FourFourTwo's MLS 2015 season preview: Eastern Conference team by team

Jason Davis assesses who's who among the 10 teams in the MLS's Eastern Conference...

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Chicago Fire


  • Nickname The Fire
  • MLS since 1997
  • Stadium Toyota Park (20,000)
  • Coach Frank Yallop
  • 2014 East: 9th, Overall: 15th

So, what's the story?
One-time MLS champs Chicago have never managed to reclaim that glory. Stuck as a middling club through the last half-decade, the Fire are looking in 2015 for simple relevancy. 
What happened last season? 
Draws. The Fire were the MLS’s titans of ties in 2014, setting a league record by collecting a whopping 18 stalemates from 34 matches. 
Expectations this time
Head coach Frank Yallop, a veteran of three MLS teams, has a mandate to rebuild but lacks a big budget. The Fire might expect to make the play-offs, but no one will be surprised if they don’t. 
Star man
Mike Magee. The 2013 MLS MVP nearly pushed the Fire into the play-offs that season after moving over from the LA Galaxy partway through the campaign. He was injured most of last year, so the club will need a big season from their best goalscorer.

Recent East champs

  • 2014 DC United
  • 2013 New York Red Bulls
  • 2012 Sporting Kansas City
  • 2011 Sporting Kansas City
  • 2010 New York Red Bulls
  • 2009 Columbus Crew
  • 2008 Columbus Crew
  • 2007 DC United
  • 2006 DC United
  • 2005 New England Revolution

New kid on the block
There are a host of new faces in Chicago, but the biggest name to sign up this winter is former Wigan man and Scotland international Shaun Maloney. 

Did you know? 
The Fire are the only expansion team to win a championship in their first year of existence (Houston don’t count).

Columbus Crew SC


  • Nickname The Black & Gold
  • MLS since 1996
  • Stadium Mapfre Stadium (19,968)
  • Coach Gregg Berhalter
  • 2014 East: 3rd, Overall: 7th, Play-offs: Conference semis

So, what's the story?
Having rebranded in the off-season from plain old 'Columbus Crew' to 'Columbus Crew SC', Major League Soccer’s lone Ohio representatives are a league original who usually manage to punch above their relative weight. 

What happened last season? 
The Crew bowed out of the play-offs in the Eastern Conference semi-final round to eventual MLS Cup finalists New England. On the whole, they impressed and were one of the surprises of the season.
Expectations this time
Very high. Columbus seem poised to take the next step, especially with head coach Gregg Berhalter in his second season and a number of important reinforcements to the roster. 
Star man
Federico Higuain. Gonzalo’s brother is the star creator in the centre of the pitch for Columbus, a massive figure who literally made the team go last year. Always good for a handful of stunning goals – he likes a good chip.

New kid on the block
Forward Kei Kamara. Technically a returning player (he suited up for Columbus from 2006-2007), Kamara might be the lead striker Columbus need to put them over the top: the position was a major weakness last season.

Did you know? 
When it opened in 1999 as the Crew Stadium (it’s now the MAPFRE Stadium for sponsorship reasons), Columbus’s home ground was the first soccer-specific stadium in Major League Soccer. 

D.C. United


  • Nickname Black-and-Red
  • MLS since 1996
  • Stadium RFK Stadium (45,596)
  • Coach Ben Olsen
  • 2014 East: 1st, Overall: 3rd, Play-offs: Conference semis

So, what's the story? 
With four MLS Cup titles, D.C. United are one of the league’s most successful teams. Sadly for the capital club, their last championship came in 2003, and while they still pop up to compete for silverware on occasion, United has struggled to keep up with a changing MLS.

What happened last season? 
Shockingly, United followed a historically bad 2013 season by finishing first in the Eastern Conference in 2014. Sadly, first place didn’t buy them much come play-off time: they immediately lost to the hated Red Bulls in the conference semis. 
Expectations this time
It’s difficult to imagine United replicating their 2014 season, but anything short of a play-off spot would be a disappointment. The target is a top-three finish. 
Star man
While there are several above-average players in the squad, none particularly stand out. Keep an eye on Argentine forward Fabian Espindola, however – before injury limited him last season, he was the focal point of the United attack.

New kid on the block
Of the new arrivals, Michael Farfan is interesting: after a stint in Philadelphia and Mexico, the technically-gifted but maddeningly inconsistent midfielder could be poised for a breakout.
Did you know? 
United’s majority owner, Indonesian media mogul Erick Thohir, also owns a controlling stake in Italian giants Inter.