TSG’s MLS 2011 Season Predictions, Part I

Could it be? Is TSG bringing back an old fashioned jumble roundtable? Well, sort of.

About the domestic league...

Got a bunch of the crew together and we brought in a few heavies to kickoff our 2011 MLS coverage.

Let’s meet all those who satisfied the $.50 buy-in:

Seated at the head of the circular table, this man is the Juan Agudelo of soccer writing. He’s got all the skill in the world and he’s coming on faster than Tim Chandler in the Bundesliga. He’s an AP published reporter, a hell of a video maker, and it is my pleasure to have him write for The Shin Guardian. He’s Jay Bell.

Our next participant never met a goal he liked…that’s because he was an award-winning collegiate keeper (at Middlebury). And, get this, he also led the 2nd division Maliwian national league in scoring and was so revered he became a Malawian national team assistant coach. True story. He’s Jason Price and he also penned a fantastic piece for TSG on Mike Petke last year.

All MLS analysis, no alligator blood

Matthew “Biggie” Biggerstaff pulls up a seat next. Beyond writing over at Constantly Offsides, Matt’s a card-carrying member of the American Outlaws and take his fandom seriously. Yes, he went to the World Cup–he’s also a hell of marauding outside back who graces the pitch for the (crowned-champion-again-last-evening) Black Sox. On the anniversary of Biggie Smalls, we bring in Biggie 2.0.

Jared DuBois drops science every Sunday as the co-host of the American Soccer Show podcast. He was #winning on Twitter long before Charlie Sheen stole his schtick. DuBois is an unabashed Los Angeles Galaxy fan who has no qualms about his finest attribute: he’s a purveyor of fine custom sweaters that tie elegantly around the neck. DuBois, that’s got to be French, right?

Make sure you follow all these guys on Twitter by the way, we do. (Jay Bell, Jason Price, Jared DuBois, Matthew Biggerstaff.)

And I’m Matthew. I just work here as the custodian of the comments section and add pretty pictures with captions to the site from time to time.

Let’s get going already:

Golden Boot Winner:

Jay Bell: Alvaro Saborio. After their Champions League run ends, RSL will be able to concentrate solely on the league with Saborio receiving more minutes in MLS. It is also year two in MLS for the Costa Rican international.

Really?

Jason Price: Víctor Estupiñán. This league need more brash pre-season predictions.

J Rodius: Juan Pablo Angel Dude’s gonna get more service than a Persian trust fund baby in a Vegas champagne room.

Biggy: Thierry Henry. It’s go time for New York and he and Juan are going to light up the league like Vegas on acid.

Matthew: I so wanted to go with Fredy Montero here, but I’m just not feeling he’s 100% dedicated (may 95% in preseason). It really irks me when a striker doesn’t aggressively come back to a ball played to him. Tough category here,  but I do think that in Omar Cummings, if he stays, you’re seeing the dawning of a very talented striker. Too bad this Jamaica mon is not part of the Yanks.

MVP:

Biggy: Landon Donovan. I don’t even need a sentence for this one.

Jay Bell: Landon Donovan. I really, really want to make a surprise pick, but who would it be? Donovan is still probably the very best player in the league, rested for the first time in three years, and playing on one of the best teams in the league. Perfect combination.

Morales: Finally something different...

J Rodius: Javier Morales: He may have as much personality as beige carpet. But on the field he’s like The Dude’s rug… he really ties the room together.

Biggy: Landon Donovan: Have to be Donovan if he stays healthy and in the league through the transfer window.

Matthew: Landon Donovan. Vanilla, I know. I wanted to pick Le Toux for the neglect paid to his campaign last year, but alas I can’t.

Most Surprising Team:

Jay Bell: Philadelphia Union. If everyone is picking DC United to be the surprise team, will it still be a surprise? Portland may be the most surprisingly entertaining team with Cooper, Nagbe, and a wealth of speed and attacking verve on the outside, but Philadelphia has improved tremendously in the offseason. The attacking talent is still there: Le Toux, Mwanga, Torres, etc. and the team added quality veterans in Carroll, Ruiz, Valdes, and Mondragon. They should push for the second or third spot in the East, but that still may not be good enough for the playoffs.

