Welcome ArchLobster AKA Alfredo Cuvi who will be covering power rankings for us this year! I'm excited to see how this evolves over the season.
DIsclaimer: These rankings are based on pre-season performance, roster build, and good old fashioned guess work. These are just for fun and based solely on my opinion. They are also not ordered from best to worst, just categorized. LA, FCD, Salt Lake, Seattle and SKC are all in the same group with no order set.
Call me a homer if you will, but like Daniel I also believe that if Ferreira is healthy, this team’s offense is terrifying, on paper at least. While we in sports know better than to assign too much value to a paper performance, it is still impressive to see a midfield composed of Jacobson, Shea, Castillo, Hernandez and Ferreira with Perez up front. The depth in midfield is a big concern though and should someone go down an extended period of time, Dallas will be hurting to find someone to step up.
Not to be outshined is the defense, which boasts a core that has been rock solid for two years running. Loyd and Benitez were excellent last season and if GJ resumes his form sometime soon, I don’t see this year being any different. Led by Ugo and Hartman, the Dallas defense is poised for greatness if it plays to its potential.
Losing Morales last year for RSL proved to be a very big problem for them, and they struggled mightily during points in a season punctuated by up and down play. They recovered and finished high in the table, but that midseason swoon won’t be soon forgotten. To help them this season Salt Lake has brought in a few promising rookies in Diogo de Almeida and Velasquez. One of those might have to step up with Borchers still recovering.
Having Morales feeding Espindola and their centerback tandem of (soon-to-be-healthy) Borchers and Olave backed up Rimando, it’s hard to see RSL’s defense being anything but tough. With Beckerman and Johnson lining up in midfield to help break-up attacks, Salt Lake looks strong.
Alonso, Montero, Zakuani, and White (if he recovers) are a strong, fast attacking core, but the biggest question of the offseason for me is whether the Sounders can rely on their goalkeeping after the departure of Kasey Keller.
Keller single-handedly stole games for the Sounders with his brilliance and the lack of leadership and security he brought to the team is something not easily replaced or duplicated. The limited defensive concerns the Sounders have arise mostly because of his departure. Can they repeat their excellent 2011 season? If the Sounders remain focused they are certainly a top contender in the West.
Last year’s late-season run that saw them make it to the Conference Final will be significantly less likely this year since Sporting will not have almost every single late-season game at home. This time their form will be tested the way other teams are tested: Sometimes you have to travel and deal with boos instead of constant chanting and there will be no pampering in their kingly locker rooms while away.
I wasn’t fully convinced by Sporting last year. Their defense was disorganized, leaky and prone to awful, last-minute collapses and Bunbury didn’t explode the way the media expected he would. Graham Zusi did emerge from nowhere however to help lead the club along with C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara, so the team has some quality. The big names in KC are hardly world-beaters who can get through on skill alone, so the team needs to stick as closely as possible to their game-plans to help win games. When the team is playing as a proper unit, they are opportunists who pounce upon weakness and take maximum advantage in order to score.
I say Kansas will have a good season and might even make the Eastern Conference Final, but I doubt they progress past there.
Looking Good for 2012
Last season’s playoff run not withstanding, the Red Bulls’ prior year was a disaster. They were entirely mediocre and if not for Thierry Henry the only back four they would have been terrifying would be the back four holes of a golf course. Marquez alienated his teammates, Condoul was a league-wide joke, Ream left for Bolton, they traded DeRo for Dax (trading the future MVP never looks good...) and Backe just mangled all the goodwill he had built in the 2010 season. The only real reason they beat FC Dallas in the playoffs is because Dallas’ entire season had fallen to pieces at that point, and as soon as the Red Bulls faced serious competition they were bounced.
On paper the Red Bulls are a solid team, an excellent team even. But games aren’t played on paper and so New York has to prove this season that it is one of the big boys. They have the roster to compete at the highest level and with a blank slate to erase the bitter taste of last year it will be interesting to see if Backe can manage this team to the success they are technically built to have.
