2011 MLS Previews: Forward Rankings

2011 MLS Previews: Forward Rankings

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 9, 2011
  • 6 Comments
  • 2011 MLS Power Rankings, 2011 MLS Season, 2011 MLS Season Preview, 2011 Season Preview, MLS Power Rankings

Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo should be the top striking force in the league for 2011. (Getty Images)

Can you believe the season is less than a week away now? Seriously, the preseason is nearly up and we’re finally going to be getting back into some regular season action here. I’m wrapping up my positional rankings today with the forwards group. I’ll have my first official team Power Rankings to kick off the week on Monday, for those interested.

To recap a bit, here are links to the keeper, defenders and midfield rankings that I’ve already done. Again, I’ll go back at the end of the season and re-do these to see how good/bad I was at projecting things.

I know I received a lot of comments on the midfield rankings, particularly over the Chicago Fire. I get it, but again, these are preseason rankings and will likely change for each club by the season’s end. Just because your club’s ranking is low in one of these positional rankings doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be that low in the overall team rankings.

Anyways, let’s get down to the task at hand for the day. Below are the forward rankings as we head into the new season.

1. New York Red Bulls – I thought long and hard about this one and sure the Red Bulls lost Juan Pablo Angel but I view having a healthy Thierry Henry along with an up and coming star like Juan Agudelo to be pretty nice. Depth could be an issue but it’s not something I’m too worried about yet with this bunch. I do look for big things out of the Red Bulls in 2011, and their offense is the reason why.

2. Real Salt Lake – You could easily make the argument to have RSL at the top slot for the forwards and I do get that. RSL will score goals and in bunches too. Alvaro Saborio should continue to haunt teams all season long and if Paulo Jr. can continue to impress this ranking could easily move up to number one at the end of the year. I’m also curious to see how long it will take Cody Arnoux to get involved with the club as well.

3. LA Galaxy – They lose Edson Buddle and gain Juan Pablo Angel. Before Angel signed it looked as though they were desperate for some striking options as they traded for Adam Cristman and Chad Barrett. I do expect Barrett to do well in LA. Yes he will miss plenty of chances like he always does but he’s bound to get on the end of a few Landon Donovan or David Beckham crosses this season.

4. Colorado Rapids – Omar Cummings and Conor Casey will continue to be the focal point for Gary Smith’s offense in 2011. This could be a low rating to some folks out there but I am more curious to see how they handle the pressure of being a defending champion this season. Also, holding on to Cummings will continue to be a key issue that the Rapids will face all year.

5. Seattle Sounders FC – I do believe this could be a big year for Fredy Montero. His production last season carried the Sounders at various points in the year and having guys like Blaise Nkufo around longer will only help increase his production.

6. FC Dallas – Could be a little high considering the gaps in age the club has on their roster at this position and the loss of Jeff Cunningham. Milton Rodriguez and Maykel Galindo (he’s still on trial but he’ll likely sign) are a lot older than the young guns waiting in the wings in Ruben Luna, Jonathan Top and newly signed Colombian striker Fabian Castillo. Should Castillo turn into the Montero-like signing the club is hoping for and Rodriguez stays healthy, the offense should thrive. Throw in Luna’s likely breakout production and this ranking will end up higher at seasons end.

7. Philadelphia Union – This one could be higher if we knew that Carlos Ruiz was his old MVP self or just another striker in the lineup. My gut tells me he’ll produce and that’s good news as the Union will need his production to help out Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga.

8. Portland Timbers – Yeah, I do believe what John Spencer has brought in there in Portland will score plenty of goals. Kenny Cooper will look to rebound his career a bit as he comes back to MLS and he’ll lead a healthy stable of strikers that could really push clubs around this season. I do think rookie Darlington Nagbe will be a Rookie of the Year contender as well.

9. San Jose Earthquakes – This feels low even considering the fact that they have Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski. But it also feels high because they have basically nothing after him. In a way you could say this is just out of respect to what Wondo did a season ago. If he produces like he did a season ago then this ranking will be justified a bit but he still needs help.

