Western Conference Preview and Prediction

MLS first kick is less that 4 days away and the Timbers first game is less than a week away. Now that we have discussed the Eastern Conference lets talk about the Western Conference. Again I will have the Player to watch, quick analysis and finally the prediction for every team. My final preview will be posted in the next day or two and it will focus solely on who makes the play-offs.

 

Chivas USA

Player to Watch: Alejandro Moreno (F) will try and find the same form that saw him as an integral part of what came to be known as "Columbus: The Good Years".

Quick Analysis: Chivas is in rebuilding mode with rookie head coach Robin Fraser. The defense has been bolstered with the additions of Jimmy Conrad, Heath Pearce and 1st round draft pick Zarek Valentine. With the lack of firepower upfront Fraser has gone with a 4-1-4-1 formation which is a very interesting line-up for a rookie coach to come out with. This formation really highlights the weaknesses of the team and Fraser hopes to rely on 5 players in the midfield to disrupt the play of the competition.

Prediction: 8th Chivas too few attacking options will leave them on the bottom.

Colorado Rapids

Player to Watch: Conor Casey (F) is a University of Portland product that has shown a nose for the goal.

Quick Analysis: They are the defending champs but barely made the play-offs last year. They are a very physical team that grind out the wins. The biggest question surrounding the team is if they can stay consistent. They have had a tendency to lose focus and drop games they shouldn't.  Look for them to have cold streaks followed by hot streaks, let's hope they start off cold like the usually do.

Predictions: 3rd but could be lower if they don't have as many hot streaks as they do cold.

FC Dallas

Player to Watch: David Ferreria (M/F) is the reigning MLS MVP and look for him to continue to show why he his.

Quick Analysis: Let's be honest they were the better team in the 2010 MLS cup but with the loss of Dax McCarty their midfield will not be as good as it was last year. However if Daniel Hernandez can build on the year he had last year he just might make up for the loss of Dax. Their Defense let in the fewest goals in team history and look to continue that success this year. Dallas will be a tough team to compete against and any points you can take from them will be a positive result.

Prediction:4th they just don't have the same firepower as the top three teams in the west.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Player to Watch: I have to pick one?!?! Well if it is just one then you have to go with the face of MLS and US soccer Landon ‘landycakes' Donovan.

Quick Analysis: On paper this team is stacked, of course this is just on paper what is going to happen on the field is another story. This team has the same feel as the Miami heat, lots of stars but do they have the supporting cast to compete for the supporter's shield and then the MLS cup? I think they do, David Beckham is finally here for a whole season and at the start of the season without an injury. Juan Pablo Angel can easily fill the void left by Edson Buddle. The defense has only gotten more experienced with the addition of Frankie ‘Heydude' Hejduk and another season under the belts of their young defenders Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza. Just holding this team to a draw will be considered a success from almost all the teams in the MLS. With all that said this team is built for the now, 2 years from now and they will be for a major rebuild.

Prediction: 1st, only RSL and New York have a chance at competing with them.

Portland Timbers

Player to Watch: Darlington Nagbe (M/F) can really shine in the MLS, just think he had that sports hernia all of his senior season and still won the soccer equivalent of the Heisman!

Quick Analysis: This team is already turning heads and creating a reputation as a team that no one wants to play. They will compete for every ball and will play team defense which will make them extremely difficult to break down. They may bend at times but if the pre-season is any indication, only 4 goals given up in 7 games, they will not break. If the defenders surpass the expectations of the experts this team will be knocking on the play-off door because the offense will cause major fits for the other teams. Kenny Cooper spear heads the attack and has really looked dangerous at times.

Prediction: 6th, the biggest question is if they have enough points to beat out the eastern conference teams for the last one or two playoff spots.

Real Salt Lake

Player to Watch: Alvaro Saborio (F) is probably the most clutch player in the league and scores goals when his team most needs it.

Quick Analysis: They are by far the deepest team in the league and built for not only the MLS but for a treble (A treble is winning three competitions which would be US open cup, Champions league and MLS cup). Their offense is scary with Saborio and Paulo Jr not to mention Andy Williams who if interested in the game can be a game changer. Their defense is young but plays like they are experienced and the do so because they have the confidence their MLS best keeper Nick Rimando will save their bacon if they make a mistake. RSL has also made Rio Tinto stadium a house of horrors for opposing teams, which haven't won there in about 24 games.   

Prediction: 2nd and the only reason they are 2nd is they are in the running for the Champions league title while LA and NY are not.

San Jose Earthquakes

Player to Watch: Chris Wondolowski (F) was the 2010 golden boot winner (Most goals).

Quick Analysis: Wondo carried this team on his back for most of the season but I don't if his back can take it. Added on top of the higher expectations for Wondo his coach has lately played him in a more reserved forward role behind a target striker, this is not a role in which Wondo can excel and look for him to struggle if kept there. The rest of the San Jose team is made up of players who epitomize the term "role player". Bobby Convey is not the same player that took MLS by storm with DC, nor do they have any other big name player. San Jose barely squeaked into the playoffs by nabbing the last spot. With the other teams improving and San Jose remaining the same look for others to leap them in the standings.

Prediction: 7th, Wondo just can't produce at the same level as more teams will not take him as lightly as they did last year.

Seattle Sounders FC

Player to Watch: The obvious answer is Freddie Montero (F) but I really think the team success hinges on Steve Zakuani
Quick Analysis:The loss of Sanna Nyassi is really going to hurt this team. Nysassi was the sole reason they won the US Open Cup and single handily brought them out of a terrible stretch of games and propelled them into the play-offs. The Sounders seem to have a physcologically barrier if the ball does not go into the back of the net, if you watched the chances they created in the Cascadia Cup game against the Timbers you know what I mean. If the ball doesn't go in the back of the net and they are dominating the team they are playing they get nervous in front of the goal and more often than not totally blow their chance. Montero also gets very frustrated if the goals aren't coming and instead of playing lose he tightens up. If they can play lose they are a dangerous team but it seems lately they are playing tight and rigid rather than lose and free.
 
Prediction: 5th only because they have big mental road block to get by before they are even close to the level LA or RSL is, which is wear a lot of their fans think they are. (I have never seen a fan base have such high expectations for a team that really isn't there yet).

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Player to Watch: When he plays Omar Salgado (F) will be a player to watch but since he can't until September I would say Jay Demerit (D)

Quick Analysis: Talk about two different approaches to building a team, the Whitecaps could not have done it more different than the Timbers. The Caps are built for the future as they really took upside over ability with the first pick in the draft. They also built from the back with the big name signing Demerit while the Timbers signed a forward in Cooper. Their defense may be stingy and keep the ball out of the net but their offense looks anemic on paper. They will be in for a long first part of the season until things start to click and they may come on strong late in the season but it will be too little to late.

Prediction: 9th, they just aren't built to win right away and will struggle early.

Conference Standings:

 

 

  1. LA Galaxy
  2. Real Salt Lake
  3. Colorado Rapids
  4. FC Dallas
  5. Seattle Sounders
  6. Portland Timbers
  7. San Jose Earthquakes
  8. Chivas USA
  9. Vancouver Whitecaps
Look for the playoff prediction thread soon.
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