It's back (lights firework, retreats, waits, makes half step towards it, waits again, hurries past it holding hand of mascot). MLS returns this weekend to officially become the longest-running division one American soccer league.
Commissioner Garber has given us his speech about what to expect this year (possibly life sentences for Ben Olsen and Peter Vermes if the new rule about crowding the referee takes off; and in a related development, Mike Petke being forced to tear out page one of his brand new tactics notebook - the one that reads "PASSION IN THEIR FACES"), and not to be outdone, we at the Guardian are getting into the spirit of whimsical MLS innovation by making a couple of changes of our own to our weekly previews.
You'll still be hearing from our regular fan reps, bloggers, beat writers, and podcasters from around the league, but we've made one or two format changes which we'll leave you to figure out on your own, complain about, and then discover that a retroactive rule change covers just that very scenario.
So drink in the last of the pre-season optimism below, and as always, don't forget to have your say and leave your predictions for the weekend's games. And do join us on Saturday at 8pm for live coverage of Houston vs D.C. United and on Monday, when we figure out what it all meant. GP
All kick off times listed below are ET
Philadelphia Union vs Sporting KC
Sat 4pm, PPL Park
The Union kick off with a home opener against the side that topped the Eastern Conference last year, with an instant opportunity to welcome the prodigal son, Sebastien Le Toux, back into the fold. John Hackworth has been busy shuffling his side around and drafting in a couple of interesting veterans like Casey and Parke, but his hands are still a little tied by the continued presence of the unwanted Adu on the roster. Maybe Peter Vermes will take him - he's had a habit of turning round misfit toys in his time, though he might be wishing he wasn't quite so good at it right now, as Kei Kamara has got off to a good start on loan at Norwich, and the odds may be lengthening on him coming back in May. But there's plenty of work remaining for Vermes: Bobby Convey, injured for most of last year, and Benny Feilhaber, are both players who could do with the Vermes' fixer-upper touch if his side are to cover for the absence of Kamara and Espinoza. GP
Corey Furlan, Vice-President, Sons of Ben:
Let's get the obvious story out of the way first, which is that we have a home opener this weekend, for the first time in our history in the league - so that's kind of exciting. We have some idea of how all these off-season pieces are going to be assembled together, but not a complete one, so that'll be interesting to see. Regarding LeToux, cautiously optimistic to see him back. He was awesome in his first two years with us. He had a rough year in three different places, so hopefully this works out.
The other story has been the release of our third kit, which is a tribute to the Bethlehem Steel side who were an early force in US soccer in the last century. Surprisingly, it's divided people: some aren't sure about the black, white and red coloring (saying it looks too much like rivals D.C. United), though Barcelona seem to be able to play in Yellow without their fans thinking they're honoring Villareal. Others are saying that the Bethlehem/Union connection is too tenuous to make sense. Persoanlly I think it's a pretty cool thing that we're honoring a great side from the area that won 5 Open Cups and 6 American Cups.
Malena Barajas, co-founder, Women United FC, Sporting Kansas City:
Is there really such thing as off-season? There was no shortage of moves at Sporting KC. Among the many, the club terminated its partnership with LIVESTRONG thus renaming its stadium; it welcomed local Boulevard Brewing Company as sponsor of the stadium's Members Club and Ivy Funds as its first-ever kit sponsor, and it entered into a player development partnership with USL Pro affiliate Orlando City.
Without Espinoza and Kamara (at least until May 6), and some players in and out of the starting lineup for international duty, Coach Peter Vermes will be under a lot of pressure to ensure the development of the first team players. Teal Bunbury, Bobby Convey, Chance Meyers, Jacob Peterson are all working their way back from injuries, but expected to make an impact this season.
