SBI MLS Power Rankings

Crew Champions (Reuters)

The 2009 MLS season just a few days away from kicking off, meaning it is time to look at how the league's 15 teams stack up heading into the new campaign.

As is the case every season, there will be surprises, disappointments and team performances we just didn't see coming. Just like the MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew, which went from out of the playoffs to league champions, and Real Salt Lake, which went from last place in the West to a within a goalpost of the MLS Cup Final. We also saw D.C. United go from Supporters Shield winner to not even making the playoffs.

With that in mind, here are the first installment of the SBI MLS Power Rankings. These rankings are based on how I see the 2009 MLS season shaking out (although the team at No. 1 isn't necessarily my pick to win it all). There are some teams much higher than you might expect, and some that are lower than you are used to seeing them. Once we get into the season the rankings will adjust to represent a team's performance in the season to date.

Now, without further ado, here are the first 2009 SBI MLS Power Rankings:


SBI MLS Power Rankings

1.  Columbus Crew

2008_016_2

This Week: at Houston Dynamo on Saturday (8pm, Fox Soccer Channel).

Outlook: Most key players from MLS Cup-winning squad are back as Columbus attempts to become the first Eastern Conference team to repeat as champion since 1997 D.C. United.

2. Chicago Fire

2008_013_2

This Week: at FC Dallas on Saturday (8:30pm, Direct Kick)

Outlook: The deepest team in MLS, the Fire will have Brian McBride from the start of the season and youngsters Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa ready to take on bigger roles.

3. Real Salt Lake

2008_024

This Week: Bye week (at Seattle on March 28th)

Outlook: After coming so close to reaching MLS Cup in 2008, RSL brings all its key players back and looks poised to unseat Houston as the class of the Western Conference.

4. Toronto FC

2008_026

This Week: at Kansas City Wizards on Saturday (8:30pm, Direct Kick).

Outlook: Led by Dwayne DeRosario, revamped TFC could be this year's Columbus Crew. Questions about the defense persist, but Toronto's front six is loaded and another defender is on the way.

5. New York Red Bulls

Red_bulls_logo

This Week: at Seattle Sounders FC on Thursday (9pm, ESPN2).

Outlook: Another team that remade its roster, Red Bulls made some bold off-season moves and now boast a deeper team because of it. If Jorge Rojas and Albert Celades play at a high level, the Red Bulls could be a legitimate title contender.

6. Houston Dynamo

2008_019_2 

This Week: vs. Columbus Crew on Saturday (8pm, Fox Soccer Channel)

Outlook: Traded away Dwayne DeRosario, and lost Eddie Robinson for an extended period due to injury. Will need Stuart Holden to be an all-star to avoid dropping too far down the league pecking order.

7. Kansas City Wizards

Kc_wizards_logo

This Week: vs. Toronto FC on Saturday (8:30pm, Direct Kick)

Outlook: New addition Adam Cristman is already hurt again, but Wizards still boast a young and talented team. Rookie Graham Zusi could wind up being the steal of the draft while Argentine newcomer Santiago Hirsig should be in the conversation for MLS newcomer of the year.

8. New England Revolution

2008_022

This Week: at San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (10:30pm, Direct Kick)

Outlook: After years as an Eastern Conference playoff fixture, this is the season the Revs suffer for losing top talent for so many years. Replacing Michael Parkhurst will be too much for even Steve Nicol to pull off.

9. Seattle Sounders

SeattleSoundersLogo    

This Week: vs. New York Red Bulls on Thursday (9pm, ESPN2)

Outlook: Can an expansion team really finish in third place in the West? Have you seen the West? Sigi Schmid's team is strong and more than capable of reaching the postseason in year one. Fredy Montero has Golden Boot ability and we're projecting him to have a 14-goal season (17 was probably a bit too generous).

10. FC Dallas

2008_018

This Week: vs Chicago Fire on Saturday (8:30pm, Direct Kick)

Outlook: Yes, FC Dallas has added David Van Den Bergh and Colombian playmaker David Ferreira, but the Dallas defense is still questionable at best and Schellas Hyndman has yet to prove himself as a quality tactician on the pro level.

11. Chivas USA

2008_014

This Week: vs. Colorado Rapids on Saturday (10:30pm, Fox Soccer Channel).

Outlook: The Goats just didn't do enough this off-season to improve enough to merit a higher ranking. With Sacha Kljestan a very real threat to leave for Europe this summer, we see Chivas having a disappointing season.

12. Colorado Rapids

2008_015_3

This Week: at Chivas USA on Saturday (10:30pm, Fox Soccer Channel).

Outlook: We were ready to have Colorado be 15th when the pre-season began, but the Rapids kept putting up good pre-season results against MLS competition, leaving us to wonder if maybe, just maybe, Gary Smith will work some magic. Don't bet on it. Colorado simply didn't do enough in the off-season to improve the team.

13. D.C. United

2008_017

This Week: at Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday (3pm, Telefutura)

Outlook: D.C. replaced Marcelo Gallardo with Christian Gomez, which should help, but the defense remains a serious question mark. There is also the question of how much longer Jaime Moreno has left and whether Luciano Emilio can regain his MVP form. In a loaded Eastern Conference, D.C. will struggle to avoid the basement.

14. San Jose Earthquakes

2008_025_2

This Week: vs. New England Revolution on Saturday (10:30pm, Direct Kick)

Outlook: Yes, San Jose added Cam Weaver and Bobby Convey, and the Earthquakes did enjoy that strong second-half run last season, but we just don't see San Jose being a force this year. The defense is decent but not great (Joe Cannon deserves as much credit as anybody for San Jose's low goals-against average), Convey wasn't exactly a dominant force in his last MLS go-round and other teams did more in the off-season to improve.

