What The Preseason Has Taught Us

What The Preseason Has Taught Us

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 5, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, Features

Whitecaps were impressive this preseason. (Photo via Vancouver Whitecaps)

So here we are – the preseason is over – and now we can begin to get back to normal around here with the season opening up this weekend. Can you believe it? It seems November to this point in March has flown by with transfer moves, loads of different MLS drafts, preseason tournaments and plenty of talking points for the new season.

I plan to continue my positional rankings today and into this week leading up to my first power rankings of the year. I know you all loved ripping me for my keeper rankings last week, the defense is next.

But before then I do want to briefly examine what we’ve learned so far this preseason. The last two weeks or so the majority of the league has been involved in one of four tournaments in Portland, Tuscan, Charleston or Orlando. Which by the way, I love seeing these preseason stops stick around each year now for MLS. All of them have proven to be a good measuring stick this year to see where these clubs are at.

Only a couple clubs decided to play else where like Colorado in Hawaii, Seattle stuck to home and Philadelphia seemed to do their own thing. All in all though we have a good understanding of where teams should be at right now.

We know this too, the MLS season is a long one and it will be key to see who comes out of the gate hot and who does not.

Whitecaps make their case

Say what you will about all the offense that new manager Martin Rennie has brought in to Vancouver, he’s done one thing this preseason and that is win. His club won the Disney Classic in Orlando this past weekend, besting their Canadian rivals Toronto (though TFC did use a roster filled with academy and reserves in that final game).

Rennie wasn’t afraid to go out and get strikers this winter, that much has been reported but we should be excited about where his defense is going as we head into the season. During the four games in Orlando, the Caps won all four games and outscored their opposition 8-0. Young-Pyo Lee was one of the bigger names brought in this winter and he’s quickly shown that he can be an All-Star candidate this year at right-back.

This team is still very young however and if they plan on going the distance this year (playing well in MLS, playoffs, and getting though the Canadian Cup into the CCL), their depth will be tested.

D is for defense in Dallas

With the news that George John is returning to the Big D, there may be no better defense in this league than in Dallas (though I do believe RSL and LA are a bit better right now but you’ll see more on that later). I think once John and his teammates get on the same page, you could see a dominate defense in Dallas this season.

For the most part this is the same group that we’ve seen the last two seasons. The group is healthy, which is absolutely key. But what may be even bigger than their health right now is their depth. Schellas Hyndman went out and drafted defense and brought in defense.

On the flip side Dallas does lack the offensive depth that may come into play as the season goes on.

Seven-game road trip for Houston

The biggest thing coming out of the Disney tournament in my book was the play of the Houston Dynamo. Their defense is going to keep them in games all season long but for now their offense isn’t going to scare anyone. Yes, Brad Davis is back and this team will be tough to defend on set pieces but goals from the run of play are going to be few and far between until someone steps up.

The flanks are still in a bit of flux and this seven game road trip to start the season could prove to be a big measuring stick to see how this Dynamo team does this season. The talent is certainly there but depth wise I do worry about this team going into a busy season.

Will LA dominate again in 2012?

Obviously this is one of the bigger story lines going into the new season. We know how deep LA is across the field and we know about the talent that is there. But the question remains, can they do it again? MLS isn’t a league in which a team can win back-to-back trophies easily in. Winning the Supporters’ Shield two times in a row is one thing but winning it a third and going back to MLS Cup for a second straight season won’t be easy.

Let’s not forget their CCL adventures this season too. They open up the knockout round this week against Toronto, a team that is hungry for some hardware.

Bruce Arena has done a masterful job in LA but I honestly feel this could be his toughest season yet.

What about New York?

The Red Bulls have a weird sense surrounding them right now in my book. On paper they still have loads of talent across the pitch but seeing how they played this preseason gives us no insight to whether or not they have what it takes to be a special team in this league.

One thing that is good for Hans Backe and his club though is that they enter this season with much lower expectations than what they did in 2011. That only helps so much though as they are in New York after all and their owners did spend a fair amount of money on that roster.

In Arizona this past week it took them three games to just get a single goal. That is troubling. But of course the troubling part is their goalkeeper situation. That will certainly continue to be a talking point until one of the two youngsters show that they can be a big time force in MLS.

The West is strong, but the East could be good too

We’ve all talked all winter about how deep the Western Conference is and how weak the East looks in comparison. There is still a fair amount of that going into the new season but I do think the East has some talent. Sporting Kansas City should be the class of the East while I don’t think we can sleep on teams like Chicago, Columbus or D.C. United this year.

The big mystery will be with clubs like New York, Philadelphia and Toronto. All three show signs of being really good or a bit overrated. It just depends on which side shows up that will make this conference good or just so-so.