2010 MLS Preview: Western Conference

2010 MLS Preview: Western Conference

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 23, 2010
  • 2 Comments
  • 2010 Season Previews
Freddy Montero and the Seattle Sounders should have a lot to celebrate in 2010. (Getty Images)

Freddy Montero and Seattle should have a lot to celebrate in 2010. (Getty Images)

While the Eastern Conference seems to be a total crap shoot to predict the Western Conference is just as tough, the only difference is the clubs out west are a lot deeper than those back east. Clubs out west haven’t seen as much change this winter as those in the east. Only one coaching change in the west (Chivas) unlike the four in the east (five if you lump in expansion Philadelphia).

The west was deep in 2009 and I really would argue that it only got a bit deeper in 2010. Clubs loaded up and didn’t radically change their lineups like some in the east did this winter.

Below is how I see the Western Conference playing out this season. I may be totally right on this and then again I may be totally off on this. We’ll see come October I suppose but overall I see another title coming out of the west this year.

I hope to have my Preseason Power Rankings up tomorrow along with my 2010 season predictions.

(below is a projected order of finish)

1. Seattle Sounders FC (2009 Record: 12-7-11)

Ins and outs: Just like most of the west, Seattle didn’t lose a lot and the also didn’t add a lot this winter. They added a little depth up top though one player (Blaise Nkufo) won’t be with the club until this summer. One has to wonder if an aged striker like Nkufo will really pay off for the Sounders. Their previous signings from overseas have paid off thus far so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Who to watch for: For this club to go where I and others think they will go in year two, they must get even more out of Freddy Montero in 2010. No doubt he’ll be pushing for a big start to the season so he can get some possible transfer talk for the summer window. They could also use a big year out of second year star Steve Zakuani.

Final thoughts: I have trouble thinking Sigi Schmid’s team will go into a sophomore slump here this season. The schedule did get a little harder with the CONCACAF Champions League games later in the year and the fact that they will be asked to defend that US Open Cup title but with some additions later this summer I see Schmid’s team holding their own and going pretty far this year.

2. LA Galaxy (2009 Record: 12-6-12)

Ins and outs: I’ve said before that I loved what they did in January at the SuperDraft with getting Clint Mathis from RSL and drafting Michael Stephens. But the bigger thing here is the three Brazilians. Lots of talk that they are settling in well so far this preseason, which means their depth issues should have been answered here.

Who to watch for: Edson Buddle needs another big year if the Galaxy are to hope for another MLS Cup run in 2010. I think he cooled off too much last year after his breakout year in 2008. If he can return to top form from a couple seasons ago then look out, the Galaxy will be one tough team to beat this year.

Final Thoughts: I still find this to be a very talent team. I expect more out of their defense this year with Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin becoming a duo in the back that no one wants to face. Landon Donovan needs to have another MVP-type season, which shouldn’t be too hard.

3. Real Salt Lake (2009 Record: 11-12-7)

Ins and outs: They didn’t lose much but they did add some parts that will make them more built for the future. I’m not sure if they are more built for this year or down the road though with some of these younger guys. Still if Alvaro Saborio scores some goals to help push Robbie Findley this club will be easily in contention in 2010.

Who to watch for: For me I want to see if Robbie Findley can keep up his form from last year. He was too inconsistent at times last year for me. He’d score a couple goals in a game then be cold for a month.

Final thoughts: They were still a sub-.500% last year before their amazing playoff run. I think this year they’ll be much better in terms of a record but with a tougher schedule I think they’ll fall just short of an automatic bid out west for the playoffs. They’re good but I want to see if they correct their issues on the road where they were terrible last year. If they do that there is no doubt in my mind they’ll be in the thick of things this year.

4. Houston Dynamo (2009 Record: 13-8-9)

Ins and outs: We know the big ones, Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark are gone. I do like the addition or return of Adrian Serioux though, that will easily help stabilize the defense through the midfield. Also don’t sleep on Academy star Francisco Navas Cobo who recently signed. He’ll be a star soon in this league, I can feel it.

Who to watch for: Its simple, if Geoff Cameron can help move the offense forward in 2010 this club will not miss a beat. In fact I’d say if he helps produce like I think he will this club will even finish higher than forth.

