Story by: Nathaniel Rivas
¡Vamos! Soccer in America returns in spectacular fashion this weekend all over the country. Major League Soccer begins the 2017 season Friday evening with newbies Minnesota United traveling to play the Portland Timbers. Saturday is filled with action including the first regular-season game for the champion Seattle Sounders. And Sunday is highlighted with Atlanta United’s first game and a new installment in the Orlando City – New York FC rivalry.
With another electric year ahead in soccer here in the U.S., what can we look forward to this season? Let’s take a look…
Seattle’s title defense
Seattle shocked everyone (including me) when the Sounders defeated Toronto FC last year in stunning fashion. What better way to beat the favorite at home than on penalty kicks? Seattle still looks strong for this season. According to MLS.com on Feb. 28, Clint Dempsey was cleared to play on Saturday. A heart condition forced Dempsey to sit out near the end of last season. Nicolas Loderio provided an extra attacking force at the end of last season, and Jordan Morris finishes out the Deadly Three for the Sounders. In the four matches they played together last year, the three combined for 6 goals and 5 assists, according to MLS.com. Seattle can expect two things this year: goals and excitement.
NYFC playoff contenders?
New York finished second in the Eastern Conference in just the second year of operations for the club. David Villa, the Spaniard superstar, snagged the MVP last year, and the club can expect big things again this year. Yet the question remains: how much of a threat is NYFC for the Cup? If Villa continues to score goals and determine the tempo for the team, the sky is the limit for the young club. Andrea Pirlo is returning as a playmaker from the midfield, but the club did lose Frank Lampard. I believe NYFC can venture deep into the playoffs, perhaps even into the final.
Orlando City has a lot to look forward to in 2017. The new stadium is up, and fresh new faces fill up the team. Veteran Kaká is determined to win more games as he said to the media on Feb. 28. Cyle Larin seeks to continue to build on his incredible 31 goals in his 56 MLS games. Trades were up and down for the club as Orlando saw Brek Shea and Kevin Molino leave. But Orlando did pick up players from Vancouver, NYFC and free agency to name a few. With a very young defensive line though, trouble seems to loom for the Lions.
Minnesota United and Atlanta United are set to make their MLS debuts this weekend. Kevin Molino joins up with former Orlando coach Adrian Heath in Minnesota, but the critics have the club performing poorly this season. Will the trades and draft picks pay off? On the other hand, Atlanta acquired most of their players from South America, the Expansion Draft, free agency and trades. But hopes are high in the ATL, and the club seeks to become only the third expansion team to make the playoffs in the first year (Chicago in 1998 and Seattle in 2009). The more I hear about Atlanta United, the more I am anxious to see them play. And playing in the gorgeous new Mercedes-Benz Stadium can’t hurt their chances…right?
This 2017 season shall be filled with many firsts: first year for two teams, first year of title defense for Seattle, and first year in new stadiums. Fans have a lot to look forward to as this year of soccer promises to be an action-packed year!
Games can be watched on FS1, ESPN and MLS Live. Check your local listings.
Featured image from this post courtesy of RSL.com