Now I am not going to claim to know nearly enough to make any of these more than educated guesses but, I do try to pay attention to the whole of the league and can probably name a half dozen players or more for every team in the league. Still trying to predict anything in MLS is a bit of an adventure if you ask me, but here I go.
Supporter’s Shield – Seattle Sounders
Now that pick bothers me a bit, not because I don’t think they have a very good team, not because they are a rival of RSL, but because with Champions League this spring, and their dedication to the US Open Cup it may be a bit of a stretch at times for them. Still they have a great roster, deep pockets and I think are most likely the team to beat in the regular season this year. Other contenders would be (in no order); LA Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City, and the Chicago Fire.
Eastern Conference Playoff Teams – New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City, Chicago Fire, DC United, and Houston Dynamo
I still think the Eastern Conference is a bit weaker than the West, only because there are clearly some teams like New England, Toronto, and Philly who have a lot of issues and I expect Montreal will struggle more this year than they did last year.
Western Conference Playoff Teams – Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, and FC Dallas
I think Portland and Vancouver are really going to push for a playoff spot this year, while I think the Rapids and Chivas USA are going to find that rebuilding isn’t easy when you have to play against the other teams in the Western Conference. I do think that San Jose is going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch, their last minute performances of last year are going to be very hard to replicate again. One thing is for sure RSL is very happy that they get Seattle, LA and San Jose each at home twice this season.
MLS Cup Champions – Chicago Fire
You didn’t see that one coming did you? Listen, I know that people will think I am nuts but they were a fairly solid team last year, adding Joel Lindpere, Maicon Santos, and Jeff Larentowicz are all really big positive moves. This club also has shown they are willing to spend some money in the DP market, and I expect they may make a big summer move. They also could bring back Puppo and/or Fernandez both of whom are on loan. I just have a feeling it is the type of year where a team from the East will end up on top and something about the Fire catches my attention.
Most Valuable Player – Thierry Henry
Each year he has been in the league he has had a great season, but I think this is the one where it is his award to lose.
Golden Boot – Kenny Cooper
He had 18 last year and if it hadn’t been for a freaky Chris Wondolowski, Cooper would have won the award, despite being a bit on the outs with NYRB. Back in Texas, I expect that he is going to be a very dangerous player for FC Dallas and their main offensive weapon.
Rookie of the Year – Devon Sandoval
I know this is a bit of a homer pick, and it is unlikely that he will get as many minutes as he needs to impress the voters, but we know that Alvaro Saborio will be gone often this year with Costa Rica for both World Cup qualifying as well as for the Gold Cup. That is a tough grind on a younger player but Sabo is 30, going on 31, and he will need a break from time to time. I believe that will open the door for Sandoval who has impressed me this preseason with his abilities and drive, if he can get 12 or more starts and into 20 or more matches, then watch out for him.
Real Salt Lake –
So I think RSL will finish in 3rd place in the Western Conference this year, behind Seattle and LA, I do think those are the best 3 teams in the West by a fair stretch. I know that Jason and Garth are both being conservative with their thoughts on success this season, but I expect big things from both our veteran players as well as some of our younger players. I think the team will be more dynamic, and more able to adjust on the fly to what is happening in matches. I think the most likely trophy for RSL will be the US Open Cup, now given our past history in this tournament I know what you are likely thinking. Still with a deep roster, and a team that wants back into Champions League it is the most direct path, RSL showed last year they are willing to spend money to host matches and we have seen some of the largest crowds in US Open Cup history at Rio Tinto Stadium.
That’s How I See It