It’s that time of year, everyone! When MLS seems likely to go on a work stoppage, but the media needs to pretend they aren’t, because if we think they will and they play on as normal, starting with LA vs. Chicago on Friday the 6th, we’ll have egg on our face. So, we’ll carry on as normal: making reckless predictions, over-hyping players to the point of Adu-ness, and waxing poetic on the alleged sorry state of a team that ends up winning the MLS Cup.
Once the season is done, we’ll address this again; applauding the good forecasts and cringing at the bad. Unless of course my predictions are particularly dreadful, in which case I will use appropriate measures (
mind control things other than mind control) to keep us from revisiting. But that’s in the future, this is about the present, where we predict the future (of MLS).
Here’s the crack team that Soccer Yanks (the website you are on right now) will use to erroneously anoint Stephen Lenhart MVP:
Daniel Holt – that’s me. A few times I add unobtrusive commentary to interesting predictions in brackets like these: “.” @DH3soccer
Dan D. – captain of this fine ship, the RBNY supporter authorized my ability to make words appear on this site, and authorized these predictions to happen. @SoccerYankDan
Chris Gluck – Portland Timbers fan who organized Power Rankings for a bit last year. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Power Rankings, it’s basically breaking the unexpected news to internet soccer fans that their teams aren’t good. It makes predictions look easy. @ChrisGluckPWP
Kyle Bennett – he shares the last name of one of the Men in Blazers and the favorite EPL team of the other. Not relevant, just an interesting fact. Half of the Carefree Blues podcast for us Chelsea fans. @KBJelly
Jack L. – he’s been a Fire fan for most of his life, and he’s drawn up some nice predictions here. Also: he’s not Jack London, unfortunately. (And I don’t believe he’s on Twitter? Well, neither is Jack London.)
(And just to clarify, all of the text not in the “” brackets after their names is written by them, with only minor formatting, spelling, and grammar errors from myself.)
Newcomer of the Year
This is MLS Next! While last year marked the end of two eras as legends Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry retired, this year has seen new big-name stars deciding to play in the US, such as David Villa and Mix Diskerud for New York City FC or Kaka for Orlando City, or Canada, with Sebastian Giovinco’s arrival at Toronto FC. Lots of cynicism surrounds these players, but I find it nothing but exciting. Which one of these big signings will prove their worth the most?
Daniel – David Villa. I was going to do something cool like Mix Diskerud or something, but it has to be one of the magical trio we’re predicting, right? Or at least if it’s anyone else it’s too much of a long shot to predict.
Dan – The Brazil and former Real Madrid superstar Kaka is going to take the league by storm.
Chris – Kaka.
Kyle – Sebastian Giovinco. It will help that he’ll play alongside Jozy Altidore, and will get service from Michael Bradley. I just think this one is a no-brainer. Brings a ton of experience to a team that NEEDS to make the playoffs.
Jack – Sebastian Giovinco. An important signing, leaving a club like Juventus for Toronto F.C. is a bold move. A great player, it will be great to see what he can do.
Jay – David Villa. He walks into the league as one of the best finishers to ever come into the league. There should be enough attacking talent on the roster to provide service and with questions on the defensive end, NYCFC will need to score a ton.
Rookie of the Year
It’s a fact that the college game is becoming less relevant in the age of the homegrown player, but still, lots of the league’s top stars come that way, and the list of Rookie of the Years includes names such as Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu, Michael Parkhurst, and Omar Gonzalez. Who will join them?
Daniel – Cyle Larin. Orlando have several forwards, but I don’t think any of them will nail down the position. It’s open for Larin, the #1 pick out of UConn already with Canadian caps under his belt, to shine; something not unlikely with Kaka giving him service.
Dan – Leo Stolz, RBNY.
Kyle – Cyle Larin. Because we share the same first name, though spelled differently. (The guy I’d really like to win, though highly unlikely because he’s not a goalscorer, is Kwadwo Poku. He has impressed for NYCFC in their preseason friendlies. There are already comparisons to Yaya Toure, though I’m not necessarily going to make that comparison. I think he’ll be key to holding down the NYCFC midfield before Frank Lampard joins the squad.)
Jack – Khiry Shelton. Second pick this year for New York City, I think he’ll learn a lot from the veterans like Lampard and Villa, develop his own style, and flourish in the Big Apple.
