1. Los Angeles. As defending champs, the Galaxy get their spot here. Don’t expect them to stay, at least not for the first month or two.
2. Houston. I didn’t just put the Dynamo here because they were runners-up – they do have the pieces to be a top team. I think.
3. Kansas City. Despite some offseason changes, KC has enough talent on the roster to continue their domination of the East.
4. Seattle. How Seattle replaces Fredy Montero will mean the difference between this team being an MLS Cup contender or just a playoff team.
5. Columbus. Can Higuain and Arrieta duplicate the form they showed at the end of last season? I guess we’ll find out.
6. Real Salt Lake. RSL cut a lot of players from their staff in the offseason, but still have a solid core.
7. San Jose. Can lightning strike twice? It’s hard to see the Quakes challenging for the Supporter’s Shield again if it doesn’t.
8. New York. The Red Bulls were brutal in the preseason, and not the good kind of brutal. A team with Henry should be a playoff team, though – they just might take a while to gel.
9. DC United. DeRo will miss the season opener and possibly a few other matches. The defense hasn’t been fixed, and there are some new faces in attack.
10. Chicago. The Fire are younger and more mobile in midfield, but a lot depends on Sherjill MacDonald’s ability to score goals.
11. Vancouver. The Whitecaps should be higher, but after their fade at the end of last season, we’re a bit hesitant to place them there.
12. Dallas. Kenny Cooper, Eric Hassli and David Ferreira and Blas Perez healthy could make this one of the top teams in the West. Could.
13. Portland. Tons of changes for the Timbers, but after the struggles of last season, that’s a good thing. Question is: Can they win on the road?
14. Colorado. Oscar Pareja finally has closer to the team he probably wants, but it seems woefully thin in attack and lightweight in defense.
15. New England. The Revs should be better, but don’t quite look ready to challenge in the East.
16. Philadelphia. The Union are stocked with young talent, but the Freddy Adu saga and lack of veteran presence could hinder them.
17. Montreal. Montreal could very well be a playoff team, but a lot depends on the old guys still getting up for games, which is a big if.
18. Chivas USA. Hard to tell what will happen with Chelis’ new Chivas team, but they don’t seem to be ready to be a contender this season. Will he be given time?
19. Toronto. It’ll be a long season for Ryan Nelson and co., but at least they should be fighting in games and not quite as bad defensively.
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
As someone who is more or less a neutral when it comes to MLS teams – I vowed to support whatever team is closest to wherever my job is located after graduation, I’m always amused by MLS offseason transactions. Sure, there are always a bunch of Colombians signed, and the odd designated player no one has heard of who is doomed to play 12 matches and then sign with some mid-level team in Paraguay. But the thing I am always struck by is how many stunningly mediocre MLS vets continue to get signed by new teams – probably at or near their already exorbitant wages. Here are a few examples:
John Thorrington (MF, DC United). Previously played for: Chicago Fire, Vancouver Whitecaps. When Thorrington was younger, he was a serviceable winger, but now he’s 33. Last year, Thorrington made $170,000, which is more than All-MLS defender Young-Pyo Lee or up-and-coming midfielder Gershon Koffie made for the Caps – heck, it was almost four times the amount San Jose paid Steven Beitashour, one of the best players in the league. For this salary, Thorrington contributed one assist in 19 games – which was an improvement over the previous year. In the last 7 years, he’s made 89 appearances total. He probably didn’t sign with DC for $170,000, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the figure was still over $100,000.
Maicon Santos (F, Chicago). Previously played for: Chivas USA, Toronto, FC Dallas, DC United. I get the attraction with Santos – he’s big, he’s Brazilian, he occasionally scores goals in bunches. Unfortunately, as his previous four MLS employers have found, when he’s not scoring goals – and let’s face it, 21 in 88 matches does not count as prolific – he does little else. Don’t worry, Fire fans, based on his past history, it’s doubtful he’ll be with the team by the time the playoffs roll around. I’m going to guess and say he’ll be with Columbus. Here’s a video of Maicon Santos in action.
