2010 MLS X-Factors

2010 MLS X-Factors

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 17, 2010
  • 2010 Season Previews, Chad Barrett, Clint Mathis, David Ferreira, Freddie Ljungberg, Geoff Cameron, Jason Hernandez, Javier Morales, Jimmy Neilsen, Joel Lindpere, Marco Pappa, Omar Cummings, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Santino Quaranta, Sebastien Le Toux, Shalrie Joseph, X-Factors

Santino Quaranta may be a bigger factor for D.C. United in 2010. (Getty Images)

Every team has that one guy that will either help lead them to the MLS promise-land or be partly the reason why they are stuck at home in November instead of seeing the playoffs. These are you X-Factor players.

I have one (maybe two) guys for each MLS team that are those X-Factors for this new season. Some guys are really no brainers while others may surprise you a bit. Its safe to say that each club needs a big year out of their X-Factors.

If you think I’m way off base on someone or think I missed a sure-fire X-Factor please list it below.

1. Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire): I thought long and hard about the Fire’s biggest X-Factor for the 2010 season. Part of me leaned towards Brian McBride but the rest of me stayed with Pappa. Mainly because the midfield will be more dependent of Pappa in 2010 now that Blanco is gone to Mexico.

Pappa will help control the midfield, which will help create goals for McBride, Patrick Nyarko and newly acquired Collins John.

2. Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA): This one wasn’t really hard to figure out though I did come close to writing down Jesus Padilla down. Kljestan has to control the midfield and generate offense for this club to reach the post season again in 2010. We saw glimpses in 2009 of what he really can be once he broke out of his early season slump that he was in.

The thing about Kljestan is he needs to have a fast start to the year and build up his confidence. If he does that then expect another strong year out of the Red-and-White.

3. Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids): We saw just how good he and Conor Casey can be together in 2009. The thing was the party ended and so did their season. I know a lot had to due to the midfield being all banged up but with the recent additions to that area they have no excuse anymore. I see Cummings as a big facilitator in that offense as he had double-digit assists last year before the wheels came off the wagon.

If Cummings doesn’t produce then don’t expect Casey to have high numbers again this year. The two went hand-in-hand last year in scoring goals.

4. Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew): I nearly went with Guillermo Barros Schelotto here but thinking about it more, the more I came to Rogers as this club’s X-Factor. As important as GBS is to the Crew, Rogers is pretty far up there. If he isn’t on the wings and producing quality passes in the midfield the team will suffer for it.

I think this is the perfect year for Rogers too. He will and should show that he’s a quality leader for the team too. If he can help bring in some goals this season the Crew will be all the better for it and will have another shot at a MLS Cup in the process.

5. Santino Quaranta (D.C. United): A lot, and I do mean a lot of pressure is going on Quaranta this winter. The word is he is coming into an attacking midfielder role of some sorts this year for Curt Onalfo. Honestly I love the idea of him facilitating things offensively for the Black-and-Red. The club is moving away from that tradition No.10 role in the midfield and guys like Quaranta and Clyde Simms will be asked of more this year.

But the question will be is he up for it? As long as he brings in some assists and helps get newcomer Christian Castillo involved in the midfield the club will be fine. If he throws in a few goals in the process I’m sure the Screaming Eagles will love him all the more for it. But if the pressure is too much he’ll get back out on the wings fairly quickly.

6. David Ferreira (FC Dallas): This one was simple for me, if Ferreira sets up the goals like he did towards the end of the season in 2009 for Dallas the club will make the playoffs easily in 2010. If he struggles however look for another playoff-less year in the Big D. He means that much to the offense and to a lesser extent the defense of this club. If he isn’t controlling things in the midfield then it puts pressure on the defense, it is as simple as that.

7. Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo): Another fairly simple one for me to pick out. Cameron moves into the midfield to replace Stuart Holden. If he succeeds it will continue to make Dominic Kinnear a genius. He along with Brad Davis have to drive the offense through the midfield for this club. There may be some growing pains at first but Cameron should slide comfortably into this role.

8. Jimmy Neilsen (Kansas City Wizards): The Wizards are going to be very interesting to watch early on this year. For one we’ll all need name tags on the players for a few weeks until we know who all these new guys are. Neilsen is one of those new guys, one that definitely got plenty of talk when he signed a while back. Neilsen takes over for the departed Kevin Hartman, who’s now in Dallas.