15. Los Angeles Galaxy

2008_021_2

This Week:  vs. D.C. United on Sunday (3pm, Telefutura)

Outlook:  Bruce Arena is going to turn things around in LA eventually, but the possibility of fielding a defense with two rookies and an aging veteran who hasn't played since 2007 doesn't exactly instill confidence. The Galaxy could be a second-half force, but the question is how deep a hole will LA be in by the time Beckham returns?

————————-

So yes, Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC start off very high. With all due respect to the Dynamo, I see RSL as the favorite in the West. TFC is locked and loaded and I could absolutely see them being this year's Columbus. Yes, there are still concerns about the defense, but I'm hearing a centerback is on the way, and if he's as good as I'm hearing, Toronto will absolutely be a force in 2009.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who aren't sold on the Red Bulls, but after seeing Juan Carlos Osorio lead a patch-work team to an MLS Cup final, it is scary to think what he will do if his truck-load of acquisitions actually pays off.

Among the teams I see disappointing this year are New England, D.C. United and Chivas USA. I know there are some people on the FC Dallas bandwagon, but I'm not one of them, even with the addition of standout winger Dave Van Den Bergh. Colorado is 11th on this list but I could just as easily had them 15th.

I'm sure folks on the West Coast will accuse me of having an East Coast bias (what with six of the top eight teams being from the East), but considering how the East did last season, and given how much more East teams did in the off-season to improve than the West teams did, I have no reason to believe that the balance of power will be shifting away from the East this year.

What team could I see myself being completely wrong about? The Red Bulls, if Rojas flops and Celades fails to make an impact; D.C. United, if the defense somehow comes together and Gomez and Moreno go nuts; Chivas USA if Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo stay healthy and Sacha Kljestan stays; San Jose if Bobby Convey stays healthy and Cam Weaver is a monster; and the Galaxy if Bruce Arena builds himself a respectable defense and Edson Buddle has another big year.

For those of you wondering about last year's ratings to start the season, here they are. I was completely wrong about D.C. United (as were most people). Six of my top eight teams did make the playoffs. Who was I off with? Real Salt Lake and the Columbus Crew (as were most people), although I do feel better after having read this prediction:

"If there is a lower ranked team I can see putting it together it's Columbus. The Crew has a good nucleus of young players who just might be ready to grow up and turn the Crew into a serious playoff contender."

Actually, of my post-ranking observations, the only one I was wrong about was Real Salt Lake. You can see by RSL's ranking this time around that I have been converted.

So what do you think of the first installment of the SBI MLS Power Rankings? Think your team is ranked too low? is there a team you think is ranked too highly? Who is your surprise team for 2009?

Feel free to share your thoughts, and your rankings, below.

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116 Responses to SBI MLS Power Rankings

  1. Miguel says:

    I think San Jose is going to surpise people and be a #2 seed in the West this year. Chicago is going to flop. Blanco and Mcbride are another year older and slower…

  2. Murphy says:

    looks good right now, although the way san jose was playing in the second half last year makes me think they could be better than your prediction, ives. but we’ll have to see it on the field, like you said.

    how about posting last year’s first power rankings to see how you had it before 2008?

  3. SSFC4Life says:

    If Montero scores 17 this year they will finish number 1 in the west.

  4. jtd says:

    houston’s seems a tad high. i’d put them outside the top ten.

  5. Omar says:

    I totally agree with you being an east coast fan.

    It’s sad you take that road.

  6. Cam says:

    I’m not a Kansas City fan, but the Wizards could wind up being a force this year if everyone stays healthy. I’m picking Chicago to win it all, although Columbus will be a strong defending champion.

    The east has a ton more talent than the west. It should be a fun season.

    I hear Valencia are likely to be the opponent in the all-star game with Inter Milan also being an outside possibility. Has anyone else heard anything?

  7. luis says:

    good bet that RSL will be a solid team this year, if Morales has another great year, we might see them in the finals. Now I hope My team can bring Gomito back to life and bring back the glory years for UNITED.

    Players like Gomito and Morales are so important to teams, they are the engine that keeps teams running.

  8. Lot 8 says:

    I wish i could say DC United belongs higher up but. . .

  9. Evan says:

    Nice analysis Ives.

  10. mike from linden says:

    go red bulls, rojas has been impressive in preseason. hopfully we get carlos johnson so we have a bit more depth on defense

  11. RSL Fan says:

    Thanks for the props for RSL. Glad to see we are finally getting noticed and a bit of respect.

  12. fred mertz says:

    Would love to see USL-1 power rankings, enough with MLS already.

  13. Matt says:

    Drew Carey was on Regis and Kelly this morning and the part I saw he was talking about the Seattle Sounders.

  14. CapeCodFutbol says:

    Who is this mystery Toronto CB?

  15. DC96 says:

    You can say DC belongs higher up, Lot 8. The Revs are the injured version of UTD but without any real injuries to use as an excuse. And basically excuses are what im giving now but eh…take away one of the three tourneys DC took part in in the crucial stretch of the season, and one more red bull loss you have a new western conf. cinderella. Im not syain Dc is anything close to its early MLS or recent shield winning form, but i think they can manage to squeak into the playoffs. The lack of depth available to MLS squads this season minus New York means it looks like any team outside Columbus/Chicago can have realistic playoff, (notice not MLS Cup) and at the same time have the same nagging questions and injury issues all season long.

  16. DC96 says:

    Ives, off topic, but the Valencia/Inter All Star comment got me thinkin of it. How and when does the search for an All-Star game opponent begin? Does the opponent get any type of payback or is it simply just another stop on the long preseason overseas tours these clubs have?