Each of these moves caused a lot of excitement adding to the momentum the club has been building since the 2010 rebranding. So much excitement, that when Sporting KC supporters group KC Cauldron went to sell Opening Day tickets on its website, hackers (yes, hackers!) took to writing code to get around the group's new membership requirements. Sporting KC is the hottest ticket in Kansas City. As its campaign progresses and match attendance tracks with last season, expect it to remain among the hottest tickets in the League.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC
Saturday, 6.30pm, BC Place (TSN, RDS2)
First day of the season and first Canadian rivalry game, as Ryan Nelsen makes his bow as the latest Toronto Coach, facing a Vancouver team who Martin Rennie has added depth and pace to in the off-season. There's a decidedly premier league flavor to this one, with possible debuts for Nigel Reo-Coker for the Whitecaps and QPR's Hogan Ephraim coming in on loan for Toronto. And of course there's Nelsen. Vancouver will be hoping to start the year with a win. Toronto will just want to get going and put the memory of a dismal 2012 behind them. GP
Brenton Walters, @CapsOffside:
This past week the Vancouver Whitecaps, along with all other MLS teams, released their new jerseys. Ours is great: it's got diagonal lines, various blue highlights, and is mostly white. Bam. Instant classic, right? We'll see. I'm still holding out on the mythical 2014 hooped shirt. In other news, we signed former Premier League midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, and now have too many players for our starting XI. Wow. This is a great (and novel) problem to have, and has the fans buzzing. Should Reo-Coker start? Will YP Lee play at right or left back? Who will play up front? And has Cannon reclaimed the #1 spot from Brad Knighton, on the back of a stellar pre-season? And finally, where do our exciting new rookies fit into all this? Interesting questions all. I'm seeing a lot of variation in the line-up predictions.
Which leads me to the manager, Martin Rennie. Last season he had a squad rotation problem, in that he never rotated the squad. Consequently, we had a lot of tired legs at the end of the season, and limped our way into the final play-off spot. Has Rennie learned from last season, and will we see more line-up changes, more subs, and more chances given to fringe players? Here's hoping.
It all kicks off against our Canadian rivals Toronto, who seem to be in disarray (still? again? as always?). That would seem to be an easy win for us, but TFC have proven difficult for us in the past. Here's hoping our squad depth and cohesion give us the platform we need to start the season on a high note.
Sonja Missio, 90 Minutes of Hopp:
Earlier this week, team captain and German international Torsten Frings announced him retirement. Frings, who suffered a hip injury last season, had not recovered as expected and felt that stepping away would be best for the club. Another player who will not be returning to the club this season is forward Quincy Amarikwa, who was traded to Chicago Fire for a 2014 Supplemental Draft pick. However, Toronto recently acquired winger Hogan Ephraim on loan from Queens Park Rangers and the team is starting to take shape under new head coach –and former fellow QPR player– Ryan Nelsen.
Toronto have a lot of expectations to live up to. After last season – and all the ones prior-- fans will no longer put up with excuses and lackluster performances. With Kevin Payne, TFC's first president, leading the show behind the scenes, Toronto FC fans should be excited for this new era for the team.
However, one thing is for sure, at the very least, morbid curiosity of what the team will accomplish at the start of the season, under new leadership, new management, and new captianship, should lure fans back to the season opener.
Houston Dynamo vs D.C. United
Sat 8:30PM, BBVA Compass Stadium (NBCSN)
GUARDIAN LIVE GAME
A repeat of the Eastern Conference semi-final first leg, where, like Sporting KC before them, D.C. United came unstuck in the Dynamo's new stadium. After a drawn out and emotional semi-final series against New York, the wheels rather came off for D.C. that afternoon, as the injuries that had plagued the second half of the season caught up with them. Not a lot of change in the off-season for the Dynamo, but Ben Olsen brings a new look D.C. attack to Houston, with a lot of expectation around the new young Brazilian D.P Rafael (especially if DeRo earns a suspension for the pre-season incident with Philadelphia's Danny Cruz) and fascination about the condition of Carlos Ruiz. The Dynamo should have the edge though. (Editor Update: De Rosario suspended for two games)GP
Stephen Eastepp, Dynamo Theory, Houston:
This week in Houston has been focused more around the buildup to First Kick, with a small handful of stories getting most of the attention. As part of MLS' Jersey Week, the Houston Dynamo unveiled their new 2013 home and away kits for the first time. With a number of other kits being released this week, the fan's opinions have been mixed at best.
Meanwhile, Brian Ching's contract negotiations went into the final hour, with an agreement coming on Thursday. His contract would have expired at the end of the day, but the player and club were able to come to terms and the Houston legend will spend his final year as a player/coach. While everyone knew this would get done, it let Dynamo fans and Ching breathe a sigh of relief.
