And away we go again….!
Welcome back folks to the most incorrect–politically, figuratively, quantitatively, qualitatively–MLS preview series out there. We’ve got everything you want…except the soulful cooing of a jazz flute with an anchorman hopscotching tables.
That’s next year.
But for three years running, the
Crew in Columbus TSG crew has failed to dazzle you with even an iota of accurate analysis of the upcoming MLS season. Yet, you keep coming back, don’t you?
Two wrongs, in fact, do make a right.
So we’re back.
Let’s get right to rounding out our MLS debate table….we start with Chivas USA at the bottom. Thanks, I’ll be heard all season.
First here are the players/debaters:
Jay Bell. He was once a burgeoning soccer writer who has instead regressed into commenting exclusively on Arkansas football on Twitter. He’s a handsom man who takes too much guffaw from the corporate suits here at TSG and might just one day go postal. He’s of course Jay Bell and the pleasure is all his and the headache all ours in having him.
Matt Biggerstaff. Matt Biggerstaff is the target forward of this crew as he plays one for our local SF Black Sox. In true target man form, Biggerstaff accepts jabs and insults, but keeps on coming. He’s been kicked in the ankles (every game), clamped down on his shoulder, sucker-punched in the head (true) and had his bag stolen while playing on the pitch (true, just last week). So he’s used to a beatdown. Just bet on the opposite of his picks below. Welcome back Matt, there’s thumbtacks on your seat.
James Grossi. Our first newcomer this year hails from the Land Where Ryan Nelsen Would Be King. Grossi is a contributor to The Shin Guardian, SB Nation’s Waking the Red, and The Blizzard in addition to his regular site Partially Obstructed View. Sitting at an American dominated roundtable, we’ll call Grossi the Undertaker of the crew as he seeks to survive this un-royal rumble. Please, no Honduras jokes. Oh wait, they work on Americans too.
Will Parchman. Our second newcomer. The wacko from Waco. TSG’s “Dear Diary” Man. If there was no Butler basketball, this man would have no job. In short, he’s US soccer media’s Jay DeMerit–he’s going to need to cut his teeth covering the fourth division in England before he gets anywhere. Welcome Will. Plate of spaghetti for you.
You can find Parchman tinkling the laptop ivories over at No Short Corners and here at TSG.
Jared DuBois. The TSG vet presiding over matter here in his third preseason preview. DuBois co-hosts The Best Soccer Show, self-titled of course. Jared needs no further intro around these parts. He’s legendary, not least for calling Charlie Davies his Winnie Cooper.
And pulling up the rear, yours truly.
Let’s get this short bus rollicking! We start with…
Biggerstaff: Sporting Kansas City. This prediction is based on the fact that Feilhaber wants to prove that he doesn’t actually suck, but even so, the moves they made in the off-season helped them get better. I think they will struggle with all the competitions they are in, but the West will beat itself up, they will dominate at home, and Kansas City will finally get a team that can call itself a (sorta) champion.
Runner-up: New York Red Bulls … because seeing them almost win silverware is almost as fun as your team winning it.
Jay Bell: Real Salt Lake
Supporter’s Shield winners in MLS always have a combination of continuity and perseverance through the ups and downs of the long season. RSL was wheeling and dealing this offseason, but most of the stars are still in place and they’re trusting the young guns, we’re looking at you Luis Gil. I give RSL the nod over Sporting Kansas City, Houston and San Jose because the other three compete in the current and/or next installments of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Matt, TSG: Who Cares? (DC United)
I have bowling trophies from junior high school that are made out of plastic and faux marble that are worth more at the end of November. Is that a problem for the league? No, not really. Most points on the PSATS come October? DC United, because I think Ben Olsen and company care about these things.
Runner-up: Houston Dynamo. Best attacking team Dom Kinnear has in awhile. Finally spent some AEG money.
Parchman: Sporting Kansas City.
I’ll admit, the EPL knocked a few pegs from underneath a team I had pigeonholed as the league’s best back in December. No Roger, no Kei. I still have faith in Peter Vermes and crew (whadda draft), enough so that I think they’ll mow through a down Western Conference and then do enough in the East to hold off the dogs. Who else are you picking? NYRB? DC? I scoff. Scoff with an intensity that rumbles all the way to Landon Donovan’s secret underground bunker.
CJ Sapong is going to score all of the goals.
In the entire league.
J Rodius: San Jose Earthquakes.
