MLS First Kick 2011: Preseason Power Rankings

Posted In Features - By Chris 'UZ' White On Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 With 1 Comment

I’ve always been of the mind that making power rankings before any games have been played is a pretty dumb idea. With pretty much every team in the league making moves for both the better and worse over the offseason you never know who is going to explode or implode on their team come First Kick. That said, there are some ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ going into the season, with the suddenly depleted Columbus Crew being the biggest shocker after last season.

Join me now for the first ever TAO MLS Power Rankings. Note that the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps are not included on this list. As unfair as it is to rank teams who haven’t played a game this year yet, it’s even more unfair to throw out rankings for teams who have never played a game in the league period. Expect some changes to this after the first week of games.

1. Real Salt Lake
They dismantled the Crew as they should have in their first CCL match of the new year. They still have some questions on where the offense will come from but the best defense and goalkeeper in the league should quell any questions. Watch for RSL to be the favorites for pretty much every trophy once again this season.

2. Los Angeles Galaxy
The Supporters Shield winners lost Edson Buddle, but gained Juan Pablo Angel. Considering their strikers - no matter who they are - will still be getting service from Landon Donovan and David Beckham, it probably won’t matter which talented player is up top for them. A Supporters Shield repeat would not be surprising, nor would an MLS Cup. This squad is built to win and win immediately.

3. Colorado Rapids
The champs managed to improve over the long offseason despite the expansion and re-entry drafts, adding Sanna Nyassi and - assuming the deal goes through - Caleb Folan to an already powerful offense featuring the best strike force in the league. With a strong defense and tight midfield to go along with it, the Rapids look poised to surprise some people this season. Another MLS Cup may not be in the future but don’t be surprised if you see more silverware on the Rapids mantle come season’s end.

4. Seattle Sounders
Seattle fans would certainly enjoy another Open Cup victory, but they have to be drooling over the prospect of their talented squad finally leaping over that playoff hump and winning an MLS Cup. Depth is no problem for Seattle and they added good players like O’Brian White to help their case. No trophies would be a disappointment for the Sounders.

5. FC Dallas
The team that made the finals last year has been disrupted. Pearce has gone to Chivas, playoff hero Cunningham has gone to Columbus, McCarty has gone to DC, et al. Fortunately, they still have one of the best goalkeepers in the league and last year’s MVP. The addition of 18 year old Columbian Fabian Castillo could boost the club as well. While they are not as good as last year, they still have the talent for a Cup run.

6. New York Red Bulls
New York is a bit of a strange case. They certainly have a boatload of talent including a handful of great Designated Players and two young guns who could turn into top players in Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream. Unfortunately they have questionable depth past all the superstars and the monkey is still on their back after failing to the Earthquakes in what was supposed to be their year last season. They could just as easily win the Supporters Shield as they could come in third place in the East and quietly exit in    the first round. Such is the life of the Red Bulls.

7. Sporting Kansas City
KC’s offense was effective if not a bit wasteful last season and with another year of experience under Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara’s belts it should do nothing but improve in 2011, especially if Omar Bravo steps up. The midfield is stacked enough that they were able to throw out Jack Jewsbury for cash with little to no trouble. Anything less than a playoff spot - ideally a top three finish in the East - will be a disappointment to Sporting fans.

8. San Jose Earthquakes
The Chris Wondolowski show was fun last year but expecting a repeat of the Golden Boot winner’s magical season could be foolhardy. San Jose obviously realized this, snagging Steven Lenhart in a draft-day trade to hopefully be the second striker that San Jose has been looking for. With consistancy all over the pitch and hopefully a new offensive potency not named Wondolowski, they should challenge for a decent playoff spot similar to what they did last year.
9. Philadelphia Union
Last years terrible showing was not fun for Union fans but the growing pains should subside a bit this year. Le Toux is still one of the best players in the league and the team added a good chunk of talent during the offseason. Combine that with the fact that they’re in the no-man’s land known as the Eastern Conference and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see them snag a top 3 spot for the playoffs.
10. Houston Dynamo
Houston had a terrible season in 2010 but it wasn’t for lack of talent. Brian Ching should have a healthier year and with him, the Dynamo should have a healthier offense, especially if Brad Davis stays healthy. After cleaning house and bringing in a strong draft class to add to an improved defense, Houston will have a real chance to get back into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference.
11. DC United
Nobody will be crying for United to lift the MLS Cup this year, but you have to admire the job that Ben Olson has done in DC. He’s turned one of the worst teams in the history of the league into a legitamite playoff contender in one short offseason. Dax McCarty, Charlie Davies and an improving Andy Najar should make the offense surprisingly potent this season. Not having Troy Perkins stinking up the joint between the pipes can’t hurt either.
12. Chivas USA
Robin Frasier was a great pick up for Chivas and you can tell that he wants to get the team back into contention with some strong offseason moves including the recent pick-up of Heath Pearce from FC Dallas. That said, there’s still lots of work to do in Los Angeles before the Goats will be trophy contenders.
13. Chicago Fire
Is Chicago going to be able to run a 3-5-2 with the personel they’ve got? They might not even be able to pull off a convincing 4-4-2 with their guys. After a fairly quiet offseason and the retirement of their beloved stars CJ Brown and Brian McBride, it’s looking to be a down year in Chicago.
14. New England Revolution
This club has been more pre-occupied with the Shalrie Joesph soap opera this offseason than actually getting the team back into its glory days. When the biggest name you’ve moved to or from the club is Preston Burpo, you know you’ve had a quiet offseason.

15. Toronto FC
A front office overhaul is just what the team needed, but the players on the pitch haven’t improved in any measurable fashion. This team will remain the Dwayne De Rosario one man show for the near future.

16. Columbus Crew
They looked like a League 2 side against Real Salt Lake in the CCL match that actually counted, and I think even Bury would look at this squad and say “Yeah, I think we have a chance against these guys.” Any success the Crew have this season will depend on a whole lot of ‘what ifs’. If Robbie Rogers finally wakes up, if nobody gets injured on the squad and if Jeff Cunningham’s age doesn’t catch up to him like it appeared to in those CCL matches, maybe the Crew won’t be the worst team in MLS.

About Chris 'UZ' White - Managing Editor of Burgundy Wave on the SBnation network. Fan of the Colorado Rapids, Crystal Palace FC and the US national team. Would like to find the guy who created the em dash - did someone really create the em dash? - and buy him a beer.

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  1. Jerklings says:

    DC United should be number 1. Colorado should be last. Who is this guy? Fire him plzzz LOL

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