Ultimately, the Dynamo are focusing on DC United and their opening match. It's going to be a tough game and both clubs have made improvements over last year's roster. Fans are looking forward to welcoming back Carlos Ruiz to Houston and to knowing whether Dwayne De Rosario will be able to suit up for DC. Three days after the DCU game, Houston will take on Santos Laguna from the Mexican league in their next CONCACAF Champions League match. With a short turnaround from First Kick, the question about whether Dominic Kinnear will field starters or reserves is a hot topic. It's a big home match with Houston knowing how difficult it is to win in Mexico in the return leg.
Kim Kolb, Screaming Eagles:
This first week of the season, there are two stories. First, the status of Dwayne DeRosario. In the final game of the preseason against Philadelphia, DeRo found himself in a dustup with former teammate Danny Cruz. DeRo was sent off during the altercation and there are reports that he may have headbutted Cruz. Though there is no video of the game, MLS is investigating and may take action against DeRo. If so, that'll obviously upset Ben Olsen's roster. Which leads to the second story (which would really be the only story if the DeRo stuff hadn't come up) is how the team actually comes together, as the final roster spots have been filled. A lot of roles will carry over from last season, so it's up to the players to execute and for the coaching staff to pull the right strings.
FC Dallas vs Colorado Rapids
Sat 10.30pm, FC Dallas Stadium
A lot of interest in this one, just to see if the Hassli/Cooper combination can gel, before Hyndman gets Perez back from suspension. On paper these three should give defenses a lot of trouble and score a lot of goals this year, but it's the supply behind them that may determine that. Meanwhile Oscar Pareja has got rid of most of the players remaining from the Gary Smith era and has a lot to prove in his second full season, with what is now his team. As for his strike force, he's just added Danny Mwange from Portland, hoping to finally coax the potential out of the former number one draft pick. GP
Gina Zippilli, The Inferno, Dallas:
The excitement has died down a little after the couple of days that brought Eric Hassli and Kenny Cooper in last week. Most people's minds are just focussed on the opening game against Colorado. Not much to say about Colorado, though I was not impressed by their new jerseys with the season ticket holders names on them - especially the hoops. I don't care if you have all ten season ticket holders names on it, just don't make your jersey look like ours.
Anyway, looking at the game, unless Schellas Hyndman comes up with another wack formation, we'll probably see minutes from both the new strikers as Perez is suspended. The rest of the line up is pretty obviously in place but we're still not sure who our starting goalkeeper is going to be.
Richard Bamber, Centennial 38 Supporters, Colorado Rapids:
The big news for the supporters groups was the first social event for the new Centennial 38 supporters group, which merged out of the three previous largest groups. One great development from that is that they're buying and managing all the tickets from the Supporters Terrace and Section 108 in the stadium, so that should bring a lot more cohesiveness to the support.
We released our, we're calling it our alternative jersey. The big thing about this is that it's a Colorado flag/Colorado theme, so the colors aren't the burgundy and sky blue palette. The fans have been calling for this for several seasons now so it's great they've finally done it. The home jersey with the fan names on it was actually revealed last September, but it's only last week that the fans finally got a hold of it.
And of course it's the season opener. Going to be interesting to see what the team looks like - there'e been 26 players moved out and in their off-season. Of those players, I think the one the fans are most interested to see is Edson Buddle. He's the one who was a known name in the league and he signing the fans were most excited to see.
Seattle Sounders vs Montreal Impact
Sat 10:30PM, CenturyLink Field
At time of writing the Sounders were yet to confirm the signing of Obafemi Martins, who would appear to be a more natural foil for Eddie Johnson than Fredy Montero, regardless of each player's individual merits. Since he hasn't signed yet, there's perhaps more immediate interest in how Shalrie Josephs fits into the new look Sounders. Montreal arrive in town under a new head coach and after a fairly quiet off-season. They're hoping to add a few more dimensions to their game this year, after sides wised up to their play through the middle that did so well for them during the summer months. This one looks intriguing. GP
Sam Chesneau, Gorilla FC, Seattle:
The big story has been Obafemi Martins: has he signed, or has he not signed? The Twitter rumors and speculation have rather overshadowed the build up to the home opener. There've been various sightings of the relevant MLS execs around town and it's assumed it's about to happen, but there are still loose ends such as what happens with Christian Tiffert, since Seattle are maxed out on DPs. Tiffert wasn't with the club in pre-season and the between the lines briefings to local press suggest he'll be bought out or traded - which is a shame in some ways as he had a good year, but he went missing in the US Open Cup final and again in the playoffs. Martins has been pretty good in La Liga, but he's been on so many teams in the past few years, there's a concern he might be a mercenary, but then again, if he brings us an MLS Cup, who cares?