  17. joe k says:

    rojas really only had two or three really bad games, but they happened to be lumped with the other two (cichero and pietravallo), who were truly awful. hopefully with cichero gone and pietravallo on the bench, we can judge rojas more objectively.

  18. Tom says:

    Great power rankings. Totally nonsensical. Should draw a few comments.

    BTW Bobby Convey has had a few years in England and a World Cup since he left MLS. If he is anywhere near his pre-injury form at Reading, he will make a major impact this season.

  19. JoeW says:

    Ives, I agree with most of what you have here. Let me offer my own thoughts:

    1. Teams that win (ie: championship) and then stand pat tend to do poorly the next year. Oh sure, you’ve got the Houston and San Jose-I and DCU-early teams that won with a lot of the same cast and didn’t have tremendous turnover. But every single one of those teams added some key pieces the year after the championship. For instance, I still think about Houston adding Mulrooney, Jaqua and Ngwenya a year after winning a championship. So I think it’s a big mistake for Columbus to assume they’re a machine that just keeps on humming along. Until proven otherwise, we all have to rate them high. But you win championships with some guys having career years. And then they don’t repeat it the next year–or get hurt, or fat, or cocky. I don’t think Columbus will finish in the top 3 in the East.

    2. I’m also not so high on Chicago. Very deep. But I think Blanco has started the steep slip downhill and this will be a team that finishes poorly. Might be the top seed in the East but won’t make it out of the first round (if we can predict playoff form so far away–surely madness).

    3. On paper TFC is impressive. But I’m convinced that MoJo will make more trades, the team will have no chemistry, and Guevara is a powder keg waiting to explode.

    4. I also think NE shouldn’t be rated that highly. I don’t think Twellman is 100% and they’ll miss Parkhurst badly–this could be a defense that gives up 15 more goals this year.

    5. I’m also not so high on the talent at RBNY. When Pietravallo, Cichero, et al. arrived last year the comments were about how the team would finally come together and had really talent–and frankly, the foreign acquisitions provided very little last year. If that follows through this year (if they don’t adjust to MLS or prove overrated) then RBNY is a poor team. And Van den Bergh will be badly missed. Offensively, it’s based upon a guy who hasn’t performed yet in MLS (Rojas) and assuming another stays healthy and is on the field most of the time (Angel) who has gotten more injuries as he’s aged.

    I think one other factor (that outside of maybe LAG and definitely NE, DC and Houston) teams didn’t realize is the impact of extra games. NE, DC and Houston played about 14-20 more games last season than most of the teams in the league. That’s a back-breaker. Now it’s more equalized (with the competitions being spread around). People can talk about Red Bull’s or the Crew’s depth but all MLS teams are still heavily dependent upon a key player or two (what is RBNY without Angel? Columbus without Schelotto?) I think that’s going to hurt RBNY, Columbus a bit (by adding some games and also taking away games from Eastern Rivals). In the East, I see a dogfight, pure and simple. Columbus will come out fast, maybe Chicago as well. But ultimately, I think almost anyone could be in the playoffs in the East and I think again, we’ll have an Eastern team playing out West.

  20. Steve C says:

    I really wanted to watch that Sounders/NY game.. but geez… Thursday night?! I love my soccer, but the NCAA tournament is a once a year thing. =/

    Gonna be a lot of channel surfing going on.

  21. Chase says:

    With the financial problems at Valencia, I can’t imagine that they will still be fielding Villa, Silva, Albiol, etc in August. Could be a very weak team by then…

  22. brant says:

    I just want to see a great, competitive league whose games I’m not embarrassed to watch with my European friends.

    As much work as Osorio as done with RBNY, it’s *still* RBNY and they don’t seem to deal well with expectations.

    For all the talent Seattle has, they’re still a first year club, and while they will be competitive, I suspect they will spend 2-3 months just figuring out how to play with each other before finally passing LA and escaping the West cellar.

    I expect the East playoff teams to be Columbus, Chicago, KC, and Toronto, with RBNY a near miss.

    I expect the West playoff teams to be RSL, Dallas, and Houston, with DC sneaking in as the 8 seed and playing out West. That said, I almost expect RBNY to finish with more points that Houston, too.

    What will be interesting is to see how teams deal with additional games as the year progresses. The SuperLiga teams play in mid-summer, but the CCL teams play at the end of the year when the playoff push is on.

  23. brett says:

    Miguel – neither Blanco nor BMB have ever been boasted about their speed… BMB is a work horse and run the full 90′… Blanco roams around the field, but rarely makes any distance runs….

    the speed is going to come in the forms of Nyarko, Pappa, Mapp, Rolfe and Thorington in the attack (not at the same time as there arent that many spots on the field)…

    the fire will use BMB to hold up the ball and wait for players like Rolfe and Mapp/Pappa to make the runs…

    it is possible that the Fire dont win any hardware, but we’ll be far from “flopping”… if we dont win any hardware, the fans will be screaming for a coaching change… we have too deep and too talented of a squad not to win something…

  24. Smith says:

    DC is ranked too high. Sub-par D, Ben Olsen is a cripple, Moreno is old, Gomez is no spring chicken. Emilo is getting chubby. If they win 6 games, it’ll require some bad calls by the refs.

  25. EDB says:

    I think Houston is to high. Other then that some interesting picks

  26. al says:

    You’ll regret having Galaxy last. In fact, please remember this post when they take the West, making this entire rankings a farce.

  27. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    Joe W that is exactly the opposite of what has been promised and what has accomplished.
    If there are trades itll be bench players, definitely not the nucleus starting 11. If Guevara was going to blow up, it would have happened last year, i dont know why a more cohesive team coupled with a preseason would set him off. Sorry dude, the only downfall TFC will have is defense.

