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Big D Soccer staff predicts 2016 season

Our staff weighs in on what we think will happen this season.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 season is nearly here. We reviewed our predictions from last year, which means what is to come below will likely be laughable material come December.

FC Dallas Predictions

1. What excites you most about the upcoming season?

Phil: FC Dallas is a legitimate favorite to win the Western Conference for the first time in the 10 years that I've been a fan. We have the league's most electric player in Fabian Castillo. Mauro Diaz and Matt Hedges are entering the primes of their career. Carlos Gruezo voluntarily left the Bundesliga to play in Dallas. Oscar Pareja has proven that he can get the best out of young players like Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa, and Ryan Hollingshead. This team is deep and hungry. Get hyped!

Jason: At this very moment (2/26)? Seeing the new jersey!

Ryan: Being able to build off last season, and seeing Pareja fully take this team as his own by shedding some old veteran players and bringing in more of 'his' guys.

Mo: The possibility for some silverware. It has been a long time since FC Dallas actually entered a season with expectations to perform in the upper echelon of the league, and I feel like this is one of those years. Most of the core was retained, some exciting players were added (Gruezo, Urruti, etc.), and Oscar Pareja has another year under his belt with this team. With the US Open Cup, the Supporters Shield, MLS Cup, and being involved in the CCL, I think this may be the year that FC Dallas finally gets a new trophy addition to its trophy case and that has me giddy.

Nathan: What excites me is that more than some new addition to this team via transfer, although we do have that, FC Dallas is going to continue to show what you can achieve when you give young players a chance to shine. I think watching Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa, Ryan Hollingshead, Walker Zimmerman, Alex Zendejas, Mauro Diaz, Fabian Castillo, and others is a win/win situation. Even when the result doesn't go their way, they are simply fun to watch develop. I'd recommend FC Dallas to anyone on the fence about whether MLS is exciting soccer to watch - it is.

Scott: It's very, very early but from what I've seen from Maximiliano Urruti in the preseason, it looks like he might be a very viable candidate to be FCD's clear striker. Add in the chemistry he's already forming with Mauro (which will only increase) and he's poised to really give the team a go-to goal scorer from the top spot.

Taylor: Everything. Everything excites me. The additions being made by Fernando Clavijo with the mind of Oscar Pareja coaching them will create an exciting 2016 season. Also, hosting MLS Cup, because it's going to happen.

Ben: FC Dallas enters the year in the sweet spot. They're still a very young team, but now pretty much all of your key players have another full season under their belt and are ramping up to their primes. Unlike last year, they're also a deeper team, so I think a US Open Cup run is in the cards. Pairing a Lamar Hunt trophy with the Supporters' Shield will be a tough task, but it's certainly doable.

Edin: The team has added firepower and experience which makes it deeper and stronger to go all the way this time.

Drew: A lot excites me going into this season from the new players, to the stadium upgrades, to the true potential of this club. This team is young but in a good position to make some serious history this season.

2. What worries you the most going into the season?

Phil: Fabian Castillo is sold this summer. The club receives $10M, but refuses to buy a top winger or striker.

Jason: Can this team manage the travel and minutes of playing in three competitions this year?

Ryan: Expectations. We made it to the Western Conference finals last year and lose the Supporter's Shield on goal differential. Our guys need to be reminded to play without the heavy burden of expectation on their shoulders. Hopefully Pareja is able to keep them grounded.

Mo: The absence of a #9. Don't get me wrong, I love the addition of Urruti, but the depth there worries me. Had FC Dallas held on to one of two (Blas or Tex), maybe I would be a little less worried about the goal scoring options on this team. Imagine signing a solid #9 though. This team would be unstoppable. Maybe this was a necessary move to help Tesho develop and see more time at striker. Who knows? I just find that a bit worrisome.