Neilsen is being brought in to smooth out a defense that was not so smooth in 2009. He’s known as a guy that controls his box very tightly and can organize any defense. If he gets this bunch organized and collected right in 2010 the Wizard’s could have a nice turn around.

9. Clint Mathis (LA Galaxy): Bruce Arena got most of the old band back together with this addition of Mathis at the SuperDraft in January. While some may think Landon Donovan is a X-Factor for this club I see Mathis as an even bigger one for a midfield that will definitely need his abilities to control things. If Mathis steps in and plays like he has in the past couple of seasons for Real Salt Lake then it will make Arena look more like a genius here. If Donovan ends up leaving town in the summer after the World Cup like most speculate, the Galaxy will have to lean more on Mathis at that time to keep the ball moving.

10. Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution): This one is pretty simple like it was a year ago, the ball for New England will run through Joseph once again in 2010. If he continues his MVP form the Revs will likely find themselves back in the playoffs again this year. Taylor Twellman could also be listed here once he is fully healthy again, but until then Joseph is it for the Revs.

11. Joel Lindpere (New York Red Bulls): From all the reports and people I’ve spoken to this winter about the Red Bulls (that didn’t center around Red Bull Arena), all mostly said the same thing – Lindpere is the guy in the midfield that can make them into winners again. That’s good news for a club that has seen nothing but failures over the years.

Most of the reports I saw on him this winter he did a great job of controlling the midfield and created good chances for the guys up top. It will be up to him to get the ball out to the wings and create chances. But this 30-year old Estonian international shouldn’t have too much issue with that pressure.

12. Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia Union): I asked around in Philly who some folks thought would be their biggest X-Factor and surprisingly the couple folks I spoke to said Le Toux. Simple reason really, if will likely have the pressure of creating their attack and controlling possession. If he can do that it will be easier on other MLS veterans like Fred and Alejandro Moreno to do what they do best on the wings and up top respectively.

13. Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake):  Yes Robbie Findley has to score and the defense has to hold up but the bigger thing that has to happen for a possibility of a repeat champion is the play of Morales has to return to MVP form. When he was on top of his game this club was a handful to deal with offensively and defensively there was less pressure.

Consistency will be key for Morales and RSL in 2010, along with finding balance to win on the road like they do at Rio Tinto Stadium.

14. Jason Hernandez (San Jose Earthquakes): A lot of the defensive pressure will likely fall on the Quakes vice-captain. If he is fully fit this season the Quakes defense will be much better because of it. Last year we saw their defense go into the gutters due largely to this man missing a lot of action.

15. Freddie Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders FC): I don’t like picking DPs for this but in this case it almost has to be. Ljungberg has to be the man to generate offense on a consistent basis in Seattle this year. When he was on his game last year the Sounders were easily one of the best teams in the league because of it. He has to help make Freddy Montero look good along the way too.

16. Chad Barrett (Toronto FC): I nearly went with Dwayne De Rosario but upon further look and with the recent news of Ali Gerba being sent home from a preseason camp makes me realize exactly how important Barrett is to this club’s offense in 2010. If Gerba gets the boot (which part of me thinks will happen), a lot of the offense weight goes straight to Barrett. We know the Reds will likely sign a striker in the summer transfer window but Barrett has to keep them afloat until then.

  • SDM

    Q- How many Chad Barretts does it take to hit the broad side of a barn?

    A- Trick question….Chad Barrett couldn't possibly hit the broad side of a barn.

    Lulz at Barrett being a “X-factor”.

  • greenarmy

    Great Article! Thx.

  • Kaiser

    Think Michael Stephens will be more of an x-factor for LA. The rookie will get plenty of time becuase of all the competitions the Galaxy will be in this year, and because Beckham will be out. I am hearing great things about the kid in the preseason, and if he continues to grow he could be an important contributor for a club that needs some youth in the midfield.

  • Kaiser

    Think Michael Stephens will be more of an x-factor for LA. The rookie will get plenty of time becuase of all the competitions the Galaxy will be in this year, and because Beckham will be out. I am hearing great things about the kid in the preseason, and if he continues to grow he could be an important contributor for a club that needs some youth in the midfield.