    Ives-
    You are giving great hope to almost every TFC supporter in existence. Lets hope that CB is a killer.

  28. Fire Cracker says:

    On paper the Fire just have too much to not produce a good run in the playoffs. Blanco wore down as the season went on but one thing never did and that was his passion. McBride brings a leadership role to this team for the entire season and Pappa breaks out and takes Mapp’s spot.

    I just don’t see how anyone can stop this squad.

    Sounders will be the surprise team of 2009.

  29. al says:

    Hey Firecracker, you don’t “see how anyone can stop the Fire?” Last week the 15th ranked team on this list, The Galaxy looked stronger than the Fire on the pitch, without Buddle. Granted it’s pre-season, but you guys threw the kitchen sink at the Galaxy and left with a draw. This ranking is a joke.

  30. Ethan says:

    San Jose’s defense is weak? Really? They conceeded the 4th fewest goals in the MLS with an anemic offense. Offense was their problem, not their defense.

    McBride doesn’t need speed, and in fact, he never had it. He just needs service.

  31. joseph says:

    Ives,

    Regarding San Jose. “defense is still mediocre at best” You are aware aren’t you that San Jose had one of the top defenses in the league last year?

    I think your ratings are pure nonsense from top to bottom and I will enjoy the last match of the season to see you eat crow, again.

  32. Justin O says:

    San Jose will surely be higher than 15th when all is said and done.

  33. Fire Cracker says:

    al,

    Where in my post did I say nobody can beat the Fire?

    BTW, Good morning West Coast.

  34. brett says:

    JoeW- without blanco, the fire never lost a step last season.. in fact we were something like 4-1 of the 5 games Blanco missed… while blanco adds alot to the team, he does not make the team…

  35. brett says:

    al- this is simply a power ranking for the 1st week… its purely opinion based… dont get so defensive over it…

  36. Gilly73 says:

    Ha this post is funny. We can piss & moan all we want about how our favrite team is ranked but the fact of the matter is no one knows until the season starts what kind of form our teams are in. And thank goodness the season is starting.

    I believe the best way to rank these teams before the season starts is how Ives did it. You have to predict based upon the current rosters and how the teams performed last year.

    I think looking at a Defense & the Keeper is another good way to rank teams before a season starts. So in my mind Chicago should have been the preseason #1 but since the Crew took us out last year I’ll get over it.

    Let the games begin!

  37. green says:

    SJ defense is mediocre at best?

    Only Chicago and TFC had a better clean sheet % last season. 36.36% of the games were a clean sheet for the ‘Quakes. 6 out of 8 were on the road.

    link to statbunker.com

    Don’t really get how a team with that stat can be considered mediocre.

  38. brett says:

    al- per 2nd post- dont get all high and mighty on a preseason performance…. we all made a large amount of subs… you may not have had buddle, but we didnt play Rolfe, Thorington.. blanco came in the 2nd half and we were still trying new formations with having Ward in the backline and pushing Conde up top….

    LA’s starting XI is questionable, let alone their backups….

  39. brett says:

    joseph – power rankings are opinionated and subject to change… get over yourself

  40. brett says:

    green – ah but there were 3 teams (Hou, Chi, CLB) who let in fewer goals then SJ… not really a counter argument… in fact that kind of builds onto your argument…

  41. BallardBeaver says:

    I hope MONTEro gets 17, and Jaqua 10, That Arsenal guy 11 .. and

  42. Haig says:

    JoeW, for years you have masked overt homerism with the language of reasonable analysis, running down all teams but DC. Yet you’re very rarely right. How does that work?

  43. Haig says:

    “Would love to see USL-1 power rankings”

    1. Montreal

    2. Puerto Rico

    3. [Excised-- no longer in league]

    4. [Excised-- out of business]

    5. [Excised-- on verge of bankruptcy]

    etc.

  44. Carl Setterlund says:

    Ives are you kidding me? I will guarantee you right now that New England will be no worse than the 5th best team in the league. A team with a midfield pairing of Joseph and Larentowicz, a goalie like Matt Reis, a healthy Twellman up top and one of the top 2 or 3 coaches in the league in Stevie Nicol. You never bet against Stevie Nicol.

  45. green says:

    Thanks Brett.

    You’re such a great representative for SBI :)

  46. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    C’mon Al, how about actually reading a post before you make a comment about it? Ives clearly stated this is how he sees the league NOW. He goes on to state that some teams will improve and therefore move up. As he sees it right now, the Gals have a lot of holes in the back (which is obvious)but it doesn’t mean they won’t get it right eventually. Reading is fundamental, ya know?

  47. LA Galaxy:

    “Arena will turn it around eventually”

    That is like saying that a broken clock is right twice a day.

    The only shot Bruce has at turning this around is if he hires Sunil away from New England to go buy him some foreigners like in 96.

    Prediction:

    Galaxy is partially sold to Beckham in 2010, and a Euro Tech Dir and Coach are brought in.

  48. Shmenge says:

    Dallas and San Jose will certainly be better than the Revs this year.

    In fact, I could see the Revs at or near the bottom if Ralston is out for any time or Twellman isn’t 100% better from the concussion/neck injury.

    The Revs simply refuse to replace the players they lose each year. Ditto Chivas USA.

  49. brett says:

    green – hey, i go where im needed :D

  50. MVK says:

    Dynamo seems ranked to high and I think San Jose and Galaxy will do better than last year, but overall this all seems logical

  51. Wayne Carrigan says:

    Tell me more about the TFC Defender?