Eric Brunner (D, Houston). Previously played for: New York, Columbus, Portland. At one point Brunner was seen as a rising star in U.S. soccer ranks, but two seasons in Portland exposed him as a lightweight (despite his height) central defender who doesn’t move particularly well and struggles at set pieces. On the bright side, it’s hard to see him displacing Hainault and Boswell in the Dynamo defense, so as long as they stay healthy …
Chad Barrett (F, New England). Previously played for: Chicago, Toronto, LA Galaxy. Oh, Chad Barrett. Perhaps it’s his Wayne Rooney-esque stature that keeps getting Barrett jobs, because it can’t be his goal-scoring. Barrett’s two-year stint in Los Angeles saw him score 8 goals in 45 matches – and that’s with the likes of Donovan, Juninho, Beckham and Keane supplying him. For this, he was paid more than $250,000 each year. By way of comparison, Alan Gordon, who scored 13 goals in 23 matches for San Jose, earned $120,000. With his average of a goal ever five matches and joining a Revs team without LA’s firepower, he’s got to be at least good for 2 or 3 this year.
Dan Gargan and Ty Harden (D, San Jose). Previously played for: Colorado, Chivas USA, Toronto, Chicago (Gargan); LA Galaxy, Colorado, Toronto (Harden). After earning the MLS Supporter Shield last year for best regular season record, apparently Earthquakes execs decided they wanted no part of success this year by signing two players that are undeniably among the worst regular starters (though in fairness to Harden, his time as a regular starter has rapidly faded) in the MLS. I don’t have much in the way of stats to support this argument, except to say that both played regularly for Toronto in the last two years.
Good luck, MLS fans!
Yes, the MLS is still going on, albeit just a couple matches over the last two weeks. In the lone match of this weekend, Vancouver hammered Houston. 3-1 isn’t that dramatic of a scoreline, but it could’ve been a much worse defeat for Houston, who were missing Geoff Cameron and whoever plays at right back for them usually. At any rate, the Dynamo, who I think I and a lot of viewers expected to suddenly start winning after their long road trip ended, just haven’t gotten it going this season. Will it happen? I don’t know, friends. I don’t know.
Darren Mattocks scored twice and looks like a promising MLS striker. Sure, he ballooned the ball over the bar a couple times, but it seems like the Dynamo had no answer for his pace and strength. Nonetheless, they got back into the match through that most rare of sightings: A Mac Kandji goal, before Jordan Harvey made sure of the points.
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer
This week’s edition of Weekend Preview will be short, since I’m out of town and didn’t bring my computer. All times Pacific.
Philadelphia (0-1-3) v. Columbus (2-0-2). (12:30 p.m.) The Union are especially bad, but home advantage should be enough for them to get a point against a Columbus squad that is still reeling from the beating New York gave them last week. Prediction: 0-0
Seattle (2-1-1) v. Colorado (3-0-2). (1 p.m.) The great Fredy Montero Wake-Up Watch continues this week for Seattle. He still hasn’t scored. Colorado are lousy on defense. Prediction: Seattle 2-1
New England (2-0-3) v. DC United (1-2-2). (1 p.m.) New England’s bid to stop being a team I constantly make fun of ended with a fairly comprehensive (for a 1-0 loss) defeat to Dallas. United aren’t great, so this should be a back and forth match. Prediction: 2-2
Toronto (0-0-4) v. Chivas USA (2-0-3). (1:30 p.m.) Only four matches into the season, Toronto is facing a must-win, and Aron Winter has to be especially concerned about having to go job hunting if they can’t pull out a victory against a team as bad as Chivas. Prediction: Toronto 2-1
New York (3-0-2) v. San Jose (4-0-1). (4 p.m.) The big question with each four-goal win for New York is whether or not Thierry Henry can stop being petulant and complainey if his team keeps winning. I’m guessing no. Prediction: New York 2-1
Kansas City (5-0-0) v. Real Salt Lake (5-0-1). (5:30 p.m.) Matches against top teams always have potential for being bore-fests. Hopefully this one will be different. Prediction: Kansas City 1-0
FC Dallas (2-1-2) v. Montreal (1-1-4). (5:30 p.m.) Montreal got their first win of the season last week – against Toronto – but will have a hard time matching their performance in Dallas, even if the Burn have injury issues. Prediction: Dallas 3-1
LA Galaxy (1-0-3) v. Portland (1-1-3). (7:30 p.m.) If the Galaxy fail to win this match, I’m officially not picking them to win matches based upon their lineup, but rather, based on their current form, which means they’ll always lose. Prediction: Galaxy 2-0
Chicago (1-1-1) v. Houston (2-0-1). (4 p.m.) I don’t think Chicago will have an ignominious start to this season again, but they need to establish their playoff bonafides by beating an Eastern Conference challenger like Houston. Prediction: 1-1
Ho-hum. The Galaxy beat Real Salt Lake and Houston surprised Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference final to advance. The Galaxy match was fairly by the book, but Houston lucked out a bit with what looked to be a definite penalty for KC getting waved off. They did manage to win the game without Houston winger Brad Davis, who was injured in the match and will likely miss the final.
