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2018 MLS Preview

Now we continue on to the Western Conference (again clubs will be listed based on predicted table placement)….

 

  1. Portland Timbers– A surprising amount of turnover this off-season for a team for the club that topped the Western Conference table in the regular season last year. Portland is going to sorely miss Darlington Nagbe and the team’s core pieces are all past age 30 now, which gives pause for health concerns over a whole season. However, the addition of winger Andy Polo, defender Julio Cascante and striker Samuel Armenteros will reinforce a roster that, with 2017 MVP Diego Valeri leading the charge, is always competitive.
  2. Seattle Sounders– Having made back to back trips to the MLS finals, and going one of two in those contests, betting against this squad is not the wisest move. Like the Timbers the key pieces of the roster are ageing. Unlike their Western counterparts, the Sounders were content to ride out this group almost entirely in tact from its 2017 form. Losing Joevin Jones will be noticeable at times, and a second year sans Jordan Morris (torn ACL) is not how the season was supposed to start for this club. This is a deep, playoff experienced group though, and a third straight trip to the finals is well within their grasp.
  3. Real Salt Lake– A lethargic start to 2017 doomed this squad’s playoff aspirations. This year a young and hungry team, led by a core of Albert Rusnak, Brooks Lennon and Danny Acosta are poised for a breakout. After an up and down 2017 campaign, the learning curve is pointing the right direction for this squad in 2018. depending on how big a leap some of these young pieces take, the ceiling could be even higher than third for this unit.
  4. Sporting Kansas City– Year in and year out, this squad dominates on defense and comes up short on offense. 2017 Defensive Player of the Year Ike Opara leads a stellar unit which once again should be on of the best in the league. The midfield should be improved as well, but until a proven, consistent goalscorer emerges fans should expect a lot of low scoring affairs for this team. Until proven otherwise the ceiling and floor on this group appears to be an early playoff exit.
  5. Vancouver Whitecaps– The caps were amazingly effective out of set pieces last year…..and below league average in most other facets of the game. New forward Kei Kamara should reinforce the strength of the set pieces, but can he do enough in other areas to take this team out of the early playoff exit it seems destined to once again attain? Drama with an unhappy Tim Parker attempting to find an exit strategy from B.C. is only complicating things for this squad. There is too much talent here not to make the postseason, how deep they go, that is anyone’s guess.
  6. FC Dallas– Colombian attacker Santiago Mosquera is a stud, and his addition should revitalize an offense that was at times absent in 2017. After one of the worst drop offs in MLS history between 2016 and 2017, this squad is hoping the internal drama has been resolved and 2018 can be a rebound year. If the defense can just be league average this offense should carry them back into the postseason.
  7. Houston Dynamo– Losing Erick Torres and Ricardo Clark will be a huge blow for this squad. While this team was elite at home last year they were abysmal away from it. This team will be younger and faster in 2018, and while that sounds good on paper, more veteran balanced squads above them will know how to close out the season. This pundit is worried that the youth movement may come with some growing pains in Houston and that may leave them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
  8. LA Galaxy– Only one way to go when you finish dead last in 2017, and that is up for this team. Snagging Ola Kamara in a trade with the Columbus Crew is going to add serious juice to an attack that was underwhelming last season. The difference between this squad being good or playoff caliber is going to be the back line, and on paper the defense is not inspiring a world of confidence.
  9. LAFC– For a team built literally from scratch this season the top end talent is not lacking, as Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi lead a starting 13 that can compete week to week in this league. The issue for this (and most) new franchises will be when depth becomes a concern. Start factoring injuries or fatigue from a long season and this squad may wither and we approach the home stretch.
  10. San Jose Earthquakes– This is a squad that made the 2017 playoffs….but also posted a -21 goal differential. A regression to the mean on close wins/draws is more than due for this club. Additionally they will be relying on numerous new foreign import players to gel quickly with an underwhelming holdover roster. If things start poorly for this squad, they could end up finishing lower than tenth.
  11. Minnesota United– This squad finished near the bottom of the table in 2017 and their top off-season acquisition was 35 year old Tyrone Mears. I suppose they are trying to build a winning culture from within and trust the player development of their coaches, but on paper this team does not inspire confidence for 2018.
  12. Colorado Rapids-Their new coach brings a world of experience from his time coaching the New Zealand national team. He also is importing a style of football and players to fit his experience/skill set. How it translates to the MLS, and how his players respond, is a gamble, and with that uncertainty we slot a club that finished 2017 poorly at the bottom of the table.

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