Could this be the year that Sigi Schmid and Seattle really celebrate? (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Could this be the year that Sigi Schmid and Seattle really celebrate? (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Earlier in the day I predicted how I thought the Eastern Conference would be in the new season.

Time now to examine the Western Conference for the 2013 MLS season.

To me the West is a bit of an interesting group of teams. Top to bottom I think they are still as deep as they have been these last couple of seasons but I do see a bit of a changing of the guard going on here. Teams we know will be good may not be as good as we’ve seen while others may surprise us.

I also see this conference being a lot tighter than last year with no real run away winner. Teams one through seven seem pretty set to me with the bottom two clubs having a few too many question marks for my mind right now.

1. Seattle Sounders FC

Yes I do think this is the year for Sigi Schmid and the Sounders. The biggest reason why in my book, no CCL games late in the year to complicate things. As important as it is for them to be in the CCL, not being in it for a season is just a big. It opens up the schedule a bit and allows Seattle to potentially have a healthy group of players when it matters most, in the playoffs. As long as they handle who will be scoring with Eddie Johnson this season, this team will be fine top to bottom.

2. LA Galaxy

Even without Landon Donovan for a few games here and there, without David Beckham and without the knowledge of who the next DP is in LA, I still really like this team. The big thing is the defense is set and healthy to start the year. They got younger in places that they needed to and I have serious high hopes for Homegrown player Gyais Zardes to make an impact with this club at some point this year. One thing we know about this bunch is they will click when they need to and given the talent still here, they’ll be just fine when they do.

3. San Jose Earthquakes 

I have some doubts about this club but I do see them in the thick of things for the long haul. The big question is can they rid themselves of costly mistakes in the defense that lead them to having to be the “goonies that never say die”? It caught up with them in the playoffs, a time that it mattered most. They have to prove to the league that last year wasn’t a fluke too. The talent is good with this group but the additional games in the fall in the CCL could make things tough on this group. Not to mention the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers that will see some key guys go out like Marvin Chavez and Victor Bernardez, could do some damage down the road too.

4. FC Dallas

You may call it a homer pick but I can tell you this about FC Dallas, you shouldn’t sleep on them just yet. Having a healthy David Ferreira to start the season is huge. Not to mention having some serious attacking strength for a change is also big. Kenny Cooper is happy to be back in Dallas. Eric Hassli, believe it or not, is extremely happy to be in Dallas. The locker room is buzzing too. They have some concerns should Ferreira not be able to go the full season and depth coverage on the wings is lacking. But the team made some bold moves that will pay off for them.

5. Real Salt Lake

One club that takes a pretty big dip in 2013 is RSL. Okay, maybe not a big dip but second to fifth is a fall. I think the big reason why they’ll take a slight dip here is due to some of the change in the roster. I see them stumbling a little bit at first with guys like Chris Schuler and Luis Gil having more responsibilities and duties than before. Those kinds of stumbles could be the difference between second and fifth this season. Again, I see the West being very tight this season. Just because I have them at fifth doesn’t mean they are a weaker team. Just somewhere along the way a dry spell will hurt them.

6. Portland Timbers

I went back and forth on the Timbers here. I do think they’ll be extremely different than last year under Caleb Porter but in a good way. But much like Salt Lake, those early growing pains will be the difference between reaching the playoffs and making the playoffs. But saying that, if Diego Valeri can be the big DP that we’ve seen out of him this preseason, then this prediction will be really off.

7. Vancouver Whitecaps

Another team that I’ve gone back and forth on. They made several moves this offseason that I liked but I still worry about their offense up front. Darren Mattocks wants the keys to lead the team but I’m not so sure he has the maturity yet to really guide this group back into the playoffs. The defense will be just as strong as it was a year ago and I do think Martin Rennie learned from his mistakes last year with his midseason roster blow up. He won’t do nearly that this year.

8. Colorado Rapids

Oscar Pareja has a good, young bunch of players right now. The thing is the key guys in his midfield and attack are hurt to start the season. Throw that in with the fact that they aren’t that deep yet in experience and that spells struggles for the new season. I think they’ll be competitive but once again the consistency factor will be an issue in the Mile High City.

9. Chivas USA

Another roster that got blown up due to a coaching change. One thing I’ve said about their new coach Chelis since day one, this club will no longer be boring. I just don’t know if they will be any good this season. Their lack of offense right now is a big trouble spot and I’m not convinced their defense is any better than they were a season ago. If Chivas can be patient with Chelis, they could grow into a better team but I see a lot of bumps along the way.