2016 MLS season preview. Western Conference.

Looking good Chad, looking good.

Continuing my predictions of how the league will work itself out this year. Here’s what I had to say about the Eastern Conference, but now it’s time to go west young man and check out the real contenders. Here’s what I predicted for the west last year, boy was I wrong about Portland, but aside from that, not too bad.  Let’s get on with this.

  1. FC Dallas: Had a very good, if sometime inconsistent season last year and still have most of their important players, and added some interesting names in Max Urruti and Maynar Figueroa. Lot of young kids they’ll be looking to continue or improve on their last year, Gonzalez, Ulloa, Acosta, Barrios etc, which may or may not happen, but as long as the likes of Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz don’t get poached away they’ll do just fine. Supporters Shield winners, will lose to Seattle in Conference final.
  2.  Vancouver Whitecaps: The solid defence should carry over from last year and hopefully for them Russell Teibert can show he can take over Gershon Koffie’s spot on a full time basis and thrive alongside Matias Laba. Much like the last couple of years, they’ll look like a well organised team and results will basically come down to if they can get any kind of consistent scoring. Can Kekuta Manneh finally live up to his potential? Probably not, so it’ll probably come down to whether Octavio Rivero or new signing Masata Kudo or Christian Bolanos can actually score consistently. I’ll say they’ll do it enough to get 2nd, they might even win a playoff game, but not a round, losing to Seattle in the conference semi.
  3. Portland Timbers: Reigning champs, and didn’t lose anything major from their lineup so should be able to just keep going. they always seem to have at least one poor stretch, often to kick off the season, so I can’t see them challenging for the shield, but a playoff place should be a much more comfortable thing for them this year. Darlington Nagbe will thrive with a full season in the central midfield position he took from Will Johnson last year. This year the penalty shootout luck won’t be with them so they’ll lose in the wild card round to the Galaxy.
  4. Seattle Sounders: There are definitely questions that can be asked about everyone’s favourite kinky sex enthusiasts, mainly based around the fact they lost their best striker (Chad Barrett, obviously), and also Obafemi Martins, Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle in the off season. They do of course have the hugely overhyped Jordan Morris, whether he can adequately replace Martins’ contributions will be the big factor in how well they do. I predict he won’t really and it’ll be a frustrating start to the season, with calls for Sigi’s head, but in the summer they’ll sign someone who can and thus will nail down a playoff spot, and ride their improved form all the way to an MLS Cup.
  5. Sporting Kansas City: Justin Mapp’s a very nice free agent signing, and Brad Davis will sporadically help here and there as well, but losing Kristian Nemeth will definitely hurt as there looks like very few regular goalscorers beyond Dominic Dwyer. They’ll probably be fine as long as they can stay fit and not collapse at the end of the season again. They’ll lose in the wild card round, though at least this time it won’t involve penalty shootout heartache.
  6. LA Galaxy. Well it was certainly an interesting off season, though I’m not convinced it’s one that improved the team. Omar Gonzales and Juninho out, Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong and the magnificently monikered Jelle Van Damme in. Add in the first full season for Steven Gerrard and Giovanni Dos Santos and there are all sorts of tactical and selection questions to figure out for Bruce Arena. The one game I saw of them, they looked absolutely awful, but that was against Santos Laguna so it’s a bit unfair to judge. It’ll be a sputtering season, occasionally looking good, often looking entertainingly dysfunctional, but with enough individual quality to get them through the rough times and seal a playoff spot, if only cos I have little faith in any of the 4 clubs behind them. They’ll knock off the champs on penalties in the wild card round, and give Dallas a scare in the conference final but lose there. Then some of their fancier players will move on, others will be brought in and they’ll do it all again next year.
  7. San Jose Earthquakes. Bit of a bland off season really They should be okish defensively, a  Dominic Kinnear team after all, though their starting defence is looking a lot on the old side. It’s up front where there’s questions, sure Chris Wondolowski can score goals, but it’s going to come down to if Chad Barrett can finally live up his potential, get a good run in the first team and knock in plenty of goals. If he can get into double figures and some others beyond Wondolowski can help out, they’ll maybe have enough, but I don’t see it happening.
  8. Houston Dynamo: Another bland team with a bland off season. Defenisvely they’ll be okish, and they can probably count on Will Bruin for his usual 10 goal kind of season, and Giles Barnes will look good here and there for sure. Getting anywhere near the playoffs will probably require Cubo Torres stepping up and being a real goal threat, which he’s never looked like doing at Houston, so another playoffless season beckons.
  9. Real Salt Lake: The downward slide of the once kinda dynasty that was RSL will continue. Sure Beckerman and Rimando are very good players, but beyond that the squad’s either too mediocre (Aaron Maund anyone?) or too streaky (Joao Plata) to expect good things. They do have Yura Movsisyan which is an intriguing pickup, and maybe that Burrito guy will make the difference? He won’t. 9th place with Jeff Cassar the 2nd western coach to be fired.
  10. Colorado Rapids: The first to be fired will be Pablo Mastroeni (good times in the Rocky Mountains this year). Last year the Rapids were actually quite good defensively, and despite the loss of Moor and Irwin to TFC that’ll probably continue. Jermaine Jones should help when he finally comes back from his suspension, but that rumoured Tim Howard signing is a curious one that I can’t see making a big difference. Maybe if either Dillon, Powers or Serna dramatically improves they’ll show something up front as well, but i can’t see it happening and don’t think Marco Pappa will be the difference maker either. Time to start growing your distraction moustache Pablo.

There you go. Print it out, run to the bookies, wait 9 months and you’ll be sleeping on a bed made of cash. Guaranteed.

 

Author: Duncan Fletcher

Blogging journeyman formerly of Cruel Geography and Waking the Red, also briefly with Sportsnet and every now and then with the Guardian. As a supporter of Darlington, TFC, England and Canada, football's been unfair and poking fun at Duncan for decades now, so it's only fair he does the same right back at it. Follow him on twitter @duncandfletcher

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1 Comment

  1. Not sure you can honestly use the word boring when describing the Western Conference. What with all sorts of contract machinations and the Miss Washington vs Pappa situation that got full coverage in celebrity gossip media.

    My eyebrows were raised with the 5 place finish for LAG, they after all don’t get moving till July and then they really move.

    I have agree that the loss of Martins will certainly leave the Sounders wobbly. So yes it will be interesting to see what is done about it.

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