What does every MLS Eastern Conference team need this offseason?

MLS clubs enter the new calendar year having gone through three of their four offseason drafts, with expansion teams Minnesota United FC and Atlanta United FC gradually filling out their roster as we push on to the beginning of the 2017 season in March.

There’s a lot to do over the next couple months if you’re an MLS club. Here’s what each team needs to accomplish as we head into the new year:


Atlanta United FC

— Sign a starting goalkeeper: After acquiring then trading two MLS starters in Clint Irwin and Sean Johnson, Atlanta are left with Alec Kann and Alexandros Tabakis as the remaining goalkeepers on the roster. Getting a starter — almost certainly Brad Guzan — will be a top priority.

— More defenders: Michael Parkhurst and Greg Garza are the only starting-caliber players on the backline right now, as Mark Bloom and Mikey Ambrose won’t cut it for Tata Martino. Spend some TAM on a center back and look at some MLS right back talent. (Waylon Francis, anyone?) In addition, Jeff Larentowicz probably isn’t the answer in defensive midfield.

— Shore up the midfield: Miguel Almiron needs some partners in central midfield. Larentowicz and Chris McCann are the only other players at that position right now.

— Outlook: Promising. They’ve been ambitious, and they’re shaping up to be a legitimate playoff contender in their first season.

— Current lineup:

Chicago Fire

— A DP No. 10: They’ve magnificently filled the need of game-controlling No. 8 by signing Juninho, and they appear to have picked up a starting-caliber No. 9 in Polish striker Nemanja Nikolic. Now, they need a playmaker to put it all together. If they can do that, they’ll be looking very, very good.

— Acquire a starting right back: A backline of Brandon Vincent, Jonathan Campbell, and Joao Meira or Johan Kappelhof is pretty solid. They just need a better right back than the natural center back Kappelhof.

— Fill the hole at goalkeeper: Matt Lampson’s not the starter. They could be in play for Guzan? Maybe?

— Outlook: Much improved. A healthy Matt Polster and David Accam could propel this young team much higher than last place.

— Current lineup:

Columbus Crew SC

— Replace Steve Clark: For whatever reason, Columbus decided that starting goalkeeper Steve Clark was not a long-term solution and declined his contract option, leaving them with Zach Steffen and Brad Stuver as the only keepers on the roster. Whether they decide to roll with Steffen as a starter is unclear at the moment, but the better decision would be to acquire starting-caliber talent.

— Trust the youth: Mohammed Saeid, a versatile contributor in central midfield, was selected in the expansion draft. They have their starting trio — Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, and Federico Higuain — but they’ll need someone to fill the gaps that always arise through MLS’s grueling campaign. 19-year olds Ben Swanson and Cristian Martinez and 23-year olds Marshall Hollingsworth and Rodrigo Saravia should all see their first-team minutes jump in 2017.

— Outlook: A full season of Ola Kamara and continued greatness from Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram bode well for the Crew, but before they think about playoffs, and they have addressed their weakness in central defense signing Jonathan Mensah.

— Current lineup:

D.C. United

— Address the defensive midfielder position: I’m not sure Ben Olsen is happy with a Marcelo Sarvas/Rob Vincent rotation at d-mid going into next year, so they’ll have to do something about that. Sarvas is 35 and Vincent has previously played at a level no higher than the USL.

— Add a center midfielder: In United’s 4-1-4-1, a solid box-to-box player is required next to No. 10 Luciano Acosta, and it appears that Vincent and Jared Jeffrey are the only options at the current time. They should consider upgrading.

— Full back depth: They recently re-signed Sean Franklin, making it likely that he and Taylor Kemp will be the starting full backs next year. With converted midfielder Nick DeLeon the only other option at the position, however, they may look to add a more solid backup.

— Outlook: This looks like a solid team. We’ll see if they can put it all together in 2017.

— Current lineup:

Montreal Impact

— Get younger: Nine of the Impact’s playoff starters were 30 or over. If they don’t start signing some younger, starting-caliber players, their championship window will close fast.

— Sign a Harry Shipp replacement: For whatever reason, Biello never entrusted Shipp, so he ended up being traded to Seattle. Now, they need a player who can put help build attacks through midfield and hit penetrating balls to the front three. Patrice Bernier is the short-term option, but he’s 37.

— Find a better partner for Laurent Ciman: 23-year old Victor Cabrera did improve as the season continued, but he too often made crucial mistakes. We could see newly signed 25-year old Chris Duvall get time next to the Belgian Ciman.

— Outlook: Not a ton of turnover for this squad, at least not yet. The top priorities should rest in acquiring talented youth and improving a backline that was decimated by Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference final last year.

— Current lineup:

New England Revolution

— Trade Kei Kamara: A lot of MLS clubs need top quality No. 9s (looking at you, Vancouver, San Jose, Colorado, and Philadelphia) and the Revolution have a perfectly tradeable one sitting right there on their bench. Kamara isn’t a great fit in New England’s Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen-based diamond, but he could be for a cross-heavy team like the Earthquakes or a team without a playmaker like the Whitecaps. Time to get the phones going, Revs.

