MLS Eastern Conference Season Preview Capsules

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A look at the Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference teams for 2014, in order of finish last season:

NEW YORK RED BULLS

LAST YEAR: 17-9-8 (First overall, first Eastern Conference).

WHO’S BACK: F Thierry Henry, F Tim Cahill, F Peguy Luyindula, F Bradley Wright-Phillips, MF Dax McCarty, MF Eric Alexander, MF Jonny Steele, MF Lloyd Sam, D Jamison Olave, D Roy Miller, D Ibrahim Sekagya, D Kosuke Kimura, D Connor Lade, GK Luis Robles.

WHO’S GONE: D Markus Holgersson, F Fabian Espindola, D Heath Pearce, D Brandon Barklage

WHO’S NEW: D Richard Eckersley, D Armando, MF Bobby Convey.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Rookie coach Mike Petke led the Red Bulls to their first Supporters’ Shield in the regular season and he has almost everyone back from the team that disappointed losing to Houston in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Thierry Henry (10 goals) and Tim Cahill (11 goals) are up front for the league’s top scoring team (58 goals), and they have depth with midfielders Jonny Steele and Lloyd Sam all capable of contributing. The biggest changes will be in the back with the additions of Spanish defender Armando and the acquisition of Richard Eckersley from Toronto, where he was a fixture for three years. Expectations will be high for the Red Bulls, who have never won an MLS title.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

LAST YEAR: 17-10-7 (Second overall, second Eastern Conference. MLS Cup champion).

WHO’S BACK: F Dom Dwyer, F Claudio Bieler, F C.J. Sapong, F Soony Saad, M Paulo Nagamura, M Graham Zusi, M Benny Feilhaber, M Oriol Rosell, M Jacob Peterson, D Aurelien Collin, D Seth Seinovic, D Chance Myers, D Matt Besler, D Ike Opara.

WHO’S GONE: G Jimmy Nielsen, F Teal Bunbury, D Kyle Miller, D Federico Bessone.

WHO’S NEW: M Sal Zizzo, M Jimmy Medranda, M Alex Martinez, G Andy Gruenebaum.

WHAT’S AHEAD: The MLS Cup champions will be busy this season. Not only will they be defending their league title, they’ll also begin play in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, and then later in the year begin the next round of Champions League competition. There’s also the U.S. Open Cup to worry about, and several players are likely to be called up for national team duty during the World Cup. Managing all of those minutes may be the biggest challenge for coach Peter Vermes, and it’s why he spent considerable resources in building depth. Keep an eye on young players such as Dom Dwyer, a breakout star last season, and 16-year-old homegrown defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who has been receiving interest from English Premier League teams. The biggest question mark lies at goalkeeper, where captain Jimmy Nielsen has retired. Longtime backup Erik Kronberg will get the first shot at the job, though veteran Andy Gruenebaum was brought in to provide some competition and youngster Jon Kempin has loads of potential.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

LAST YEAR: 14-11-9 (Seventh overall, third Eastern Conference).

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