MLS new season preview - part 2
In the Western Conference
it is big boys LA Galaxy
that are the resurgent team but they like England will be unable to call on the $6.5m a year David Beckham. I always wondered what team mates on $40,000 a year think of Becks' deal. Anyway Landon Donovan is back after an excellent loan period at Everton where he squashed his detractors such as me. Donovan loves the Galaxy but I think he should make this his last season in LA and tap up David Moyes for a move to Goodison next summer. Boss Bruce Arena has added three young Brazilians and acquired Clint Mathis from Real Salt Lake but a lot rests on the shoulders of Donovan.Seattle Sounders
beat new boys Philadelphia Union 2-0 last night in the season opener
and the new boys themselves last year had a equisite first season. They won the US Open Cup (their equivalent of the FA Cup), made the play-offs and were backed by over 30,000 every home game making the Sounders the most popular American soccer team since the days of New York Cosmos. For this season Seattle have sold a record 32,000 season tickets and I think they are the team to beat.
Freddie Ljungberg has made a spectacular recovery from his Upton Park nightmare and his experience alongside the 20-year old Colombian Fredy Montero will continue to cause teams all kinds of problems. Add Kasey Keller's experience and the promise of Steve Zakuani and I think Seattle will have some more fun this season. Swiss international Blaise Nkufo will join after the world cup to add more firepower. A little known fact is that the BBC's Arlo White
is the Sounders' in game announcer.Real Salt Lake
are the current champions but to me made a mockery of the word 'champion' by ending the 30-game regular season with the 8th 'best record' or in fact the 7th worst! A strange looking fella called Kyle Beckerman, who deserves more credit, is the driving force behind Real (Re-ale). They do play a nice fast-paced game and are tough to beat at home. Highly sort after 16-year old Luis Gil will hopefully get a game or two.Houston Dynamo
won the MLS Cup in both 2006 and 2007 and reached the Conference Final last year but they will miss Stuart Holden (now at Bolton and one of Owen Coyle's first signings) and Ricardo Clark who signed for Eintract Frankfurt. Leading the line is along with Donovan, one of the USA's major hopes for world cup success, Brian Ching and Brad Davis could also stand out this season in midfield. Head coach Dominic Kinnear has impressed me though and I think Dynamo will have another good season.
Texas rivals FC Dallas
improved after a dreadful start last season aided by Jeff Cunningham's 16 goals in the final 14 matches plus a bunch of assists from playmaker David Ferreira. If they are sustain a season-long challenge this time around they will need to tighten up a defence that now includes veteran goalie Kevin Hartman. Goals is not a problem though. San Jose Earthquakes
also had a flimsy back line in 2009 and they are still trying to find their way in the professional game after returning to the MLS in 2008.
Darren Huckerby was one of many players that left in a bit of a shake-up. In 2008 Huckerby did well but he spent most of last season injured and retired with a hip injury
at just 33-years old at the end of last summer. Frank Yallop's Quakes look a bit light on the ground to me, they need a big season from Bobby Convoy and the form of Ramón Sánchez will be key.
The third Californian team are Mexican owned Chivas
, who share the Home Depot Center with Galaxy, which can provide a fiery derby fixture. They will miss head coach Preki who decamped to Toronto. Martin Vasquez, who was number two at Bayern Munich took over in a nod to the club's Mexican roots, so he at least will be given some time by their fervent supporters. A lot of players departed over the post season and Chivas look lightweight, especially up front and will be forced to rely heavily on defender Mariano Trujillo and keeper Zach Thornton.Colorado Rapids
have one of the best strike forces in the MLS. Conor Casey and Omar Cummings combined for 24 goals last term. The Rapids added two decent midfield players from New England Jeff Larentowicz and Wells Thompson, who sounds like a crime writer. I think Colorado could surprise people in the Western Conference if they can stay clear of injuries.My predictions for final Western Conference placings:
1. Seattle 2. Houston 3. Colorado 4. Los Angeles 5. Salt Lake 6. Dallas 7. Chivas 8. San Jose
So two conferences of 8 teams, there has been some discussion of making it a single 16-team league which would give the MLS more credibility but American sports fans are used to geographical divisions and with only two clubs making any money last year (Toronto and Seattle) finances will continue to dictate that more games are played in a closer vicinity encouraging bigger attendances.
A lot of the games are on the box, and the standard is light and day to what it was 8 years ago (although I'm comparing that to a different level
mind) so I plan to watch plenty of the games as we get into the summer.