HTIOT Predicts The 2013 MLS Season

The Fire begin their quest for this in 2 short days - Abelimages

In just over 48 hours, our Men in Red begin the long journey for the glorious MLS Cup. As we all know, anything can and most likely will happen over the course of an MLS season. Our current HTIOT writers, as well as some of our beloved HTIOT alumni have taken a stab at predicting where everything will be when the dust settles on the 2013 MLS season. Take a look below and feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts and predictions

Instead of giving a preview of every team in the league, the contributors here at HTIOT will do a quick preview of what the Fire have to do in order to win silverware this season. In addition to that we will also give our final 2013 regular season standings as well as both the MLS Cup and US Open Cup winners. We also have some predictions from and analysis from our friends, Gregg Mixdorf (who graciously did a little extra and previewed the entire league for you) and Nick Fedora, over at Fuego de mi Vida. Make sure you check them out also to feed your Fire addiction.

Analysis

Dili Yang

There's been a lot of discussion around the roster changes that happened during the off-season, but I noticed that it's quieted down after a few of the preseason games. Now there's a certain level of expectancy surrounding the season. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty positive about it! Sure, they were just "pre-season" games, but they showed certain - as it would be put in the Premier League - "mental strength" about the team, especially the ability to come back from a deficit. It also feels like there's more offensive firepower (pun not ...well, okay, partly intended) from a wider variety of goal-scorers, which is something the Fire struggled with towards the end of last season. Worryingly, however, some of the same defensive issues are showing, and I know that Klopas himself had addressed this after the Carolina Cup win. Bearing in mind that the standings were extremely close last season, though, if you consider an added goal here or there or a few extra points from a game or two, it would have made a large difference between second and fifth last season - and perhaps this season as well.

In terms of the Open Cup this season ...what's that saying: once bitten, twice shy? After last year's mess, I'm hoping the Fire remembers it clearly and the same mistakes aren't made this time around. Hopefully it'll be closer to "once bitten, twice the effort and half the making the fans sad". In conclusion, my - logic and not emotion-driven - predictions for just the Fire this season: Second in the conference, will at least progress past the first round of the playoffs. At least semifinals for the Open Cup. Here's hoping!

Ryan Sealock


The Fire still seem to be flying under the radar from many of the pre-season prognostications I have seen. As it was last year, this is a good thing in my eyes, at least to start the season. Let everyone look at the teams that always get the media coverage. We will be content to come out hot out of the gate. I really think we have a chance at making a nice statement in LA to open the season. There will be no Landy Cakes, and Beckham is of course gone. Our biggest asset now is depth, especially in midfield. We are built to be competitive in multiple competitions (MLS play and US Open Cup). While striking is still a bit questionable, I am very confident something will happen in the summer if we are in need or the right deal becomes available. Defense is set, and some nice depth has been built there. And of course our GK core is top notch. Even when SJ is with the USMNT, Paolo Tornaghi is more than capable of stepping in and shining.

I see us mirroring last year some what, minus the late collapse. Rather than having to get really hot and make a big run, I think we will consistently stay up in the top 2-3 teams in the East. If you look at last year, we should have had a top 1 or 2 seed locked up. And that is with a team that had holes. We have filled those and gotten quite a bit better this year. Duka is looking lively, and we know what Lindpere and Larentowicz can do. Atouba will be a nice addition as well, and Maicon Santos has looked good this pre-season too. We lost an under performing DP in Flaco, and a class act but aging player retired (Pardo). Overall, we are definitely better than last year, and we have shown that this pre-season. With a move to 1 DM in the cards, we should have a more dynamic look offensively as well.

In terms of the East, SKC lost Espinosa and Kamara. Yes, they added a couple of players but they are not proven in MLS like the departures were. Houston is always tough under Kinnear and a favorite in my book. New York lost some pieces (Lindpere), but seems to be trying to rebuild under Petke. DC can be dangerous but doesn't have the complete package. I truly do think Chicago has improved the most. And any summer additions could put everything over the top. We have the depth to cover injuries and go deep into the playoffs. We just missed getting it to click last year. We got some good experience for the younger players, and I think we take the next step this year. While I think we are just a small step away, we definitely will make a big statement this year and open some eyes. We are close to some really big things and it would seem we have been building up to bigger and better things the past 2 years (just missing the playoffs to making the playoffs). I see this trend continuing under Frank and that bodes well for the future, as he appears to have constructed a club that will compete year in and year out.