Nathan: Overall, FC Dallas fans need to continue to be concerned about the future of the franchise off the field. What is it going to take for the team to break into the minds of casual fans in the metroplex? How can it draw new interest? The product is there - where is the stunning marketing campaign to match? When will the organization start developing better relationships with the fans it already has to keep their interest and build on that support? FCD seems to lack that cohesive vision even as it goes into what should be an amazing year for the team on the field.

Scott: With such a deep roster, and this seems like it isn't actually a problem -- I'm concerned that as the season goes on, the starting lineups will get very inconsistent because OP will want to utilize as many players as possible. I hope that once the team hits its' stride (assume it hits one) I hope that Pareja will stick to a core group, knowing he has talented players waiting in the wings if necessary.

Taylor: Defense is up in the air for me right now. Losing Je-Vaughn Watson hurts. Jesse Gonzalez is still very young. There's a lot of questions in the back. Also worried about staying healthy, because last year FCD was able to for the most part, which makes me think the injury bug might come back around to us.

Ben: They're a little thin up top. If the injury bug strikes, it could get dicey if we had to choose between Pitter and Barrios as our lone striker.

Edin: The lack of a 15-goal forward signing and Je-Vaughn Watson's replacement.

Drew: Definitely the expectations set upon this club to go along with the fact that the team didn't get a big time striker in the offseason (though there is still time).

3. Who will be FCD's Golden Boot winner in 2015?

Phil: Maxi Urruti. He has looked great in preseason play and has already developed chemistry with fellow South Americans Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz.

Jason: Maxi Urruti

Ryan: Maximiliano Urruti. New guy shows up, takes the up top spot from Tesho, and shows us his very best this season.

Mo: Maxi Urruti is going to have Portland dreading the day they let him go, nailing 17 goals for FC Dallas in his first season due to the brilliant connection he establishes with Mauro.

Nathan: It'll be a tie between Fabian Castillo, Maxi Urruti, and Tesho Akindele.

Scott: Maximiliano Urruti. This is easily the player I'm most excited to watch this season because I saw things from him in Portland that I really think will transfer over in Dallas.

Taylor: URRUTI! I think the goals will pour out of FCD this year and come from everywhere on the pitch. I think it will be pretty evenly distributed between Castillo, Mauro, Barrios, Urruti, etc. But, I think Urruti will have a big year. All the focus will be on Castillo and Mauro, leaving Urruti open a lot.

Ben: Maxi Urruti. I was a little begrudging to accept the Portland ex-pat, but he seems to have good chemistry with Mauro, and you've got to trust Papi. I've drank the Kool-Aid. He'll bag 20 this year.

Edin: Max Urruti (fingers crossed)

Drew: Fabian Castillo. It is his year to shine.

4. Top defender in 2015.

Phil: Matt Hedges. A rock in central defense, the youngest team captain in FC Dallas history leads by example, working tirelessly and winning challenge after challenge. ‘Nuff said.

Jason: Matt Hedges

Ryan: Matt Hedges. The crown will remain on our backline king.

Mo: I went with Matt Hedges last year and the captain is always an easy pick, so I will go with Walker Zimmerman this year. With the added games of CCL on the schedule, I think the depth will be tested and that Walker will have a solid year, maybe earning the starting CB role this year as a result.

Nathan: Matt Hedges. I think Zach will thrive, but Matt is the heart and soul of this D.

Scott: Matt Hedges. I say this confidently, but I'm also aware that Zach Loyd has quickly become just as viable of a defender and it would not surprise me at all if by season's end fans look more to Loyd as the number one defender.

Taylor: Matt Hedges. I just can't choose anyone else. With all the questions in the back, Hedges will have to step up and lead the way. And I think he will in a big way.

Ben: Death, Taxes, Matt Hedges.

Edin: Matt Hedges.

Drew: Matt Hedges.

5. Team MVP

Phil: Mauro Diaz. The "magic little unicorn" is able to flick the ball away from defenders, open up space, and deliver the ball on a dime to teammates. Last year, FCD was 15-5-5 when he played and 3-5-1 when he didn't. Fabian Bazan was the Team's MVP in 2015 for his ability to keep Diaz on the field.

