Well it is time for the first Power Rankings of the 2010 season, this year SB Nation will be using a tier system (1. Shield Contenders; 2. Post-Season Probable; 3. Just Inside the Frame; 4. Still Above NASL.) and I will be using that as part of my numeric ranking. For my preseason rankings I have looked at how teams ended 2010 and what moves they have made in the off season
Tier IV - Still Above NASL
18. DC United - After earning just 22 points in 2010, there have been a lot of moves made by DC United, but even if they sign Charlie Davies there are a lot more questions than answers on this team. The two biggest questions are, what will the impact of Dax McCarty be on the team, and can Andy Najar continue to improve and impress? Until they prove they can score and prevent others from scoring they will remain in the basement.
17. New England Revolution - Once a constant power in MLS the only bright spot in 2010 was a decent SuperLiga run, their offseason losses (including retirement of Taylor Twellman) far outweigh their pickups and it looks as if they will be one of the teams that really struggle in 2011. Biggest question is without Gibbs and Osei what will their backline look like?
16. Vancouver Whitecaps - Well newcomers to MLS often struggle their first year, and while the Whitecaps can build on their roster pullovers from last season, most of the players they picked up in the expansion draft didn't last a week with them. Their moves in the Super Draft didn't impress me much and unless they have a couple big wildcards up their sleeves I expect that it might be a long season for their fans.
the rest of the rankings after the jump:
15. Chivas USA - A mess in 2010, lots of talented players but a lack of leadership on and off the pitch left them on the outside of the playoff picture, now a ton of turnover 7 players out, 8 players in and a brand new coach (damn them for taking Robin). I expect a lot of struggles as new faces look to learn a new way of playing the game. My biggest question for Chivas is will they give Robin the resources and control that he deserves as he looks to rebuild the team?
Tier III - Just Inside the Frame
14. Portland Timbers - A solid year in 2010, like the Whitecaps they got rid of most of their expansion draft players rather quickly but have brought in some interesting players like Erick Brunner, Rodney Wallace, and Kenny Cooper. The big question is can Darlington Nagbe live up to the hype? If so then the Timbers Army should enjoy their first year in MLS more than some teams that have been around for a lot longer than they have.
13. Chicago Fire - This will be a make or break year for Marco Pappa, as this will clearly be his team to run, but can they overcome the defensive losses of C.J. Brown and William Conde? They also have lost Brian McBride, Collins John, Peter Lowry, and Freddie Ljungberg, which accounts for 13 of the teams 37 goals in 2010. The question is can Patrick Nyarko and Calen Carr step up to become the forwards that the Fire will need in 2011? I don't think they will and this team will probably be a very mixed bad this year.
12. Toronto FC - I think I am probably being very kind to the Reds who were a mess in 2010, then came the wholesale changes in their front office, which has been followed by a massive turnover of their roster. Gone are White, Nane, Gala, Saric, Usanov, Hscanovics, Mista, Garcia, Ibrahim, Sanyang, and Chad Barrett. They are being replaced by Nathan Sturgis, and 8 draft picks. If people thought that DeRo had a huge attitude problem in 2010, I have to believe after his failed trail in Scottland that we may see a lot more of the check signing type goal celebrations. If you wonder why the team headed to Turkey for their preseason, one has to believe it is to find a way to get this group of players to function as a team for new head coach Aron Winter. My only question for TFC is when will the DeRo meltdown happen? I set the over/under at the All Star Match in New York City and I am taking the under.
11. Houston Dynamo - 4 times this team has lifted the MLS Cup, twice in San Jose and in their first two seasons in Houston, but last year was the start of a massive rebuilding of the team and while owners AEG told them they could go find a big name (big dollar) DP for the 2011 season, so far nothing has developed. Their roster leaves me with a lot more questions than answers, but the biggest question is how long can they hope that Brian Ching can carry the team on offense? For me the answer is not long and that could see the Dynamo struggle in 2011 as they have to continue rebuilding, the nice thing is that this year will see the construction start on their new stadium.
Tier II - Post-Season Probable
10. Philly Union - With no death march of road matches to start the season in 2011, can the Union build on a fairly solid end of the 2010 season. I am a bit worried by the lack of work to replace Shea Salinas, Alejandro Moreno, and Fred, but I like the move picking up Brian Carroll. My biggest question for the Union is can they really build on their solid results at the end of the 2010 season, or will they struggle like they did for the first half of the season?
9. Columbus Crew - So 3 straight playoff appearances but out in the first round each of the last two years (both to eventual MLS Cup winners), and the house cleaning has been as drastic as any team in MLS. Brunner, Moffat, Garey, Carroll, GBS, Padula, Oughton, Lenhart, and Frankie Hejduk are all gone that is over 12,000 minutes of their 2010 season gone. In their place, Jeff Cunningham, Miranda from Chile, a guy from the Railhawks, and some draft picks. The Crew could drop like a rock in the standings and my rankings this year if they stumble at all. So the question for the Crew is how long will it take before there are issues with Jeff Cunningham? I like Jeff but one has to wonder why despite being just a goal away from the all time MLS scoring title, he has been let go by so many teams?
8. San Jose Earthquakes - I would love to have the Quakes higher, but after an Eastern Conference final appearance, they have lost Arturo Alvarez, Joe Cannon, Geovanni, Eduardo, and Cornell Glen. They added only Lenhart from Columbus and their draft picks, 1 SuperDraft player, 2 supplemental. I have to believe they will be adding some more players before the season starts but with just 40 days before the season starts the lack of moves is simply scary. If they are thinking they can live off of Chris Wondolowski all year, well they might have a rough year. The big question is can their Wonder"kid"olowski score more than a dozen goals in 2011? Last year he scored more than in the previous 5 seasons combined and I doubt he will be able to repeat the task.