Literally you could pick a team out of a hat this year. All the big boys have lost big pieces, Beckham, Montero, Espindolave, Espinoza. The only name you are left with is the same one that seemed oh so unlikely last year as well. San Jose. You just have to wonder if this is the year Wondo drops off, or if Lenhart let all of last year’s attention go to his hair. But until they prove otherwise, I’m willing to gobble the Goonies.
Grossi: San Jose Earthquakes.
The usual names apply here. Expect the usual slow start out of LA, while Seattle, Kansas City, and Salt Lake all have some pretty extensive roster turnover to smooth over before they get down to business. San Jose looks the side most likely to pick up where they left off last season – unless of course their penchant for scoring late has expired.
Runner-up: Houston Dynamo, who can never be discounted under Dom Kinnear.
Most Overrated Player?
JRodius: Kenny Cooper. I know last year dude was dropping goals like Ryan Reynolds drops divorce paperwork, but he is gonna miss Henry’s touch.
Parchman: Eddie Johnson. EJ has done more than a few good things in Seattle. But (and I suppose this is kind of what Seattle fans do) his contributions have been blown up to almost Herculean proportions merely because he was so bad for so long in England. Yeah, he’s better now. And yeah, he still occasionally looks like that overconfident 10-year-old in your local pickup game who just (kinda) learned how to do step-overs. “Check out this raindrop guys!!!” *shot flies into a nearby pickup truck, EJ falls over.*
Runner-up: Alan Gordon (You heard me)
Grossi: Roger Torres. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, I recall him coming on for an early appearance in Toronto a few years ago, he lit up the field, but as Coach Hackworth stated in the preseason, it’s time for Roger to become a regular contributor, to turn that potential into reality.
Runner-up: Teal Bunbury,Darren Mattocks.
Jay Bell: Brad Davis. Whew, everyone is going to hate me for this one. Brad Davis. Three different national team coaches over eight years and people are still mad at USMNT coaches that Davis hasn’t become a more prominent international player. Maybe it’s Davis. He’s not overly fast, great on defense or dangerous in front of goal. To me, he’s a very smart player that gets the ball to goal scorers and had a good left foot. Bruin and Boniek Garcia are so much more important to Houston.
Biggerstaff: (Freddy Montero, 2012). I’d say Fredy Montero, but I said that last year, and I was right! I’m not even picking someone this year, just continuously gloating on that pick from last year.
Matt, TSG: Jimmy Neilsen. He plays behind the best backline in the business, has questionable distribution and does that horrible thing with his tongue when he makes even a routine save.
You’re not the Dikembe Mutumbo of MLS, dude. You’re a product of the Donovan Ricketts Effect (See Ricketts in LA-LA land then Ricketts in Montreal, two very different goalkeepers? I think not.)
Runner-up: Fabian Castillo. Prove it to me buddy. Happy to eat crow here. Prove you are more two footed than Brittany Hamilton is one-handed.
Most Improved Player?
Jay Bell: Danny Mwanga and Darlington Nagbe. They’ve finally got an attacking coach that embraces young players. Kris Boyd is no longer taking up minutes, so both players will have more opportunities for goal of the year nominees.
Biggerstaff: Juan Agudelo. Yeahhhhhh you know what it is, Agudelo Agudelo Agudelo. Kid wants out of Chivas USA, and will get his wish in August after torching some MLS defenses. See you in Europe buddy.
Runner-up: Rafa Marquez. Second place goes to Rafa Marquez, who improved the league so greatly with his departure that I want to recognize him somehow. Maybe a permanent spot on an MLS injured and will not play list?
Parchman: Benny Feilhaber. Guys, Benny is going to be good this year. Really good. Allow me to do my best Ray Hudson for a minute: All silk and delicately pruned majesty, Benny cleaved through the forest of defenders with a temperate electricity and weaved in a pass that would make the Oneida people stop at their spinning jennys and WONDER IN A DEEP CLOYING STUPOR THAT MAKES EVEN MESSI LAY DOWN HIS LEGS AND QUIT THE GAME ENTIRELY. Or, you know, something in that vein.
Runner-up: Edson Buddle
Grossi: Chance Myers. Not so much for last season, but for the last few, Chance Myers has slowly risen from being another first overall flop to being one of the more impressive outside backs in the league. Yes, he still has holes in his game, and can be exposed defensively, but seldom is a player’s skill set more in tune with the tactics of the coach than Myers is with Peter Vermes’ game-plan.
Runner(s)-up: Luis Silva, Darlington Nagbe
Matt, TSG: (Tie) Tom Heinemann/Kofi Sarkodie. Went Luis Suarez with my answer here. My bad.
