The 2013 Major League Soccer season is the 18th season in MLS history, the 101st season of FIFA-sanctioned soccer in the USA and Canada and the 35th with a national first-division league. Modest superlatives. The View from Avalon debuts its version of the MLS Power Rankings with a preseason preview of all 19 teams that will take part in the competition.
The Los Angeles Galaxy take the top spot in the preseason rankings, but even they will have to weather the gauntlet of regional competition, the U.S. Open Cup, and the sacrifice of a number of key player to national team duty.
Who will prevail and lift the coveted Philip F. Anschutz Trophy, the MLS Cup, in 2013? Let’s find out in the View from Avalon’s Preseason Major League Soccer Power Rankings.
1. Los Angeles Galaxy
At the top of this year’s MLS Preseason Power Rankings on the View from Avalon are Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy, who weathered a downright unbearable first third of the season to rebound and defend their MLS Cup. The Galaxy finished with a 16-12-6 record, good for fourth place in the MLS Western Conference and eighth place in the league.
David Beckham has called it a career. Landon Donovan (nine goals, 14 assists in 2012) will return to the team but is not on any deadline. That leaves the keys to the team in the hands of Robbie Keane, who ended last season with 16 goals and nine assists. Some welcoming news is that Juninho is off his loan and is now a full-time member of the Galaxy. His chemistry with Marcelo Sarvas in the midfield will be key. Notable newcomers include goalkeeper Carlo Cuducini, defender Oscar Sorto and forwards Gyasi Zardes and Charlie Rugg.
2. Houston Dynamo
For the second straight year in a row, Dominic Kinnear’s Houston Dynamo fell to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup Finals. In the regular season, the Dynamo finished with a record of 14-9-11 (53 points), good for a fifth-place finish in the MLS Eastern Conference and ninth place in the overall league standings.
Just about all of the big guns from last season are back, including forward Will Bruin (12 league goals), midfielder Brad Davis (eight goals), longtime league vert Brian Ching (five goals), Adam Moffat, Je-Vaughn Watson and Honduran sensation Oscar Boniek Garcia (four goals).
Watch for the Dynamo to put up another solid run in 2013.
3. D.C. United
Ben Olsen’s D.C. United ended the 2012 season with a record of 17-10-7 (58 points), good for third place overall in the league and second in the MLS Eastern Conference. United fell to the Houston Dynamo in the Easten Conference Semifinals and will look to get back on track this season.
D.C. need to find some cover for Andy Najar, who has been sold to Belgian side Anderlecht. They have it in Chris Pontius (12 goals), Hamdi Salihi (nine goals), Dwayne De Rosario (seven goals and 12 assists) and 2012 Rookie of the Year Nick DeLeon (seven goals and five assists).
4. Seattle Sounders
Sigi Schmid’s Seattle Sounders ended 2012 with a record of 15-8-11 (56 points), good for third place in the MLS Western Conference and seventh place overall in the league. The Sounders saw their season end at the hand of the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Conference Finals.
With Fredy Montero on loan to Colombian club Millionarios, Eddie Johnson will be counted on to deliver for the Sounders. Johnson led the team in goals with 17 and will have a competent supporting cast in defenders Adam Johansson, Zach Scott and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado; midfielders Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales; and goalkeeper Micharl Gsupurning.
5. San Jose Earthquakes
Frank Yallop’s San Jose Earthquakes finished 2012 with the best record in all of Major League Soccer: 19-6-9 (66 points). Their success has been paced by forward Chris Wondolowski, who tied Roy Lassiter’s record of 27 league goals last season. Ultimately, they lost to their rivals and defending MLS Cup champs, the Los Angeles Galaxy, in the Conference Semifinals.
So for the Quakes to get right and defend their Shield, let along make a run for a double, San Jose will need help from people other than Wondo to do it. That’s right, the View’s looking at you, Steven Lenhard, Victor Bernardez, Simon Dawkins and Marvin Chavez…
6. Real Salt Lake
Jason Kreis’s Real Salt Lake ended 2012 with a record of 17-11-6 (57 points), good for fifth place on the overall table and second place in the MLS Western Conference. RSL were eliminated by the Seattle Sounders in the Conference Semifinals last season and will look to rebound from a season that fell short of expectations.
Notable players to watch out for include goalkeeper Nick RImando, defenders Tony Beltran and Lovel Palmer, midfielders Javier Morales and Yordany Alvarez, and forward Alvaro Saborio. Returning to the team is forward Robbie Findley, but will he be able to provide the spark Real Salt Lake needs to make a run at the Cup?
7. Sporting Kansas City
Peter Vermes’s Sporting Kansas City finished the season with a U.S. Open Cup title; an 18-7-9 record (63 points), good enough for the best record in the MLS Eastern Conference and second place overall in the league…and a Conference Semifinal exit at the hands of the Houston Dynamo.
Forward Kei Kamara will be loaned out to Norwich City until early May, but other players will step up in his place, notably defenders Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin and Chance Myers, midfielders Bobby Convey and Benny Feilhaber, and forwards Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong.
8. New York Red Bulls
The New York Red Bulls took a long time to find a new manager after ending their season with a 16-9-9 record (57 points), which was good for fourth place overall in the league and third place in the MLS Eastern Conference. Eventually they settled on Mike Petke, a former MLS veteran of 13 seasons who spent his last playing years as a member of the Red Bulls.
A significant question that needs to be asked is whether or not Thierry Henry will be a team player, or one fueled by greed. The club made the right call by axing Rafael Marquez, but this means that the burden will be on Henry to hit his trade and take on a role as the leader of the team. Henry had nine goals and five assists last year. He, Kenny Cooper (11 goals), and forward Fabian Espindola have the potential to be one of the most dangerous scoring tandems in all of Major League Soccer.
