How do you see the Clubs for 2011?
Happened upon the 'Sounder at Heart' Blog and there was an interesting topic of which teams are contenders for certain trophies this year. One of the responses had broken the League down into Tiers and I thought that was an interesting way of looking at the League and where the teams stand at the beginning of the season...
Take a leap of faith...
1) LA Galaxy - A lot of talent on this team but are they too Top Heavy? After the first two weeks, they spent last year in 1st place. Will the signing of Angel put them over the top? --Dear Galaxy & MLS: please don't resign Beckham - he has brought exposure for the League but of the circus variety, not the 'here to play' kind. If the League is to be respected, it needs to be because of the product On The Field, not the side-show off of it [rant over]
2) RSL - A team built from the back & with great depth. Stumbled in the beginning last year then found their footing and finished 2nd. They'll be playing CCL games early on. Could FCD been out of the quagmire earlier if we'd have held on to 'Sir' Kries?
3) NYRB - Hans Backe took the Club from last to 'first'. Will an entire preseason help Henry & Marquez through the 2011 year?
Tier 2: May not be in contention for the Supporter's Shield but they have every reason to believe they can raise the Cup
4) Seattle: They have a good young core & Schmid has had success in the League in the past. Can they put it all together for a MLS Cup? -- Dear ESPN, I know Seattle is the poster-boy for what MLS would like to see at every stadium but for the love of God, would you please show some other teams in the League (rant over).
5) FC Dallas: Did we overacheive last year? In retrospect , we may have but beating RSL and LA in the playoffs, there wasn't much question as to whether we had earned the right to be in the Final. We won't sneak up on anyone this year & there's a hole at Striker. Can we continue to rely on goals from the midfield? Will extra games take their toll? With the potential in depth we're accumulating, could we be RSL Jr.?
6) Columbus Crew: A team on the decline? Perhaps, but being in the "Eastern Conf" should allow them to get into the playoffs & you never know what could happen once there. I tend to think this team will be where the Revs & Dynamo are in a year or two.
7) Colorado Rapids: Is this team as good as their Cup victory would suggest? Are they just a seventh seed team that got hot? I'm still not sure but they do have the ability to score goals (in every imaginable way) & they're defense is young & solid.
8) San Jose: Not sure that they're Tier 2 or Tier 3 but they finished with the same amount of points as Colorado last year. If they were an East Conf team, they'd have finished 3rd. They beat NYRB (Tier 1) in amazing fashion. This team resembles FCD of '09 when FCD seemed to "get it" late in the season.
Tier 3: These teams need a couple of things to close the gap
9) KC Wizards: I think this team could be a T2 team if their stadium was opening in April. As it will open later in the season, there may be a lot of road games to start the season (not certain as the schedule hasn't been released). They're in the East, can they make up the 21 points from last year & catch/pass Columbus?
10) Houston Dynamo: Dom Kinnear had a rebuilding year but a solid draft and a proven trek record shoud see this team turn it around quickly. A team to really watch out for in 2012 (will they even be in the East then?).
11) New England: Honestly, this team seems to be in the same state as Houston. A couple of grand years but they're now in the down-swing of things. Houston will turn it around sooner than the Revs will though. With Steve Nicol though, it won't be long and they should be back in contention.
12) Philadelphia Union: This team just seems to have more upside than the other teams available at this point. Maybe because they're an expansion team and their history is still being written. If they can straighten up a leaky defense, they can make waves this year. 2012 seems to be the opportunity for them to move to T2, at best.
Tier 4: As Biden said, "God love 'em"
13) Chicago Fire: The Brimstone Cup should stay in Dallas for a while. This Club lost both of their CB's and although they drafted a potential good one, he's still a rookie this year. Sean Johnson could be busy between the pipes. McBride, you'll be missed.
14) DC United: I'm not sure that Olsen is ready for the Head position and the GM didn't think that 6 months ago neither. Despite that, DCU had what seems like a great offseason (Kitchen, Dax, possibly Davies, w/ Najar). If they can turn some of those losses into draws and an extra win or two, 2011 will be a success.
15) Toronto: I love this fanbase - don't know squat about what the Manger brings to the Club - I hope for their fans sake, he brings a playoff berth.
16) Chivas: Can FCD trade for Braun? Please!? Robin Fraser was a highly regarded assistant - I hope he can get this Club headed into the right direction. Personal theory, get Chivas owners out & move the Club to San Diego (topic for another day).
Expansion Tier: Can these teams get 25-30 points? Who knows but we'll find out...
17) Portland Timbers: With love from Dallas, good luck Kenny!
18) Vancouver Whitecaps: What if the Mavs wouldn't have let Steve Nash go? Would he have bought into the Dallas soccer scene? Would it have mattered? Nagging question that keeps popping into my head...Salgado, Really?
This is based loosely on the results of 2010 and where I expect teams to finish in 2011; it wouldn't be a surprise to see NYRB finish first. It'd been a while since I kept up with MLS but last year I made a concentrated effort to keep up with FCD (my local team) and they made it much easier with the success that they acheived. Looking forward to keeping up with the entire League as much as possible this year. Plan on taking the wife & kids to a game or two, just depends if we can get out of Home Depot or Bed, Bath, & Beyond in time :)
What do you all think? Who will move up from last year? Who will be the team to take a dive?