[MLS PRESEASON: Carolina Challenge Cup]Seattle makes its first appearance in the annual preseason tournament that also features Houston and D.C. United as well as host team Charleston Battery of USL PRO. Seattle has revamped its roster extensively, Houston has tweaked a few elements, and United’s rebuild of a team that won just three league games in 2013 includes incorporating ex-Sounder Eddie Johnson.
The teams will play a round-robin starting Saturday and concluding March 1. (Seattle and D.C. United meet on the final day.) Here is where the three MLS teams stand heading into their final phases of preseason.
Game 1:Houston vs. D.C. United, 5 p.m. ET
Game 2:Charleston v. Seattle, 7:15 p.m. ET
(At Blackbaud Stadium.)
What needs sorting out. Lots of things, but goals would be nice. United failed to score in its three games while training at Bradenton, Fla., and attacker Chris Pontius left camp early to rest an inflamed hamstring on which he underwent surgery in November. United hopes he’ll be ready to play the Challenge Cup opener against Houston, along with defender Cristian Fernandez, who suffered a broken hand in his first workout with the team two weeks ago and had four screws inserted. Fernandez is the projected starter at left back.
Great focus will be on Johnson, but he’s just one of many experienced players signed during the offseason that head coach Ben Olsenneeds to meld. Attacker Fabian Espindola, midfielder Davy Arnaud, and defenders Nana Attakora, Jeff Parke, and Bobby Boswellare all MLS-proven. Despite its scoring troubles, United waived former Maryland forward Casey Townsend, a first-round 2012 SuperDraft pick by Chivas USA who scored one goal in 26 appearances during two MLS seasons.
Preseason results:Toronto FC 0-1, Chicago 0-2, Chicago 0-1.
What needs sorting out.Medical issues and offseason departures have altered the Dynamo’s spine, and so head coach Dominic Kinnear is closely monitoring the progress of midfielder Warren Creavalleand defender Jermaine Taylor. Offseason surgery to treat tendinitis in both knees sidelined Creavalle, 23, and his status for the league opener against New England March 8 is still in question. He hasn’t played a minute in preseason, which has opened up playing time for Servando Carrasco and Tony Cascio, a forward who is on loan this season from Colorado.
Taylor, who underwent offseason foot surgery, came on as a sub Wednesday in the 73rd minute of a 4-1 victory over USL PRO affiliate Pittsburgh. An offseason trade sent Bobby Boswell back to D.C. United, and Kinnear needs this tournament to assess veterans David Horst and Eric Brunner, and draft pick A.J. Cochran, the team’s first-round pick (16th overall) in the 2014 SuperDraft.
Forward Omar Cummings, sidelined for all but 11 regular-season games in 2013 because of knee injuries, is looking sharp and potent in preseason. The club has started negotiations on a new contract for his frontline partner Will Bruin, who has scored 31 goals in three seasons and has one year remaining on his current deal.
Preseason results:Portland 0-2, San Jose 3-1, FC Tucson 2-0, Pittsburgh 4-1.
What needs sorting out.The new frontline combination of Obafemi Martins and Kenny Cooper is being closely watched, and Martins made headlines by commenting that Cooper reminds him of former Italian international Christian Vieri, a former Martins teammate at Inter Milan. (Nobody ever said that about Eddie Johnson.) Yet Kevin Parsemain, a 25-year-old trialist from Martinique, turned a few heads by scoring a goal apiece in two encounters with Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver.
A new face, former Fire winger Marco Pappa, is trying to find a spot in a potent attack that already includes Lamar Neagleand will add Clint Dempsey when his loan deal with Fulham expires March 2. Pappa sent over the cross that Parsemain put away in the second of those two Vancouver victories.
There’s plenty in flux elsewhere in the lineup. Former Fire defender Jalil Anibaba and SuperDraft pick (No. 8 overall) Damion Lowe are getting minutes at centerback, with another offseason addition –- two-time Defender of the Year Chad Marshall – expected to fill the slot left vacant when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was traded (along with Pat Ianni) to Chicago. Ex-TFC keeper Stefan Frei and native son Marcus Hahnemann are waging a duel in goal.
Neagle, Osvaldo Alonso and Alex Caskey all played for the Battery before joining the Sounders. Alonso joined Charleston after defecting from his native Cuba and earned a spot on the USL Best XI in 2008.
Preseason results:San Jose 2-1, Vancouver 2-1, Portland 0-0, Vancouver 2-1.