At the end of the day, I think the team will use the continuous lack of respect to create a chip on their shoulder, as they should. People don't want to pay attention to us? That's fine. They will after we beat them down on the pitch. Let everyone ogle at the trendy picks and teams with big name stars. We have a cohesive team and a great locker room. Guess what? Money can't buy cohesion- it has to be astutely built. Otherwise the Yankees would win the World Series every year. I will take a team full of blue collar, hard workers like we have now over a team full of egos and prima donnas any day of the week. It's gonna be a fun season, so buckle up and get ready to have some fun with HTIOT this year!

Adam Merges

In terms of player movement the Fire stayed relatively quiet compared to the rest of the league. Frank and company kept a good core intact and picked up some MLS proven talent that will help any team in the league improve. One of the things to keep an eye on this season is the issue we may have with depth if the squad suffers any long term injuries.

Overall, if the Fire remain healthy and also stay with 2 forwards up top, this team could challenge for the Eastern Conference Title. We will not be able to dominate all teams but we will be able to put up a fight and stick with the top teams in the league. I can see the Fire possibly making 1 or 2 additions in the summer to hopefully bring in a #10 or a proven striker. If that happens than we should see the Fire make deep runs in both the MLS Cup playoffs and in the US Open Cup.

James Coston

It looks like the Fire's strategy this offseason was to make modest upgrades from last year. Clearly, Frank Klopas and Co. believe that the core of the roster is what led to them being so dominant in August and September last season before a disappointing run down the stretch ended their season a bit prematurely (at least in the eyes of most fans).

The additions of Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka show the club is determined to control games in the midfield and make life easier for both the back line and already potent strikers in Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald. This team should have little trouble picking up points from Eastern Conference minnows, but regularly beating the top dogs like Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo will be the test of whether the Fire can be serious playoff contenders.

Ruben Tisch

The Fire have to score. Plain and simple. If Sherjill MacDonald and Chris Rolfe can't get it done, someone needs to be brought in during the summer. The additions of Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere solidify a central midfield that last year left us wanting in terms of creating opportunities. And this will (hopefully) help Patrick Nyarko avoid the beatings he was taking on the right hand side, leaving him free to have the energy to create and stay in the game. The defense is as solid as last year. Although you have to wonder about Logan Pause at Right Back. My senses tell me they're going to re-acclimate Jalil Anibaba to Center Back for life without Arne Friedrich. (and no, this doesn't mean they're forgoing this year- they're just being practical). The Fire will be better than last year. And I think they have an outside shot at the supporters shield (if the goals come).

Mark O'Rourke

For the first time in a while, the Fire have a good spine to their formation. Berry and Friedrich will be manning the center of the defense, Larentowicz is the gritty ball winner, and Lindpere is the link-up man to the forward pairing of Rolfe and MacDonald. Lindpere's performance is going to be integral to the Fire succeeding this year. Last season, when Rolfe started to get shut down in the center midfield role, the team struggled, In Rolfe's defense, central midfield is not his natural position. Lindpere seems to be more of a natural central midfielder. He is going to be one of the main conduits for setting up Rolfe and MacDonald, and he is also going to need to take up some of the goal scoring workload as Jeff Larentowicz, Dilly Duka or Patrick Nyarko are not known for their goal scoring ability.

Additionally, Lindpere should have things a little easier in 2013 than either Rolfe or Sebastian Grazzini did over the past season and a half. If Duka has a break out season like people are expecting, Nyarko plays like he has over the past three seasons and Rolfe and MacDonald are as dangerous of a pairing as we all are hoping for them to be, then it's going to be a lot more difficult for defenses to single out Lindpere and shut him down without exposing themselves elsewhere.

Lastly, the Fire need to focus more defensively. The defense performed well last season, but we only had 6 shutouts. The team could have had a few more shutouts, but the Fire seemed to be good for at least one defensive lapse a game. Some of those conceded goals were just flat out embarrassing. Depending on whether Frank decides to go with Anibaba or Pause at right back, it's very likely that we could be seeing the same exact back line that we had last year. They are going to need to improve this season and perform better if the Fire hope to take it all in 2013.

Gregg Mixdorf

Western conference:

1. San Jose Earthquakes: A repeat looks likely as they return almost the entire roster. I don't see anyone else that will be able to duplicate their offensive ability. Defense is a concern but their central defenders played a rather high line last season and maybe a tactical change will see them be a bit tighter. Wondo is the best player in the league and I don't see that changing this year.