Sofiane Benzaza, Mount Royal Soccer, Montreal:
The main story for Montreal this week was the club's celebration of its 20th anniversary. In what was a beautiful event in a beautiful venue, Joey Saputo celebrated the club's history by honoring the ''Class of 93''. A few ex-players from the 1993 team were brought back as part of the celebration, but also to unveil the Impact's new jersey. Part of Major League Soccer's Jersey Week, the Impact unveiled its third jersey with a big influence from the 1993 jersey of the club. Outside any drama around coaching changes and player personnel, the Impact has always had the knack to celebrate and honor the club's history and values.
The Montreal Impact also announced the signing of two academy players and the extension of Collen Warner. Defender Maxime Tissot and Midfielder Wandrille Lefevre were signed to a MLS contract, joining their ex-U21 teammate Karl Ouimette. The link between the Academy and the Pro team has gotten even stronger with the Academy Director, Philippe Eullaffroy, now an assistant head coach to Marco Schällibaum. The signing of Collen Warner should be seen as good news even though he seemed to go down the pecking order after the arrival of Andrea Pisanu. The central midfielder can continue to be a key player in 2013 with a good combination of skills and smart soccer IQ.
Chivas USA vs Columbus Crew
Sat 10.30pm, Home Depot Center
Chivas and "El Chelis" went on a spree of signings this week, as the new head coach picked up a raft of players from parent club Chivas Guadalajara, as well as a couple of other discovery signings. Plenty has been said about the clubs' controversial recruitment program, but it's a big ask for this sudden culture change and personnel turnover to immediately gel on the field. Meanwhile Columbus arrive having added to what had become a dangerous team by the end of last year. They'll hope that Arrieta and Higuain pick up where they left off and that the other moving parts cause plenty of problems for new look Chivas. GP
Alicia Ratterree, The Goat Parade, Chivas USA:
I think the main story around Chivas USA this week has been the anticipation for the start of the 2013 season. Each MLS team has its own goals and objectives for the year, and I can't imagine fans of any teams are not looking forward to the season. But Goats fans are excited because they want to see how the latest retooling of the entire club will do on the field. New coach Chelís has thoroughly energized the fanbase and fans and players alike seem to be drawing ranks around him. The task now is to show improvement on the field. Can Chivas get a win to start the season? Interestingly, each year they started with a win or draw, they have made the playoffs. I don't think the playoffs should be a primary goal at the moment, but starting the 2013 season with some points would be a great start for the Chelís era.
Ian Fraser, Crew Union, Columbus Crew:
Another roller-coaster offseason has passed in Columbus and it was filled with roster turnover, discontent from (former) players, overreaction by fans and then new hope. Even though the Crew made some key player acquisitions and had a pretty successful preseason, some questions carry into the first game of the season. This team seems to have all the pieces but the feeling is that Robert Warzycha will not be able to complete puzzle. The back line looks set as Tyson Wahl appears to have locked down LB. Agustin Viana goes into the mix at CM where it is unclear who Warzycha prefers between new acquisitions Viana and Matias Sanchez, the hardnosed Danny O'Rourke and Tony Tchani. His pairing here will be key to the team's performance.
The other question surrounds formation and the deployment of Dominic Oduro. If Warzycha chooses to go with a 4-4-1-1, most feel that Oduro is a weaker option than players such as Ethan Finlay and Ben Speas. Oduro would be better used as a wing forward in a speared attack or a speed option off the bench. The fear is that he will expect Oduro to play as an out and out winger just to get him on the field when other players may suit that position better.
The league gave Columbus a season opening away game to Chivas, a fixture they have never won. Jairo Arrieta gets a goal from the run of play and Columbus will get a set piece finish to win 2-1.
