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Great divide in Eastern Conference preseason form
by Paul Kennedy, February 25th, 2013 12:27AM

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[MLS 2013 COUNTDOWN] There was a great divide in how preseason went for the 10 teams in MLS' Eastern Conference. Chicago, Montreal, Columbus and Sporting Kansas City could take home a lot of positives. For Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union and New York, the preseason only added to the question marks hanging over them. Between them were Houston and D.C. United, last year's conference finalists, and New England, which could take away just enough to feel good about three weeks in the sun (and snow). For how the Eastern Conference teams fared, ranked 1-10 ...

Tomorrow: Western Conference.

1. CHICAGO (preseason record: 4-1-2): The Fire clinched the Carolina Challenge Cup title Saturday thanks to a 1-1 tie with Vancouver. Chicago, which went 2-0-1 in Charleston and finished preseason with a 4-1-2 record, was one of the few teams that could return home believing its offseason moves will pay off ... The midfield is almost entirely rebuilt with Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere in the center of the field and Dilly Duka on the right side ... The arrival of Larentowicz and Lindpere means captain Logan Pause has been moved to outside -- and he switched from the right to left side after Gonzalo Segares went down with an ankle sprain in the first game of the Carolina Challenge Cup ... Maicon Santos, who scored against the Dynamo, is rounding back into shape and will provide depth up front ... Still to be determined will be whether the Fire picks up French defender Pascal Chimbonda, who came on the second half of Saturday's game.
 
Opener: March 3 at Los Angeles.
Likely lineup: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Logan Pause; Dilly Duka (Columbus Crew), Patrick Nyarko, Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls); Chris Rolfe, Sherjill MacDonald.
Lineup breakdown: 8 returnees, 3 newcomers/7 Americans, 4 foreigners.

2. MONTREAL (3-1-2): The Impact won Disney Pro Soccer Classic with a 1-0 win over Columbus on Justin Mapp's volley ... New coach Marco Schallibaum said the Impact was almost perfect on the defensive against the Crew, who had been one of the best teams in preseason ... Andrea Pisanu joined fellow Italians Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta and Marco Di Vaio and has looked very good as an attacking threat ... Nesta sounded genuinely excited about what will likely be his last season.

Opener: March 2 at Seattle.
Likely lineup: Troy Perkins; Jeb Brovsky, Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta, Hassoun Camara; Patrice Bernier, Justin Mapp, Felipe, Davy Arnaud, Andrea Pisanu (Bologna); Marco Di Vaio.
Lineup breakdown: 10 returnees, 1 newcomer/4 Americans, 1 Canadian, 6 foreigners.

3. COLUMBUS (6-2-0): No team has integrated more imports into the starting XI with success as has the Crew, which beat University of North Carolina, 1-0, Sunday in the inaugural Kirk Urso Memorial Match to finish preseason ... Brazilian Glauber has looked good at center back, and Uruguayan-American Agustin Viana and Argentine Matias Sanchez have been seeing lot of time in midfield ... MLS vets Tyson Wahl and Dominic Oduro have stepped into the lineup at left back and right midfielder ... Draft pick Ryan Finley got lots of action ... In Saturday's 1-0 loss to Montreal in the Disney Pro Classic final, Oduro and Sanchez left the game early with undetermined injuries.

Opener: March 2 at Chivas USA.
Likely lineup (7 returnees/4 newcomers): Andy Gruenebaum; Josh Williams, Chad Marshall, Glauber (Rapid Bucharest), Tyson Wahl (Colorado Rapids); Dominic Oduro (Chicago Fire), Danny O’Rourke, Agustin Viana (Bella Vista), Eddie Gaven; Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta.
Lineup breakdown: 7 returnees, 4 newcomers/6 Americans, 5 foreigners.

4. SPORTING KC (4-1-1): Designated Player Claudio Bieler allayed some concerns about his integration into SKC system with his first goal of the preseason Saturday in the 1-0 win over Toronto FC ... Coach Peter Vermes liked how Benny Feilhaber picked on the SKC system in the short time he had after returning from the national team camp. Young Spaniard Oriol Rosell looks to join Paulo Nagamura and Feilhaber in the starting midfield ... Josh Gardner, picked up from Montreal for a draft pick last month, has looked good and will add depth.

Opener: March 2 at Philadelphia.
Likely lineup: Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Oriol Rosell, Paulo Nagamura; Graham Zusi, Claudio Bieler (Liga de Quito), C.J. Sapong.
Lineup breakdown: 9 returnees, 2 newcomers/6 Americans, 5 foreigners.

5. D.C. UNITED (2-2-3): Lionard Pajoy scored in Saturday's 2-0 win over Philadelphia to give him four goals in three games at the Disney Pro Classic ... Pajoy's form is a relief as Brazilian Rafael, signed as a Young Designated Player, doesn't look like he'll be much of a factor any time soon ... John Thorrington has been starting in recent games in midfield alongside Perry Kitchen but veteran Marcelo Saragosa could still keep his starting job.

Opener: March 2 at Houston.
Likely lineup: Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard; Nick DeLeon, John Thorrington (Vancouver Whitecaps), Perry Kitchen, Chris Pontius; Dwayne De Rosario, Lionard Pajoy.
Lineup breakdown: 10 returnees, 1 newcomer/8 Americans, 2 Canadians, 1 foreigner.