Tom Heinemann. There finally is a legit Sasquatch sighting in BC. It’s not the weed; it’s just Heinemann knocking down balls to Jeff Cunningham Jr. (Darren Mattocks) and the new athletic kid, Kekuto Manneh (if in fact he is a real person)
Tommy, this is a good shout for you. I had Beitashour last year and he ended up donning some Waldos and playing for the US down Azteca way. Don’t. F*ck. This. Up. For.
Kofi Sarkodie. The Dynamo corner defender might just have put it all together at the end of last year. This is a player who was taken ahead of both CJ Sapong and Will Bruin in the 2011 draft. Watch Sarkodie. He may just sneak himself on to the US Gold Cup team.
J Rodius: Luis Silva. All year long Luis “Silky” Silva looked like the hot chick with ugly friends. I’m hoping Kevin Payne can Queer Eye this club up a bit.
If he can, Silva could be the player that reaps the rewards. But you know what they say about hot chicks with ugly friends… They sometimes make them look hotter than they actually are.
Coach of the Year?
J Rodius: José Luis Sánchez Solá (Chelis). If he can make this team even threaten for the playoffs he will have pulled off a huge victory.
Biggerstaff: Ryan Nelsen. The Zealander because he’s the only one in the last 12 months who was playing in the EPL and now has to take over Toronto? Talk about from riches to rags. He needs something to cheer him up.
Runner-up: Dominic Kinnear. All that and this hair!
Jay Bell: Robert Warzycha. Outside of last year’s most successful teams, I think the team most primed to make a run is the Columbus Crew. If they can fight for second or even third in the Eastern Conference, then I think Warzycha deserves the award.
Parchman: Peter Vermes.
Runner-up: Ben Olsen
Matt, TSG: Bruce Arena. Bruce, I’ve doubted you in the past. I’ve said you’re too one-dimensional (I still believe that from time to time.) I’ve embarrassed myself every year by not selecting the Great Ba Ba Booey, MLS’s Gary Dell’Abate as Coach of the Year. Make up award, because this year I think the award is going to….
Runner-up: Pete Vermes.
Grossi: Bruce Arena. Arena will expand his legend to greater heights should he navigate the end of the Beckham era and the absence of Donovan, all while continuing league success and making a run at the Champions League.
Anti-Coach of the Year?
J Rodius: José Luis Sánchez Solá (Chelis). What? I can’t hedge a bet?
Grossi: Ryan Nelsen. And not just for a lack of official badges–should he last the season without people talking about him, he will have done his job admirably. It’s bound to be a difficult season in Toronto and if the freshly retired defender can simply keep his head down and not become the story himself, he will have succeeded.
Runner-up: Schellas Hyndman. Hyndman runs Dallas with an iron fist and unending support from the club brass, but his run-ins with any one who crosses his path – the Daniel Hernandez hire-fire was incredible – could sink the club.
Jay Bell: José Luis Sánchez Solá (Chelis). Most of the worst teams in the league last season look to be making improvements and/or are led by coaches who have been successful in the past. MLS has not been kind to those unfamiliar with the league and Chelís is coming into the league with a player policy that doesn’t seem to be able to work in this league.
Biggerstaff: José Luis Sánchez Solá (Chelis). Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, for his comments in the press about what Chivas USA needs player wise. It is the last thing the MLS needs. Please stop doing that.
Matt, TSG: Peter Nowak. I’m still f*cking pissed that all the damage that Nowak did on/with/for the Union is not getting more press. You may be in
Poland somewhere but this award will spring eternal for you Nowak. I don’t care how many tough guy hugs you give Stu Holden, Ben Olsen or whoever! Oh and take Freddy Adu with you too.
Runner-up: Caleb Porter, Portland Timbers. This is really a reverse jinx. In my heart, I think Porter proves me wrong. Whereas Chelis is expected to fail, Porter is not and is coming in with as much bravado. If the league has shown us anything over the years–with the exception of Ben Olsen incredulously–it’s that the veteran coaches (Kinnear, Arena, Schmid) rule the league. Porter will and should get there. It’s just not overnight.
Parchman: Sigi Schmid. Mastered the art of incessant complaining & in-game scarf wearing. Doubleplus fail.
Runner-up: John Hackworth. Solely because his nickname is The Hack.
Player You Want To See Least In Hi-Def?
