It's almost here! The start of the MLS season! It's like the night before Christmas. The closer it gets, the more giddy I become.
Just for this occasion, I decided to throw together a predictions post. I tried to give some honest thoughtful analysis for each team, but as I worked my way through the Western Conference into the East I got lazy and it just sort of digressed from analysis to trash talking. Actually, it's probably more trash talking than anything. I guess the end result is the same as predictions are useless. Why write something that's useless, you ask? Well, just because it's useless, doesn't mean it's not fun!Leading up to the beginning of the season, I've read up on a lot of the teams, and I've came to one conclusion: everyone not named Chivas is going to make the playoffs. Most everyone seems to be full of optimism about every single team. With so much optimism, both conferences seem to be crap shoots (or is it crap shots?) this year. The Western Conference seems to be full of good teams while the Eastern Conference seems to be full of teams on the verge of becoming good teams.
I'm going to start with the Western Conference, which is seems to be slightly less of a chaotic than the East.
The Western Conference
1. LAG - For the most part, the Galaxy are going to be the same dominant force that they were last year minus a Berhalter and plus a Buddle. They're also getting Robbie Keane back. As a Villa fan, Keane has made my past couple of Saturdays bearable and now he's gone back to the MLS version of the Lakers. Juninho is also back. The biggest thing is how far they can go in the Champions League. If they go far, then it might put enough stress on the team to suffer a little in MLS. If this happens, then they might have to repeat this year without the Supporter's Shield. Poor bastards. I hate LA.
2. Seattle - Yup. Here they are. Second banana to LA as usual. Seattle is going for broke this year, and their gamble is riding on Eddie Johnson. With all of this distraction being created by the trade for Eddie, no one is talking about who is replacing this Kasey Keller guy. Apparently Keller's replacement is an Austrian keeper named Micheal Gspurning. I don't know much about the guy, other than he has a few years of experience under his belt, so this shouldn't be too much of a down grade for teh Sounders.
It seems that Steve Zakuani might not be fully up to speed for the start of the season. Additionally, Seattle has lost a few other big names from their line up as well. Along with Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle going in the Eddie Johnson trade, the Sounders no longer have Tyson Wahl, James Riley, Pat Noonan, Nate Jaqua and Eric Friberg. That's a lot of turnover. Still, most of these guys were role players and not entrenched starters. Seattle will be okay without them.
3. RSL - If Kyle Beckerman cut his dreads and donated them to Locks of Love, would they accept them? Does Locks of Love have an office janitor in need of a new mop head? I have nothing new to say about RSL. This team has been very quiet during the off-season. It's not that they haven't made any signings, but more that they haven't done anything terribly splashy, which works for this team. They're solidly built as is and will be in the playoffs at the end of the season. They wont surpass either LA or Seattle in the season standings, and it seems they're fine with it.
4. FC Dallas - This one is questionable. FCD fell apart late last year. And there's been talk of Brek Shea getting snatched up by a European club in the summer transfer window. I think if Brek stays the season, and they don't have a late season collapse, this team could go a little higher than this.
5. San Jose - This is suppose to be the most talented team in San Jose since the group that split for Houston and won 2 consecutive MLS cups. If that is true, then this is an low ranking and they should be competing with Seattle for second place. However, I felt like last year's Earthquakes were pretty good, too, and should have been competing for at least a playoff spot. If this Earthquakes "wunder-team" finishes less than 4th, then I think the blame falls to Mr. Yallop.
6. Portland - Ugh! And this is where the Western Conference gets tough to sort out. They made a few big moves in the off-season, which made them better, but is it enough to grab a playoff spot in the loaded Western Conference? They picked up a big target man to replace Kenny Cooper in Kris Boyd. They also lured another Columbian player away from Columbia to an inferior league. I also like John Spencer as a manager. The fact that they didn't do a little more in the off-season is the reason why I'm not putting them higher.
7. Vancouver - The red headed step-child of the Cascadia. They brought in Sebastian Le Toux, Barry Robinson, Lee Young-Pyo, and Darren Mattocks. I think these players are going to help Vancouver out of the basement this season. Also, having Chivas in your conference helps.