Losing LeToux in a very public fashion did not help the club, and neither did losing Mondragon, Mapp and Paunovic. Those players were key to the Union in terms of leadership and experience, even if LeToux didn’t match his crazy 2010 season in 2011. All things considered however, the Union are still a defensively solid team.
Defensive cohesion will be needed because losing LeToux will not help the Union any in the goal-scoring department. Danny Califf leads a solid back line along with Sheanon Williams to help out new goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Last season’s struggles with scoring goals was well documented. Adu will need to step up his assists and production if they hope to seriously contend for the East. Mwanga’s time has come as well, and he should see plenty of starts to help Torres and the Union score.
This season the Caps are going to employ the deadly 4-4-12 formation, as they finally have all the personnel needed to effectively run with 12 forwards. Seriously though, Vancouver has impressed early in the preseason and their forward corps is just stupid with depth. Dangerous Eric Hassli will now have the tricksy LeToux alongside him. The two of those barreling towards the net is a scary sight to any goalkeeper.
If DeMerit can stay healthy and Chumiento continues to build on last season’s performance, the Whitecaps look like they can make a run at the playoffs. However let us not forget the Whitecaps were simply woeful on the road last year, setting a new bar for futility. They won a whopping zero matches away. That is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad road form that needs to improve if they even want a sniff of the postseason.
A lot of Houston’s season hinges on Brad Davis and whether or not he can replicate his form from last season. If he can, the Dynamo will be in the thick of the race despite a complete lack of goal-scoring reliability. Tally Hall’s excellent goalkeeping from last season will also factor in as he kept games close enough for Houston to pick up points.
They start the season on an extended road trip while they wait for their new stadium to open up, which will likely affect them. Kansas City suffered while waiting for Livestrong Park to open and Houston isn’t much better equipped to deal with it than Kansas was. Despite our feelings towards that awful, awful city, we can all agree that it’s great for the league to have another soccer specific stadium open up.
Even though their established players being primed for another run, the Dynamo have done close to nothing to address their depth issues, and if last season’s travel issues with FC Dallas are any indication, lacking depth in the latter half of the season can tear the team to shreds.
On second thought, the Dynamo being torn to shreds isn’t such a bad thing now is it? Dynamo a la julienne!
It seems the mid-season acquisitions of last year have been working out for Toronto. They have done well in their preseason tourney in Orlando and advanced in the CCL after ousting Dallas last season. Can the newly formed Toronto take their potential and turn it into actual results? It falls on Koevermans and Frings, plus a side of Joao Plata to power the goals. The defense needs to improve drastically as well, as TFC led the league in Goals Against last year, a dubious honor they would do well to free themselves of.
This team has had time to gel since last season and I fully expect them to make the playoffs. That’s my crazy statement of the day. I long to see Toronto succeed to reward their fans for five years of loyalty. The city of Toronto’s sports scene is like a bad joke, and at least ONE of those teams deserve a good season.
DC has big man DeRosario locked up a little farther than 2012, so they will have stability while also retaining the 2011 MVP. DC has also significantly shored up it’s defense by adding Robbie Russel and Emiliano Dudar. They have have big Bill Hamid in the net who will likely feature in the US Olympic team this summer and they have Andy Najar who is dangerous every time he touches the ball. Add Christ Pontius to the mix and you have a sizeable problem on your hands when it comes to defending against this team.
United feel good about their chances this year and with them being in the East, I’m inclined to agree.
The Quakes have had a busy offseason, including trading for FC Dallas winger Marvin Chavez. They also added Jean-Marc Alexandre from RSL who will help the Quakes reinforce their defensive capabilities in midfield. With Chavez on one of the wings and both Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondowloski up top, it looks to be a dynamic offense with the potential to score lots of goals.