6. HOUSTON (2-4-0). The Dynamo fell to the host Charleston Battery, 2-1, on the final day of play at the Carolina Challenge Cup, but the game marked the return of left back Cory Ashe, already back in action after undergoing knee surgery in January ... Still out are Calen Carr and Omar Cummings, which means Cam Weaver will probably start up front alongside Will Bruin ... Englishman Giles Barnes started in place of Ricardo Clark, who has been experiencing some swelling in his knee but should be available for the opener ... The Dynamo has a deep bench up front with Brian Ching and first-round draft pick Jason Johnson also available.

Opener: March 2 vs. D.C. United.
Likely lineup: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Oscar Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Cam Weaver.
Lineup breakdown: 11 returnees/8 Americans, 3 foreigners.

7. NEW ENGLAND (2-3-1): Victories over the New York Red Bulls in group play (3-1) and in the third-place game (2-0) were the only win of the preseason ... The Revs got goals from Lee Nguyen and Jerry Bengtson in both games, a positive sign for their attack that will begin the season without injured Saer Sane ... The good news is that there's been competition all throughout the lineup for starting jobs. The question is, will the Revs be a marked improvement on their 2012 team ... Case in point: central midfield, where Malian Kalifa Cisse, former Rev Andy Dorman and former academy player Scott Caldwell have been locked in a battle with incumbent Clyde Simms for the two spots ... No. 1 SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell immediately makes the backline better.

Opener: Week 1 bye -- March 9 at Chicago.
Likely lineup: Matt Reis, Andrew Farrell (Univ. of Louisville), Jose Goncalves (FC Sion), A.J. Soares, Kevin Alston; Kelyn Rowe, Kalifa Cisse (Bristol City), Clyde Simms, Lee Nguyen; Diego Fagundez, Jerry Bengtson.
Lineup breakdown: 8 returnees, 3 newcomers/7 Americans, 4 foreigners.

8. NEW YORK (2-3-1): Preseason in Florida went a lot better than it did in Arizona ... For one, the Red Bulls finally got a head coach as Mike Petke had the interim label removed from his tag after the team arrived in Bradenton ...  But wins over Columbus and Malmo FF were followed by three losses and a tie in Tucson ... The big concern: a leaky defense that allowed nine goals in four games ... New York played without Dax McCarty, who missed the Seattle game and first New England game with a tight right hamstring, so his return for the third-place game was a plus ... The big question mark concerns the middle of the backline, where Heath Pearce, Markus Holgersson and Digao (Kaka's brother) have been battling for the spot alongside Jamison Olave.

Opener: March 2 at Portland.
Likely lineup (6 returnees/5 newcomers): Luis Robles, Kosuke Kimura (Portland Timbers), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Heath Pearce, Roy Miller; Dax McCarty, Tim Cahill, Juninho (Vasco da Gama), Josue Martinez (Philadelphia Union); Fabian Espindola (Real Salt Lake), Thierry Henry.
Lineup breakdown: 6 returnees, 5 newcomer/3 Americans, 8 foreigners.

9. PHILADELPHIA (1-2-3). Except for a 3-0 win over Toronto FC in its third game at the Disney Pro Classic, there wasn't much in the Union's preseason campaign to excited about ... Philadelphia scored only two goals in its other five games. Neither of the Union's former Best XI players, offseason acquisitions Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey, scored in preseason ... The Union is still the youngest team in MLS -- eight starters are 24 or younger -- though Coach John Hackworth insists it is a good group.

Opener: March 2 vs. Sporting KC.
Likely lineup: Zac MacMath; Raymon Gaddis, Jeff Parke (Seattle Sounders), Bakary Soumare, Sheanon Williams; Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Michael Farfan, Danny Cruz; Sebastien Le Toux (New York Red Bulls), Jack McInerney.
Lineup breakdown: 9 returnees, 2 newcomer/9 Americans, 2 foreigners.

10. TORONTO FC (1-3-0): Rebuilding Toronto isn't going to happen overnight ... New club president Kevin Payne complained about the poor shape in which same players showed up for camp, blaming it on the poor work ethic within the team ... Its only victory at the Disney Pro Classic was a 3-0 win over USL PRO's Orlando City ... The Reds are going to struggle to score goals, and it won't help matters if get players sent off, like Darren O’Dea was in Saturday's 1-0 loss to Sporting KC ... Starting goalie Stefan Frei needed surgery to repair a broken nose ... German Torsten Frings returned to Toronto to continue his rehabilitation following hip surgery in late 2012 and is likely on his way out ... Danny Koevermans is still in rehab following 2012 ACL surgery ... At least, Logan Emory (offseason shoulder surgery) is back in training ... On the bright side: Kyle Bekker, the No. 3 pick in the SuperDraft, could start in midfield, Colombian-born teenager Jonathan Osorio, brought up from the academy program for preseason, has shown promise.

Opener: March 2 at Vancouver.
Likely lineup: Joe Bendik (Portland Timbers); Richard Eckersley, Danny Califf (Chivas USA), Darren O'Dea, Ashtone Morgan; Reggie Lambe, Jeremy Hall, Julio Cesar (Sporting KC), Kyle Bekker (Boston College); Luis Silva, Justin Braun (Real Salt Lake).
Lineup breakdown: 6 returnees, 5 newcomer/5 Americans, 2 Canadians, 4 foreigners.



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