This portion of the MLS preview will consist of predictions and how each team will do. MLS is one of the most unpredictable leagues on the planet, for a single DP signing or a few under the radar moves could vault a team straight to the top of their conference. Without further ado here’s the 2nd half of my MLS Preview.
The Fire have been a struggling organization for the last two years and the sale of Sean Johnson made it seem like the Fire were bracing themselves for another horrid season but the Fire locked up three exciting signatures including former Red Bulls Captain Dax McCarty. Juninho will be paired with him, solidifying the midfield and Hungarian international Nemanja Nikolic will bring his Euros 2016 experience to the Fire Front Line. They’ll miss the playoffs but they’ll be much more improved.
One of the two new kids on the block enter the season with much more uncertainty then their Atlanta counterparts. Minnesota comes in with no DP signings and without any proven MLS talent. Kevin Molino was just acquired from Orlando and it may seem like Minnesota will heavily rely on him for goals in their rookie year. A team full of question marks makes one thing clear, they’ll struggle heavily their first campaign.
Atlanta come into the season with much more expectation to win their first year. Their biggest splash was signing Gerardo “Tata” Martino to lead the team in their infancy. Tata has wealth of experience from coaching top clubs such as Barcelona and Argentina. A few eye raising signings such as Josef Martinez who impressed in Copa America and Miguel Almiron a Paraguayan playmaker. Lots of hope for the Dirty South coming into their first year and they’ll keep up throughout most of the summer. A playoff berth in their first year isn’t likely though.
The Union are coming out this season as a trendy pick for the MLS Playoffs. Haris Medjunanin was a brilliant signing that’ll show itself soon enough, and Maurice Edu is a rock in the middle of the field for Philly. Bedoya returns well and the City of Brotherly Love is loving their chances. I don’t believe it though. Edu and Bedoya underperform for the Union this year and they get edged out to the playoffs.
Houston just aren’t very good. Three consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs is flat out turning into four this season. Wilmer Cabrera enters his first season in charge for the Dynamo and there’s plenty of promise for him, but Houston struggles mightily in the Wild West his first season.
The Lions give it their third go at qualification into the MLS Playoffs but this one will be a step back as opposed to a step forward from last season. The same team comes into Florida this season minus Kevin Molino, which means they’ll need Kaka and Cyle Larin for all their goals. Unless Kaka unleashes Galacticos form all summer, Orlando will miss out again.
New York City FC
City claimed their first playoff berth last season behind a wondrous season provided by David Villa. Lampard and Pirlo were able to adapt to the league and feed City’s dangerous attack. Lampard is gone though and City have plenty of holes in the back. Maxi Moralez is an exciting signing as every team begin to frantically search for their “Lodeiro” but NYCFC take a stepback this season and miss out in November.
San Jose Earthquakes
The Quakes didn’t factor too much into the playoff chase out west last season and nothing was done to change that. Wondo will have to provide all the goals and there’s plenty of questions throughout the lineups. No playoffs for the Quakes again.
The Columbus Crew struggled mightily in an Eastern Conference last season that factored in a tougher Orlando, and NYCFC but this season Columbus pick themselves up. Jonathan Mensah will be all they need to improve this season. The big Ghanaian international won’t allow too much this season and all of the Crew’s attacking pieces return including Ola Kamara who has succeeded Kei Kamara quite nicely. The Crew squeak back into the playoffs.
New England Revolution
The Revs completely overhauled their back line by bringing in two internationals. Benjamin Angoua of Ivory Coast and Antontio Delamea Mlinar of Slovenia. Kamara, Agudelo and Nguyen all return as well to form a lethal attacking trident and a tiebreaker won’t keep them out of the playoffs this season.
The Impact had an excellent season being a part of the North invasion of the playoffs. A thrilling defeat to Toronto where a frantic comeback denied Montreal of a trip to the MLS Cup. No Drogba means it’s all Ignacio Piatti and they’ll still be very good, just not as good. A trip to the playoffs is in order for the French Canadians.