J Rodius: DC United- Team’s gone through more changes than the trannies at a El Tri house party.  But don’t expect this team to tuck anything between their legs and run.

CD United...

Biggy: DC United. Not sure if they can be surprising at this point, but if all the pieces fit properly they could win the East.

Jason Price: DC United. I think that Cronin’s injury will be an enormous blessing in disguise and D.C. United will qualify for the playoffs. That’s a fine midfield and if Davies can be Davies, and Kitchen adapts quickly, this will be a dangerous team.

Matthew: Portland. Surprising in that I might expect them to almost sneak into the playoffs–or perhaps just miss a la last year’s Union. Portland is a team that had a good nucleus already before their MLS entrance. They upleveled their goalie Troy Perkins who is only two years removed from a wondrous season and they brought in two former German residents in Kenny Cooper and Sal Zizzo; the former who showed he can already put it in the back of the net in MLS and the latter with something to prove.

Most Disappointing Team

Jay Bell: Houston Dynamo. I just cannot pick one of the teams with really high expectations because they all added depth in the offseason: LA, RSL, New York, Seattle, and Colorado. FC Dallas may struggle with three competitions after losing several players in the offseason.

J Rodius: Colorado Rapids. There’s no way God rolls a Hard Eight two years in a row without crapping out, right?

Jason Price: F.C. Dallas. You have to have expectations to disappoint, no?

Matthew: New York Red Bulls. I agree with Jason that you must have expectations to disappoint; that’s my qualifier. So New England Revolution (pathetic), Chicago Fire (clueless?) don’t make the cut. But as much as I like the New York Red Bulls roster on paper, I don’t favor players like Henry and Marquez looking for an easy ride into the sunset of their career. New York will be good, but they won’t have the hunger to be great. Playoffs? Yes. Victors? Nope.

Team That Will Sizzle, Than Fizzle:

Jay Bell: Columbus Crew. They showed that they can get results against good teams with their first leg draw against RSL in the Champions League. The Crew has a lot of quality players, but with a lack of experience and lack of depth, I cannot see them playing at a playoff level for the entire season.

J Rodius: Seattle Sounders Look for one of the best teams in the league to expend way too much time and energy on the Cascadia games.

Gone in the summer?

Biggy: Seattle Sounders. They seem to come out fast, look good but won’t string it together late. Primarily because Montero gets grabbed in the summer transfer window.

Jason Price: Philadelphia Union. The Union might score a lot of goals this year with Mwanga, Ruiz, Le Toux, McInerney, Mapp, and Torres, but defensively they will be horrible, and all that will save them will be one GK who is slightly too old, and another slightly too young.

Matthew: Philadelphia Union: Oh so much potential, but when they start leaking goals, play more defensive and tire in the Philly summer humidity of Nowak’s haranguing, I’ll be telling you I told you so.

Breakout Player:

Jay Bell: Perry Kitchen & Tristan Bowen Do rookies count? Perry Kitchen is already taking on a leadership role with DC United. Tristan Bowen has a chance to get a lot more playing time with Chivas.

J Rodius: Andy Najar. Is it legal to fantasize this much about something that’s this sexy under 18?

Opara: Back in full effect?

Biggy: Ike Opara. Look out Omar and Tim, Ike is coming to steal your national team play time.

Jason Price: Demitrius Omphroy. I know very little about Toronto, but I was impressed with Demitrius Omphroy when I watched him here at Cal. I think he’ll adjust well to MLS and be a big surprise.

Matthew, TSG: Eric Alexander. I so wanted to go with Ross LaBeaux my Rookie of the Year pick last year. Alas, I’ll play it safer. you’re not taking me down twice LaBeaux. Will Bruin’s going to make a name as a rookie and Santino Quaranta now has some talent around him, but I think Dallas has a prize fighter-in-waiting in Alexander. I really like his game and now that Dax McCarty and Brek Shea, moved to CB, are out of the midfield, it’s Alexander’s terrain.