Jay – Ignacio Maganto. Maganto and Stolz are the two most pro ready players to come out of the college draft. As long as the attacker from Madrid gets a large portion of Landon Donovan’s minutes his talent will shine.
Breakout Player of the Year
Many of the leagues top players are established, with years of success gracing their resumes. But it isn’t always like that. Stars need to start somewhere, and every year we see a few players come out of nowhere to shine bright for their teams, surprising all and delighted that one guy who accidentally put him on his fantasy team. Who will do better than expected in 2015?
Daniel – Gyasi Zardes. 20 goals, 10 assists. Book it.
Chris – Darlington Nagbe.
Kyle – Amobi Okugo. This one’s just a gut feeling. He’ll have Kaka, Brek Shea and Lewis Neal to team up with in Orlando City SC’s midfield, so the opportunity for success certainly permits.
Jack – Lee Nguyen. A player with great success this year, I expect him to keep it up and definitely be in considerations for MVP.[Considering that he was almost MVP last year, it’s hard to break out further, but it’s possible (especially if you cheat and count the USMNT).]
Jay – Dilly Duka. With Felipe Martin out, Montreal needs a playmaker. He is off to a great start with a brace in the opening round of CCL knockout round.
Surprisingly Good Team
I was originally just going to have a “surprise team” section, but I decided that it could go two ways: a team that’s better than expected and a team that’s worse than expected. Analysts and fans alike love to have opinions, and while they’re often right about a lot of things, sometimes good teams slip under the radar, either because the players are unknown, they had a train-wreck in the past year, or they’re in Ohio. Who will do better than the consensus states this year?
Daniel – Toronto FC. With Altidore, Giovinco, and a Rejuvenated Bradley, the playoffs seem likely. Other sleepers: San Jose and Philly.
Dan – Orlando City
Chris – Houston Dynamo
Kyle – Orlando City SC. I don’t expect this team to set the world on fire in 2015, like an MLS Cup run, but I think they’re be a top three team in the East.
Jack – Chicago Fire. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I watched a growing team last season that can hopefully produce a little more than 18 draws this year.
Jay – Vancouver Whitecaps. They were a young squad that finished the regular season strong to get into the playoffs. Another year together and a season of coaching experience for Carl Robinson primes them for a step up.
Surprisingly Bad Team
The other side of the coin. Every season, some teams disappoint. If there were no disappointments, there would, mathematically-speaking, be no surprisingly good teams, either; and if that happened, we would just have the teams finishing in basically the same spot every year. Who would watch that? Anyway, which teams will be those disappointments here in the league’s 20th season?
Daniel – The Red Bulls are too obvious, so I’ll go with the Portland Timbers. With Valeri and Johnson–the brain and heart of that team–both out to start the year, and the Western Conference looking crazy hard with SKC and Houston joining an already packed conference, I think Caleb Porter’s men will miss out on postseason soccer for another year. braces self for the Wrath of Cascadia
Dan – SKC
Chris – DC United.
Kyle – New York Red Bulls. They lost many key parts, and lack depth.
Jack – Sporting Kansas City. This is really just a feeling, they regressed last season and I just don’t see things going the best for them.
Jay – Real Salt Lake. The lost on the field and in the front office is too much to overcome. If Saborío, Beckerman and Rimando are out for Gold Cup and Plata for Copa America it will be a long summer.
Eastern Conference Winner
The title is self-explanatory. Eastern Conference includes: Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, DC United, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New York City, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC. Who will win? (Note: I’m still not sure if this means regular season winner or playoffs winner; I personally went with the former, but it’s up for interpretation.)
Daniel – New England. I really wanted to say Toronto, but the Revs and Crew are the only teams I can easily see winning at the moment (wait for that to change 173 times this season).
Dan – Columbus is going to build on the their resurgence from last year.
Chris – NYCFC.
Kyle – Columbus Crew. One word: depth.
Jack – D.C. United. Really enjoyed watching them last year, hopefully they’ll keep it up.
Jay – New England Revolution. They have the attacking and midfielder talent to take the East and Jay Heaps has proven hiss competency as a coach. A solid year from Juan Agudelo would make them a complete team.
Western Conference Winner
Again, self-explanatory title.
Bestern Western Conference includes: Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, Vancouver Whitecaps. Who will be crowned victorious?
Daniel – Seattle Sounders. The team that almost won the Treble last year and now has Garth Lagerway as GM? Is there another valid pick?