Jason: Mauro Diaz

Ryan: Matt Hedges. He should have been defender of the year last year, and will contend for that title again this year.

Mo: Which player will FC Dallas struggle the most without this season is how I am going to define this category. Matt Hedges will be the MVP as his leadership and importance to the defensive side of the ball is often overlooked.

Nathan: Mauro Diaz via goals, assists, and leadership. My gut was to suggest Kellyn Acosta, but I think Kellyn is going to miss enough time with USMNT call ups that he won't be able to win it outright. His presence will be missed when he is away.

Scott: Mauro Diaz. I think that with FCD having more scoring options on the field in 2016, Mauro is going to really tap into his distribution abilities and pile on some solid assist numbers. He'll be the glue of this team.

Taylor: Carlos Gruezo. The dude's a baller. He will be everywhere, going up and down the field. Mauro and Castillo will probably get a lot of shouts because of the numbers they put up, but Gruezo will quietly be a key cog.

Ben: Urruti. The team's the star, but the guy who bags 20 gets the trophy.

Edin: Mauro Diaz

Drew: Matt Hedges - To me the defense is the key to winning as much as Diaz's health is. If Hedges continues to step his game up, this team is in for a lot of rewards this year.

MLS Predictions

1. Biggest story (non-FCD related) you're following.

Phil: How long will it take Bruce Arena to fine-tune the LA Galaxy? Steven Gerrard was not able to adjust to the humidity, turf fields, and coast-to-coast travel last season. How will these issues affect this year's crop of European imports? I expect Nigel de Jong to be a force in midfield, but Ashley Cole was reduced to a traffic cone by Jordan Morris in a 0-4 demolition by the Seattle Sounders. The Galaxy are clearly lacking defensive cohesion. Will the Galaxy figure out the puzzle in time, or will the season pan out like 2015 where the pieces never quite fit together?

Jason: What's going to happen to Jermaine Jones?

Ryan: The CONCACAF Champions League. MLS desperately needs that schedule change, immediately. They're getting man handled out there.

Mo: Who that next big superstar to make the jump to MLS is intrigues me very much. I am not talking about the Drogs and Lamps of the world. I am talking about who the next Giovinco is going to be who will come in and make this league continue to attract solid young talent from across the USA. I am also very intrigued to see the confidence of Portland now that they have won a championship and will have the target on their backs.

Nathan: Seattle missing Oba will be interesting to see. Can the youngster Jordan Morris step up and fill his shoes? Who else will Seattle look to bring in?

Scott: I'm really excited to see how teams with rosters like FC Dallas, Portland, Columbus, etc. perform against teams like LA, NYCFC and Toronto. There's such a difference in roster makeup and as we saw last year, the teams with less star power and a more even and deep roster made the deepest runs in the postseason. I didn't really watch this last season and once the playoffs came, I was surprised to see Portland and Columbus play well.

Taylor: LA Galaxy. They have a whole new team and a lot of stars. All eyes will be on them this season.

Ben: The US Men's National Team. There's a decent chance Kellyn Acosta will get a run in World Cup Qualifying, Copa America, and/or the Olympic team. I think the 'Nats are primed for a bounce back year after a somewhat miserable 2015.

Edin: Personally interested to see how Veljko Paunovic fares in MLS with Chicago Fire and if he continue to grow his stock after that shock U-20 World Cup triumph with Serbia. Took a heck of a task though by taking last year's worst MLS team so it'll take quite an effort to make something out of them again.

Drew: Can MLS finally break through in the TV rating game?

2. Prediction for top team out of the East.

Phil: Columbus Crew. They're a complete team from top-to-bottom that only lost Jack Mac in the offseason. Beating the Red Bulls in the playoffs tells me they are ready to take the mantle this season.

Jason: Toronto FC

Ryan: New York Red Bulls. Those guys will continue to tear it up in that conference.