LA Galaxy vs Chicago Fire
Sun 5pm, Home Depot Center (UniMas)
A quiet off-season after MLS Cup for the Galaxy. Which after last year's claim by Bruce Arena that the 2011 season "never ended" in the wake of that cup win, must be something of a relief. They'll hope for a better home start than last season's loss to RSL, ahead of another Champions League quarter final this week, but the Fire have filled in their midfield nicely with the likes of Larentowicz and Lindpere and should be no pushovers. GP
In preparation for the season opener, the big story surrounding the LA Galaxy's title defense is how they are going to cope with the loss of two designated players in David Beckham and Landon Donovan. Even though one of those losses is only temporary, it puts the team in a position to ponder where the creativity is going to come from on the offensive side of the ball.
Bruce Arena's first response has been focused on creating a lock-down defensive unit that promises to keep opponents from scoring. Arena will more than likely place a starting lineup of Dunivant, DeLaGarza, Gonzalez and Franklin in front of newly acquired LA Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. In front of this solid base, comes the new additions and question marks. Expectations are that Colin Clark will anchor the left midfield with Juninho and Sarvas creating from the middle. And, of course, Robbie Keane will be the target man up top. But without Landon to pair with Keane, expect Mike Magee to take over the 2nd striker position and Hector Jimenez will find a spot at right midfield.
But this Galaxy season may be defined by young talent. USMNT U-20 striker Jose Villarreal, 18 year old Jack McBean, Homegrown signing Gyasi Zardes (injured), and first round draft pick Charlie Rugg are all ready to make a splash up top with Keane. It's these partnerships that develop at right midfield and in that second striker role that will determine the outcome of the first two months of the season for this team.
The main story at the Fire this week is how teams new midfield will look on Sunday afternoon. Midfielders Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere will start their first game together in the center of the Fire's engine room. Both players are MLS veterans but have only played a few preseason matches together and playing against the two-time defending champions LA away from home is a tough task. Instead of two holding midfielders, the Fire are going with more of a one holding and one box to box midfielder setup. This puts pressure of Larentowicz, and Lindpere will have to be wary of straying too far forward and leaving his central partner exposed. In the attack, Lindpere's set pieces will be a welcome addition. He is one of the best in the league at corners; music to the ears of Larentowicz and Rookie of the Year Austin Berry who are excellent in the air.
Another addition to the midfield is winger Dilly Duka, a player looking to get his career back on track after playing only a limited number of games in Columbus. Duka has impressed in preseason and is not afraid to take on his man. He also has an end product and striker Sherjill MacDonald will be looking to get on the end of Duka's crosses. Duka is also not afraid to track back and help out defensively, something the Fire will need Sunday against Sean Franklin, one of the best outside defenders in the league.
Portland Timbers vs New York Red Bulls
Sun 7.30pm, JELD-WEN Field (ESPN2)
Two brand new MLS coaches face off with overhauled squads at JELD-WEN. The Timbers come into the game having just secured the services of Frédéric Piquionne, and with some curiosity as to how new signings like Silvestre and Valeri will fare under Caleb Porter. Mike Petke meanwhile, kicks off his New York reign with the tough task of knitting together a virtually brand new team, where the longest standing members, Thierry Henry and Roy Miller have two and a half years and three years between them on the team. A lot is expected of new signings Juninho, Olave and Espindola, not to mention the now veteran Henry and the first full year of Tim Cahill's New York career. GP
An offseason of rapid change and tremendous overhaul comes to an end with Caleb Porter's MLS coaching debut on Sunday. During the build-up this week, Porter named midfielder Will Johnson the team's captain while retaining Jack Jewsbury under the more ambiguous title of club captain. The shift to Johnson is a clear indication of Porter's desired personality for the Timbers: smart, consistent and tough.
Meanwhile, the discussion around Portland has centered on which formation Porter will use at First Kick. After setting up in a diamond 4-4-2 early in pre-season, the first year manager has opted for a 4-3-3 of sorts, deploying Johnson and Diego Chará beneath new Designated Player Diego Valeri. Young star Darlington Nagbe has been freed from the responsibilities of either leading the line as a forward or orchestrating the attack in the middle. Already the 22-year old looks more comfortable and has been given more chances to shoot.
Of the many alterations to the roster, Valeri's addition is the one that changes the equation most dramatically for Portland. His work in an advanced central midfield role has opened the field for forwards and wide midfielders and his tenacity fits perfectly with Porter's pressing style. Though Porter himself will get most of the headlines, particularly this week, Valeri's play will determine just how completely the team can adopt Porter's system.
