The Columbus Crew is eyeing a quick return to the postseason in 2013, and the club's journey begins at The Home Depot Center against Chivas USA on Saturday.
Columbus missed out on a trip to the postseason in 2012 for the first time in five years, but defender Danny O'Rourke is confident that it will only serve as motivation.
"Everyone kind of left last year with a bad taste in their mouths," O'Rourke said. "Everyone wanted to come back not just to get in shape for preseason, but to come back ready to work from day one.
"You take a couple of days and look back at games where you should've played better, games where you shouldn't have given up a goal or where you didn't score a goal and other opportunities squandered. I learned from a good coach one time that the best thing about a soccer player is a short memory. Whether it's a bad pass or bad first touch, or whether it's not making the playoffs, you've got to learn how to put it behind you."
Not only did the Crew make some strong acquisitions in the offseason, including defender Glauber, forward Dominic Oduro and midfielder Matias Sanchez, but the club will benefit from a full season with playmaker Federico Higuain and a return to health for defender Chad Marshall.
Higuain was the offensive catalyst for Columbus last season, netting five goals and assisting on seven more in just 13 games en route to being named MLS Newcomer of the Year.
Marshall struggled with an ankle problem and was clearly less than 100 percent, but his return to health, along with the acquisition of the 29-year- old Glauber, gives Columbus a potentially stingy defense.
Oduro's presence up top breathes life into an attack that already had capable forward Jairo Arrieta and reliable midfielder Eddie Gaven.
Chivas harbors slightly lower expectations ahead of the 2013 season with a new manager in Jose Luis Sanchez Sola and a roster devoid of some of the club's most recognizable players.
Gone are veterans Juan Pablo Angel, Shalrie Joseph, Nick LaBrocca and Alejandro Moreno, leaving the impression that Sola is overseeing a rebuilding project this year.
With Angel and Moreno leaving, much of the scoring load will fall to young striker Juan Agudelo, while the midfield will be run by players like Miller Bolanos, Oswaldo Minda, Carlos Alvarez and Eric Avila.
Chivas has failed to reach the postseason in each of the past three years and it doesn't look like that streak will end in 2013.
Saturday will be the beginning of a new era for Chivas, but more likely it will be the first game in a rebuilding season.