Dan – Vancouver, if not them, one of the other Cascadia teams.
Chris – LA Galaxy.
Kyle – Seattle Sounders. See below.
Jack – FC Dallas. A bit of a wild call, They showed great potential in the playoffs in 2014, they’re on their way up the table and I think will win the West this year.
Jay – Sporting Kansas City. SKC hit a wall due to the World Cup. Graham Zusi quietly had a good post-WC and their defense should improve with Roger Espinoza and a healthy Chance Myer.
The most important trophy for the purists. Who will be the best team in the regular season?
Daniel – Seattle Sounders.
Dan – Columbus.
Chris – NYCFC. [If you think that’s bold, just wait…]
Kyle – Seattle Sounders. Really boring pick, but have they honestly gotten any worse?
Jack – LA Galaxy. Despite not winning the West, I think they’ll outperform during the regular season.
Jay – New England Revolution. The East will be better than last season but only Columbus and Toronto have the talent to challenge them at the top end of the table.
The pinnacle of the sport in the US and Canada, the MLS Cup is what everyone dreams about. The LA Galaxy have won it 3 of the last 4 years; who will win it this year?
Daniel – LA Galaxy. Keane, Zardes, and Steve G, led by Arena. This team can win stuff (there’s a difference between a team that’s good and a team that’s good at winning), and I think they’re going to be good again come playoff time.
Dan – Not a team that wins the shield or their conference. [coughcop-outcough]
Chris – NYCFC. That’s a big gamble but gotta go with Kreis – he has money now to go with his top pedigree as a Head Coach – scary…
Kyle – Seattle Sounders. digs up everyone’s 2014 season predictions copies & pastes “This is their year, guys.” Right? …….right?!
Jay – SKC. If SKC can return to 90% defensively what they were in 2013 they can maneuver through the Western Conference
Best Expansion Team
Since the leagues foundation, the number of teams have been growing, as new markets and owners have gotten the chance to stake their claim to footy glory. This year, two teams will begin play, while two more will begin play in 2017. Of New York City FC, highly publicized and to a cynic Manchester City’s farm team, and Orlando City, less glamorous, perhaps, but still with former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka, who will do best in their maiden voyage across the waters of this unpredictable ocean called MLS?
Daniel – New York City. Honestly, NYC has the best chance of the two to do well, and the best chance of the two to crash and burn. Jason Kreis is probably the best American coach at this moment, so I’m going with the better of the two happening.
Dan – Orlando!
Chris – NYCFC.
Kyle – Orlando, for reasons stated above.
Jack – NYC. David Villa, Frank Lampard, Mix Diskerud and company will overtake Kaka and crew. Those three will perform at a high level and provide the younger ones with veteran knowledge and give the Red Bulls a run for their money.
Jay – NYCFC. OCSC may start the season with better top end talent. Nevertheless, Jason Kreis is a top coach in MLS and has handled the expansion team better.
This is a section for anything. Seriously, anything. We can add some nifty insight into what we think will happen, or go all-out with a mic drop prediction (Stephen Lenhart with 32 goals, 19 assists), which could either lead to humiliation or a job at ESPN. What uncategorizable item do we see in our crystal balls for 2015?
Daniel – the top 2 goalscorers will be Jozy Altidore and Gyasi Zardes. I already addressed Zardes, now Altidore: he scored 23 goals in his last non-Sunderland season, and that came in the Eredivisie, a league better than MLS. No idea why there’s so much Jozy hate.
Dan – BWP will under impress for RBNY, netting half of his record setting mark from 2014.
Chris – Darlington Nagbe will score more than 10 Goals…
Kyle – Assuming he doesn’t go overseas during the summer, Dom Dwyer will score more goals than Robbie Keane and Bradley Wright-Phillips combined.
Jack – Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore are back in the states, and I think they’re homecomings will be successful.
Jay – Pedro Morales MVP Finalist. He won Newcomer of the Year in 2014 and with a final MLS season under his belt, the Chilean playmaker should experience on last year’s numbers. He is essential to the Whitecap’s attack and high playoff seed will put him in the national spot light.
Well, that’s about it! Thanks to Señors Dan, Chris, Kyle, Jack, and Jay for the predictions, and, uh, thanks to me for compiling this. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to step into a phone booth and turn into a super hero so that I can solve the CBA problem…