2. LA Galaxy: I'm taking them here just because of Bruce Arena. Great coach who has returned most of his key role players. Yes losing Becks and Donovan (for however long) is going to hurt but LA still has Robbie Keene. I fully expect them to add quality players in the summer.

3. Seattle Sounders: I can see why people may be high on the Sounders. Big moves bring big excitement. Yet I'm not sold on them being contenders for anything outside of the US Open Cup. The Sigi Schmid era in Seattle hasn't been the success many envisioned league wise. Most people would peg them higher than this but I just can't bring myself to pick this team higher than third place. They consistently have under performed during the regular season and MLS Cup playoffs the last three years. I don't see that changing now in particular with the high profile changes they are determined to make.

4. Real Salt Lake: I hate almost everything they did this off-season. Yet this is one of the best run organizations in MLS and there is no way they finish lower than 4th place.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps: There is going to be a crazy battle for the final spot in the west this year depending on if Dallas can make their big strike force paring work. I think Vancouver is best positioned to hold onto their playoff position from last year while being an improved club. Martin Rennie struck me as a quality coach last year and frankly I feel he is better than the guys he will be competing against for this spot.

6. Portland Timbers: This is going to be a fun squad to watch but there are a lot of potential hurdles for them to overcome to get into the playoffs. Not least of which is new head coach Caleb Porter's lack of experience at the professional level. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens here. One of the more interesting teams to watch in the West this season.

7. FC Dallas: I really like the potential for the big strike force in Dallas. Plus with Ferreira back things should be very exciting. On the negative side their coach is one of the worst around. Schellas Hyndman will find a way to drop points. So here they sit in front of the rebuilding squads.

8. Colorado Rapids: They should be better than Chivas USA.

9. Chivas USA: Who knows what this team is going to do? It is going to be a circus out there all season. I don't think this bodes well for their season but who knows they could surprise if Chelis figures MLS out. I'm not betting on it.

Eastern Conference:

1. DC United: I expect big things out of DC this year. Ben Olsen is a tremendous coach. He has some excellent, if aging, offensive players at hand. If he can find a way to tighten up his squad defensively this year without losing any offensive bite I expect them to win the wide open East.

2. Chicago Fire: I'm putting the Fire second. They could have issues scoring goals, on the other hand they could have big years from the midfield. Hard to say as the team looks to be well balanced across the board. Finding an additional striker will be important but perhaps not needed considering the rest of the Eastern Conference clubs.

3. Sporting KC: You can not underestimate the impact that the departure of Kei Kamara will have on this club. Over the last three seasons he contributed 30 goals, 18 assists in 7400 minutes of play. His constant work defensively will be missed. One of the more underrated players in league history for me. He has been replaced by some high profile signings but his loss combined with that of Roger Espinoza leaves the the KC offensive engine bereft of its best two players. I'm not confident that coach Peter Vermes is good enough tactically to mesh his new players in without a significant drop in points (he will shriek at officials a lot, so he has that going for him).

4. Houston Dynamo: Great playoff team, rather unspectacular regular season team. Don't see that changing much this year.

5. NY Red Bulls: I don't see anyone else good enough to push into this slot. Thierry Henry is still there and they now have a deserving coach in long suffering servant of the club Mike Petke (he earned this job). Other than that not a lot to get excited about here.

6. Montreal Impact: I love teams full of veteran presence. There is a lot of it here. I predict they run out of gas near the end of the season but they may scare the Red Bulls for a while.

7. Philadelphia Union: They won't be terrible but they won't be good. This team appears to be in some transition this year.

8. Columbus Crew: I hate their coach: Robert Warzycha. Take a look at what he has done to this club since he somehow pushed the best player in Columbus history out the door. I don't know how he still has a job. He will find a way submarine this rather thin club.

9. New England Revolution: Better than Toronto. I feel like Jay Heaps is going to turn into a really good coach if he manages not to get fired after this year.