  52. James says:

    While I’m stoked to see Seattle so high, I also don’t think it’s good for them. I think they could be a good team this year, but they are still an expansion team and need time to develop. Is it possible for them to make the playoffs? absolutely. should we expect it? probably not

  53. beckster says:

    As a DC United fan I unfortunately have to say that I agree with you. I might have them a tad higher but not significantly.

    Think the Red Bulls post season run last year was a fluke. Think they improved on the offseason but still too high.

    Think Seattle will be lower – takes a lot of games to start jelling even with talent and they will probably go deep into a hole that will be somewhat difficult to climb out of once they gain momentum.

    Think you may be underestimating the coaching for the Galaxy and Quakes – see them slightly higher.

  54. Ian says:

    “If Montero scores 17 this year they will finish number 1 in the west.”

    I hope you’re right, but ask any Galaxy fan and they wouldn’t be so sure :-)

  55. Eugene says:

    I think San Jose is too low. Two words: Darren Huckerby. The guy was a force last year after barely having any time to get used to the league. I think with a full preseason and a full season, and plenty of other midfielders that can get him the ball, he will really open up for a stand-out performance.

    Saying their defense is “mediocre” is going too far. They have two legitimate centerbacks in Nick Garcia and Ryan Cochrane and legitimate outside backs in Hernandez, Corrales and Leitch. Not the greatest defense, but they’ll be able to hold down the fort and Joe Cannon will keep them in a lot of games.

    Even if you just project the momentum they had in the 2nd half of last season forward, they should perform much better this season with mostly the same players.

  56. Mike Caramba says:

    IVES!

    Why is this photo not a caption contest?

    “MLS Cup: So easy a caveman could do it.”

  57. Eugene says:

    Ives,

    I was on the RSL bandwagon early last season (I think I even wrote a comment about it on your first prediction thread last season). This year I’m on the San Jose and Seattle bandwagons. I think they will impress more than people expect.

  58. timber nick says:

    ok, i can’t wait till the caption contest for this one…
    “MLS Cup: So easy a caveman could do it.”

  59. A.S. says:

    “Most key players from MLS Cup-winning squad are back as Columbus attempts to become the first Eastern Conference team to repeat as champion since 1997 D.C. United.”

    But not the coach. I guess we’ll have to see how important coaching is in this league…

  60. Fred says:

    I posted my power rankings a couple of weeks ago, before Eddie Robinson got injured. I’d say we’re pretty close:

    Columbus

    Chicago

    Houston

    Toronto

    New England

    RSL

    San Jose

    DC

    New York

    Colorado

    Dallas

    Kansas City

    Chivas

    Los Angeles

    Seattle

  61. Sean says:

    As already stated, the Quakes had the 4th best GAA in MLS last year. If that is mediocre, what does that make the rest of the league?

  62. BallardBeaver says:

    “So easy a Timber fan could muff it”

  63. HIncha Tim says:

    On a slightly unrelated note, Garber’s comments to the NYT soccer blog on expansion:

    “The success of Seattle and Toronto is helping drive interest from new investors. In this environment, to go into a new market that hadn’t really shown the same energy that we’re seeing in Vancouver and Portland, for example, wasn’t worth the risk. I think I got one e-mail from a fan after we announced we weren’t going forward in Miami. One e-mail! I’m not saying we won’t look at Miami at some point in the future, but when you have to narrow it down to two cities, you go with the ones you think will be most successful. That’s ultimately what we’re coming down to as we race to announce our next two teams.”

    Is it a hint at who are the frontrunners?

  64. Northzax says:

    Flopper: do you know what the single season record is? 27. No way does a new player on a new team come close to a goal a game. There are too many defenses that are too stingy for that. There have only been five 16+ seasons since 2005 while there were 20 before then.

  65. miked says:

    I’m a revs fan and i think Ives is right on about NE this year, and maybe a little optimistic. SJ could easily be better than NE this year.

  66. timber nick says:

    BallardBeaver: hahahahaha. so true….

  67. Tim says:

    Ives obviously has no idea what hes talking about but then again neither do most of the comments. They seem to think this is the EPL where stars actually matter. Sorry guys, this is the MLS, New England and Houston have the absolute best coaches in the league and both will make the playoffs easily.

  68. Chris says:

    Though RSL has a bye this first week, they’ll be playing a free open house game at Rio Tinto against the Austin Aztex of the USL-1: link to tinyurl.com

  69. SonicDeathMonkey says:

    Really Tim? And how many goals is Steve Nicol gonna score this year? His starting forward is hurt. He hasn’t replaced the best defender in the league over the last three years. His top midfielder is 35 and coming back from a broken leg. He’s a coach, not Harry Frickin Houdini.

  70. jtd says:

    anyone else excited to see what the crew does in the ccl? they’ll be using pretty much the same squad as last year, right? any word on how serious they’ll be taking the tournament? seriously, i think columbus could lay some smackdown on a few mexican teams.

  71. MJ says:

    I’m a TFC fan but can’t see them making such a big jump this year unless they do get in at least a new experienced CB that can organize the line. Hopefully what you say is right, and one is on the way. Essentially swapping Serioux for Marshall will not put an end to the silly late goals let in last year. If TFC really want to compete, 2 new CBS allowing Serioux to play further up filed with Robinson would go a long way.

  72. brett says:

    SonicDeathMonkey – perhaps Nicol wields Thor’s Hammer and will lay wast to the opposing team while his team performs a smack down??

  73. Ethan says:

    Rumor has it that Parke is coming back to MLS and Seattle is going to keep him. If so, that is huge news for what appears to be an otherwise questionable Seattle defense.

  74. zoran says:

    so according to these predictions, will there be 6 teams from the East in the playoffs??