10. Houston Dynamo – Brian Ching isn’t getting any younger but boy the addition of rookie Will Bruin excites me about this bunch. I also think the addition of Jason Garey will be a solid one for them as well. I still wonder if they’ll ever make a big splash on a DP at striker again though after the failed experiment that was Luis Angel Landin.

11. Sporting Kansas City – This one feels a bit low but that is because I’m nervous about the health of Teal Bunbury starting out the year. I do think that Kei Kamara and Omar Bravo, along with Bunbury make for an exciting group of attackers. Sporting will score some goals this year but they do have to hope these three stay healthy for the long haul because depth isn’t quite there yet.

12. D.C. United – The Black-and-Red were an interesting bunch to rate. They have quality guys like Chris Pontius, veterans Josh Wolff and then they have Charlie Davies. I believe as Davies goes, so will United this season on offense. Ben Olsen has to hope for the best out of Davies and I think he’ll prove he’s back to his old self again here. At least the USMNT fan in me is hoping so.

13. Vancouver Whitecaps – This one was going to be much lower up until the last day or so. Signing DP Eric Hassli and playmaker Davide Chiumiento help push them up a little higher. I also like the expansion draft pick of Atiba Harris. If they can some how get number one overall pick Omar Salgado able to play before his 18th birthday then this group could be all the better.

14. Columbus Crew – Between Jeff Cunningham searching for his MLS all-time scoring mark and the tandem of Emilio Renteria and Andres Mendoza could be a fairly underrated duo. If rookie Justin Meram can develop quickly, the Crew could be in the thick of things in the east.

15. Chivas USA – Robin Fraser has plenty of capable strikers in Justin Braun, Alejandro Moreno, Alan Gordon, and Tristan Bowen. My concern is which duo will work best with one another? That could still take some time to sort out. But don’t sleep on rookie Victor Estupinan doing well with Chivas. He could be the reason that Chivas is a part of some early season trades for guys like Gordon or Moreno.

16. Chicago Fire – I want to say the Fire are better than this but I view Patrick Nyark of a midfielder than a striker. I am curious to see how well newcomers Gaston Puerari and Diego Chaves work out for the club. Both are young and could either be huge for the club or just another international bust for the club.

17. New England Revolution – Its a big year for Steve Nicol’s club. A lot of pressure falls on this group though. They are all wanting to prove themselves this year. If they can get more out of Illija Stolica this year then maybe they’ll be okay. They still have hardly any solid experience up top though.

18. Toronto FC – Can’t keep up with who is in camp for Toronto up top this winter? You’re not alone. This is going to be a very long season in Toronto.

  • I think the bottom six will really struggle for offense. Vancouver is more of an enigma but unless someone becomes an expansion draft Le Toux they will be hurting. DC, Hou, Port and San Jose all seem to be in the same group- they each have 1 forward and some questions marks but good service to justify a decent offense. I think KC should be higher, I would say KC 6, Philly 7 and Dallas 8. Dallas I think is hard to rank because if we were ranking simply offense then yes 6 is fair but simply forward and it seems too high bc a lot of the scoring comes from that line right behind their solo forward but they definitely have potential with Luna and Castillo. 1-5 seems fair,any of those teams could be ranked 1, I think Saborio will continue to be a monster and Paulo Jr. will have double digits in goals.

    • The top few and bottom few were simple to rank, either the offense is there or it isn’t. But the mess in the middle is a toss up for right now. We really don’t know what to expect out of several clubs just yet.

  • baumer

    Enjoying these write ups. One request: please include the projected starting lineups in your full team rankings.

  • Efulton

    Definitely a homer here, but nonetheless, I think that the Rapids have the best forward tandem in the league, and with the likely acquisition of Hull City’s Caleb Forlan, won’t have any depth issues (especially with Andre Akpan’s continued growth this preseason). Eric Fulton – http://www.fcdenver.org

    • No shame in being a homer Eric, many folks who are on here are. 🙂

  • MOUF

    lol, SKC 11th? you have ot be kidding me? Bunbury dislocated his elbow, you could cut his arm off at the elbow and it would really effect play for christ sake.