Comeback Player:

Jay Bell: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Seattle Sounders. I think he was one of the most forgotten players last season since his injury happened so early. Geoff Cameron should be very important to the Dynamo.

J Rodius: Kenny Cooper. Most definitive use of the term “Comeback Player” in league history.

Biggy: DaMarcus Beasley. I would say CD9 but I don’t think he qualifies. I think it will be DaMarcus Beasley, as he finally comes back from Europe and starts a successful jewelry empire while playing part-time for someone.

Jason Price: Charlie Davies. CD9, then Geoff Cameron

Matthew: Sal Zizzo, Timbers. Speed, skill and a return to form. I might have included Blair Gavin in here, but that hammy still seems like it’s bothering him this preseason.

Part II.

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28 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by joe on 2011/03/09 at 5:26 AM

    Biggy it doesn’t make sense that Montero gets grabbed into transfer window. He just signed a new contract this summer. Plus he is the newest DP for the Sounders so Seattle has already said they WANT to keep this guy for a while. I think the only way he leaves is is if a team offers at least three times what Seattle pays him. As for sizzle to fizzle yes they have the potential. I think they have one of the best overall teams. Things that bother me about them their first team strikers have yet to score in the preseason and Keller scares me. Just from watching the Cascadia summit he just seemed like something was missing. There were no spectacular saves that keep teams in games.

    Reply

    • Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2011/03/09 at 8:55 AM

      It was soaking wet at those games though, so you can cut Keller a little slack in that it was tough footing to make any spectacular saves.

      Reply

    • yeah, he is gonna light up the league, and leave in august. it’s a bit brash, but if he brings his a-game it could happen. regardless, seattle will still probably sizzle to fizzle, and sounders fans will talk about how they invented mls. now that is fizzle.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/09 at 7:30 AM

    Haha some great quotes here. No love for the dynamo except as “biggest disappointment”? Really liked Cameron in some of their preseason friendlies, and they stole the show at the 2011 draft. Hoping they show some bite this season.

    Reply

  3. Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2011/03/09 at 9:03 AM

    Even as a TA faithful I don’t think Portland will be a suprise team, I see them finishing mid-table in the western conference.

    Sure, Kenny Cooper will score some goals, Nagbe will show promise, and Zizzo will play to some of his potential, but then you look at the supporting cast and it’s just not yet to the level of the rest of the league. Watching the match with the Sounders last Friday night the only real good connecting play was between Zizzo and Steve Purdy down the right hand side. It’s really going to come down to the play of the unknowns like Perlaza, Jewsbury, and Jeremy Hall to determine what kind of season they have.

    Also, are you guys picking Landon Donovan as a forward or Landon Donovan as a midfielder as MVP?

    Reply

  4. [...] The Shin Guardian has some season predictions. One contributor thinks the Union will be “The Most Surprising Team”: “…Philadelphia has improved tremendously in the offseason. The attacking talent is still there…and the team added quality veterans…They should push for the second or third spot in the East, but that still may not be good enough for the playoffs.” [...]

    Reply

  5. I agree with most of these picks, but I didn’t understand what was said about “Portland just missing the playoffs like Philly did a year ago”. Since when is missing the playoffs by 15 points “just missing”?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/09 at 10:39 AM

      Probably strong language on my part, but if Union doesn’t get out of the gate poorly they are right there to the last weekend in 2010.

      Reply

      • Not so sure about that, they were definitely better at the end of last year, but they were still just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games. This year a .500 record will likely be enough to make the playoffs, but last year it wasn’t even close.

        Reply

  6. Don’t think Tristan Bowen will be it: hasn’t been getting a lot of preseason time with Chivas USA, right?

    A hunch for that category: Amobi Okugo.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/09 at 10:58 AM

      Agreed on Tristan Bowen. In my opinion, he’s wildly overhyped. A lot of speed, horrible decision making at this point, inability to cross the ball from the wing.

