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updated: 2/25/2013 7:29 PM

MLS East preview: D.C. United looks strong again

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  • The Chicago Fire is looking for a breakout season from goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

      The Chicago Fire is looking for a breakout season from goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
    Associated Press

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With the Major League Soccer season kicking off this weekend, it's time to look at how the Eastern Conference shapes up, in order of predicted finish.

1. D.C. United

It will be a good season if: Dwayne De Rosario, 34, hasn't lost a step. And if Carlos Ruiz, 33, still has his scoring touch, look out.

It will be a bad season if: Chris Pontius can't stay healthy. He did in 2012 and scored a career-high 12 goals.

Bottom line: Young coach Ben Olsen is bringing United back to prominence in MLS. Now about that stadium ...

2. Sporting Kansas City

It will be a good season if: Benny Feilhaber regains his form. He and Graham Zusi can be dangerous in midfield.

It will be a bad season if: Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin can't remain the best center back combo in the league.

Bottom line: Everything is up to date in Kansas City.

3. Houston Dynamo

It will be a good season if: Forward Will Bruin, in his third year in MLS, continues to develop into a top striker.

It will be a bad season if: Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis don't scare opposing teams in 2013 like they did in 2012.

Bottom line: Dominic Kinnear is one of the top coaches in the league.

4. Chicago Fire

It will be a good season if: Fourth-year goalkeeper Sean Johnson, 23, has a breakout season.

It will be a bad season if: The strike team of Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald doesn't produce. At least one of them needs to reach double digits in goals.

Bottom line: Once again this looks like a solid but not spectacular team. Right back remains uncertain.

5. Columbus Crew

It will be a good season if: Chad Marshall can stay healthy to anchor the back line and maybe score a few goals off set pieces.

It will be a bad season if: Federico Higuain isn't as good in 2013 as he was in 2012, when he was the best midseason acquisition in the league.

Bottom line: Given all the new faces, team chemistry is a question, and the imports have to adjust to MLS play.

6. Philadelphia Union

It will be a good season if: Sebastien Le Toux is as good in this tour in Philly as he was the last time he played there.

It will be a bad season if: Young players such as Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney, Gabriel and Michael Farfan and Antoine Hoppenot don't continue to improve.

Bottom line: This could be the surprise team in MLS.

7. New York Red Bulls

It will be a good season if: Tim Cahill has the kind of season the New Yorkers are paying him DP money to have.

It will be a bad season if: Heath Pearce and Jamison Olave can't solve the Red Bulls' defensive woes.

Bottom line: The Red Bulls look like a team in disarray, and not for the first time. Coach Mike Petke was hired as a stopgap when New York's first choice fell through.

8. Montreal Impact

It will be a good season if: Last year's No. 2 overall draft pick, Andrew Wenger, finds a position and becomes a star.

It will be a bad season if: Thirty-something imports Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta, Marco Di Vaio don't play up to their reputations.

Bottom line: After a solid expansion season in 2012, the Impact is starting over again.

9. New England Revolution

It will be a good season if: Jerry Bengston, who looked like a find at forward last season, can be better this season.

It will be a bad season if: Youngsters such as Diego Fagundez, top overall draft pick Andrew Farrell and Kelyn Rowe don't develop quickly.

Bottom line: Coach Jay Heaps continues to rebuild.

10. Toronto FC

It will be a good season if: We're not even going to try to fool you into thinking Toronto can be good with this roster.

It will be a bad season if: Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings can't recover from injury. So far it's not looking good -- again.

Bottom line: No team has done more to alienate a great fan base. New team president Kevin Payne and new coach Ryan Nelsen have a lot of work to do.

Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @orrin_schwarz

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