The West side of MLS was easier to rank for me, but only marginally. The league's power balance still leans toward the Pacific.
Last year's top regular season dogs made all the right roster moves to contend for a Supporters Shield repeat. One also must wonder: can they be the first MLS club to win the Champions League? I wouldn't bet against them.
With Guzman holding down the fort, Nagbe hogging the ball and that sick offense running wild, they should make do until their expected center back signing arrives midseason. From then on, it says here they'll roll to MLS Cup.
The additions of Shipp and Bruin, the emergence of Kovar, and full seasons from Dempsey and Lodeiro mean the offense should be improved. Heaven help them if injuries hit the back line, though.
Real Salt Lake
Is it just me or is everyone sleeping on RSL? Every line got an infusion of fresh talent. Man oh man, are Movsisyan and Plata gonna love running with Rusnak, Allen, Lennon & friends...
Don't mistake their ranking here for disrespect. This steady-as-she-goes group would threaten to win the East... so long as they shelved the wholly unnecessary Zusi-as-right back nonsense. As is, they are about a Nemeth away from being a legit title threat.
I nearly picked them to miss the playoffs, but we all know some badass DP-signing will arrive in July. Still, this team is opening the season with far too many injury woes and heavy responsibilities for green players to impress much early.
The Caps might seem a fairly safe pick to make the playoffs out of the East - but they're not in the East. As with a few other teams that enjoyed fruitful offseasons, this team may be a year away from true contention. For now, they are my "close but no cigar" pick in this conference.
It's not that I dislike this group (insert hypothetical reference to what could happen if they played in the East here), but they are primed for a regression to the mean. One can only subsist on 1-0 wins for so long and the Rapids did not do enough to boost the attack.
This revamped Dynamo side should be thrilling, inconsistent, encouraging and maddening - perhaps sometimes all of those things in a single afternoon. There's a lot of exciting new cogs that will need some time to fit together.
I like most of the Quakes' offseason additions. Their back and midfield crew should keep them in most games. The problem is I don't believe Hoesen and Ureña finish well enough to help Wondo (who is now 34, folks) carry the scoring load.
While much of the roster will need time to acclimate to MLS, this is certainly not a bad team. Not at all. They just play in the killer conference.
Tomorrow, I'll go out on the limb to predict an MLS Cup winner, some award winners and a Best XI. Now, if you'll excuse, I need to get ready for the Minnesota-Portland tilt.
- Greg Seltzer