      As much as Galaxy should have run him out there for his speed and to give people a break during the regular season last year, he’s at least one or two years off.

      Reply

      • I think Bowen has something of the Ashley Young dilemma: he looks like he should be a winger but he should actually be playing more centrally or cutting in from the wings. Bowen can dribble at people and deliver a fine through ball; he can’t really cross though, as you say. Arena’s stodginess forced Bowen into a role for which he wasn’t suited once Buddle and Donovan returned.

        Reply

  7. Posted by justin on 2011/03/09 at 10:49 AM

    you guys gonna have a fantasy league on espn?

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/09 at 10:49 AM

      It’s coming. ESPN the best place for it? Typically don’t like their fantasy games…or soccer coverage of course. (Aside from Jeff Carlisle).

      Reply

  8. Posted by Ricardo Clark on 2011/03/09 at 11:21 AM

    I predict I will be coming back to MLS this year.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Ricardo Clark on 2011/03/09 at 11:32 AM

    BTW games I just wanted to give everyone a heads up for a 3v3 charity basketball game I’m involved with to benefit FIFA and Sepp Blatter’s re-election campaign. US vs Ghana REMATCH/REDEMPTION! I’m going to be working the point, Brek Shea will be on the wing where he can best use his size and Marvell Wynne will be our big guy down low. And how’s this for a little treat- Freddy Adu and Danny Szetela (if his probation officer lets him) on the bench!

    As for Ghana, the good news is that they may be bringing their “C” team! Asamoah doesn’t want to risk an injury with a big transfer happening soon. And Boateng won’t be there! I personally asked him not to show as a favor- last time I went up against him he was picking my pocket all night!

    Who knew- Koman Coulibaly is going to be ref! Apparently, he just does soccer games for fun. His real gig is officiating 3v3 basketball games!

    Don’t miss it! But if you can’t attend the game, make sure to watch the game on your Android phone powered by Google!

    I love you all at The Shin Guardain! Peace Out

    Reply

  10. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/09 at 11:34 AM

    I may have to eat my words and I may be biased, but I think the Philly D will be much improved/better than people think they will be.

    Reply

    • Posted by JasonPrice on 2011/03/09 at 11:43 AM

      If Valdes proves to be useful then sure. Orozco was pretty bad last year, as was Jordan Harvey. So, we’ll see.

      Reply

      • And now one is gone while the other lost his spot last season. I’ll say it time and time again, Carroll and Mondragon will make this defense better.

        Reply

  11. Posted by JasonPrice on 2011/03/09 at 11:40 AM

    The Omphroy was a real shot in the dark, admittedly. Does anyone know how he’d doing up there? I’d be curious.

    Reply

  12. Posted by MrTuktoyaktuk on 2011/03/09 at 12:51 PM

    Mr. Aron Winter has not been shy about sending people out of camp (or letting them leave on their own ahem AdrianCann ahem) so the fact that Omphroy is still getting preseason playing time is a good sign for making the squad.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Kevin on 2011/03/09 at 4:35 PM

    hmm… for the sake of not sounding like an ignorant fan I’ll just say I disagree with “Most Disappointing Team
    Jay Bell: Houston Dynamo. I just cannot pick one of the teams with really high expectations” Cameron looks much more fluid when attacking so far.

    Fun fact for today. So far, Houston has outscored preseason opponents 29-8.

    Reply

  14. Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2011/03/09 at 5:06 PM

    Did anyone else watch the DC United vs Fire match this afternoon? It seemed like DC United didn’t really want their forwards to have the ball and were constantly going backward. Nearly cost them at the end with that free kick that could have tied it up. Pretty disappointing given they were up a man for so long.

    Reply

  15. [...] MLS Pre-Season Predictions, Part I. Part III coming….and [...]

    Reply

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