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2018 MLS Western Conference Preview

Who will be the kings of the West?

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

MLS is back and after a long offseason, there is plenty to catch up on. If you are not sure how each team will square up against the rest of the league this season, we have you covered.

Here is our preview of the 2018 MLS Western Conference.

Los Angeles FC

MLS: MLS Super Draft Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Conference Finish: N/A

Notable Transfers In: Carlos Vela, Benny Feilhaber, Laurent Ciman, Joao Mountinho

Notable Transfers Out: N/A

The biggest story heading into the 2018 season is Los Angeles FC. After years of planning, L.A.’s second soccer franchise is set to take the field. Backed behind famous stars such as Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, and Mia Hamm, the black and gold franchise surely covets the world-renowned Hollywood appeal. LAFC is set to be led by former Swansea and USMNT head coach Bob Bradley who has put together a unique squad, which includes the likes of Mexican international Carlos Vela, Belgian international Laurent Ciman, and United States international Benny Feilhaber and Walker Zimmerman. At a glance, LAFC’s squad looks entertaining but lacks depth. Most likely, the season will start off hot but will slowly tatter off due to injury and international call-ups.

Portland Timbers

MLS: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Conference Finish: 1st

Main Transfers In: Andres Flores, Samuel Armenteros, Andy Polo

Main Transfers Out: Darlington Nagbe, Darren Mattocks, Amobi Okugo

After enjoying a successful 2017 season that saw Portland top the Western Conference, longtime head coach Caleb Porter elected to resign. Portland swiftly filled Porter’s vacancy by signing New York Cosmos’ Giovanni Savarese. The former NASL head coach has won multiple trophies with New York and will take the step-up U.S. Soccer’s pyramid to MLS. As of now, Portland’s offseason transfers make them appear weaker than last year. Having lost star man Darlington Nagbe to Atlanta, the Timbers may lack the creativeness they need to return to playoffs this season.

Seattle Sounders FC

2017 Conference Finish: 2nd

Main Transfers In: Mangus Wolff Eikrem, Waylon Francis

Main Transfers Out: Joevin Jones, Oniel Fisher, Brad Evans

Not much changed for the Seattle Sounders over the offseason. They lost long-term captain Brad Evans and wide player Joevin Jones. They easily replaced both individuals by signing former Cardiff City midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Columbus Crew wide defender Waylon Francis. With these additions, Brian Schmetzer’s side should remain unchanged and be another contender for this year’s playoffs.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

2017 Conference Finish: 3rd

Main Transfers In: Kei Kamara, Brian Rowe, Efrain Juarez

Main Transfers Out: Jordan Harvey, Matias Laba, Christian Bolanos

The end of the 2017 MLS season was disappointing for the Vancouver Whitecaps. They were ahead of the Western Conference until the final few weeks and then saw themselves knocked out of the playoffs after looking like the better side. With all that said, the Whitecaps shed unused weight over the offseason and signed one of MLS’ best strikers to grace the league, Kei Kamara, and former LA Galaxy Brian Rowe. Kamara should add to Vancouver’s aggressive tone and benefit the side.

Houston Dynamo

2017 Conference Finish: 4th

Main Transfers In: Tomas Martinez, Chris Seitz

Main Transfers Out: Vincente Sanchez, Ricardo Clark

The 2017 season was a huge step up for Houston. They were able to make the playoffs and put on a good show during their limited time in the postseason. During the offseason, they let go of older veterans such as Vicente Sanchez and Ricardo Clark but brought in another exciting addition with Tomas Martinez. The biggest story for Houston during the offseason was the re-signing of Tyler Derick, who had a gross run-in with the law towards the end of last year’s season. The whole league will be keeping their eyes on Deric’s situation.