Colorado were a very good side last season that featured a fortress of a defense. Cronin returns but Jermaine Jones doesn’t, and Tim Howard isn’t getting younger. Axel Sojberg is a beast but even if Colorado maintains top defensive form, their offensive woes is what let them down in November and not enough was done to address it. Colorado miss out this year.
DC didn’t do anything fancy over the postseason as all their attention was put towards breaking ground at their new stadium. DC still did enough last season to reach the playoffs and Birnbaum and co. returns, DC will make it back to the playoffs, but not comfortably.
This will be it for Toronto. They have a championship core with Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley, and those guys can dominate MLS when their healthy and clicking. We’ve seen Jozy when his goals run dry though, and his health isn’t something he really boasts about. Michael Bradley hasn’t been healthy as of late either and even Giovinco suffered injuries last season. Giovinco has also been threatening China as of late and if he goes, so does Toronto’s title chances. They’ll cruise into the playoffs though for their final chance.
Sporting is the dark horse pick for many this season. Unfortunately the playoffs is exclusive, and someone will have to miss out. The West is full of talent and teams ready to win right now and that including KC. Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber run the attack with class and brilliance. Unfortunately the West is wild, and it’ll affect Kansas City, they’ll narrowly miss out on the Playoffs.
RSL are a complete wild card this season in MLS as they hand over their attacking reigns to Slovakian playmaker Albert Rusnak after the departure of an aging Javier Morales. If Rusnak booms then all of RSL booms, but if he busts… Then they fail. I think he’ll boom in his first season though and RSL will ascend to the playoffs.
The Vancouver Whitecaps for me are my dark horse. Not many expect them to be too much of a force out West after their only signing of note being Fredy Montero. This Caps team is a decent side and Fredy Montero is a fellow Cascadian after formerly donning the Sounders shirt. Alphonso Davies is a stud and he’s only going to get better. Caps sneak in with RSL over KC.
Consistency is the key for the Portland Timbers after hoisting their first ever MLS Cup in 2015 and following that up by missing the playoffs. Nat Borchers is retired but Portland still have the core that made them great in 2015. Darlington Nagbe is a top midfielder and Diego Valeri is one of the most skilled players in the league. Fanendo Adi will be looked on to score goals and to conquer Cascadia.
New York Red Bulls
My top team in the East, the New York Red Bulls may have lost Dax McCarty but it’s merely a changing of the guard. Sacha Kljestan deserves to put on the captain’s armband for the Red Bulls and he’ll finally get what he deserves. Bradley Wright-Phillips proved last season that he is still in the conversation for best player in MLS and he’ll look to follow up his magnificent performance last year into this year.
The defending champions come into this season reloaded as Clint Dempsey returns to the lineup for Seattle. All their pieces from their title last season returns as well including: Jordan Morris, and Nico Lodeiro. Lodeiro is the best playmaker in the land after making his way to MLS from Boca Juniors and is looking forward to feeding “Deuce” as well as young phenom Morris.
LA are a completely different team this season with the departures of Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. The architect of the Galaxy, Bruce Arena is also gone to take the United States Men’s National Team job for a second time. It’s a different world for the Galaxy but Gio Dos Santos is in top form and fully ready to lead LA. Jelle Van Damme adjusted to the league last season nicely and the Belgian looks to take on an even larger role at the back this season. Their signing of Romain Alessandrini looks to reload the attack as well now that Keane is gone. Alessandrini is sure to feed killer balls to Gio and Gyasi Zardes.
My pick to win MLS Cup, Mauro Diaz’s ruptured Achilles may have been the only thing that kept Dallas from winning the cup. Diaz won’t return from that Achilles injury until maybe June and even then he won’t be in top form but he’ll be rested and healthy for the playoffs where Dallas will need him the most. Matt Hedges is one of the best center halves in the league and he’s primed for another top year.