Dan Dickinson, Sports editor, Gothamist, New York:
The main storyline this week is easily whether everything Mike Petke has been trying to instill as a new system has actually taken hold and will show on the field. It was an underwhelming pre-season result wise: with only six games, more minutes had to be spent on experimenting and testing trialists than on giving minutes to a pre-determined starting lineup. But Petke, as well as players like Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry, spoke highly about the quality of football being played and the relationships being developed on and off the field.
New York starts the season in Portland. While it's not a league-promoted rivalry, each of the three previous meetings between these sides has had remarkable controversy - Thierry's phantom red card, Dwayne De Rosario's game tying penalty at the death, Cahill's after-the-whistle goal. And like RBNY, Portland has installed a coach with no MLS experience and overhauled their roster. Both teams have fans that are preparing for a rough start to the season; confidence is not coming easily for this match. So despite the time zones, the artificial turf, and the infamous atmosphere, NY may very well hold their own and perhaps bring 3 points home - but only if the camaraderie Petke identified is real and not imagined.
San Jose Earthquakes vs Real Salt Lake
Sun 10pm, Buck Shaw Stadium
San Jose spent the off-season shoring up on defenders for their Champions League Campaign, but go into the season with a brand new DP in Chris Wondolowski. Nice to see him getting something more like the salary his goals in recent season deserve. RSL meanwhile, are well into the so-called RSL 2.0 rebuilding after the core of the team that won an MLS CUp and were perennial challengers in the West, finally ran out of cap room and time together. Jason Kreis looks to have moved things around shrewdly, but nobody would look forward to a road trip opener at Buck Shaw going on last season's evidence. GP
"Nerdy Gales", Center Line Soccer, San Jose:
Unfinished Business: The 2012 MLS season concluded for Quakes players and fans alike with a sense of unfinished business, even though we won the Supporters' Shield. Despite cheering, sold-out crowds at the Quakes' cozy home stadium, the Goonies' MLS Cup hopes died, in the first round, on the grass of Buck Shaw. Finishing business is the club's stated goal for 2013 – not just to make the playoffs but make a deep run for the MLS Cup.
Unfinished Stadium: It's clear that the club's recent success has significantly expanded its fan-base, and we have outgrown the current facility – just try and get to the bathroom at half time. This week, work begins in earnest on the new soccer-specific stadium, with opening aimed at first kick of the 2014 season. There would be no better way to bid farewell to Buck Shaw than placing some silverware in the brand new trophy cabinet of the stadium-to-be-named-later.
Unfinished Roster: Putting that challenge in motion will be difficult given the loss of Simon Dawkins to Aston Villa, and the questionable status of several returning key players: Lenhart (recovering from a torn meniscus and a ruinous injury to his hairdo); Gordon (still rehabbing hip and foot), Marvin Chavez (MCL) and Beitashour (recent surgery) are unlikely to be available for the start of the season.
So, Quakes fans will need to patiently manage their early season expectations, but in the meantime they do have cause to celebrate the arrival of our new Designated Player – a local lad, reigning MLS MVP and prolific 'finisher': Chris Wondolowski.
Matt Montgomery, Under the Crossbar, Real Salt Lake:
Real Salt Lake heads into the regular season a changed club: Three big departures, three big injuries, and a slew of young players who may or may not make it in MLS. For the first time since 2008, there's real uncertainty about what we'll see on opening day, but with most key veterans remaining in place, that uncertainty has a counterbalance. Javier Morales, Chris Wingert and Nat Borchers will all be absent through injury.
The back line, as a result, will look young and perhaps a bit untested. Kenny Mansally, Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe — none of whom played more than 15 matches in 2012, and none as a defensive group — give cause for concern. The midfield, even with Morales absent, is a bit less certain with Luis Gil's early return from international duty.
San Jose Earthquakes, of course, had RSL's number last year. Red cards, simple goals conceded, indiscipline — it all added up for a miserable three-match affair. Jason Kreis and company will be hoping for a more positive affair this time around. Injuries in the Earthquakes' camp will help, but only to balance the two sides. This match will inevitably set the tone for the early months of the season for Real Salt Lake, but there are certain to be more questions than answers.