Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top 5 MLS Spines

Yep, it's our preseason MLS spines list, a series that was, believe it or not, the topic of the second ever post on NSC. I, of course, take into account all recent preseason acquisitions and reserve the right to pick through these depth charts. The spines lists usually unfairly penalize teams for concentrating talent out wide in 4-3-3's, so keep in mind that teams like SKC and TFC will not be represented here. We'll get a top 5 MLS wings in the... wings. Heh.

#5 - Portland (Perkins, Brunner, Mosquera, Jewsbury, Nagbe, Boyd) 

This was an agonizing choice. With Steve Zakuani, Seattle is an easier choice with Alvaro Fernandez sliding inside to pair up with Osvaldo Alonso, a perfect CM combo in the 4-4-2. But as is, Zakuani may not return until June. And he still reportedly has just 80 percent feeling in his foot. So forward we pile with a group that was pushed over the top by the signing of Kris Boyd, who is expected to challenge for the Golden Boot off the bat. Hanyer Mosquera has a ton of potential and Jack Jewsbury finally has a hungry target to pick out. If we're going all Paul the Octopus today, I like Portland to make its first playoff appearance this year after a strong expansion season. And it's only February.

#4 - FC Dallas (Hartman, John, Ihemelu, Hernandez, Ferreira, Perez)

Like we'll see in a minute with DC, this could branch off in a few different directions. FCD has been experimenting with the 4-4-2 in preseason and had some success with it, so Hyndman's one-striker look might turn into Fabian Castillo sliding alongside Blas Perez, which would make this even more formidable. Perez may finally afford FCD the productive striker they've longed to pair with David Ferreira, who can be the best playmaker in MLS on a good day. I'm making some assumptions here with George John. West Ham has the option to buy after John's two-month loan runs its course, but as recently as a week ago, he wasn't even making the bench. So I'm not only expecting John to return, but also to hit a good run of form pretty quickly. We'll see.

#3 - DC United (Hamid, McDonald, Dudar, Kitchen, Boskovic, De Rosario, Salihi)

There's a ton of potential here, but there are also a ton of ways Ben Olsen could go with this lineup. DeRo could be pushed out wide (or up top) and Kitchen could put in most of his shifts at fullback, so it's hard to say. But if the spine straightens out with the most rod-iron strength possible, this is what I imagine it to look like. Bosko and Kitchen in support roles behind DeRo, who fills the CAM role as well as anybody in the league. I can understand the reluctance to hand the single striker reins to Salihi out of the box, which is why we could see him paired with a second striker to start the year to ease him into the pool. But by the beginning of summer, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see it look something like this.

#2 - Real Salt Lake (Rimando, Olave, Borchers, Morales, Beckerman, Espindola)

Salt Lake gets major points for continuity. All of these guys are familiar with each other, which plays well especially when the season turns into a grim grind in the dying days of summer. With the departures of Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez, the GK/CB trio of Nick Rimando, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers is now, by multiple country miles, the best such grouping in the league. Borchers is recovering from offseason surgery but should be good to go early, meaning RSL's goals against number will continue to hover toward the top of the league all year. Morales and Beckerman need no introductions, while Alvaro Saborio might split shifts with Paulo Junior as he too recovers from offseason surgery.

#1 - LA Galaxy (Saunders, DeLaGarza, Leonardo, Beckham, Juninho, Keane)

The talent Bruce Almighty has to work with here is unholy. The only dent in the armor is the absence of Omar Gonzalez, but again, A.J. DeLaGarza worked hard enough in 2011 to earn an international call-up, and he should be able to cover for Gonzo's replacement as he adjusts early in the year. Leonardo won't return from injury until April, so Boyens and Meyer are both fighting for his PT in the meantime. Aside from that? Woof. Juninho's return almost seems unfair, because nobody benefits more than Beckham, who now has license to be a bit more adventurous in the middle. It also has the potential of keeping his tiring legs from running out of juice later in the year. Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle can both expect consistently excellent service, not that they'd even need it. Expectation, again, will be LA's only real impediment in 2012.

- Will Parchman

1 comment:

Jay said...

Portland's depth this season has somehow become rather impressive. It's a pretty stark contrast to Seattle, in fact. I'd give Hurtado/Parke the edge over Brunner/Mosquera (an as-yet unknown quantity, mind you), but once you get past those two Seattle's centerback support disappears faster than a $100 bill sitting on the sidewalk.