MLS exit interviews: Bidding adieu to four Eastern Conference sides
New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Orlando City, we hardly knew ye.
That’s cool, because we’ll meet again in a few short months. Two expansion clubs and two big markets missed the postseason in 2015.
Let’s delve into the why’s, the how’s, and the “Is it acceptables?”.
Orlando City SC
Final position: 7th
Points out of the playoffs: 5
Verdict: MLS is a learning process, and the Lions figured out the league a bit too late for this season’s postseason (See: Two different 9-plus game stretches with just one win). A five-match win streak toward the end of the season saw the club beat playoff sides Montreal, New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC. Kaka and Aurelien Collin both lived up to expectations.
The big question moving forward: Cyle Larin was a revelation as No. 1 overall pick, shattering rookie scoring records, but will the Canadian wonder want to try his hand abroad? Interest is there.
New York City FC
Final position: 8th
Points out of the playoffs: 12
Verdict: The club’s power trio of Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa acknowledge that a preseason together would’ve saved the club’s season, but that’s probably a bit too humble. Just having Lampard and Pirlo with Villa, who was there all season, would’ve done the trick. NYC started the season 1-7-5. Once June hit, they went 9-10-2. That’s not a big win, but protracted over a season it’s about 47 points.
And maybe that preseason pops it up a few points, or one of those early losses to Chicago or Philly flips into a win. An offseason’s adaptation for the big three and the underperforming Mix Diskerud, plus continued growth for Kwadwo Poku and some defensive additions could and should make this team a true contender (And what about a healthy, older Khiry Shelton?). That’s not even considering more Manchester City loan options like Angelino and Shay Facey. Disappointing season? Very much so, but the sky (blue) is not falling.
Final position: 9th
Points out of the playoffs: 12
Verdict: Doomed by a similar poor start to NYC’s, Philly went 1-7-3 to start the season. The club needs investment, and a difference maker. Look down the club’s advanced stats and you’ll see a group of steady players: Sapong, Nogueira, Maidana, Lahoud, Fabinho. Maurice Edu was down and Tranquillo Barnetta didn’t instantly adjust to the league. Andre Blake is a star in the making, but who is on the marquee?
The Union badly need an answer, maybe several. Enter Earnie Stewart, who will put the whole darn thing on its ear. Expect Philly to look much, much different in 2016.
Final position: 10th
Points out of the playoffs: 19
Verdict: One of only two teams who’d be fooling themselves to ask, “What if?” Chicago finished more than six wins out of the playoffs. The Fire had losing streaks of three, four and five matches. There’s not a lot of depth in Chicago, but Gilberto, Mike Magee and Jeff Larentowicz were strong down the stretch, and there’s potential in Harrison Shipp and David Accam. The defense needs major upgrades, and Sean Johnson badly needs to find his game.