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Tactical Talk: In the increasingly competitive arms race of MLS, 2015 is already underway

There's no time like the present to consider what next season will bring on the field.

Richard Heathcote

The New York Red Bulls have run the show in the Big Apple since MLS started. The then-MetroStars spread the glitz and glamour before the likes of the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders, bringing on fashionable names like Roberto Donadoni, Lothar Matthäus and Juan Pablo Ángel. Now, things could change and the lights could turn on their new neighbors. In fact, while Thierry Henry will be out of contract at the end of this season and with Tim Cahill set to made a comeback to Australia, their crosstown rivals of New York City FC are working on a project that includes some big signings.

NYCFC, run by Manchester City, started their aggressive signing campaign bringing on David Villa and Frank Lampard as their first world-class players. But as the MetroStars/Red Bulls experience showed, you can't win in MLS just landing some big names. Even if having players such as Villa, Lampard or Barcelona's Xavi -- who is a target of both New York's teams -- surely can help, you have to surround them with players suited to the English-style, physically ready soccer style this league requires.

That means also to bring back high-profile USMNT members in the way Toronto did with Michael Bradley or Seattle have done with Clint Dempsey. That was the new MLS trend: bring home highly touted American players to line up them alongside valuable DPs, adding MLS suited players to this kind of soccer recipe.

With Seattle and Toronto making deals like that, and with newcomers as NYCFC and Orlando City playing an aggressive role in the market, in view of their 2015 debut, there is no reason Chivas USA's fans can't hope their new owners will play the same way. Players like Jonathan Bornstein, Jozy Altidore or Michael Orozco Fiscal could be persuaded to come back home.

But would it be enough to convince CUSA's fans of the dawn of a new era? Big names don't mean wins. You have to insert them into a settled team's core. Even if Wilmer Cabrera's first season wasn't painful until now, to blow up everything (again) could be like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Despite some mistakes he made and barring a second part of the season blowout, Cabrera still deserves a chance to be back for a second season. That doesn't mean it will happen as a new owner would probably make a clean sweep and decide to hire his own head coach. Time will tell.

On the other hand, the players deserve to be given a much deeper look. Whoever the coach will be, he should like to have back some experienced players as defender Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Burling. They suffered some ups and downs during this first part of the season but they were often forced to play a high defensive line maybe not suited for their skills. The same can be said for netminder Dan Kennedy. Instead, the full-back positions have to be re-shaped. It wasn't just on the full-backs, but Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Tony Lochhead, Eric Avila -- when deployed there -- and Donny Toia's play has often been awful.

Meantime, in the middle of the field players such as Oswaldo Minda, Agustin Pelletieri, Mauro Rosales and Thomas McNamara should lay the foundations of the next midfield. Nathan Sturgis proved to be a reliable backup. Clearly, much of CUSA's fans hope to reach the top of MLS next season will depend the team's offensive weapons. The most interesting story up there is obviously that connected with Erick "Cubo" Torres. Should the new owner be able to retain the Mexican-born talent, surrounding him with the appropriate supporting cast, four-game winning streaks could be rare sights no longer for CUSA -- or whatever name the rebranding will deliver in California.

Cabrera probably should utilize the second part of this term as a tryout for Caleb Calvert, Kris Tyrpak, Ryan Finley and Akira Kaji, trying to find out who could help next season. It doesn't mean Chivas USA's 2014 season is over but just that Cabrera needs to take the edge from this campaign to start the next a step ahead of the other sides. Otherwise, newly acquired teams as Orlando City and NYCFC could join powerhouse squads as Portland or Sporting KC and made the distance between CUSA and the top of MLS much more wide. That's why the work for 2015 should already be underway.

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