All the stars are aligned for the Galaxy to claim their first title with Beckham on the team, before he leaves for France, England or Mexico, presumably. Will it happen? We shall see.
Goals: PHI – Sebastien LeToux (1); HOU – Andrew Hainault (1), Calen Carr (1)
A pretty action-packed, but not necessarily quality-packed first leg in Philadelphia. Probably the most notable thing about the first half is how poor the Union were – probably because it is their first year in playoffs. Houston scored twice and probably could’ve had another goal or two by halftime. For the Union’s part, LeToux’s goal was probably a bit fortuitous. The Union were significantly better in the second half, but failed to find the equalizer, though Brad Davis should’ve been whistled for a handball in the box for Houston. The Dynamo have the edge, but only just.
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood*Games to watch ^Games not to watch
All times Pacific, as usual
Seattle (6-3-2 at home) v Chivas USA (3-4-4 away). (1 p.m.) Seattle returns home after ending Kansas City’s 14-match unbeaten streak with a late 2-1 win last week and are currently in third place in the West. A win in this match, couple with a Dallas draw or loss, would see Seattle pull into second, four points behind the Galaxy. Chivas won at New England and have only lost once once in their last seven matches. As well as Chivas is playing, it’s hard to see them winning in Seattle. Prediction: Seattle 2-0
Toronto (3-5-4) v Real Salt Lake (2-3-3). (4 p.m.) Toronto somehow contrived to draw at DC United despite being a man up for 83 minutes and leading after 86 minutes. This was mostly due to the fact that Andy Iro is my new nominee as the worst defender in the league. Seriously, the way Toronto is playing, it doesn’t seem to matter who is playing defense, any team can score on them. With that said, their attacking play lately has certainly been improved. Unfortunately, they have to beat one of the league’s better teams, possibly without keeper Sebastian Freis. Real Salt Lake ended their 2-match losing streak by thumping terrible New York in Salt Lake City. They’re not as good away from home, but they should have enough to beat Toronto, though they’ll have to do it without Ned Grabavoy and possibly Jamison Olave. Prediction: Real Salt Lake 2-1
New York (5-4-2) v Chicago (1-6-5). (4:30 p.m.) New York are having a nightmare season where, despite having one of the best rosters in the league – and possibly the best player in Thierry Henry – they have somehow contrived to pick up only 15 points from their last 16 matches. In Chicago, they’re playing a team that has two wins on the entire season, and none since June 12. Their last match was an awful 4-2 loss to Vancouver, and Yamith Cuesta did his best Andy Iro impersonation. As bad as New York has been, this should be about as easy as it gets. Prediction: New York 3-0
DC United (2-6-3) v Vancouver (0-4-8). (4:30 p.m.) United escaped with a draw against Toronto, though that was due more to Toronto’s incompetence than anything they did – though Dwayne De Rosario had a great match. The big concern for United is that backup goalkeeper Sam Cronin is starting this game, and he was very poor against Toronto. Vancouver finally won another game, thumping Chicago. Eric Hassli scored twice for the ‘Caps, and the team was great in attack, though their defense is still a bit shaky. Prediction: United 2-1
Columbus (6-4-1) v New England (1-5-6). (4:30 p.m.) Fun fact: Columbus’s lone home loss is to Chicago. Who would have thought? The team is certainly playing better, and Robbie Rogers looks like a player reborn after sucking for half the year. They will be playing without Eddie Gaven, which is a bit of a loss. New England are having a forgettable season, though they have been a little better on the road lately. Prediction: Columbus 1-0
Philadelphia (5-5-1) v FC Dallas (4-3-4). (5 p.m.) Philadelphia welcomed in new signing Freddy Adu today. He will definitely improve an attack that has struggled recently, though you could argue some other teams could have used him more (namely, Chicago and Portland). Dallas got a disappointing performance from keeper Kevin Harttman, not for the first time this season, in losing at the Galaxy. A draw seems most likely in this match. Prediction: 1-1