Other notable players to watch out for in a Red Bulls shirt include midfielders Tim Cahill, Lloyd Sam and Juninho Pernambucano, and defenders Jamison Olave, Markus Holgersson and Roy Miller.
9. Chicago Fire
Frank Klopas’s Chicago Fire ended 2012 with a record of 17-11-6 (57 points), good for fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference and sixth overall in the league. The Fire’s season ended to the eventual MLS Cup runners-up, the Houston Dynamo, 2-1. Notable players to watch out for include forwards Chris Rolfe (eight goals, three assists), Maicon Santos (eight goals), Dominic Oduro (six goals, three assists) and Patrick Nyarko (four goals, seven assists).
10. Vancouver Whitecaps
Mertin Rennie’s Vancouver Whitecaps finished 2012 with a record of 11-13-10 (43 points), good for fifth place in the MLS Western Conference and 11th place overall. The Caps lost 2-1 to the eventual MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy. Notable returning players for Vancouver include forwards Darren Mattocks (seven goals) and Camilo (five goals). The Scottish tandem of Barry Robson and Kenny Miller has failed to impress Rennie, and so the Caps will look to the services of Japanese midfielder Daigo Kobayashi and forward Paulo Jr. for cover.
11. Columbus Crew
Robert Warzycha’s Columbus Crew ended last year’s campaign with a record of 15-12-7 (52 points), which would have been good enough to make the postseason, but they finished sixth in the MLS Eastern Conference. Notable returning players to the Crew this season include midfielder Eddie Gavin, Defender Chad Marshall and forwards Justin Meram and Federico Higuain.
12. Montreal Impact
It was a decent inaugural season for the Montreal Impact, who finished 2012 with a record of 12-16-6 (42 points), good for seventh place in the MLS Eastern Conference and 12th place in the league. However, it wasn’t enough to save Jesse Marsch from the chopping block, and he was replaced by Marco Schallibaum.
Montreal’s top goal scorer, Patrice Bernier (nine goals), returns to the lineup, as do midfielder Sanna Nyassi (six goals) and forward Marco Di Vaio (five goals).
13. FC Dallas
Schellas Hyndman’s FC Dallas ended 2012 with a record of 9-13-12 (39 points), good for sixth place in the MLS Western Conference and 13th overall in the league overall standings. The big question for Dallas is whether or not Brek Shea will be motivated enough to make significant contributions to the Hoops this season. Other returning players include forwards Blas Perez and David Ferreira and defender George John. Notable new faces to the team include defender Walker Zimmerman, midfielder Ryan Hollingshead and forward Pipico.
14. Colorado Rapids
Oscar Pareja’s Colorado Rapids were left in a soul-searching state, having finished 2012 with a record of 11-19-4 (37 points), good for seventh place in the MLS Western Conference. Notable veterans returning to the lineup include midfielders Martin Rivero, Brian Mullan, Jaime Castrillon and Pablo Mastroeni. A notable new face in the crowd is forward Deshorn Brown. Can this Jamaican international leave an impression like another of his countrymen did in Omar Cummings?
15. Philadelphia Union
John Hackworth’s Philadelphia Union finished the 2012 season with a 10-18-6 record (36 points), good for eighth place in the MLS Eastern Conference and fifteenth in the league standings. A notable returnee to the team is fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux. His leadership and goal-scoring prowess is sure to complement fellow forward Jack McInerney, who led the Union in goals last season with eight. Another player to watch out for is defender Bakary Soumare, who already is an MLS vet, having spent a few seasons with the Chicago Fire.
16. New England Revolution
Jay Heaps’s New England Revolution ended 2012 with a 9-17-8 record (35 points), good for ninth place in the MLS Eastern Conference and sixteenth overall. Saer Sene was a goalscoring machine for the Revs, recording 11 goals in 2012. Also producing was Lee Nguyen, who had six goals last season. Sene, Nguyen and Jerry Bengtson will need to hit their stride if the Revs are to stand any chance of contending for an MLS Cup Playoffs spot in 2013.
17. Portland Timbers
Caleb Porter’s Portland Timbers finished the season 8-16-10 (34 points), good for eighth place in the MLS Western Conference and 17th overall. If there is no future for forward Kris Boyd (seven goals in 2012) at Portland, the team can look to midfielder Darlington Nagbe (six goals in 2012) and forward Bright Dike (five goals) to create chances for the Timbers, who did win the Cascadia Cup last season.
18. Chivas USA
Enter El Chelis. Jose Luis Sanchez Sola is the new boss at Chivas USA, and he has the intention of overhauling the club and deliver a more exciting brand of football that will please the fans. Last season, Chivas finished 7-18-9 and saw Jorge Vergara take ownership of the club from Antonio Cue.
The team’s leading goalscorer that returns to the team this season is Jose Correa, who has four goals to his credit. However, the team’s destiny will be weighed on one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Dan Kennedy, and a promising young rookie in Carlos Alvarez.
19. Toronto FC
Despite the moniker of defending Voyageurs Cup champions (and some valuable time in CONCACAF Champions League play), Ryan Nelsen’s Toronto FC finished 5-21-8 (23 points), good for worst in the league and the MLS Eastern Conference. A team in the flux, the hope is that Nelsen, a former D.C. United player and New Zealand All White, will set things in motion for the Reds.
Danny Koevermans was the team’s leading goalscorer with nine goals to his credit. Notable new faces to the team include defenders Danny Califf and Gale Agboussoumonde, and midfielder Julio Cesar.