8. Colorado - A lot has happened in Colorado this off-season. They have a new coach, new formation, and a lot of players from last year are gone. Most of the players exiting were either inconsistent performers or cusp players. But with those players gone, who is going to fill those roster spots? I could tell you names, but not much else beyond that. A year removed from the MLS Cup, and the Rapids are in quasi-rebuilding mode. The positive thing for Colorado is that they do still have a few of their big name players which should help them in the transition. It's possible they could be back to cup contender form after this year.
9. Chivas - If the Galaxy are the Lakers, then the Goats are the Clippers (pre-2011-12 Clippers, of course). They traded Justin Braun away this off-season. They also got rid of Zach Valentine. But they got James Riley this off season. I guess it's not a complete loss of an off season. LA belongs to the Galaxy. They should just relocate this team to San Diego.
Now, on to the more wide open conference:
The Eastern Conference
1. Sporting KC - I'm really going out on a limb with this one aren't I? Seriously though, they played like crap during their gajillion game road streak last year, then they killed it for the rest of the season. With such extreme polar opposites, I don' t know which is most likely to resemble what we are going to see from them this season. They did loose both Omar Bravo and Davy Arnaud this past season, but I think they will manage. Thanks to last season's hot second half, anything less than 1st in the east and winning the MLS Cup will be a disappointment for SKC.
2. Houston - This might be a stretch. Ching's goal total has been on a decline as his age is on an incline. Will Bruin is young and inconsistent. Their midfield is pretty good. Their starting back line is possibly the best in the biz, but beyond the starters, there's not much depth, and one of their center backs will be at the olympics this summer. Houston could definitely finish lower if goal scoring becomes scarce.
3. Chicago Fire - I'll explain this one in the end.
4. D.C. United - Last year they were a fairly young team. Now they have the experience of a
5. NYRB - If I was to continue my NBA analogy that I started with LA, then the Red Bulls would be the Knicks. Just like the Knicks, all of the star power in the world can't disguise a poorly run organization. It just makes a middling team. This team was tied for first among playoff teams for goals allowed (44 - the Crew also let in 44). If it wasn't for being second in the league for goals scored, this team would not have made the playoffs. They brough in Conde, who is still on the mend, to help out their defense. They also brought in Markus Holgersson who sounds like has the potential to cause problems for a lot of offenses. I think the Red Bulls have improved, but DC and Chicago are better built teams.
6. Columbus - How did you make the playoffs last year? And what is a DIlly Duka? Is that some weird euphemism only used in Ohio? Also, just because Milovan Mirosevic looks like Guillermo Barros Schelotto with hair cut doesn't mean he's going to play like Guillermo. I'm glad for the new schedule structure so we get to walk all over you one extra time. In all seriousness though - no trash talking - who is going to score goals for you guys?
7. Philly - I saw a pre-season video of Philly where they interviewed a few of the players. In the video they were talking about how they're a young team and trying to play it off as though it's not a problem because they've all played at least a year in the MLS. If the pre-season scuffle in Coast Rica is an indicator of anything, then this could be a long season for the Union.
8. Montreal - Montréal bienvenu! J'espère que vous appréciez le MLS. Comment les français indiquent-ils ass kick? Coup-de-pied d'âne! Vous t'obtiendrez le coup-de-pied d'âne le 17 mars. Vous desserrerez 20-0. Peut-être 20-1.
(Note: I failed 3 semesters of French. Twice in high school and once in college. The above work is all thanks to tooling around with Bablefish.)
9. New England - Well, for the first time since 2002 the Revs won't be managed by some one named Stevie. As much as I hate the Revs, I liked Stevie. Especially when they would conduct in game interviews with him when his team wasn't doing so well. Angry Stevie was fun to watch. Jay Heaps is the new manager, so New England is going the way of DCU and RSL by hiring a former player. From what I've read, people are high on New England just as they are high on every other team not named Chivas. In my opinion, there are going to be some bumps in the road for the new manager, and some one has to finish last.
So what about the Fire? I'm feeling incredibly optimistic about the Fire this year. I also feel that the team might get off to a slow start, but get better as the season goes on. While we have a lot of player returning, it's going to be the new players that will take this team to the next level, and I feel that it might take a while for those players to gel with the rest of the squad. All I really care about are two things: 1) a more entertaining season than last season. It was hard to watch the nearly 3 month winless streak which was capped off by nearly 3 full games without a goal being scored by either team. 2) Make the playoffs. Without any empirical evidence of any sort, I'm convinced that this team will get stronger as the season goes on. If we can make the playoffs, we will be a force to be reckoned with.