Monday Lunch: MLS, Where Does your Team Stand?

Posted: April 4, 2011 in mls
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

By Evan Ream

After three games for most teams (though two to four for some), I feel like there is a decent enough sample size to assess each team’s chances of winning MLS Cup as well as the Supporter’s Shield. I have therefore divided up all the teams into these four categories:

Rebuilding– This team will not make the playoffs this year, they are at least one year and one or more key players away from doing so.

Playoff Contender– not to be confused with an MLS Cup Contender, these teams simply have a good shot at making the playoffs and nothing more; likely a first round exit.

MLS Cup Contender– These are the second-tier teams (such as Colorado from last year) who will almost assuredly make the playoffs, but aren’t quite as good as the top teams. In a four game (or five now) tournament, one of these teams could catch fire and unexpectedly win the cup (like the last two years).

Supporter’s Shield Contender– These first-tier teams have the quality and depth to bring it every night. These teams should finish in the top three or four of the league and have a great chance to win the Supporter’s Shield as well as MLS Cup.

Rebuilding Teams(or building in Portland’s case): Portland, Chivas USA, Toronto FC, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution

You can’t really make a case for Portland, Chivas, or Toronto to not be listed in this group so I won’t really go over it. Chicago and New England are different cases though. Chicago have been unimpressive in their first two games. In both games, they were up a man against their opponent and yet struggled against them. Dallas probably should have beat them, but they suffered from poor finishing, while Kansas City would have been a much different team had Teal Bunbury played the whole game. Chicago are a mediocre team with a bad coach and just one star player (Marco Pappa). This team will start struggling in a few weeks once everyone figures out that Pappa is their only impact player.

New England on the other hand has been impressive, and by impressive I mean terrible. I don’t usually like to blame referee decisions, but against LA, the Revs had four goals called back. Two of those were good calls, one was questionable, and one was terrible. Either way the Revolution’s defense didn’t look good and they were exposed by a team that started Chad Barrett and Mike Magee up top. Against DC, their goals came from one terrible no-call and one questionable call. DC’s goal was questionable as well; in my mind this game was just a 0-0 game that the ref screwed up. Of course, none of this matters because they have five points from three games, but I watched two of their games (LA, DC) and they were thoroughly dominated in both. The Revolution will come back down to Earth in the coming weeks.

Playoff Contenders:FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC, Houston Dynamo, Vancouver Whitecaps, Columbus Crew, San Jose Earthquakes

These teams will all contend for the playoffs, but will be unable to win MLS Cup this year, all for different reasons. All these teams could be MLS Cup contenders if they find the missing ingredient required.

FC Dallas need to find a suitable replacement for Dax McCarty so the pressure can be taken off of David Ferreira and their offense can actually do something.

Seattle Sounders FC need to find decent outside backs, and a reliable goal-scorer.

Houston need to control more of the possession and stop relying on Tally Hall (they allowed 26 shots against Seattle). They also need to find a reliable scorer.

Vancouver still have a lot of question marks about their defense and how good some of their players actually are. Their depth in their defense is poor and they have allowed two goals per game. They could use an upgrade at keeper.

Columbus Crew need to find someone who is going to score the goals for them (Andres Mendoza is a joke for a DP). Also, this actually has nothing to do with how bad they are, but if Julius James couldn’t make it in Toronto, Houston, and DC, how is he starting over Andy Iro?

San Jose Earthquakes need to find their #10, a playmaker that can actually set up Chris Wondolowski. The Earthquakes are much too reliant on Bobby Convey and their flank play.

MLS Cup Contenders: DC United, Philadelphia Union, Sporting KC, Colorado Rapids

Before you backlash at my inclusion of DC United into this list, give me a chance to explain myself. DC WILL make the playoffs. I promise you that. Once they get into the playoffs, they will obviously field their Best XI, which has happened exactly zero times this year. The closest thing we saw to their Best XI was week one in which they dominated the Crew. In Week 2, they played without two first choice defenders and a first choice midfielder and dominated but lost to New England. Week 3 they played Colorado and actually had even play, but Colorado scored on all four of their shots on goal. Oh and DC was playing with three back-up defenders. This team has enough good players to put together a good run and click when it matters.

So why is Colorado with this group? Many people have them as one of the best teams in the league right now, but they haven’t proven anything yet. They beat an expansion team in its first game at home, a terrible Chivas team on the road, and a team missing five starters at home in the snow. Yes, they have nine points, but let’s see them do it against better competition. Furthermore, their depth has yet to be proven. Attacking wise it obviously isn’t a problem as they go four deep at forward and three deep at outside mid, but who will replace Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, or any of the defenders or the keeper if they get hurt or tired? There are no clear replacements.

Philadelphia has been impressive in all three of their games, winning away at Houston, at home against Vancouver, and losing on a set piece at LA. This team is very strong defensively and should be offensively once Le Toux, Mwanga, and Ruiz break out.

Sporting KC is probably the most interesting team here. On one hand, they have scored eight goals in three games with their highly-touted forwards scoring seven of them. On the other hand, they can’t stop anyone on defense. Sporting should make the playoffs and light up the scoreboard, but out of all the teams in this group, they are probably the weakest due to their terrible defense.

Supporter’s Shield Contenders: LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, New York Red Bulls

None of these teams needs an explanation. They all have at least three game changing players (Angel, Beckham, Donovan for the Galaxy; Morales, Saborio, Beckerman, Olave for RSL; and De Rosario, Richards, Ream, Marquez, Agudelo, and Henry if he starts actually trying for New York), they all have deep teams, and they all play every game to win. New York probably has the worst chance of winning the Shield out of these three just due to the fact that they will probably lose Greg Sutton, Roy Miller, Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez, Dwayne De Rosario, Dane Richards and Juan Agudelo for the Gold Cup (seven starters if you’re counting), though they were impressive against Columbus missing most of these guys. Regardless, these three teams have to be the favorite

Golden Boot Watch (My preseason pick in bold):

Player                       GP     G     A

1. Charlie Davies        2        3      0

Teal Bunbury          2       3      0

3. Atiba Harris            3       2      3

4. Camilo                   3        2      1

5. Caleb Folan            2        2      0

51. Alvaro Saborio   1        0      0

Unbeaten Teams Remaining:

Colorado Rapids

Real Salt Lake

New England Revolution

New York Red Bulls

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