MLS ready to kick off 21st sea­son

In­ter­est­ing story lines in­clude Galaxy, Sounders, New York City FC

Chicago Sun-Times - - SOCCER - Nate Scott @aNateS­cott USA TO­DAY Sports

Ma­jor League Soc­cer’s 21st sea­son kicks off Sun­day with a full slate of games that starts at 1:30 p.m. ET with Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls and con­cludes at 10 p.m. ET with D.C. United at Los An­ge­les Galaxy.

Here are four story lines to watch this sea­son:

CAN THE RE­VAMPED LOS AN­GE­LES GALAXY SUC­CEED?

The Galaxy are the most suc­cess­ful team in MLS his­tory, and they’re adding big names: Steven Ger­rard is still around, and the team is bring­ing in Eng­land left back Ash­ley Cole and Dutch mid­fielder Nigel de Jong. De Jong is the baby of the group at 31, while Ger­rard and Cole are 35.

The team has had suc­cess with older Euro­pean stars — David Beck­ham and Rob­bie Keane come to mind — but as other teams in MLS have shown, this strat­egy isn’t the in­stant fix it once was. The league is stronger and teams bet­ter and deeper. Will the Galaxy be able to come to­gether and en­dure the lengthy MLS sched­ule?

HOW WILL JOR­DAN MOR­RIS IM­PACT THE SEAT­TLE SOUNDERS?

The Sounders had ar­guably the big­gest sign­ing of the MLS off­sea­son by lock­ing up one of their own, Jor­dan Mor­ris, the young striker who made news with big per­for­mances for the U.S. na­tional team and chose the Sounders, his home club, over Ger­man team Werder Bre­men.

Peo­ple can ar­gue all day long about what Mor­ris’ de­ci­sion to stay says about MLS, but what is un­de­ni­able is that he’ll be ex­pected to pro­duce for the club right away af­ter the de­par­ture of high-scor­ing Obafemi Mar­tins.

CAN NEW YORK CITY FC FIG­URE OUT HOWTO DE­FEND AND WIN UN­DER

NEW COACH PA­TRICK VIEIRA?

NYCFC’s in­tro­duc­tion to MLS last year was a mar­ket­ing dream, as rowdy fans filled Yan­kee Sta­dium to see big names An­drea Pirlo, David Villa, Frank Lam­pard and Mix Diskerud play for the ex­pan­sion team.

The prod­uct on the field didn’t match the hype off of it, how­ever, and the team strug­gled in amid­dling sea­son.

The team has a new coach in Vieira, and the leg­endary French mid­fielder must fig­ure out how to cre­ate space on the field for his tal­ented play­ers and still muster up strength and de­fend­ing in the mid­field and back line.

CAN TORONTO FC PUT IT TO­GETHER?

On pa­per, no team is more fear­some. Se­bas­tian Giovinco was a rev­e­la­tion for Toronto last year, lead­ing the league in goals (22) and as­sists (16) and cre­at­ing a ca­reer’s worth of high­lights in one breath­tak­ing sea­son.

Giovinco is joined by U.S. na­tional team stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Alti­dore. De­spite all this tal­ent, Toronto sput­tered at the end of the sea­son and didn’t make the fi­nal.

With a team loaded with this at­tack­ing tal­ent, the pres­sure is on for Toronto to put it to­gether and win … now.

TROYWAYRYNEN, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

The Sounders are bank­ing on 21year-old Amer­i­can for­ward Jor­dan Mor­ris to help spark their of­fense.

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