— Re-sign Gershon Koffie: A key cog in New England’s attack-heavy midfield, Koffie is out of contract. They have no obvious replacement, so getting him to put pen to paper in crucial.

— Sign a center back: Since Andrew Farrell was firmly designated as a right back, they’ve struggled along with London Woodberry as Jose Goncalves’s partner in central defense. Not ideal.

— Find a new goalkeeper: Neither Bobby Shuttleworth nor Brad Knighton is much of a top-quality starter in this league.

— Outlook: That diamond was fun to watch last year, and it should only get better next season.

— Current lineup:


— Fortify the backline: NYCFC gave up a considerable amount of goals last year, and while some can be blamed the mistake-prone goalkeeper Josh Saunders, a lot can be credited to the weak defense. They need an upgrade, and things could be complicated further if Ronald Matarrita ends up leaving.

— Replace Andoni Iraola: The surprisingly effective defense midfielder Iraola hung up his cleats this offseason, leaving NYC without a No. 6. If you’re going to start Andrea Pirlo, you’re going to need a defensive midfielder.

— Find another midfielder: Frank Lampard will not be returning next season, leaving another gap in the midfield triumvirate. Mix Diskerud, maybe? If not (it’s probably not) they’ll be getting the scouts going.

— Current lineup:

New York Red Bulls

— Add a starting left back: The Red Bulls saw their backline decimated by injuries last season. Gideon Baah, Damien Perrinelle, Ronald Zubar, Connor Lade, and Kemar Lawrence all missed significant time due to injuries. With Zubar’s option declined and Chris Duvall selected in the expansion draft, they’ll be looking for a starting left back.

— Look for a deal for Gonzalo Veron: They needed a better attacker from the wing a year and a half ago when they acquired Gonzalo Veron as a DP. But the Argentine never panned out, and now they should be searching for an upgrade at the position, preferably a goal-scorer to go along with Bradley Wright-Phillips.

— Outlook: They remain the Supporters’ Shield contenders they were in 2016. That MLS Cup title remains elusive, though.

— Current lineup:

Orlando City SC

— Sign some full backs: Donny Toia looks like a good acquisition, but he’s just one of two full backs currently on the roster, and the other is Rafael Ramos, who doesn’t look like a starter. Kevin Alston, Mikey Ambrose, and Luke Boden won’t be returning, so the front office should be on the hunt for some outside defenders.

— Add a center midfielder: OCSC are pretty solid on defensive midfielders if you include the signing of Will Johnson, but they’re weak elsewhere in the middle of the field. Matias Perez Garcia is a likely starter in attacking midfield — along with Kaka — but they don’t have many other options in terms of box-to-box mids.

— Find an identity: I really don’t know much about how this team will look next season. We can assume Cyle Larin, Kevin Molino, and Kaka will be the building blocks, but does the signing of Johnson indicate a switch to Jason Kreis’s preferred 4-4-2 diamond? They need to sort these things out, as well as the future of young d-mid Cristian Higuita.

— Outlook: One more thing: how long until Larin is sold? They could get some significant cash for a young No. 9 like him.

— Current lineup:

Philadelphia Union

— Acquire a 9: C.J. Sapong tailed off significantly as the 2016 season went by, necessitating a replacement. Whether they look within MLS (Kei Kamara) or abroad is unclear, but no matter what, this should be their top priority.

— A veteran center back: Ken Tribbett had a rough game against Toronto in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With a young backline like the Union’s, a solid, veteran leader is important, and they currently don’t have that. Someone like the Red Bulls’ Aurelien Collin would be helpful.

— A defensive midfielder: Brian Carroll is not a long-term answer, and neither in Warren Creavalle or the oft-injured Maurice Edu. They need a starting defensive midfielder to play next to Alejandro Bedoya, somebody like Orlando City’s Cristian Higuita.

— Outlook: They’ve got work to do over the next month or two. Expect them to be relatively active. Signing Giliano Wijnaldum was a good step forward.

— Current lineup:

Toronto FC

— Center midfield depth: TFC came inches from a double in 2016, and given the lack of offseason turnover at the club, they don’t have a ton of places to improve. But after Will Johnson going to Orlando and Benoit Cheyrou’s option was declined, they could use another defensive-minded midfielder.

— More backline pieces: Mark Bloom and Josh Williams also left this offseason, leaving Toronto with little options behind the starting five on their backline. They could use another player who can play wing back.

— Give the youth more playing time: Not that they haven’t been doing this, but guys like Jordan Hamilton, Jay Chapman, and Marky Delgado should get time to prove they deserve the playing time vacated by Johnson and Cheyrou.

— Outlook: All signs point to them continuing to be one of MLS’s best teams.

— Current lineup:

About Harrison Hamm

Sports stuff for The Comeback. Often will write about MLS. Follow me on twitter @harrisonhamm21.