7. Sporting KC - A new stadium could be just the thing to help lift the newly rebranded Sporting KC into the playoffs in 2011, but the journey to their new stadium could leave them in a huge hole like the Union faced last year. The upside is the continued development of Teal Bunbury and Ryan Smith along with the addition of Omar Bravo to their lineup should see them make real progress on the pitch this year. While Kei Kamara has won huge credit in recent weeks for his snowball fight, and role as a real fan favorite, the question is can he become a more consistent scoring threat in 2011? I think he will and as the delivery of quality chances improve, so should his goals scored.
6. New York Red Bulls - Well they may be the second most talked about soccer team in the big apple, but they will be the only one playing in MLS this year. Gone is Juan Pablo Angel, Jeremy Hall, Mike Petke, Seth Stammler, Carey Talley, Wolyniec and Ubiparipovic, in their place a guy from Norway, a couple home grown players and some draft picks. I think the quality coming in is fairly close to that going out, with the exception of who will score goals for them now that JPA is gone? I mean 58 goals in 4 years is nothing to laugh at and only 3 players on the Red Bulls have scored more than 5 goals since JPA got there (Mathis, Van den Bergh, and Jozy) and none of them are there anymore. So the huge multi-million dollar question is will Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez be able to lead the Red Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference? Yes, yes they will but only because the East is still going to be much weaker than the Western Conference.
Tier 1- Going for the Gold
5. FC Dallas - All the way to MLS Cup final, only 4 losses in all of 2010, and the team that knocked RSL out of the playoffs. Impressive, and ensuring that David Ferreira would be there for the 2011 season is the way you keep the run going. But, oh yeah their is a but, gone is 1/2 of their defensive bite in the midfield as they left Dax McCarty unprotected in the Expansion draft (still scratching my head on that one), also gone is over 1/3 of their goals scored last year as both Jeff Cunningham and Atiba Harris are gone. The youth movement continues in Frisco as 8 players come in via the draft, another via the Home Grown player system. My only question is where in the hell did that ugly jacket come from? FC Dallas is likely going to be a very good team again in 2011.
4. Seattle Sounders - The Sounders lost a few players who logged a lot of important minutes for them in 2010, Sanna Nyassi, Nathan Sturgis, Pete Vagenas, and Tyrone Marshall are gone, I think they did OK replacing them with younger, and in many case much faster players. Tetteh and Cruz highlight their draft picks and O'Brian White could be a huge surprise. The huge question for the Sounders is, can they beat the Galaxy? Yeah they got a US Open Cup win last year, but 2 embarrassing regular season losses, and getting handled in the playoffs last year leave huge question on if the Sounders can overcome their Galaxy curse?
3. Los Angeles Galaxy - The story here is simple, well kinda simple Edson Buddle is out and Juan Pablo Angel is in, you lose a bit of speed and youth but you pick up a guy with 58 goals in 4 seasons. The other moves involve the retirement of Chris Klein and Eddie Lewis, but you pick up Frankie Hejduk (who can now surf more often) Adam Cristman, Chad Barrett and a couple of interesting prospects in the draft. The strangest move was trading Tristan Bowen to their HDC roommates Chivas USA. My big question is what impact will David Beckham have? He only played in 7 matches last year, 15 including playoffs in 2009 and with the long 34 match MLS season, plus Champions League it could be a long year for David.
2. Real Salt Lake - No team in MLS saw less movement in the off season than RSL, coming off a disappointing season (missed supporters' shield by 3 points & eliminated by FC Dallas in playoffs) RSL lost just 3 players and only one who dressed for the team in 2010. Gone is Robbie Findley, David Horst, and Alex Nimo. In comes Arturo Alvarez (who has looked like he has played with our boys for years after just days with team), and 4 rookies. New deals for Saborio, Will Johnson, and Nick Rimando will ensure that the core of RSL will be together for a few more seasons. I think the most impressive thing for me is that RSL may be even more fit than they were in 2010, I had to do a couple double takes at practice as several guys are simply in great shape. For me the biggest question for RSL is can they continue to improve on the road in 2011? 4-4-7 in 2010 was their best performance since joining the league but I would love to see them go 7-4-6 this year.
2. Colorado Rapids - Maybe the hardest thing for me to do is give credit to the Rapids, they got hot at the right time and will spend 2011 defending the MLS Cup. They didn't lose any big names (Schunk, Baudet, Earls, Lopez, O'Brien) but they did pick up a guy who should really help them out in Sanna Nyassi who will provide them with some much needed speed. They also got Tyrone Marshall and Joseph Nane to go with their 4 draft picks. It will be a long season for Colorado as they too will face at least 6 additional matches as they represent MLS in the Champions League this year, depth may be an issue for the team. The biggest question for the Rapids is can they keep Omar Cummings and Conor Casey all year? If either of them can replicate their 2010 form this year, they will have to be considered some of the top targets in the summer transfer market.
Well there you go, I couldn't put either RSL or Colorado at the top of the rankings but over the last two seasons they are the teams that at the end of the year lifted the MLS Cup. RSL build on that win to have their best season ever last year, and you know that the Rapids would love to be able to again follow in the footsteps of their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals.
OFF MY SOAPBOX