Mo: The Eastern Conference has gotten stronger, no doubt about it. I am going to go with Toronto FC. I think they have made some solid additions in the depth aspect and, barring any injuries, will wreak havoc this year.

Nathan: I got to go with the Columbus Crew here, who will push NYRB out of the spot, and continue their climb.

Scott: Montreal. Call me crazy, but a full season of Drogba, Shipp, and Piatti -- just to name a few -- makes me believe they can compete for the top of a conference that doesn't have a clear favorite.

Taylor: Toronto FC. Wait what? Did he just...I think he...yup he did just predict Toronto as the top team. Safe pick is NYRB or Columbus, but what's the fun in that?

Ben: Montreal. In the 11 games Didier Drogba played for the Impact, they earned 2 points per game. I'm going to say he plays in 26 MLS matches, which means they'll need 1 point per game without him to hit 60 for the year. That's the total Red Bull won with last year.

Edin: New York Red Bulls

Drew: Chic....just kidding. Sticking with New York Red Bulls here.

3. Prediction for top team out of the West.

Phil: FC Dallas. Other teams might be better than Dallas on any given day, but FC Dallas has the deepest roster and is ready to handle the grueling MLS season. When one player gets cold or injured, another player steps up and contributes.

Jason: Vancouver Whitecaps

Ryan: FC Dallas. Again.

Mo: In what will be a close quest for first place out West again, the Portland Timbers will edge out FC Dallas on tiebreak to take the best Western Conference regular season record.

Nathan: It's a toss between Portland Timbers and FC Dallas, but I'll go with FC Dallas... of course.

Scott: FC Dallas. They certainly didn't lose any ground and while LA beefed itself up again, it didn't work last season and until I'm proven otherwise, I'll continue to believe that building a roster from humble roots is just, if not more, effective.

Taylor: Dallas. Who gon stop us? Who gon stop us, huh?

Ben: It'll probably be even tougher than last year. When in doubt, go with the homer pick. FC Dallas

Edin: LA Galaxy

Drew: Portland. I have been impressed with what they and Vancouver did this winter but there is a lot of momentum following this team into this season.

4. Playoff predictions for the East

Phil: 1. Columbus Crew 2. New York Red Bulls 3. Toronto FC 4. New England Revolution 5. Montreal Impact 6. Orlando City SC

Jason: 1. Toronto FC 2. Columbus Crew SC 3. New York Red Bulls 4. New England Revolution 5. Montreal Impact 6. DC United.

Ryan: 1. New York Red Bulls 2. DC United 3. Columbus Crew 4. New England Revolution 5. Toronto FC 6.Orlando City SC

Mo: 1. Toronto. 2. New York 3. Columbus 4. Montreal 5. DC United 6. NYCFC

Nathan: 1. Columbus 2. New York Red Bulls 3. New England Revolution 4. Montreal Impact 5. Toronto FC 6. New York City FC

Scott: 1. Montreal 2. Toronto 3. New York Red Bulls 4. Columbus 5. D.C. United 6. New England

Taylor: 1. Toronto 2. NYRB 3. Columbus 4. New England 5. Montreal 6. DC

Ben: 1. Montreal, 2. Toronto, 3. Columbus, 4. Orlando City, 5. Red Bull New York , 6. New England

Edin: 1. NYRB, 2. Toronto, 3. New England, 4. Columbus, 5. Montreal, 6. NYCFC

Drew: 1. New York 2. Columbus 3. Toronto 4. Montreal 5. DC United 6. Orlando City

5. Playoff predictions for the West

Phil: 1. FC Dallas 2. Portland Timbers 3. Seattle Sounders 4. LA Galaxy 5. Vancouver Whitecaps 6. San Jose Earthquakes

Jason: 1. Vancouver Whitecaps 2. LA Galaxy 3. FC Dallas 4. Seattle Sounders 5. Sporting Kansas City 6. Colorado Rapids

Ryan: 1. FC Dallas 2. Portland Timbers 3. LA Galaxy 4. Real Salt Lake 5. Vancouver Whitecaps 6. Seattle Sounders

Mo: 1. Portland 2. FC Dallas 3. Seattle 4. Vancouver 5. LA Galaxy 6. Sporting KC

Nathan: 1. FC Dallas 2. Portland Timbers 3. Vancouver Rapids 4. LA Galaxy 5. Sporting Kansas City 6. Houston Dynamo (That's right - no Seattle!)

