RE­BOOT 2019

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

SO MANY QUES­TIONS, SO LIT­TLE TIME. WITH THE FI­NAL WHIS­TLE BLOWN ON MLS CUP 2018 IT MARKED THE END OF A WILD, UN­PRE­DICTABLE SEA­SON IN THE TOP LEVEL OF FOOTBALL IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA. BUT AS WE HAVE SEEN THROUGH THE YEARS IN MLS THE END OF ONE SEA­SON IS RE­ALLY JUST THE BE­GIN­NING OF AN­OTHER.

#10 WHAT WILL THE VANCOUVER WHITE­CAPS DO WITH ALL OF THEIR ALPHONSO DAVIES MONEY?

It is a clean slate for Vancouver. Af­ter years of tread­ing wa­ter the club fi­nally went into ‘re­build mode’ this off­sea­son scrap­ping pretty much their en­tire ros­ter and firmly end­ing the Carl Robin­son era. New Head Coach Marc Dos San­tos has been given the keys to build the club from the ground up and he has a rather huge chip: the trans­fer money ac­quired from sell­ing Alphonso Davies. Davies was sold for about $13 mil­lion dol­lars to Bay­ern Munich giv­ing Vancouver some good cap flex­i­bil­ity. While not all of that goes back to the Caps a sig­nif­i­cant will still be coming in their di­rec­tion and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how dos San­tos spends it.

#9 WILL FC CINCIN­NATI BE AT­LANTA UNITED FC OR MIN­NESOTA UNITED FC IN YEAR ONE?

Ex­pan­sion sides either tend to be re­ally good or re­ally poor in year one with very lit­tle de­vi­a­tion. For ev­ery side like At­lanta United that takes the league by storm there is a Min­nesota United that is still strug­gling to find its iden­tity. What makes FC Cincin­nati such an in­ter­est­ing case is that they have beaten MLS sides in US Open Cup play with some reg­u­lar­ity. Can that suc­cess give them an edge in MLS sea­son one?

#8 WILL WONDO BAG THE ALL-TIME GOAL SCOR­ING RECORD?

San Jose Earth­quakes for­ward Chris Won­dolowski came very, very close to tak­ing home the all-time goal scor­ing record. He stands at 144, just one shy of Lan­don Dono­van’s 145. Sounds like a simple task, right? On pa­per yes but the Earth­quakes have gone through a re­boot this sea­son, adding Ma­tias Aly­meda as coach and clear­ing out a ton of con­tracts. A move seems un­likely so will he want to put his boots back on for one more sea­son with less time and a new boss?

#7 CAN THE LEAGUE AND THE PLAY­ERS AS­SO­CI­A­TION AGREE ON A NEW COL­LEC­TIVE BAR­GAIN­ING AGREE­MENT?

The cur­rent agree­ment will ex­pire at the end of the 2019 sea­son and it will be in­ter­est­ing to see what moves each party makes to avoid a lock­out. Both sides

have is­sues that they would like to re­visit (free agency, travel, sched­ule, sol­i­dar­ity pay­ments) and will likely take months to work out. The league has never had a work stop­page but given the eco­nomic strides the league has made that may change.

#6 WILL TORONTO FC BOUNCE BACK?

Toronto FC may have proved last sea­son that there is such a thing as a hang­over sea­son. Af­ter claim­ing a tre­ble in 2017 TFC fell short of their CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League goal, failed to make the MLS

Cup Play­offs, and left 2018 with just a Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship crown. 2019 may be a bit dif­fer­ent though with The Reds bring­ing back mostly the same crew and fi­nally get­ting a rest (When they kick off CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League play they will have been off since Oc­to­ber). Will rested legs be enough to get TFC back on track?

#5 CAN BEN OLSEN KEEP HIS JOB?

D.C. United’s man­ager has sur­vived years of penny-pinch­ing, rac­coons, and spu­ri­ous ros­ter de­ci­sions since tak­ing the job in 2010. But can he now de­liver an MLS Cup ti­tle? United were the hottest club in the league down the stretch. But their sea­son ended in heart­break. He is on his fi­nal year of his con­tract with the club so ex­pec­ta­tions are high that with Wayne Rooney, Lu­cho Acosta, and Bill Hamid they can get back to the top of the league.

#4 ZLA­TAN AND ?

The Los An­ge­les Galaxy are in cri­sis mode. Af­ter an­other dis­ap­point­ing sea­son the le­gendary side en­ter 2019 off­sea­son in which quite lit­er­ally any­thing can hap­pen. They have Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic. But other than that it is one big ques­tion mark. It is a strange spot for the five-time MLS Cup Cham­pi­ons to be in, given their past glory. But it is a nec­es­sary one. The club is in need of a fresh start and it looks like they will get it.

#3 WILL MORE TEAMS #PLAYTHEKIDS?

Af­ter years of wait­ing 2018 seemed to be the year in which MLS Youth Academy sys­tems paid off. Sides like FC Dal­las, At­lanta United, Sport­ing Kansas City, and the New York Red Bulls showed the value of giv­ing kids min­utes in sig­nif­i­cant matches. Will the rest of the league fol­low suit?

#2 CAN AN MLS SIDE FI­NALLY WIN THE CONCACAF CHAM­PI­ONS LEAGUE?

It was an­other year of heart­break for MLS in the CCL with Toronto FC nar­rowly los­ing out to Chivas Guadala­jara in the fi­nal. The Reds will be back in the 2019 edi­tion, joined by At­lanta United FC, the Hous­ton Dy­namo, the New York Red Bulls, and Sport­ing Kansas City. All five sides on pa­per seem to have the play­ers and the skills to take it to the rest of the re­gion. But so many times on pa­per doesn’t trans­late to the pitch.

#1 CAN AT­LANTA GET THE BAND BACK TO­GETHER?

United have taken the league by storm and in just two years have re-writ­ten the rules when it comes to ex­pan­sion teams. But the ques­tion is can they do it again in year three. Tata Martino is al­ready gone and by the time this goes to press Miguel Alm­iron might be as well. Other role play­ers will likely get huge deals with teams look­ing to taste glory so it will in­ter­est­ing to see what At­lanta does to main­tain their hold on the league.

ABOVE: Alphonso DaviesLEFT:Chris WondoTOP (OP­PO­SITE PAGE):Toronto FCMID (OP­PO­SITE PAGE):Ben OlsenBOT­TOM (OP­PO­SITE PAGE):Zla­tan Ibrahi­movicBOT­TOM LEFT (OP­PO­SITE PAGE): #playthekids

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