Sporting Kansas City

FC Twente v Go Ahead Eagles - Eredivisie Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

2017 Conference Finish: 5th

Main Transfers In: Yohan Croizet, Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez, Khiry Shelton

Main Transfers Out: Benny Feilhaber, Erik Palmer-Brown, Latif Blessing

The MLS Expansion Draft was not too kind to Sporting Kansas City. In some way, SKC may have wanted to get rid of two of their best players in Benny Feilhaber and Latif Blessing. Nevertheless, here they are. In addition to that loss, they saw youngster Erik Palmer-Brown complete his move to Manchester City where he was immediately loaned out. With all of these losses, Kansas City did a fantastic job at fixing the wholes. These strong additions from all around the world will definitely make SKC a playoff contender.

San Jose Earthquakes

2017 Conference Finish: 6th

Main Transfers In: Danny Hoesen, Mangus Eriksson, Eric Calvillo

Main Transfers Out: David Bingham, Victor Bernardez

The San Jose Earthquakes were not the most exciting team of 2017. They made a good run to make the playoffs but got destroyed by San Jose in the first round. Over the offseason, they let go of old stalwarts David Bingham and Victor Bernardez who have club icons for years. They reinforced with former Malmo attacker Mangus Eriksson and New York Cosmos prodigy Eric Calvillo. In addition, they signed Dutch striker Danny Hoesen to a permanent deal. Although they did do work over the offseason, it does not scream improvement. San Jose will most likely miss the playoffs.

FC Dallas

2017 Conference Finish: 7th

Main Transfers In: Anton Nedyalkov, Jimmy Maurer, Reto Ziegler, Santiago Mosquera

Main Transfers Out: Chris Seitz, Walker Zimmerman, Javier Morales

This was an odd offseason for FC Dallas. After enduring disappointment at the end of last season, FCD elected to go a bit European with their offseason signings. With the additions of Anton Nedyalkov and Reto Ziegler, Dallas boosted a depleted defense. These new signings will have to fill a huge hole left behind by team icons Chris Seitz and Walker Zimmerman who left for Houston and L.A. respectively.

Real Salt Lake

2017 Conference Finish: 8th

Main Transfers In: Damir Kreilach, Shawn Barry, Brooks Lennon

Main Transfers Out: Chad Barrett, Chris Wingert, Kyle Beckerman’s Hair

If it was not for that “printer,” Real Salt Lake would have had a better season. Now, having a full year under head coach Mike Petke, his club is beginning to take shape. Over the offseason, they lost league veterans Chad Barrett and Chris Wingert but were able to reinforce by signing a few former European-based players. This could be the season where Salt Lake regains their momentum and makes a push for the playoffs.

Minnesota United FC

2017 Conference Finish: 9th

Main Transfers In: Tyrone Mears, Matt Lampson, Harrison Heath

Main Transfers Out: Bernardo Anor, Justin Davis, Kevin Venegas

What is Minnesota United doing? The club made minor adjustments to the squad over the offseason after a lackluster season that saw fellow expansion club Atlanta crush them in every way possible. All Adrian Heath was able to muster up this offseason was the signing of his Harrison. Not a good luck for Minnesota. At least they get a brand new stadium in 2019, which is cool.

Colorado Rapids

2017 Conference Finish: 10th

Main Transfers In: Danny Wilson, Jack Price, Edgar Castillo, Tommy Smith

Main Transfers Out: Mohammed Saeid, Luis Gil, Josh Gatt

After a terrible season last year, Colorado reinforced their squad with a plethora of English Championship players. Signing a duo from Wolverhampton and a few defenders scattered across the U.K., Colorado could very well become a British territory by the end of the season. If the Rapids can glue together these new pieces, they could become a defensive stalwart.

Los Angeles Galaxy

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York City at Columbus Crew Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Conference Finish: 11th

Main Transfers In: Ola Kamara, David Bingham, Perry Kitchen, Rolf Feltscher

Main Transfers Out: Gyasi Zardes, Jermaine Jones, Robbie Rogers

Now, with Sigi Schmid give a full offseason to make the Galaxy into his own likeness and image, L.A. may have a chance to return to their once greatness. The club’s signings were small, but they did shed most of their ugly and dead weight which will ignite energy into the team. These moves might not bring the club back to the playoffs but it will give fans of L.A. some hope for the future.