J Rodius: Benny Feilhaber. I know what you’re thinking, isn’t this for ugly dudes? Hell, ugly dudes make me look good. It’s the pretty ones that make me feel like Tai before she met Cher. “Rolling with the homies…”
Parchman: Steven Lenhart. All arms and legs and fro and that big moon face. Scares me. Scares his mother.
Runner-up: Thierry Henry (You turn to stone if you look in his eyes)
Biggerstaff: Victor Bernardez. Dude isn’t ugly, just scary. I don’t need to be enjoying a game when suddenly his menacing grill shows up and makes me spill my delicious chicken nachos. I was really excited for those too!
Matt, TSG: Chris Pontius and Bill Hamid. Both skilled players; both extremely handsome. Let me question my life again.
Runner-up: Juan Agudelo…. but only because he runs like he left the Preparation-H home on a long road trip; like a drunk ostrich or something. I love you Juan, but I think you need to get checked for scoliosis or something.
Grossi: Ante Jazic’s…calves. Kyle Beckerman’s hair would perhaps be pixilated in a more conservative society and Eric Hassli, gentle French giant that he is, still kind of scares me. But the nod goes to Ante Jazic’ calves. I was at a Canadian National Team practice last spring and the tan on those bad boys had the press pack marveling, putting our winter-white ham hocks to shame.
Runner-up: Osvaldo Alonso. Second place goes to Oswaldo Alonso’s shins, those puppies must take a beating, though it would be interesting to see if he has notches celebrating fine tackles like fighter pilots track kills.
Most Underrated Player?
Parchman: Jeff Parke. So good in 2012 Seattle traded him. One of the best defenders last year, and he gets little play.
Runner-up: Jeff Larentowicz
Grossi: Alan Gordon. Gordon, hands down one of the more unappreciated players in the league. Injuries have seriously limited him over the past few years, but a player who rises for the big occasion, always scores against his former clubs, battles the way he does and is not short on skill – his last minute equalizer for TFC in LA a while back was spectacular.
It was a black day for fans when he prematurely left Toronto, and for a club with a grey history, that is saying something.
Biggerstaff: Mike Magee. Weird to say this but Mike Magee, he was so clutch and really was a critical cog that was pretty much ignored on a team with a lot of egos last year. Tally Hall follows him because he is just finally getting the attention he deserves.
Jay Bell: Brad Evans…..Ha, yeah right, I’m not Matt. These days I’m going to say Chad Marshall. The pieces keep changing around the former MLS Defender of the Year, but he’s the stalwart in that defense. With some consistency behind, along and in front of him, Marshall could be in for another monster year.
Matt, TSG: Dax McCarty. Classic case here of “short quarterback” syndrome. Well this year, you saw Russell Wilson up in Seattle emphatically show that height is not a necessity for success in that role. McCarty has been lights out in midfield for the New York Red Bulls, yet he gets no looks from the US national team or in final season “Best of MLS” teams. And he gets no looks because he looks like he should be working a carnival or preparing for the next “Mikey likes it” commercial. And that’s BS.
Take a look at the Red Bulls record when he was deployed in the CDM role last year.
J Rodius: Will Bruin. A whole season with Boniek Garcia and Davis feeding him the ball? I’ll take over 14 goals on the season.
The player who would be most okay with dating your sister?
Jay Bell: Matt Besler. If I had a sister, I’d be okay with her dating Matt Besler. He seems like a swell guy.
Matt, TSG: Jay DeMerit. No-brainer here. DeMerit’s large-and-in-charge with the Gold Medal-winning skier vixen Canadian lady up in Vancouver. If he’s dating my sister, it’s clearly for her brains, not her looks…which I’m totally okay with. It would sort of be like when “Mullet Andre Agassi” stopped partying and flaunting Brooke Shields around town and settled down with Steffi Graf…and I’m totally fine with that.
Grossi: Andrew Wenger. Montreal’s Andrew Wenger comes to mind, erudite and thoughtful beyond his years.
Runner-up: Sam Cronin. Hardworking, honesty I think.
Biggerstaff: Chris Wondolowski. He’s the nicest guy, but takes his business very seriously. Too bad he is married, and I don’t have a sister. Actually, probably better for everyone.
Runner-up: Dax McCarty for this Lennay Kakua sister of mine, as he seems like a good guy, all the players like him, I’m bigger than him and gingers need love too!
Parchman: Wells Thompson. John 3:16.
Runner-up: Thierry Henry (because of the $$$$$)
J Rodius: Robbie Rogers.
Part II drops tomorrow. Be afraid. Be very afraid.