  75. Jason says:

    Boy, aside from the obvious top 2 (Columbus & Chicago) I think Ives did an extremely poor job. Borderline negligent.

    1. DeRo. I’m not sold on him yet. His productivity has been crap for 2 years, though better in the playoffs. He’ll help TFC, but I’m not sure Houston suffers that much without him. Holden will be fine.

    2. Houston. They are still tops in the West. They were 8 points clear of Chivas and +10 to RSL. Plus, the one real advantage RSL had, playing on that awful turf, is gone. Let’s see how they do on grass before anointing them #1 in the West.

    3. Chivas. Still finished 2nd with all those injuries. Way too low.

    4. SJ. As mentioned before, their defense was damn good last year. Hernandez and Garcia are both very good (Hernandez making camp cupcake), and Corrales could be back at LB, depending on how the offense shakes out with Convey. I think the Quakes will be improved.

    5. Speaking of improved, Ferreria DvdB to Dallas, along with Cooper, Cunningham, McCarty, and Richetti, and you rate them that low? I guess its hard for a NYRB fan to admit that losing Dave will hurt.

    6. Seattle. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    So, enough ragging on Ives, here’s mine:

    1. Columbus. Ekpo, Rogers, and Gaven all improve.
    2. Chicago. Deep. Pappa breaks out.
    3. Houston. Still best in west.
    4. Kansas City. Solid all around.
    5. RSL. Will they hold up on grass?
    6. FCD. Should be fun to watch.
    7. TFC. Ditto.
    8. Chivas. Health will be the big factor.
    9. San Jose. Huckerby there all year. If there is offense, look out.
    10. NYRB. Angel, Richards, and hope the new guys can come through.
    11. Colorado. Casey & Cummings will be threats to score this year.
    12. New England. End of the run.
    13. DC. Great offense, poor defense.
    14. LA. Have to be a bit better.
    15. Seattle. Expansion is expansion.

  76. brett says:

    zoran – these are not predictions… these are power rankings to start the season… Ives alters them each week…

  77. Zach says:

    Too many people are on the seattle bandwagon. Team togetherness and playing through a whole tough season is underestimated. Seattle may start out hot but like LA last year, collapse in the summer heat especially during away games. I think to make the playoffs, a team needs an established group which has played for at least one year together. They may suprise me, but i just cant see it happening. Especially with their current talent and depth in defense.

  78. Matt in SF says:

    I’m biased, but SJ should be ahead of Seattle. Their DP is at risk of missing the entire season due to injuries and more than half of their squad has never played an MLS match in their life. All they have is hype and a few preseason wins, which when combined with $3.50 will buy you a cup of Starbucks.

  79. brett says:

    zach- team togetherness = team chemistry?? :D

    just playing with ya, but you make a strong point, one ive made to many when they hype seatle…. team chemistry is rather impt and makes a HUGE difference…

  80. zoran says:

    brett- Fair enough they aren’t “predictions” they are the rankings. I was just throwing out the question, that if the East is ” far superior” will we have 6 teams make the playoffs?

  81. GZ says:

    I have different theories on Kansas City (worse) and DC United (better), among others. There’s going to be a lot more agreement among pundits generally at the top of the table.

    For example, me: mlsfocus.blogspot.com, a solo blog born literally yesterday.

  82. LDQ says:

    Ridiculous that you think the Revs have no shot when they are returning the likes of Ralston, Reis, Joseph, Lawrentowicz, Twellman, Heaps, Albright, and Nyassi. Not to mention Castro, Dube, Mansally and Badilla. Yes, we need a few new players such as Igwe, Tierney, and Badilla to step up, but they got in a fair amount of playing time last year and played decent. A year probably helped them grow.

    I’m not saying that they are a lock, but they definitely have the potential to come out strong in the East once again.

  83. brett says:

    zoran – i thought it was only possible for them to have 5?? i could be completely off base here..

  84. Ives says:

    Zoran, the East can’t have six teams make the playoffs. Only five can make the playoffs (and last year five did from the East). That doesn’t mean we can’t have a scenario where the sixth-place team in the East is better than the third-place team in the West. That’s how I feel about the conferences, and last year’s records showed that.

    And LDQ, just because I ranked New England eighth doesn’t mean I think they’ll be terrible. They very well could put together a typical New England season, and I agree that you shouldn’t just write off a team with Nicol in charge and Joseph, Twellman and Ralston on it. That said, New England has lost key players for how many years running now? At some point it will catch up to them and I think this could be the year. The East is very tough and while I know some folks aren’t sold on Toronto being the real deal this year, I see them doing very well.

    If anything, there is more parity this year than in any ear I can remember, so it wouldn’t shock me if any of the 15 teams made the playoffs. It also wouldn’t shock me if any of the league’s teams aside from Columbus and Chicago missed the playoffs. Some would be more surprising than others, but in this league, with the small cap, all it takes is one or two key injuries to ruin any season.

  85. Supsam says:

    What im about to say is cuz i am a big fan of this site and would love for it to improve but i do think you have enough east coast/Red Bull bias that is is starting to affect your work. I would like to note 2 things.

    1) I think the Red Bulls have so manyyyy question marks on who would perform well on their roster that their whole team chemistry is also bunch of question marks…and to rank it 5th on question marks??!!! Also,they slipped into the playoffs on pure luck…just ask a DC fan

    2) What really strengthens my thoughts of your east coast bias is the remark on the quakes. Saying they were mediocre on defense really does show you dont pay much attention to the west as much as you should. Little did you know that they were the 4TH BEST DEFENSE (GA) IN THE LEAGUE AND POSTED A GOOD NUMBER OF CLEAN SHEETS. Ever since they upgraded thier offense the quakes had been playing great toward the second half of last season and to be ranked only above the Galaxy is beyond me.

