'll need confidence if they're to improve on last season's performance, a dismal last-place finish in the Western Conference. (They'd finished bottom the previous season, too.) The brightest light for the Earthquakes is probably Jamaican striker Ryan Johnson, who tallied 11 goals in 2009.
RJ leaves another defender in the dust
Major League Soccer's only outpost of a larger foreign club is Chivas USA, co-tenants of the Home Depot Center with the Galaxy in Los Angeles.
Aimed squarely at Hispanics (Chivas the parent club is CD Guadalajara from Mexico) in the country's second largest market, Chivas is often though of as the city's other team. But the Goats have had more consistent success than their flashier groundmates, making the play-offs each of the last four seasons.
The club have a new man in charge after Preki left for Toronto (and because Chivas were ready for a change). It will be up to Martin Vasquez to lead an largely unchanged team back to the play-offs.
Under Preki, Chivas were known to be a bit of a hard team, though they aren't without good attacking options Ã¢ÂÂ chiefly Guadalajara loanee Jesus Padilla and Sacha Kljestan, a US international once wanted by Celtic. A change in attitude might serve them well.
"Have they kicked off?"
The Colorado Rapids are the Arsenal of Major League Soccer, if only because their owner happens to be Gunners majority shareholder Stan Kroenke. Otherwise, the Rapids are nothing like Arsenal, though they do have a potent front line (by MLS standards) of US international Conor Casey and Jamaican international Omar Cummings.
The club is led English manager Gary Smith and has the distinct pleasure of playing in a stadium called Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Last season Colorado just missed the play-offs on goal difference to Real Salt Lake, and were forced to watch their biggest rival go on to win the MLS Cup.
Fine at home, where they enjoy an advantage over their opponents due to altitude, Colorado will need to improve their away form (two wins from 15 last season) to give them a chance of climbing the table in 2010.
Job done: Conor Casey does his thing
If MLS commissioner Don Garber dozed off in front of his computer (with the requisite keyboard drooling, naturally) and dreamed a perfect dream for the launch of a new franchise, he couldn't have conceive anything better than the sensational start of the Seattle Sounders.
Debuting in 2009, the Sounders broke every attendance record in the book (pulling in 30,000 a match), made the play-offs in their first season under two-time Cup-winning head coach Sigi Schmid, and set a new standard for expansion success.
There's no reason 2010 shouldn't be just as good for Seattle, with all their major contributors returning and a second-half addition in Blaise Nkufo lined up for the post-World Cup push.
Freddie Ljungberg is the biggest name, of course, and though MLS' only underwear model has the pedigree, young players like Freddy Montero and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are the driving force. Expect big things from the Sounders in 2010, both on the field and in the stands.
Fans united: Seattle regulars show their colours
MLS 2010 should be just as competitive and hotly contested as ever. Parity and salary caps may seem foreign concepts to many football fans, but they do make for exciting stretch runs, tight margins, and late-season intrigue.
If you don't mind a little football in the summer, America's top flight is a worthwhile watch. Ever improving, often unpredictable, and with a fresh coat of paint for almost every campaign (Red Bull Arena and the Philadelphia Union this time around), Major League Soccer is beginning to come into its own, blemishes and all.
Sounds just about right for a fifteen-year-old.
Eastern Conference Pt1: Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution & DC United Eastern Conference Pt2: Toronto FC, Kansas City Wizards, New York Red Bulls & Philadelphia UnionWestern Conference Pt1: LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo & FC DallasWestern Conference Pt2: San Jose Earthquakes, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids & Seattle Sounders