San Jose has a good amount of potential built up through its offseason, and they can have a strong season if they can keep the ball from finding the back of their net too often. If there’s a team with a weak defense San Jose should be able to pick them apart.
Will the player-breaking battering ram known as Conor Casey regain his dirty but effective form? Who cares? About the only thing Dallas fans want is for lifelong FC Dallas man Oscar Pareja to be successful with his new team. But then that means the Rapids will win, and none of us want that to happen.
The Rapids are getting a old and their health is suspect. If Omar Cummings and Casey can’t team up effectively, this team will struggle to succeed and make the postseason. Is that wishful thinking? It is. More than likely the Rapids will have a solid defensive midfield and a potent attacking combo that should see them end up as high as #4 if everything breaks their way.
The Revs were the worst team in a terrible conference last year. They have a very green coach while the team is trying to transition to a new system. I wouldn’t be shocked if they were the worst team again. It’s just that hard to transition with the same personnel from last year’s laughingstock.
They have lots of things going for them however like Feilhaber and.. Um... Well...
Aw man, poor Revs.
A whole season of JPA might do Chivas a world of good, as would holding onto leads. Chivas was awful at holding leads last year, losing out on a ton of points because of late goals against.
I don’t think things look so good for the Goats. They have JPA but Braun is gone, and they’re relying on players without much pedigree such as Townsend, Valencia and Riley. Perhaps their midfield can coalesce a few months in and it will all work out, but there hasn’t been many obvious signs of improvement and their preseason has been weak. Still, Robin Fraser has done an admirable job with what he’s been given so perhaps he can squeeze a good performance out of his team.
The Fire finally seemed to get their act together in the last 10 games of the season, but it was too little too late and they missed the playoffs. The late season surge that Chicago went on however gives hope to all Fire fans that this season will be a return to form.
The Impact have done a solid job building a roster through their first year, and while I doubt it will mean they are a decent team right off the bat, on paper the team looks decently built. They’ve managed to get Justin Braun, Mike Fucito, Justin Mapp, Lamar Neagle and Sanna Nyassi. Those are good players and if they click early on Montreal might well have a successful first season. I have no idea what to expect from them aside from names however, since big names all lumped together doesn’t always equal success.
Making the playoffs would be a huge victory. Montreal can already claim a small victory this season as the holders of one of the best crests in MLS. I want to move to Quebec just so that I can wear it. VIVE L’IMPACT!
The Crew have an amusing but rich new sponsor in Barbasol and they have a shiny new TV deal with FS Ohio. Of course it is entirely hypocritical for us FCD fans to criticize ANY jersey sponsor since we would kill for even a sniff of a deal. The Crew have a big name in Barbasol, while Dallas would be happy with Huggies on our shirts if it meant help for signing players, so good for the Crew.
Columbus has added some free agents including Milovan Mirosevic of Universidad Catolica de Chile, who is a nice big signing aimed at shoring up their offense. With new money and some time, Warzycha will try to build some consistency which the Crew lacked during most of 2011. They’re a bit of a wild card but I’ll peg them to make it to the playoffs again.
The Timbers finally put it together in the end of last season, but that wasn’t enough to help them avoid missing out of the playoffs. They’ve added striker Kris Boyd of the Scottish Premier League to help them in the scoring department, while Jack Jewsbury will continue to be the rock that anchors the team. I’m still not entirely sure that Portland can make the playoffs because the other teams in the Western Conference have done just as much to rebuild themselves as the Timbers have, but you can’t fault their effort.
When it comes to intagibles, Jeld-Wen Field is the soccer stadium and environment that every American soccer fan wants. I’m jealous and you should be too. It may not deter the other teams visiting as they will also love the atmosphere, but you better believe that the crowd will energize and pump up the Timbers. That home field advantage is something that should play a big factor in every Portland home game. The Timbers have every reason to be optimistic about this season, though I wouldn’t put them in the top 10 in the league by any stretch. Still, for a second year expansion team that’s not bad at all.