    Remember ives, this is constructive criticism

  86. Billie says:

    I think Ives is spot on.

  87. Sko says:

    You’re wacked. RSL takes first in the west followed by either San Jose or Houston. KC and Chivas battle it out for fourth, FCD, Seattle and finally LA.

  88. zoran says:

    Ives, they changed the format again(back to 2007 format)and it is only the top two that qualify automatically? At least I thought they did?

  89. Ives says:

    Supsam, calling San Jose’s defense mediocre might not have been fair, but calling the defense anything more than decent is a stretch. They finished with the fifth-lowest goals-against average (just one goal less than RSL and KC, which were tied for sixth). That’s not much above average and that’s with Joe Cannon bailing them out repeatedly. Also, the San Jose late-season surge was a bit overstated because they actually tanked it in the final two months of the season. The Earthquakes finished 1-4-2 in the last seven and managed one shutout in that run.

    Call it an East Coast bias if you want but five East teams made the playoffs last year and one of the teams I see being the most improved is another East team (Toronto). Does that mean I don’t think any West teams could surprise? No, I like RSL and think Seattle could have a surprising year. Overall though I just think the East is better.

    If anything, Chivas USA fans might have a better argument for being snubbed than San Jose fans. I’m just not sold on them and think they will disappoint this year.

  90. Chest Rockwell says:

    Ives, TFC gets constant hype from you, but I have yet to read any real justification for it. They still have a lower-end keeper, and their center backs are (on paper, which is what we’re going on for everyone right now) arguably the worst in MLS. Outside of their strikers and Cronin, there’s also no depth (unless you want to count Johann Smith’s headless chicken routine). Counting a mystery player that they haven’t even signed yet as part of their ranking seems unreasonable as well. By that rationale, Dejan Jakovic (who actually plays for DC, unlike the TFC mystery defender) should answer DC’s defensive questions. In actuality, it doesn’t work like that at all. Jakovic could be a monster, TFC’s guy could be awful, or vice versa.

    I also don’t buy NY at #5 at all. Osorio’s compulsive tinkering reminds me of a boxer throwing haymakers because he knows he’s losing on the cards. Sure, every once in awhile he lands a knockout, but more often than not it fails. Angel’s back is only going to become more of an injury question as time goes on, and the replacing Van den Bergh with Smith is a candidate for the biggest single positional drop-off any MLS team had in the offseason (along with Badilla replacing Parkhurst). Unless Rojas is better than last year, and Celades is consistently good, this is the worst midfield in the East (which is stacked in that part of the field). There’s also the defense, which is at this point very mediocre.

    You justifiably rag on the West, but to treat the East like it’s so much better seems unfair. Columbus and Chicago are both very strong on the field, but both have question marks when it comes to coaching (Warzycha is unproven, and Hamlett has sometimes looked like he’s holding the Fire back). Kansas City is extremely young in the back and will once again struggle to get goals out of their forwards, especially if Cristman (the best of an unimpressive bunch) can’t ever get healthy. New England is asking the distinctly unimpressive Badilla to step in for Parkhurst, while Twellman’s tendency towards injury leaves them without a legit scorer (go look up when Dube last scored an MLS goal). DC got rid of some poor defenders and replaced them with complete unknowns, while also placing a whole lot of faith in a player that, no matter the system, was riding the pine for the Rapids last year. All told, there are more question marks in the East than answers.

    At this point, I feel like Chicago wins the East, Columbus comes in 2nd, and the rest are a complete toss up.

  91. brant says:

    “You’re wacked. RSL takes first in the west followed by either San Jose or Houston. KC and Chivas battle it out for fourth, FCD, Seattle and finally LA.”

    Uh… KC is in the East. :D If they battle it out ofr 4th in the West, it’s b/c the East is so stacked that their 4th place team switches over, like RBNY last year.

  92. RPH says:

    I love how everybody freaks and gets offended by Ives’ predictions. If you have such an issue with it then start your own website and offer your own predictions so we can rag on you in return.

  93. EricJ says:

    Matt in SF: Swedish Freddy is not at risk of missing the entire season…where on earth are you getting your info?

    I am a seattle and FCD fan…so Ill be happy if just one gets into the playoffs. FCD played a great game vs the Brazilian team CAP this past weekend…looked dang good.

  94. LDQ says:

    Chest, I wouldn’t put all of the Parkhurst depature pressure on Badilla. Don’t forget, the Revs have Lawrentowicz. He made the league as a center back and is an amazing player; he marks and defends as cooly and solidly as most defensive midfielders in the league. When he is off the field, it truly shows, even with Joseph at his side.

  95. Ives says:

    Listen folks, I appreciate all the feedback on the rankings, and respect anybody’s opinions on the rankings, but trying to be emphatic about how wrong anybody’s rankings are seems pointless. Rankings are something to talk about and something people will never agree on. The sooner some of you accept that the sooner you can have some fun with it.

    I don’t think I’ve said at any point that my rankings are perfect. I’d be crazy to say that (as would anybody who did rankings). You can go ahead and stick with the chalk and not call any long-shots, or you can find teams you believe in and teams you see struggling, and try to give an honest ranking based on your opinion. That’s what I did here. You are more than welcome to disagree, but any “outrage” over a topic like this is pretty misguided.

    Someone else put it well when they said that you have Columbus and Chicago in one group, and then 13 other teams battling it out to round out the rest. I agree with that on some level, in that teams three through 15 are very tough to call. I would suggest spending more time in listing your own ranking and why you think it’s right, rather than why other peoples’ rankings are wrong.