San Jose (3-7-3) v Colorado (4-4-4). (7:30 p.m.) San Jose are attempting to give Vancouver, New England, Chicago and Toronto a run for the worst team of the year award. Their most recent match was a 1-1 draw at home with Portland, but they’ve only scored four goals in their last 10 matches and haven’t won any of them. They’ve especially missed Ryan Johnson and Steven Lenhart lately. Colorado have been in great form recently, beating Columbus, New York and Philadelphia and drawing with New England. Their main concern would be that they have a busy schedule the next two weeks. (5 matches) Prediction: Colorado 2-1
Houston (6-3-3) v Portland (1-3-6). (6 p.m.) Houston are coming off with a late draw with Philadelphia. They have been decent at home, miserable on the road. They welcome new signing Carlo Costly, who should be a good fit for the MLS – something that’ll help a team missing Will Bruin. Portland haven’t had much success on the road, and it doesn’t figure to change with this match. They are undefeated in their last three matches. Prediction: Houston 3-1
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
Several of the MLS teams are playing more exhibition matches this weekend with foreign clubs, so it’s a bit of a short schedule.
*Game to watch ^Game not to watch
All times Pacific, as usual
*New York v FC Dallas. (3 p.m.) It’s getting more and more to the point where Red Bulls games are ones not to watch, but in this case, they face a tough challenge in Dallas, and at least in theory, they should be better at home than they were in getting crushed by Colorado last week. Despite all the talent, the Red Bulls are missing something. I don’t know if it’s team spirit or … quality defenders … or, I don’t know. Whatever it is, they should be better than they are. Dallas are still playing great, and now the bigger question (to me, anyway) is whether a European club will try to come in and take Brek Shea (8 goals from midfield) off their hands. If they don’t, they should still keep rolling. Prediction: New York should at least draw, but I have to pick Dallas, 2-1
Columbus v Portland. (5 p.m.) After putting four goals past Colorado at the end of June, Columbus have only scored one in their last four matches. Portland didn’t play very well against Chicago, but got the win, which was good enough to end their seven-match winless streak. Columbus seems to go as Andres Mendoza goes. If he misfires, which happens a lot, they don’t win. If he is scoring goals, which he tends to do in bunches, they win. What will happen today? Well, it’s doubtful that Portland, who has trouble scoring anywhere, much less on the road will get something going against one of the better teams in the league. Prediction: Columbus 2-0
Sporting Kansas City v Toronto. (5:30 p.m.) Kansas City have now drawn three straight. They were a bit lucky to get a draw against Houston, who self-destructed and got two red cards in the second half. They’re taking on a Toronto squad that is struggling, but looked considerably better with the additions of Ryan Johnson, Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, et al. last week against Dallas, though they just don’t have the pace in defense to stick with Dallas players. KC is almost as fast, but not quite, and I think despite their 10-match undefeated streak, they could be in for a surprise. Prediction: Toronto 2-1
Colorado v New England. (6 p.m.) Colorado crushed the Red Bulls on Wednesday thanks to a hat trick from midfielder-turned-striker Sanna Nyassi, which makes you wonder why he didn’t play striker earlier in the season. With him lining up alongside Omar Cummings (three assists against New York), Colorado suddenly have one of the quickest strike forces in the league. New England got their first win in a long time – and their first road win of the season – in edging DC United in a match that probably should’ve ended in a draw. New England isn’t dreadful defensively, but they can’t score to save their lives, and it would be a big surprise to see them get a result here. Prediction: Colorado 3-1
Real Salt Lake v San Jose. (7 p.m.) Real Salt Lake have returned (more or less) to the immovable mass of the first few matches of the season and haven’t lost in their last six games. San Jose were struggling for a bit, but Chris Wondolowski got back on the scoreboard – twice – against Vancouver, which only bodes well for them. Nonetheless, I can’t see them breaching RSL’s defense – or at least not enough to win this game. Prediction: RSL 1-0