Final Thoughts: Some see this club on the decline and in a way they are but they’ll still be a very strong club in 2010 and a very tough one to beat. I don’t see them contending for a title just yet unless they make some serious moves this summer. But with Dominic Kinnear at the helm you know they will.

5. FC Dallas (2009 Record: 11-13-6)

Ins and outs: Not much came in and not much went out. Dallas had a quality SuperDraft with the picks of Zach Loyd and Andrew Wiedeman. They also beefed up their goalkeeper situation with Kevin Hartman. They did however lose their big assist man in Dave van den Burgh, who they decided not to do anything with this winter. Still a fishy situation there if you ask me.

Who to watch for: I think this is the year we see some of these young stars finally break out. The big one will be Brek Shea who I think will have a good year in Dallas. The Red Stripes have drafted very young these last few years, its about time that pays off for them.

Final thoughts: I have said Dallas is my dark-horse this year but as deep as the west is this season and with the parity in the league will finishing fifth get them in the playoffs? It may but it won’t be easy. Dallas will have to find another scorer with Jeff Cunningham up top or else they will be looking at another long season.

6. Chivas USA (2009 Record: 13-11-6)

Ins and outs: Chivas seemed to trim some fat on their roster and by doing so they went out and added Osael Romaro and Michael Umaña to go along with all their other loands that they are doing right now (like Jesus Padilla). Still they did get a little younger overall which should help.

Who to watch for: If Sacha Kljestan and his mustache can return to his old glory days of a couple years ago then this club will be higher when it is all said and done.

Final thoughts: Part of me thinks Chivas will be a lot better without Preki as manager but the rest of me worries that they don’t have the offense to stay with clubs out west. As deep and rough as the west will be this year they’ll have to find ways to win ugly again this year. They could easily finish anywhere between 2nd and 7th in the west in my eyes.

7. Colorado Rapids (2009 record: 10-10-10)

Ins and outs: I like their additions to the midfield with Wells Thompson and Jeff Larentowicz. Plus their pickup of Andre Akpan in the SuperDraft was a possible steal.

Who to watch for: Omar Cummings and Conor Casey have to light things up again, and consistently. They do that they’ll find themselves as a playoff club in 2010.

Final thoughts: I wanted to think the Rapids would finish higher in 2010 but the fact is their defense still worries me and their offense is razor thin after Akpan, Casey and Cummings. If one or more gets hurt they will be in serious trouble. I still think they lack a central playmaker in the midfielder too. They’ll be tough to play but until they address some issues I’ll take my chances with saying they’ll finish down here.

8. San Jose Earthquakes (2009 record: 7-14-9)

Ins and outs: The Quakes dumped some salary but also went out and added some parts that should beef up their attack and defense. As long as newcomer Eduardo scores with Ryan Johnson and Ike Opara helps stabilize a dreadful defense we could see a nice turn around here.

Who to watch for: Johnson once again will have to lead the way in the scoring department for the Quakes. He’s a quality player that just needs more around him.

Final thoughts: San Jose should be improved from their dismal 2009 season but in a very strong conference like the west it won’t be easy for them to get any higher than where they finished a year ago. Frank Yallop and John Doyle built this club and are continuing to do just that but I have to wonder if the patience is running thin out west.

  • Paul

    Montero is a marked man, and will get little breathing room since no one on the team takes any offensive pressure off of him. If Montero continues to get doubled or gets injured who will score goals for Seattle..? Sounders will do well, but they lack goalscorers outside of Montero. Nkufo doesn't arrive till mid-season, after finishing a World Cup and a full season in Holland..you have to think he will be at his best in 2011 season, not 2010, for Seattle.

    I agree that Dallas will be an improved side.

  • Paul

    Montero is a marked man, and will get little breathing room since no one on the team takes any offensive pressure off of him. If Montero continues to get doubled or gets injured who will score goals for Seattle..? Sounders will do well, but they lack goalscorers outside of Montero. Nkufo doesn't arrive till mid-season, after finishing a World Cup and a full season in Holland..you have to think he will be at his best in 2011 season, not 2010, for Seattle.

    I agree that Dallas will be an improved side.