  96. luckyleftside says:

    “Will they hold up on grass?” Hey Jason RSL went to the play offs on grass. Rio Tinto is a grass pitch. RSL will be heading to the championship on the best grass in the league buddy.

  97. LDQ says:

    I don’t really pay attention to anyone besides the Revolution. I get most of my MLS info from this blog, so in my unbiased, professional opinion, my picks are:

    1) Revs
    ….
    14) DC United
    15) NY Red Bulls

  98. DC Josh says:

    i doubt anyone will read this besides the board monitor.

    Ives,I see your Bulls as last year’s United. You have too many new players who all speak a different language=no team chemistry.

    I may be partial considering I love my black and red, and the red bulls are ranked 8 spots higher,

    Hate you.

  99. Eric Sornoso says:

    Galaxy should be ranked a lot higher.

    Remember this is a “Lalas-less” Galaxy, Ives.

  100. Joseph says:

    Ives,

    You’re killing me, Jon Conway was never on the Quakes roster in 25008, so something tells me your claim that he was largely responsible for the Quakes 4th best league wide goals against average was just pulled out of your proverbial….

    If you want to talk about a team and it’s success’s or failures at least you should know who was on the freaking team!

  101. JC says:

    I can’t believe it took someone all day to realize that Conway was listed as the Quakes keeper last year. I know you meant Cannon Ives, but the readers here totally dropped the ball.

  102. Palouse says:

    Ives, Wow! I’ll take ninth, but my bet is the Sounders at 2nd in the West behind RSL. Seems to be a pattern, but it all hinges on defense & you just don’t know what you’ve got until the whistle blows. BTW, and word on Parkes’ availability?

  103. Ives says:

    Joseph, I obviously meant Joe Cannon. I had Conway on the brain for reasons obvious to anyone reading the site today, but it was Joe Cannon who stood on his head for much of 2008 for San Jose. You should probably spend more time making a real point than trying to get your giggles by pointing out a mistake.

  104. Emo Dave says:

    The Gal’s will be fighting regulation all season.

  105. ted trans says:

    Typical Eastcoast bias.

  106. Scott A says:

    @ Mike Caramba

    Love it

  107. Carl Setterlund says:

    Ives, start taking notes, nobody will ever catch up with Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner.

  108. Joel says:

    I think LA Galaxy will be better than everyone thinks. Sometimes teams find their way through adversity. So we shall see, I am excited for the start of a new MLS Season!

  109. joel says:

    RSL is rated too high. Nice list!!!

  110. Supsam says:

    Ives, i respect your opinion just like you respect mine. Lets agree to disagree. I cant wait for the season to start so my quakes can drastically change your rankings. Keep up the great work!

  111. Brant says:

    “The Gal’s will be fighting regulation all season.”

    What regulations are they fighting? Seat belts? Controlled substances? Deduction of mortgage interest from taxes for first-time homebuyers? FCC broadcast indecency?
    :) :) :)

  112. madmax says:

    I put Colorado and Chivas on bottom. DC again fights to make play-offs.

  113. Brokenbil says:

    Good luck, Columbus. It sucks being the defending champion. Everyone expects you to repeat. Just ask the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo. Not only did they not three-peat, but they lost every competiton they entered last season (Pan-Pacific Championship, US Open Cup, Superliga, Supporters Shield, MLS Cup playoffs, and, most recently, CONCACAF Champions League). Last season Houston finished 2nd in the league and now Ives puts them at 6th? Ouch.

  114. Ben! says:

    Good job on the East Coast bias. I can’t wait for the Rapids to prove you wrong.

  115. DrunkenGoon says:

    1. Chicago
    2. Columbus
    …solid droppoff here
    3. Houston
    4. Real Salt Lake
    …another dropoff here
    5. Toronto
    6. DC United
    7. Chivas USA
    8. Kansas City
    9. San Jose
    10. New England
    11. New York
    12. Dallas
    13. Colorado
    14. Seattle
    15. Los Angeles

    Chicago and Columbus are the class of the league, they just need to sort out who hosts the eastern final. Tough one to call.

    Houston has too much depth and too good a coach to let RSL take the west from them. Keep in mind that RSL was very good on that bad pitch as opponents rested a lot of star players due to threat of injury.

    Toronto should be improved, they continue to have that home field advantage, I think they are good for 30 points at home this season, if they are 1/2 way decent on the road they do finish 3rd in the east.

    I know most will think I have DC too high, but they have a GK now which they didn’t in the first 20 games last year. And there might be addition by subtraction on defense.

    Chivas had a lot of injuries last season and have some this year, they will do ok up to a point, then Kljestan leaves for Europe and it’s up for Preki to sort out the offense from there.

    Someone tell me how KC will score, their MF looks more brutal than last season and with a coach that doesn’t let them venture past midfield on the road, it’s gonna be the same ugly road record and some set play goals at home.

    San Jose I have trouble ranking because they have the potential to move up or down. they will miss Obrien more than they think in my opinion but they have a solid defense and timely scoring.

    New England has a coach, a GK and a couple of physical mids. Aside from that, it’s all about holes and hope than they can fill those holes. Not enough, they miss the playoffs as Reis can’t be as good as he was last season with a sham of a defense in front of him.

    NY – Short and to the point: Celades on astro turf. see Reyna LY.

    Dallas has madman Hyndman in charge and that’s enough to keep them out of the playoffs. Think Sala taking free kicks and Cunningham tending net as his upcoming experiments.

    The rest of the west is just not worth talking about. Seattle is all hype, LA is all bull and Colorado… does anybody actually care in Colorado?

  116. frt78 says:

    “Seattle is all hype”

    love it