Scott: 1. FC Dallas 2. LA Galaxy 3. Portland Timbers 4. Seattle Sounders 5. Vancouver 6. Sporting KC

Taylor: 1. Dallas 2. LA 3. Portland 4. Vancouver 5. Seattle 6. KC

Ben: 1. FC Dallas, 2. LA Galaxy, 3. Seattle, 4. Portland 5. Vancouver 6. San Jose

Edin: 1. LA Galaxy, 2. Dallas, 3. Seattle, 4. Portland, 5. Vancouver, 6. RSL

Drew: 1. Portland 2. Dallas 3. LA 4. Vancouver 5. Seattle 6. Sporting KC

6. League MVP

Phil: Sebastian Giovinco. He's on another level.

Jason: Clint Dempsey

Ryan: Sebastian Giovinco

Mo: Michael Bradley will claim the honors due to finally leading Toronto to a solid regular season with the help of his star-studded teammates.

Nathan: Didier Drogba

Scott: Sebastian Giovinco

Taylor: Giovinco. I don't see how anyone can compete with his numbers. If I had to pick someone else, I'd go with Mauro (if he stays healthy) to be honest.

Ben: Didier Drogba. He beats father time in his last season. Legend.

Edin: Sebastian Giovinco

Drew: Sebastian Giovinco

7. Golden Boot prediction

Phil: Robbie Keane. Keane is a safe bet for 20 goals. Giovinco will come close, but ultimately his switch to left winger in a 4-3-3 reduces his goal total as he provides more assists to Jozy.

Jason: Robbie Keane

Ryan: Sebastian Giovinco

Mo: It is easy to predict Sebastian Giovinco here, so I am going to go out on a limb and say that Clint Dempsey has more goals due to Obafemi leaving the fray in Seattle.

Nathan: Sebastian Giovinco

Scott: Didier Drogba

Taylor: Giovinco. Again, I don't see anyone reaching his tally.

Ben: Urruti. I told you I drank the Kool-Aid.

Edin: Sebastian Giovinco

Drew: Sebastian Giovinco

8. Supporter's Shield winner

Phil: Columbus Crew. It's not fair. They get to feast on the lowly Eastern Conference.

Jason: Toronto FC

Ryan: New York Red Bulls

Mo: The Eastern Conference winner takes it again with Toronto FC claiming the Supporter's Shield.

Nathan: FC Dallas!!!!

Scott: FC Dallas

Taylor: Dallas. It's happening.

Ben: The East won't be quite as cushy as it was last year, so FC Dallas brings it home this year.

Edin: LA Galaxy

Drew: New York Red Bulls - freakin' East is still a bit too easy.

9. MLS Cup winner

Phil: All it takes is peaking at the right time. I'll guess that The Bruce figures out how to get the best performance out of his star-studded lineup late in the year and retires after LA wins the cup.

Jason: FC Dallas

Ryan: FC Dallas

Mo: This is our year barring any major injuries. Hopefully reaching the MLS Cup (conference semis and finals in consecutive years) FC Dallas defeats the Red Bulls in a matchup of the two seeds 3-2 to take some silverware back to Frisco.

Nathan: With a hat trick by Tesho Akindele in the final against Toronto FC!!!!!

Scott: LA Galaxy

Taylor: Dallas. It's all happening!

Ben: FC Dallas for the treble. Castillo and Diaz get sold in the winter. What a year!

Edin: FC Dallas

Drew: Vancouver. MLS Cup goes Canadian as it stays in the Pacific Northwest for another year.