This is the time of year when clubs run through their wish lists and start to reconcile them with reality.
No, it doesn't have to do with Christmas, per se. Every team operates on a budget and works within the structure of the league to build a side capable of lifting MLS Cup. Needs and wants, however, do not always dovetail neatly.
Those concerns do not necessarily apply to the wish list itself. In the spirit of the holiday season, the Musings went through and contemplated a few potential gifts for each of the clubs.
Chicago: Another profitable avenue or two in the final third. Chris Rolfe can't do it all by himself, especially when other teams know how critical his influence is to the cause.
Chivas USA: Establish a sense of normalcy. The Red-and-White needs to find a way to function coherently as a club. Maybe the sense of normal includes a massive importation of mediocre players from Mexico. Maybe it doesn't. But this club desperately requires a direction and the fortitude to follow it for an extended period of time.
Colorado: More players capable of executing Oscar Pareja's vision. Colorado struggled last season because the players found themselves caught between two competing principles. Many of Gary Smith's stalwarts have now located alternative employment. Pareja must recruit the type of quality to ensure the swap isn't for naught. Oh, and fullback options. Lots and lots of fullback options.
Columbus: A return to its miserly defensive ways. Columbus entered the offseason with some uncertainty at the back after conceding 44 times last season. This team isn't going to return to the playoffs by outscoring the opposition (though Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain will certainly try). The Crew needs that trademark strength in defense to backstop its more ambitious work in the final third.
D.C. United: A new stadium in the District. It is well past time for United to have its own home.
FC Dallas: Figure out how to emerge from its current mess. Nothing has unfolded according to plan in Frisco over the past few months. It won't be easy to chart a path back to the postseason, even with the core currently in place.
Houston: Continued health for Brad Davis and Boniek Garcia and a speedy recovery for Calen Carr. A MLS Cup appearance against a team other than the Galaxy wouldn't hurt, either.
Los Angeles: Perhaps a year or two of relative peace with David Beckham now out of the picture.
Montréal: A new coach willing to understand the vagaries of MLS. And a winger or two to provide decent service from the wide areas.
New England: Genuine and tangible progress toward a new stadium on the T and a return to the postseason.
New York: Genuine and tangible progress toward a team-building concept that doesn't change when a measure of success is achieved. Gerard Houllier and Andy Roxburgh have started well. Now they need to see those efforts through to the club's first title.
Philadelphia: The best physio money can buy. John Hackworth has assembled a squad filled with intriguing pieces, but he will need his key players to stay out of the the treatment room to ensure everything works out according to plan.
Portland: A dollop of patience. Caleb Porter needs time to gather the right players and install his system. The situation likely won't improve dramatically overnight. But it sure needs to improve a little right away.
Real Salt Lake: A new contract for Javier Morales. RSL doesn't have a replacement in-house for its primary schemer. Morales didn't live up to his lofty standards last year, but he still makes the Claret-and-Cobalt tick in the final third.
San Jose: Another year of magic. It seems like too much to ask after the Earthquakes' wild run in 2012. But this is Christmas, isn't it?
Seattle: A first berth in MLS Cup. Nothing less will do.
Sporting Kansas City: More of the same, please. Plus a bit more playoff success, of course.
Toronto FC: Some sign of hope. A first playoff berth would be ideal, but it might represent too much to ask this season given the state of the squad. In its stead, the Reds must display competency in every aspect and push for a postseason berth until the final day.
Vancouver: A few more steps toward the ultimate goal. Ambition is good. And the second half of the season provided a nice reminder of the work still left to do.
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