^Chivas USA v Houston. (7:30 p.m.) I don’t actually think this is that bad of a match, but I guess if there’s one to choose NOT to see, this would be it. Chivas have found a little bit of form lately, having not lost in four matches (only one win in those, but still), and they’ve done so despite having the double whammy of Michael Lahoud (normally a midfielder) playing in defense, where he’s atrocious and Justin Braun as a starting forward (he has one goal other than his hat trick against New York). Houston should’ve beat Kansas City, but Colin Clark and Brian Ching both had rushes of blood to the head and made terrible, red-card-worthy challenges to get sent off, and Houston ended up conceding a goal and drawing. In a way, they should be happy about getting a draw. Prediction: Chivas USA 3-2, for some reason
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
*Game to watch ^Game not to watch
All times Pacific, as usual
Vancouver v Real Salt Lake. (1 p.m.) I haven’t been able to find any information anywhere on the web about whether Vancouver expects to have Eric Hassli back for this game after missing the last two with injury, though he did show up for the ESPYs after having his goal against Seattle nominated (He didn’t win). New signing Mustapha Jarju (a forward) will probably play some part. Real Salt Lake are undefeated in their last six (2 wins). Prediction: As with most Caps games, if they don’t have their best player, they won’t win. But against RSL, it might not matter anyway. RSL 2-0
*Seattle v Colorado. The Sounders haven’t lost in their last seven matches (4 wins). They take on Colorado, who have been much improved since the return of Omar Cummings, though he has yet to score since coming back from injury. Fredy Montero scored twice for Seattle in the win over Portland, which I think equaled his total coming into the game. (1 p.m.) Prediction: Seattle 2-1
Columbus v San Jose. At some point, Columbus realized they were playing in the Eastern Conference, so if they woke up and started playing any brand of football whatsoever, they could end up finishing first in the East. They’ve been very good over the last two months. San Jose had a good run minus Chris Wondolowski, but now that he’s back, they can’t score. (4:30 p.m.) Prediction: Columbus 3-0
Houston v Sporting Kansas City. (5:30 p.m.) After a good start, Houston only won once in 11 matches before beating Toronto last weekend. The last two games they’ve played relatively mistake-free soccer, which for this team is important. If they can do that against Kansas City, they have a chance. For Sporting, they haven’t lost in their last 10 games, though they’ve drawn their last two at home. They’re a good attacking team, they just need to avoid falling behind early and take their chances when they get them. Prediction: Sporting 2-1
Chicago v Portland. (5:30 p.m.) The Fire outplayed the Galaxy last weekend, but still lost. They are playing at home this time around, where they have only lost once. But they’ve only won once as well. (Six draws) Portland are 0-1-6 in their last seven matches and have yet to win on the road. Prediction: Theoretically this should be an easy win for Chicago, but in the MLS, a draw is the most likely result. Nonetheless, I’m going to pick the Fire, 3-1
FC Dallas v DC United. (6 p.m.) Last time Dallas lost – at home to Kansas City – they responded by winning their next three matches by a combined 8-1 margin. The previous loss they responded to by going undefeated in 9 straight (6 wins). So after losing to Real Salt Lake last weekend, odds are they will win this game. United are OK and look better with Dwayne DeRosario playing in midfield, but they’re horrifically shaky in defense. Prediction: Dallas 2-0
Chivas USA v New York. (7:30 p.m.) Justin Braun scored a hat trick the last time these teams met, in New York, a loss that send the Red Bulls spiralling downward for, oh, 2 1/2 months. Braun hasn’t scored since that game, but Chivas have looked decent their last two, drawing with Kansas City and beating San Jose. This one has draw written all over it. Prediction: 2-2
^New England v Philadelphia. (4 p.m.) The Revs haven’t won since May 14 and were dismantled in a friendly by Manchester United. We’re at the point in the season where MLS teams have to decide between playing their first choice lineup for a friendly against an opponent with a big draw or playing their first choice in a league match. The Revs chose to play their first-choice side for the first half of the game, so if they end up losing this one because they’re tired, they’ll look foolish. Philadelphia are still on top of the East, but they only have one win in their last six, and they struggle greatly on the road against teams that aren’t Toronto. This sounds like another draw. Prediction: 1-1