Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Columbus Crew SC and the Houston Dynamo both have a bit of a new look heading into the 2015 season, and they will get it started at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday.
No longer called the Columbus Crew, Columbus Crew SC has a new name and a new logo, but the club will hope to at least duplicate its results from last season when the side finished third in the Eastern Conference to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter certainly made the most of his first season in charge of Columbus, and he added a few important pieces in the offseason while keeping the core of the club intact.
Argentine veteran Herman Grana is expected to compete for the right-back job, while 24-year-old Chris Klute arrives from Colorado as one of the top young defenders in MLS.
Those additions will improve a unit that had the fifth-best defensive record in MLS last season, while another arrival, forward Kei Kamara, has the potential to be a spark on offense.
Kamara joins Columbus from English side Middlesbrough and he brings a wealth of MLS experience to Crew SC. Not only was he drafted by Columbus in 2006 but he has gone on to represent the San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, as well as English club Norwich City on a loan spell in 2013.
The 30-year-old Kamara should help Designated Player Federico Higuain and allow the Argentine to operate more in his natural position as a withdrawn attacker.
Houston, meanwhile, enters a season without Dominic Kinnear on the bench for the first time in franchise history. Kinnear has been in charge of the club since it arrived from San Jose in 2006, but he returned to the Earthquakes organization in the offseason after the Dynamo finished eighth in the Eastern Conference and failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010.
With that in mind, the Dynamo tabbed Owen Coyle as its new leader with Coyle having enjoyed spells in charge of Burnley, Bolton and Wigan in England.
And Coyle will be excited to have the services of former Chivas USA striker Erick Torres, who arrives in Houston after the Dynamo won the lottery to secure his services from disbanded Chivas.
Torres netted 15 goals in 26 league games for the Goats last season, and he was handed a Designated Player contract by the Dynamo in December, illustrating the faith Houston has in the 22-year-old.
The other big signing for Houston was Spanish defender Raul Rodriguez, who arrives from Espanyol to bolster a unit that gave up 58 goals last season, tied with Montreal for the worst mark in the Eastern Conference.
Houston has also moved to the Western Conference this year with the arrival of two expansion franchises, so if Coyle wants to return the club to the postseason, he will certainly have his work cut out for him.