10. Toronto FC: Might be better than last year but that isn't saying much.

2013 Season Standings

Eastern Conference

Mark O'Rourke

Ryan Sealock

Adam Merges

James Coston

Ruben Tisch

1

DC

Chicago

SKC

SKC

Houston

2

SKC

Houston

Chicago

Houston

Chicago

3

Chicago

SKC

Houston

Chicago

Columbus

4

Houston

New York

New York

Columbus

SKC

5

Columbus

DC

DC

Montreal

New York

6

Montreal

Montreal

Montreal

New York

Montreal

7

New York

Columbus

Columbus

DC

DC

8

Philadelphia

New England

Philadelphia

Toronto

Philadelphia

9

New England

Toronto

Toronto

Philadelphia

New England

10

Toronto

Philadelphia

New England

New England

Toronto

Western Conference

1

RSL

LA

RSL

RSL

San Jose

2

San Jose

Seattle

LA

FC Dallas

Seattle

3

Seattle

San Jose

FC Dallas

LA

FC Dallas

4

FC Dallas

RSL

San Jose

Portland

LA

5

LA

Vancouver

Vancouver

San Jose

Vancouver

6

Portland

Portland

Portland

Seattle

RSL

7

Vancouer

FC Dallas

Seattle

Vancouver

Portland

8

Chivas

Colorado

Chivas USA

Colorado

Colorado

9

Colorado

Chivas USA

Colorado

Chivas USA

Chivas USA

Gregg Mixdorf

Stephen Piggott

Nick Fedora

Tweed Thornton

Eastern Conference

D.C. United

Houston

Houston

D.C. United

Chicago

Chicago

Kansas City

Houston

Kansas City

Kansas City

New York

Chicago

Houston

D.C. United

Chicago

Montreal

New York

New York

D.C. United

New York

Montreal

Philadelphia

Columbus

Kansas City

Philadelphia

Montreal

New England

Philadelphia

Columbus

Columbus

Montreal

New England

New England

Toronto

Philadelphia

Toronto

Toronto

New England

Toronto

Columbus

Western Conference

San Jose

Los Angeles

San Jose

San Jose

Los Angeles

San Jose

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Seattle

Seattle

Seattle

Dallas

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

Vancouver

Seattle

Vancouver

Portland

Salt Lake

Salt Lake

Portland

Vancouver

Portland

Portland

Dallas

Colorado

Colorado

Vancouver

Colorado

Dallas

Dallas

Colorado

Chivas USA

Chivas USA

Chivas USA

Chivas USA

Cup Results

Ryan Sealock:

Open Cup: Chicago over Seattle (yes revenge for 2 years ago)

Playoffs

Knockout round East: New York over DC
Knockout round West: Real Salt Lake over Vancouver

Eastern Conference Semis: Chicago over New York; Houston over SKC (yes they continue to have the Sporks number)
Western Conference Semis: LA over Real Salt Lake; Seattle over San Jose

Eastern Conference Championship: Houston over Chicago (very close, tough matchup that could really go either way)
Western Conference Championship: Seattle over LA

MLS Cup: Houston over Seattle. There is just something about the Dynamo when the playoffs roll around. They just flip a switch and go into beast mode, and Dom Kinnear knows how to get the team motivated. Although I hate to say it, Seattle will be very dangerous this year. While they have been in fine form in USOC play, they haven't shown they have what it takes yet to put it all together in the playoffs. They will take a step closer to a Cup but I am not confident they can beat a tough Houston side until the prove people wrong otherwise. The Cup will come to the East in 2013.

Adam Merges:

US Open Cup: Chicago over Portland 3-1

MLS Cup: Chicago over RSL 2-0

Yes, the optimist in me has the Fire winning their 2nd double in team history in 2013.

James Coston:

US Open Cup: Chicago Fire over San Antonio Scorpions

MLS Cup Final: Sporting Kansas City over Real Salt Lake (Fire lose to SKC in Eastern Conference Finals)

Gregg Mixdorf:

US Open Cup: DC United

MLS Cup: San Jose

Nick Fedora:

US Open Cup: Chicago (Chicago over Kansas City & Seattle over Salt Lake in the Semi-Finals)

MLS Cup: Houston

Tweed Thornton:

US Open Cup: Chicago

MLS Cup: Houston

Mark O'Rourke:

US Open Cup: Chicago

MLS Cup: Seattle (Mark says it hurt typing that)

Ruben Tisch:

US Open Cup: Chicago

Playoffs:


HOU






SJ


NYRB


SKC




SJ


LAG


SKC






LAG


SKC








VAN




CHI


FCD








FC Dallas






CLB






SEA




CJI




FCD




CHI






FCD



































MLS Cup: FC Dallas (Penalties)

Supporters Shield: Houston Dynamo

Final CCL Spot (USOC Finalist) Sporting Kansas City

Hot Time In Old Town Fantasy League Champ: Not James Coston










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