The 2016 MLS season is fast approaching and I couldn’t be more excited. With new stadiums in the work and USA golden boy Jordan Morris deciding to stay stateside, this could be a season to remember. Ashley Cole, Nigel De Jong, and many other former European stars will be competing for the first time this season in MLS, it will just add to the excitement. Let us take a look at my predictions for the upcoming season.
Starting with the Eastern Conference which consist of: New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, Montreal Impact, DC United, New England Revolution, Toronto FC, Orlando City, New York City FC, Philadelphia Union, and Chicago Fire. Last year’s Eastern Conference champions were the New York Red Bulls with 60 points. The Red Bulls stand a very good chance of retaining this title again but the loss of Matt Miazga to Chelsea is gonna be a hard shoes to fill. I don’t think they’ll retain, defending MLS Cup finalist and Eastern Conference runner ups last year the Columbus Crew will. Lead by Sierre Leone striker Kei Kamara, the Columbus crew are under the guidance of Greg Burhalter. Who some say should be the next national team coach. Greg has proven you don’t need DP’s to succeed in MLS. With USA internationals Wil Trapp and Ethan Finlay in his team, Justin Mieram, and new signing Conor Casey, Columbus’ offensive will be explosive once again. With solid backline lead by Michael Parkhurst, Columbus are gonna be hard to take down.
Another team who looked good last year and improved massively this offseason is Toronto FC. Lead by reigning MVP and Italian international Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto are going to be a force to reckon with. Bringing in Will Johnson and Drew Moor to improve the team. Toronto may be the only other team to compete with Columbus. The one thing Toronto lacks is coaching. Toronto’s current head coach is Greg Vanney. Greg was a defender in his playing days, and I think that reflects in his coaching style. Toronto have sensational attacking options with Seba, Jozy, Osario etc. They relied heavily on Seba going forward for creativity in the counter attack and even against teams like Philly they struggled creating things because Greg’s insistence on a balanced playing style. The three other teams that will make the playoffs from the East are: Montreal, DC United, and Orlando.
Before New England fans jump at my throat, losing Jermaine Jones is a bigger deal than you think. In the 2015 season, Jermaine had a passing accuracy of 73% and won over half his defensive duels. Apart from being extremely versatile, he can be consistent. Revs fans are also relying on Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo who if we’ve learned anything from previous seasons, you’ll never know if they’ll show up. Diego Fagundez despite signing a new deal could be on his way out leaving you Lee Nguyen as your only consistent player. On the other hand Orlando have former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka and reigning MLS Rookie of the year Cyle Larin. For their first MLS season last year they didn’t do that bad finishing 7th in the East only 5 points off a playoff spot. Orlando will have that second season wind and push hard for the playoffs before they complete their new stadium. Sorry NYCFC, Philly, New England, and Chicago fans. Your teams aren’t gonna make the cut this year.
Now onto the Western Conference, home of defending MLS Champions the Portland Timbers. No doubt Portland will make the playoffs again but will they win the West? That I don’t know. They have loss Will Johnson to Toronto and how much an impact will that have? They do still have Darlington Nagbe who’s coming off a sensational campaign got his first USA cap and will look to keep it by having another incredible season. Portland also brought in Jack McInerney to boost their attacking options. As painful as it is for me to say it, I think the LA Galaxy will win the West. Despite losing Juninho, they brought in former England international Ashley Cole and former Dutch international Nigel De Jong to play alongside Steven Gerrard, Giovani Dos Santos, and Robbie Keane. Lead by Bruce Arena, this could be the year LA return to the top.
One team standing in their way besides Portland is Dallas. Dallas finished last season top of the West very convincingly with 60 points. Leading goalscorer Tesho Akindele was the rookie of the year two years ago and will look to continue his sensational career thus far. Dallas are also very solid in the back with Walker Zimmerman, Zach Loyd, Maynor Figueroa, and Matt Hedges. Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez will also look for another big season. A main key to Dallas’ success will be the success of Kellyn Acosta. Coming off his first USA camp and interest from Europe, the 20 year old midfielder will look for a big season.
The three other teams that will finish in playoff positions are Seattle, Vancouver, and Kansas City. Kansas City always impressive will finish fourth and behind them Vancouver who I’m convinced had a one off good season. No one in that team or managerial staff impresses me apart from Pedro Morales and Darren Mattocks. But I seem to stand alone on this thought. I guess we’ll see when the season comes to an end. Lastly Seattle with newcomer Jordan Morris are gonna want to continue their success but with an aging squad and no other new faces, I see them barely squeaking into the playoffs. Sorry San Jose, Houston, Salt Lake, and Colorado fans, this isn’t your season.
I’ve given you my predictions, now what are yours? Tweet us @FutbolNetwork or me @JonathanMolik.
By Jonathan Molik, MLS expert on 11/02/2016 at 12:01